Tarpon 160 - good tourer?

-- Last Updated: Dec-31-11 2:42 AM EST --

I am looking to purchase my first Kayak and this appears to be a fantastic boat from the reviews I have read. Many use it for fishing, but I am wanting to know how it performs as a touring boat?

My paddling partner is going to purchase a yak as well, but is looking for a sea kayak like the Tempest 170. Will I have trouble keeping up with them?

Sit on top appeals as I am not keen on learning to eskimo roll and also like the versatility of them. We will be paddling in small lakes/estuaries and also occasional ocean use as well.

As plastic SOTs go…
…not a bad choice. It’s got decent speed (slower than the Tempest) and storage and isn’t hard to mount in deep water.

I’d reconsider the rolling issue. It’s one of the easiest things to do in a kayak and is darned handy.

You list WW in your profile
so you are going to be left out if some good trips if you start out saying you don’t want to roll. It is a bit out of date, but there are still long boaters avoiding a roll and staying in very safe waters near shore. But at least over here, WW paddlers tend have short shrift for someone who won’t at least try to get a roll. I doubt it is so different in Sydney.

Tarpon 160
It is a good touring boat and a good surf boat for a long boat. I do not have trouble keeping up in most groups with it.

It is heavy and the hatches are not as good as some sea kayaks. So put in float bags for really rough water and long trips.

I laugh when I hear how easy it is to roll. In our 300 member paddling club I can think of maybe two dozen that have a solid combat roll. I’ve been paddling for decades and still do not have one. I’m still trying because it would make surfing easier, but I still am able to go out in rough cold water and extended trips with the Tarpon.

Another boat to consider it the Cobra expedition. It is a SOT, faster than the Tarpon in chest high chop, better hatches, but a beast to turn in the surf.

I have pics of both boats with sail rigs at:


It sure wasn’t easy for me

– Last Updated: Dec-31-11 10:42 AM EST –

Me same when it is said to be a piece of cake. Maybe some of these folks learned it when they were much younger than those of us who start paddling when there was snow up top.

Me and rolling became a running joke in our local club. Finally got it but it was about three years, pool sessions as well as in warmer weather, before there was anything I could count on. But at least I financially supported the local club.

By the way, surf is still an issue for me. I finally got up in the stuff, took longer than any other environment, but I haven't managed to not get knocked down again.

That said, I find that it is less common for someone to say they aren't even going to try and learn than when we started. And I doubt that the emphasis on the roll in WW circles varies much by country.

Learning to roll should not enter into your decision. If you choose not to learn, do the following:

  1. Learn to brace. Bracing is not hard, really this time. If you are not doing WW you should be fine.

  2. Learn and practice self and assisted rescues. Also not hard. Just takes some instruction and practice now and then.

  3. Never paddle alone. If possible paddle with someone who knows rescues.

    Good luck.

will have better advice for you on SOTs than you are likely to get here…

Main challenge I see with the Tarpon 160 is that it’s so darn heavy! I personally would look at shorter lighter SOTs for day touring and surf. If you are talking multi-day paddling treks, that adds another dimension.

I’d bet money that 80-90% of kayak owners in general don’t have a roll. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn (if you are physically able), but it shouldn’t limit you getting into kayaking or selecting a boat. A good cowboy scramble and a couple other self-recovery methods and bracing techniques are just as useful and even more necessary to learn.

One of my most enjoyable trips this year was on the Mountain Fork in Oklahoma, a beautiful Class II run after a dam release with a couple of Class IIIs in the center route – in a SOT. Canoes paddle in some adventurous waters also, so don’t get too hung up on the roll-or-die mentality. :slight_smile:

As far as keeping up goes, I paddle in a group with anywhere from 12’ to 16.5’ kayaks and it’s never been an issue. The longer boats only have an advantage at top speeds and we’re not out to race.

Last time anyone checked…
It was well over a decade ago now, but Sea Kayaker did try to figure out how many of their readers could roll. Per that probably not scientifically robust survey, it was about 10%.

Since then a lot of the long boats have gotten much easier to roll (my current long boats are both hugely easier than my first CD Solstice series boat was). Locally, we see new paddlers come in for a rolling session before they can paddle straight. Of course they are so new they have little to no feel for the blade or the paddle, those who are coming in Euro. It creates interesting challenges for the coaches, and more frequent comments about them needing helmets.

WW folks around here have always emphasized a roll very early on. The percentage is much higher there.

Context also matters. When we go to gatherings like symposiums, those who don’t have an at least often-useful roll on one side are in the minority in most of the classes. When we come back home inland for an evening paddle, the percentage of rollers goes to more like 10 to 20 percent depending on the size of the group and the time of year. But that group also includes renters who haven’t been in a kayak before, let alone thought about learning much.

I agree that progress towards skills is not measured entirely by whether one has a roll. But it is a useful thing to at least try to learn because it gets someone comfortable with being off balance and recovering in a boat. Some people incorrectly see rolling as separate from the rest of paddling and miss that it is part of a continuum of responses.

still a specialized skill
I don’t think that 10% has improved any. If anything, it may be less now that kayaking has become a more popular and more diverse “sport”. Symposiums attract a certain type of paddler not representative of the general kayak-buying consumer.

Here in the greater DC area, where there are thousands (or maybe tens of thousands) of paddlers, I can count the places that offer rolling classes on one hand, and slots are limited; the ones I’ve been to are mostly ww paddlers. It’s difficult for kayaking clubs to get pool time due to liability/insurance concerns, unwillingness to allow boats in the pool, and competing evening swim activities. So, I think the better approach is to learn 1-on-1 from a friend who’s already mastered the skill, in warm shallow waters without the pressure of an audience (and buy Eric Jackson’s DVD).

There is something to be said about paddling a SOT in that regard – just climb back on, no worry about entrapment or learning a special skill, no fussing with a skirt or a paddle float, no tiresome pumping, no precarious balancing and contorting your body to get back in.

Pool sessions matter
We have them in good supply locally, and fairly cheap. It helps a lot.

SOT’s aren’t foolproof. We did have a guy capsize where we vacation in Maine one year, a physically quite healthy younger guy, who could not get back onto the SOT they had taken out. His wife towed him back in using one of the funnier (and more embarrassing) convoys in a long time. She was in a Keowee Swifty with the world’s cheapest paddle, to which was tied the SOT, with the guy hanging off the rear of the SOT in third place.

Pumping changes depending on the boat. I get so little water into one of my sea kayaks if I made it on the first slide back in that it’d be silly to even waste time pumping. The second isn’t exactly deep - easily paddled away. But some of the transition boats like the Tsunami 140 do scoop a lot of water in a capsize.

Sots not that great
I rented a SOT 2 weeks ago in the carribean and tried surfing waves like in my 17 ft sea kayak. For the first time in 20 yrs, i flipped over as i could not lean it into the wave and the stern rudder technique did not work. Get a Tempest!!!

Depends of the SOT
While I think the Tempest 170 is a great boat, your experience renting a rec boat sit on top does not cover all sit on tops. I have surfed in a Pungo that is also made by Wilderness Systems. It’s a stunt and not an indication that all sit in sides are really bad boats for the surf.

In fact the best boats for the surf are surf specific boats. Mega makes very good sit insides. And other brands make very good Wave skis you sit on top.


nothing in life is foolproof
especially if you don’t practice something like that…

just pointing out that the average novice paddler can learn hopping on and off a SOT easier than they can a roll, without a special class and with less trepidation.

How would the same couple have fared with a swamped SINK?

I ain’t no expert - far from it -
but at my age, 60, and dimensions (I refuse to disclose) it sure seems like it would be a heck of a lot easier to roll back up after a capsize rather than exiting and trying to climb back in. I say this not having rolled a boat in 20 years and waiting for some local pool sessions to get back at it. Maybe I was a lucky - but when I did learn to roll in a pool it honestly did not seem all that difficult. My recollection is it took me about 20 minutes to get up the first time and after some practice I was able to get up in tame situations pretty reliably. I don’t think of myself as any sort of super jock either.

and when (not if) your roll fails?
as the old saying goes, even the best kayakers are between swims… you still need a couple other methods to get back in your boat. It’s generally more easily done with a SOT. If the OP is interested in going that route, he should be encouraged to research them and try some different models out, rather than be told he’ll be “left out” without a roll.

By the way you cannot Roll a Tarpon 160
I’ve held the Tarpon 160 Challenge at several venues and no one has won it. As far as I know it simply cannot be rolled. On the other hand the edges are so nicely rounded that standard sit on top rescues are fast and bruise free.

I’d still love to see someone roll one up some day, but they are much like a giant raft, hard to roll over or back up.


Tarpon160 roll - is this for real?

It wouIdn’t have made a diff
If he couldn’t get back onto a rec SOT he’d have not made it back into a narrow sea kayak either. They’d have come back the same way, except that the boat in the middle would have been faster to tow and several feet longer.

But if they’d been in narrower boats, they wouldn’t have made it so far offshore. Given how far they got, the guy would have capsized sooner, before they had left the mouth of the cove and within a 30 ft swim to the isthmus that forms its western boundary.

Actually, no one could figure out why they didn’t just land on the offshore island they were trying to make and sort things out there. All indications were that they were closer to that than home base. But people do odd things.

The wife was a smaller person with rock solid balance even if no paddling skill. It is not surprising that she was OK with a Swifty where it should not have gone.

It can be rolled.
Look on the web, serveral videos. If you want to try this as a party trick, it helps to install a seat belt.

narrow sea kayak
or more likely, he would have been in another Swifty or similar, if not the SOT? once he had capsized and likely flooded it, the tow option would have been more difficult.

Such a scenario highlights why narrow, long sea kayaks are a small percentage of the kayak sales market, and even smaller share of the rental market. Not everyone (such as the OP) gravitates toward that style of boat, luckily there’s different strokes for different folks.