CD Squamish vs WS Zephyr 155

In the market for a shorter more playful day touring boat, though no actual surfing planned. Maneuverability is a plus for tight mangrove tunnels. Have researched the alchemy and delphin, but have no desire to buy new and a CD Squamish and WS Zephyr 155 are up for sale used in my area.

I am 6’ 200lbs, so large for both boats, but I prefer a tighter fit and already know I fit in the smaller cockpit of the Squamish.

Does anybody have experience with both? Any major difference in handling between the fish-form Squamish and swede-form Zephyr? Build quality differences? Guesses as to how being near max load would effect either differently? Any other relevant comments appreciated. No, I would never buy anything without a test paddle, just doing some background research before moving forward.


Video from Frontenac Outfitters
This video of the Zephyr talks about the hull design and performance of the Zephyr: I think it mentions the Squamish in there somewhere.

This review doesn’t seem very favorable.

For What it’s Worth…
I tried out the Zephyr and it wasn’t as turny as I wanted. I found a used Alchemy and got it for half price. It filled the bill.

If you’re serious about day trips; not loading the boat much; consider getting the lower volume boat of your choice and moving the seat back. I know for a fact this works for a guy around 200 pounds and over six feet tall.

Your exact dimensions
are key, of course, but I am close to your specs in weight and height, and I found the Zephyr 155 to be a very tight (read: uncomfortable) fit. I ended up paddling the 160 (borrowed it to teach an ocean/surf class) and found it to be playful and plenty maneuverable.


– Last Updated: Jun-17-14 5:13 PM EST –

Admittedly, I skipped to the part near the end where he discusses the hull design, but I don't see how you get "doesn't seem very favorable" when his conclusion is that it's a great big water boat and that they love it at his shop.

Better listen to the whole thing
I decided not to consider the Zephyr based on this video.

I did
The only criticisms I heard were that compared to the glass version the hatches were less watertight (pretty typical for a poly boat), and the skeg system was of a somewhat lower quality.

Perhaps you could clarify what about the video made you decide not to consider the boat?


– Last Updated: Jun-18-14 6:22 PM EST –

rated only "medium."

Quotes from the video:

--Max paddler weight recommended is fairly low(160)
--"Difficulty getting hatch cover off"
--Hatch cover not watertight
--"Skeg of lesser quality"
--Downside of full rocker: slower because waterline is shorter. "Designed for ocean surf because you're not going to get the hull speed."

Maybe you have a counterargument to all of those. For me they were all red flags.


– Last Updated: Jun-19-14 9:12 PM EST –

....he hates that boat or Wilderness Systems or something. Not really sure what. I take issues with many of his opinions.

I had a 15.5 Pro and there are some significant similarities and also differences to the Roto.

He takes issue with waterproofness of the hatches and ease of removability of the hatch covers and that issue in the roto boats is very well documented. Do a search on any kayaking web sites and you will find WS Roto hatch water-proof-ness issues. He does say in passing that rotomolded boats in general share that characteristic. FWIW the hatches on my Pro were so tightly sealed that I vented them.

Not sure what the statement about the lesser quality of the skeg is. To you poly Z owners out there what are those problems? I hadn't heard them before and never had an issue with the Z Pro skeg. Might be a legit concern. Not sure.

The rocker/hull speed-thing.....yeah true that pure speed isn't the Z's forte but the effort required to move the Z 15.5 through the water at a typical touring speed is less than my Tempest 170 and much less than the Chatham 18. About the same as my Illusion. I will say that the Z accelerates to speed very quickly (2 dedicated strokes) and catches most waves better than my Illusion, Tempest, Chatham. Same as the Tern 14. Damn good. It's a good application of rocker for a paddler that wants a great all round day boat. Not the best choice for long distance touring our for impressing your friends. How fast do you need to go, anyway? Seriously? What is the hull speed you require?

The description of the secondary stability conflicts with my experience with the boat and the secondary is one of the reasons I bought the boat. I always felt that it was rock solid and 100% transparent. No surprises. My best friend.

I am about your size and have paddled the 16.0 also. It felt too big to me. Too unconnected. Too much like a cork. Way more foot room and higher deck than I needed (size 10 shoes). It did turn like crazy, too crazy and I didn't feel the connection with the water that I would have felt at 230 - 250 pounds. The 15.5 gives me the connection that the 16.0 does not. The cockpit of both boats are very large and accommodate butt-first entry and feet-first exit.

In my opinion WS missed a viable market of sub 175 pound paddlers with the Z series. I feel that they turned out to be optimized for large and larger paddlers. I know that there are friends in the sub-175 pound demographic that will disagree and are deliriously happy with their 15.5’s. I’m very happy for them as I believe that they have a great design.

Read my review of the boat. It is rated low because I think the 1-10 encourages boat owners to rate purchases emotionally as a 9 or 10 and I was hoping that it would call attention to the review. My bad.



– Last Updated: Jun-19-14 1:49 PM EST –


Are these people serious? I have not listened to the review, but the weight capacity is way more than 160. At 185lb naked for me, the 155 was more than buoyant enough even in the playful environments it is meant to be used in. Yes, it is not fast, but it is easy to paddle at slower speeds. Twitchiness is relative - it has huge secondary stability, but indeed primary is lively (and I too prefer higher primary stability in really messy conditions, such as class III rapids and strong currents, where the Delphin is much nicer to paddle due to its flat hull and even more rocker).

My plastic Zephyr had fully watertight hatches and the skeg worked fine. It is one of the easiest and friendliest boats to layback-roll (I learned hand-rolling in it fairly quickly, because it is so easy to do in it).

Agreed. That review…
is way out off and inaccurate.

I’ve been paddling a Z-155 poly for a few years now and often have a paddler/kit load of 230 lbs. No worries and the boat handles great even in the rough. Its one of the few boats I have that paddles just as nice loaded for camping as it does with my 170 lb butt alone on day paddles. I do quite a bit of photography from the Z-155 which certainly attests to its lack of twitchiness.

Hatches are tight, easy on & off. Skeg works fine although I don’t like the control as well as on older WS boats.

I moved the seat back, installed longer Yakima rails and a pair of KS foot boards - very nice and comfortable. I’m 6’2" with long scarecrow legs :wink:

The one thing I don’t care for about the Zephyr - poly or composite - is the balance point when carrying the boat. I can’t shoulder it comfortably. Not a real issue as I use a cart for anything long and just tough it for the short carry.

I’ve got a fair selection of boats to paddle and the Zephyr 155 poly is my most used boat.

Great boat…

I had actually watched the Frontenac videos on the Zephyr and Squamish before posting, and was also surprised by the comments on the Z. The soft chines and full rocker mentioned as negatives in the video were actually features I was looking for, so I largely disregarded that review. I’m glad to hear that the 160lb recommended paddler weight in the video is inaccurate as well.

Anyone have any Squamish comments? Seems like its a far less commonly paddled boat.

Can’t fit in Squamish
I am the same height (6’) but weigh 160 pounds. I have size 13 feet and I cannot fit into the Squamish. Note that I have had many lessons in whitewater boats so I have squeezed into tight hulls before. So I guess what I am trying to say is be sure that you really do fit into the Squamish, if that is your choice, and that you can be comfortable in it for an hour or so. The designer, built this boat to fit his wife, who is about 5’4".

squamish fit
I do strangely fit in the Squamish. My legs are short for my height (28" inseam despite 6ft height) and I carry the majority of my height/weight in my upper body (long bulky torso, wide shoulders. Picture an upright gorilla- I belong in a sideshow). Although it makes for a top-heavy paddling experience, I can typically fit in smaller than expected boats. For example I can actually squeeze myself into the cockpit on my wife’s Impex Mystic, though would never really paddle a boat meant for a 130lb person.

Likewise, I’m concerned that just because I can physically fit in the Squamish doesn’t mean it will handle its best with my weight in it, though it is rated to 250 (zephyr listed as 275, but .5" narrower).