Rocker touring Kayak question

Most of my seat time has been spent in long touring style boats with little to no rocker in the hull. I recently bought a Pyrahna Fusion crossover as I am planning on some light river running next year. Over the last few months I have been taking the Fusion out to get used to it and the ability to spin the boat on a dime has got me hooked.

I currently have a WS Tsunami 170, LL Inuit 12.5, Necky Manitou 14 and the Fusion in the fleet. I like all of them for different uses, so I do not want to trade or sell any of them. I am looking at CD Sirocco and WS Zephyr as I have some knowledge of these brands. I am also considering some of the Valley boats based on reputation.

I keep wondering to myself am I just looking at 16+ long boats out of habit (and to keep up with the other people I paddle with) or should I be looking in a different direction.

I am also looking for a boat with a skeg (not a rudder) as I live in Kansas and 30mph winds are pretty normal for me. This will be a boat for open water with the ability to get into rock gardens.

Alchemy, Delphin, Reflection
Faster boat or rock garden boat - I think you should decide. The Zephry and Scirroco are both good all around boats, and a bit faster than what you have in your fleet. So would many of the Valley boats (pretty much all excluding the new Geminis). But none are really great for rock gardening (lack of turning ability - the trade off for that speed). Of course, if you have rocks and you are paddling one of these speedier tourers, nothing wrong with going in to play. But they just are not optimal as rock gardening boats.

But if rock gardening is a major part of the goal, you may want to choose something a bit shorter. Dagger Alchemy or P&H Delphin are excellent options in plastic, or Sterling Reflection or Valley Gemini SP for composite. The Fusion is also a good rock garden boat, if you don’t have to paddle far to the rock gardens. The Alchemy, Delphin, and Fusions are boats of choice of the Neptune’s Rangers folks (, and Sterling for The Hurricane Riders (

All boats mentioned here are skeg boats.

What He Said

– Last Updated: Nov-25-12 5:42 AM EST –

I picked up a demo Alchemy last year and have really enjoyed it. If I'da designed it it would be a bit narrower and less boxy but I still like it. Think sea kayak that turns very, very well.

I had rented a Zephyr and found that it was too similar to my Tempest. I've always been curious about the Pintail with it's reputation as a rough water boat but I never got to paddle one. Discussion on PNet leads me to believe that the Delphin and Alchemy have replaced it; they do the job better with 3 or 4 feet less boat to lug around.

I’m not at the same level

– Last Updated: Nov-25-12 8:49 AM EST –

as the other who have posted - at least in the kayaking realm. But personally I found that the Zephyr is significantly more lively and maneuverable than the Tsunami - by a LOT. So for river paddling it is a huge improvement over the Tsunami and boats like the Tsunami. Also, I find that it is reasonably fast and with a touch of skeg it tracks similarly to the Tsunami. So in my opinion for many folks it will meet their needs extremely well. Keep in mind, I'm no expert, not even close. But I do appreciate and enjoy the maneuverability of the Zephyr in moving water.

EDIT - I see you are talking about open water and I should say that I do a lot of open water paddling as well and the Zephyr does very nicely in rough and close conditions. Whether it is among the best available hulls for salt water rock gardening I have no clue - but I do know several folks that use it for exactly that sort of padding all the time and love it.

Zephyr vs. Alchemy
All said above is good advice, but there is some personal pref. at play. I’ve got both a Z 155 & Alch. 14S, (& a tempest 165pro as well) like all of them very much. Significantly diff boats IMO. I pref. the Z for most of my “active cond.” paddles because it is almost as manuverable as the Dagger, rides the rough water almost as well as the Tempest and I’m just more comfy with the fit. Love the way it surfs in bigger cond. as well. The Delphin was fun as noted, don’t much care for the feel of the Valley boats. Personal pref. Try 'em all if you can.

All thebest,

Down to Dagger or WS
I think I am down to the alchemy and the Zephyr, I am right on the edge size wise between most manufacturers between LV hand HV boats (5’11" 190lbs) so the Zephyrs larger cockpit opening may give it the edge, it looks like I am going to have to try on some boats for a nice snug fit.

The Fit
I got a real bargain on my demo (smaller)Alchemy so I wasn’t shy about modifying it to make it fit better. I took out the stiffening hardware and moved the seat back in it. My buddy at about 6’4" and 190 lb paddled it very comfortably.

North Shore Aspect RM
Check the reviews on for this boat.

You should also consider the New Eddyline Raven. Just released this fall. Getting rave reviews.

Just ordered a zephyr 160
Similar reasoning. I got the 160 as I’m also on that same border, but felt the little extra room would help me with comfort getting into the boat in particular, since I had hip surgery recently. The cockpit size is the same, but the deck height is slightly higher and the extra volume keeps it a bit higher still in the water.

Take out any padding before you try a boat, BTW. With all the padding in at a dealership, I had trouble getting in easily; with it out, no trouble at all. So building padding back up from zero seems to me to be the way to fit into a boat over time.

Tried the alchemy (before surgery) and found it thrillingly agile and quick, but a very very tight fit, even with the L size. People here on the Pacific seem to love it for rock gardening for obvious reasons. It’s a sweet boat, but not really much lighter than the zephyr from what I can tell.

We’ll see if I made the right choice for my attempt to upgrade my skills in wide open SF Bay and ocean. So far all reviews, including that of a paddling buddy who has the exact same model, suggest that I will.

I’m nervous about having bought a boat without being able to try the same boat on the water in real conditions. But the opportunity for a deal and the lack of the same model at most dealers made me jump. Not the way I usually buy and not the advice I would give anyone! But then, do we ever take our own advice??? LOL

Love my Father-of-Zephyr
I have an old Dagger Meridian SK, which spawned the Zephyrs. It’s 16’, flat-bottomed and rockered. It’s also quite fast and very quick-turning.

Without using the skeg, it’s a boat that makes you concentrate to paddle straight. An inch of skeg gives enough tracking to behave nicely. It’s the only boat where I routinely use some skeg. That said, I love the quick feel of an easy turning boat like this. I’ve got paddled a Zephyr outdoors, but I think you will like it. The one time I got in one, it was great for rolling in the pool.

My Murrelet kit should arrive later this week. It should give me a quick-turner in wood.


Kansas and rock gardens??? What about this doesn’t sound right?

Zephyr fan here…

– Last Updated: Nov-30-12 12:12 AM EST –

....Yeah. Totally. Someone else mentioned that you should check out the reviews and they are universally good. I gave the boat a low numerical score because I don't believe in the rating system and wanted folks to read my review which is very positive.

The Z is a great boat and it is a descendant of the Meridian which was a descendant of the Romany. A great bloodline. Think about it. Never paddled a Meridian but have paddled the Romany and I prefer the Z. So do my Romany-owning friends.

Read all of the reviews and ignore the numerical scores. Consider your weight and overall size. In my opinion the 15.5 is a boat for medium to large paddlers and the 16.0 is for really big boyz and girlz. There is no Z really designed for small paddlers. The 15.5 cockpit feels larger than the cockpit on the Tempest 170. IMO the T and the Z are very different boats for very different purposes.

For over two years I owned a Z15.5, a Pygmy Arctic Tern and a Tempest 170 Pro. The Z was always my first consideration and probably ended up as the boat I put on the roof of my car. I think that makes it a go-to boat, right?


I agree
even the 15 Z will fit a big paddler. I am 5’10 240 and I fit in the 15 just fine - but the boat volume is not sufficient so I bought the 16.0 and it is extremely comfortable.

Nice Blog Jon!
Enjoyed reading it.

I travel year round for work
and only get home 1 weekend a month. Seasonal construction, so I see a lot of different water.

OK, need some advice
After one false start (used Zephyr arrived damaged), I ended up locating a new Zephyr 160 at a good price. But before taking posession of a new kayak I had never paddled, I was able to get a demo to try out. Good idea, because the demo didn’t make me very happy!

I tried it in flat water - no wind, no tide. The boat felt tippy the whole time, no matter how I adjusted my position and the fittings. I felt that I could muscle the boat around if needed, but that seemed like wasted energy. It never inspired confidence in me.

Though I’m used to a 10’ rec kayak, I have paddled several sea kayaks in this size before. A few felt tippy, but many felt more stable and did inspire confidence in paddling. Some were outright fun to paddle, in fact.

What I felt in that demo Zephyr does not at all match what the reviews keep saying about the boat.

What went wrong here? Any words of wisdom?

Depends on what you’re used to…
…a Z160,(big on me @ 155#'s), was my first kayak and it took me a bit before I could not feel tippy in it, couldn’t even sit in it without tipping over at first. It was good to me though, I learned to roll, edge, brace, surf ect. with it. The initial stability can feel tender especially if you’re used to boats with high I.S., though the secondary was very predictable for me from the get. The Z spoiled me for a feel that is a bit loose with a quickly firming secondary,(kind of the WS feel). My fleet now contains a tempest 165pro, zephyr 155 & alchemy 14S,(incidently the z160 now resides with a friend that thought it was really tippy when he first paddled it, but with a bit more skill & learning to edge it’s a favorite of his now). Without doubt and with less effort, the tempest is faster & the alchemy is quicker. In spite of this I regularly tour, surf & rock garden in the Z. It responds well and is very agile when put on side, not quick at all for flat spins though. You might want to look for a Z155 if you’re under 200#s, or if the alchemy did what you want it’s a good boat as well. Might give the Delphin 155 a look or maybe a North Shore Aspect if you liked the alchemy but need more room.


10 ft vs. 16 ft - HUGE difference
If you are used to paddling a 10 footer, when you sit in a 16 footer that long boat will feel unresponsive and hard to turn and heavy. And it is! But, it is not meant to turn on a dime like the short boats, even the “well-tracking” recreational 10 footers are MUCH more maneuverable than the most maneuverable of 16 footers.

That said, I fully support what the others say. My first “real” kayak after a short recreational sit on top, was a WS Tsunami 145 - that thing felt tippy for the first few minutes. Then after a few weeks it was rock solid. Similarly, after I moved on from it to a 22" soft-chined (but still very stable, I now realized) 17 footer, I cursed myself for buying such an unstable boat - after a few months it was perfect for me.

I’ve owned the Zephyr 15.5 for a while and have paddle the 160 and the Tempests. Any of them is fine for a first-time paddler who wants to progress - very quickly that paddler will be comfortable in them. The alternative is to take a transitional boat like the Tsunami, then sell it after a few months like I did. Or stay with it if that’s where your limit is - depends on the person.

I now own the P&H Delphin 155. It has more solid initial stability than the Tempests and the secondary is probably similar. So it is more beginner-friendly from that prospective. And is also more maneuverable, so it is also easier to turn. I prefer that in moving water over the Tempests, but for flat water or textured water touring the Tempests are nicer.

I had a chance to paddle an F1, the skin on frame that is touted by some as a great playful boat based on the Mariner. Guess what - it felt like it tracked on rails compared to my P&H Delphin, despite the Delphin being about a foot longer in the water.

So, you really need to have some experience in different boats to appreciate why they are designed the way they are and which kind of boat fits your needs best. Then you need to find one of that kind that fits you well… And be ready to sell it once your skills/tastes change :wink:

New P&H Hammer
P&h is coming out with a new model called the Hammer. It looks awesome!