The Need for Speed

I’ve been kayaking for almost two decades. I recently moved into rec boats and have gradually worked my way up to the two boats I currently own, a Perception Carolina 12 and a Perception Conduit 13. I can’t say enough good things about these boats. Compared to my old whitewater boats they are fast and easy to paddle.

Now about me, I’m 5’8,” 200lbs and do most my paddling on the Chattahoochee (slow flat water sections). If I can’t find someone to go with me, I put in a Morgan falls in the metro Atlanta area and paddle towards Azalea Drive and back down again and do the same on other stretches of flat water. Right now, I paddle primarily for relaxation and exercise but at some point in the future, I’d like to move into distance paddling on bigger water and possibly racing.

The more I paddle these boats, the more I realize I enjoy pushing myself and going faster. I frequently GPS my speed (I know this is moderately accurate at best) and have achieved above 6 mph in each boat. My reasonably comfortable cruising speed in either boat is between 3.5 and 4.5 depending on various conditions.

I went with the Carolina 12 because it is very easy to transport and people say great things about it. I didn’t consider the lower weight capacity (275 lbs) as I’m not using it for long trips. The boat is great and I believe the highest rated boat on this forum. I went with the Conduit 13 for similar reasons and because I knew it was a value. Boy was I right about the Conduit 13, for the price, you simply won’t find a better boat (I resolve the known back rest issues by adjusting the seat to the highest point and using bulky skirt, it’s great, the weight capacity is 295 lbs).

At some point, I want to graduate to a faster boat, and speed/distance paddles. I don’t plan on taking multiday trips so storage isn’t that important to me. I want speed. I plan to do Lake Acworth soon, and will likely take both of the boats I currently own, but at some point, I plan to upgrade. I’ll probably sell one of my two boats as my wife isn’t interested in using them.

The more I research what the fastest kayak might be for me, the more I realize that there is more to consider than just the hull speed and length of a boat. I’m just starting to do research but here are my initial candidates:

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 14.5 (MSRP $1,179) (due to the high weight capacity, 350 lbs)

Wilderness Systems Tsunami to 17.5 ($1689 to $1689, I’d have to go to at least 16.5 to get weight capacity equivalent to 14.5?)

Wilderness Systems Zephyr 16 ($1,529, I think it may be faster for me than the Tsunami line)

Epic V7 (MSRP $1,495) (because its rotomolded and I think it will be faster than the other boats I’ve listed here)

Perception Expression 15 (lower capacity at 325 lbs then Tsunami 14.5 but has a standard skeg + I’m somewhat brand loyal even through I know Confluence Water Sports owns Perception and other name brands and many are made in the same factory).

My reasoning for not considering longer boats, is storage and transportation related. I have not considered the leap to fiberglass boats due to durability concerns (my reason for not having Stellar on this list). Perhaps after reading responses to this post I will compromise on both of those points.

Considering that my only purpose is a high cruising speed and top speed (as I might like to race) and distance, I’d like some feedback from forum members (hopefully with similar height and weight stats) who have paddled these boats or have other suggestions. Please provide your stats, cruising speed and top speed if possible.

P.S. not sure which of my boats I will let go when I upgrade. I hate to let go of the Conduit 13, but I may love the Carolina 12 more as I just use it for River Running and maybe Lack Acworth when I get there. Any thoughts from forum members on which I should let go. I know it’s a personal choice, but I get attached to my boats but I don’t have room for a fleet right now.

forget about stats
Make sure you have a good stroke which will allow you to make the best of any boat. All things considered the V7 will be faster than the rest in that group, but there are tradeoffs.

Set your sights higher

– Last Updated: Aug-05-16 10:57 PM EST –

Speed is relative, but none of the kayaks on your list, with the possible exception of the V7, would be very competitive in a typical club-level race, even with a good engine. If you really want to push the limits of speed and your abilities, you may wish to consider, longer, faster, narrower, lighter.

At the club-level (intermediate to advanced), a ten mile race pace with fast kayaks or surf skis, on fairly flat water, is usually well over 6 mph (often 6.3 - 6.7 mph) at the local races in my area. At the elite level it's even faster.

A V7 or V8 is a good intermediate level ski, and mastering that will allow you to leapfrog into something faster like a V10 ski or equivalent (that is commonly used in club-level races). Likewise, if you are dedicated you can start with something like a V10. It can be done but it takes persistence and you might feel like you bit off more than you can chew, for awhile.

If you are into sit inside, then something like an Epic 18x is a common choice, although they are generally slower than a "elite" surf ski. Other choices for sit inside kayaks include racing kayaks (West Side Boat Shop) and ICF K1 sprint kayaks.

If speed is your thing, also consider some forward stroke lessons (no matter how accomplished you currently are) and get a wing paddle.

Having said all this, you can race any kayak, and there are different classes for different kayaks. It all depends just how fast you want to go (and how hard you wish to work).

Greg Stamer

you need to do some test paddles
Really, if you think the relatively stubby and 26" wide Conduit 13 and Carolina 12 are “fast”, you are going to be dumbfounded when you get into a longer and more competent kayak and can appreciate how much faster and easier to get to speed they are.

The Carolina 12 is hardly “the most highly rated kayak on this forum.” Don’t know where you got that idea. Yes, it has a lot of user reviews, but that’s because it is a commonly mass marketed model that has been around for a long time and is a popular “beginner” boat. You will eventually notice that nearly everybody rates their first boat a “10 out of 10”. Since newbies usually have nothing else to compare their new toy to, they really don’t have any objective experience to by which to evaluate it.

Honestly, I’ve paddled Carolinas and Tsunamis and find them to be fairly stodgy compared to other models in the same price range. They are designed more for comfort than speed. The Perception Expression 15 is a nice boat and a versatile one, but at 15" x 24" it is not designed for nor known for acceleration or ease of maintaining speed.

(By the way, ALL the kayaks you are looking at are rotomolded polyethylene, the Epic is not unique in that respect, just in the way that they mold it to be somewhat lighter.)

What it comes down to is: If you want to race a sports car, you shouldn’t be buying a golf cart or a family sedan. And the boats you are considering so far are more in the latter category. They are for leisurely touring, sacrificing speed for stability and cargo capacity.

Are there any dealers in your area who have on-the-water demos? You really need to test paddle sleeker boats and see what you have been missing. A 12 or 13 foot boat is pretty small for somebody your weight – it has to be wide to give you enough displacement, but that width creates a lot of drag and makes those boats relatively slow and hard to push. Try out one of the suggested surf ski models or an 18’ x 22" Greenland style hard chined or British style soft chine sit inside kayak. I think you will have a “eureka!” moment.

Honestly, you don’t know yet what you don’t know. I’m smaller than you but I started with a 25" wide x 14’ 6" kayak and found it unbearably slow after a couple of years. When I want speed now, I use an 18’ long, 21" wide 31 lb. skin on frame Greenland style kayak.

Tsunami 145
WS boats that end in 5 are the High Volume boats. I have a Tsunami 145, my wife paddles the 140. They are similiar boats but the HV cockpit is higher in front of the paddler. No decimal point in their boats, it’s not 14.5.

Love my 145. Very comfortable, room for camping. When I paddle with friends in other 14’ boats I’m working harder than they are to keep pace.

The races I’ve been in I see the epic V series at the starting line and when I get to the finish line I see them in their racks on cartops.

Length and width may not be all their is to it but it’s a good way to your lay your bets.

for whitewater, too
The Epic v7 isn’t just for flat water paddling: check out this video of using it on open whitewater.

Thanks - top notch advice

Thanks to all the top notch advice, especially from slushpaddler and gstamer.

Willowleaf…… Like I said, I’m coming from a whitewater back ground and I have not spent time at demo days paddling touring boats, so I’m looking to learn.

As to where I got the idea regarding the ratings for the Carolina…. simply from reading the reviews. I’m sure it hasn’t received the highest numerical rating, but don’t know. There is no way to sort reviews by numerical rating (that I’m aware of). I do know it’s highly rated both by numeric rating and the content of reviews. I don’t believe this is because it’s a first boat for everyone. It isn’t my first but I’ve been very happy with it for the money I paid.

Regarding rotomolded kayaks, perhaps I wasn’t clear, the fact that the V7 is rotomolded (the only one by epic) is why I’m interested. “My reasoning for not considering longer boats, is storage and transportation related. I have not considered the leap to fiberglass boats due to durability concerns.”

Perhaps I should reconsider that after reading some of these posts.

Thanks all! This forum is full of knowledge and that’s exactly why I asked for advice.

Local Events
Thanks! You may wish to visit a few local races in your area and see what events/crowds you enjoy and what boats predominate. In some places it’s surf skis, in others its kayaks/racing canoes/SUPs, etc. It’s all good…

Many racers upgrade boats about as often as snakes shed their skin, so at some races you can often find great deals on used boats and paddles.


Don’t rule out composite
"I have not considered the leap to fiberglass boats due to durability concerns.”

Your concerns about the durability of fiberglass are misplaced. I have a wide circle of sea kayaking friends and between us we have bounced more composite boats off more rocks than you could count. I can’t think of anyone that has holed their boat yet and I know some people who are paddling composite boats that have had over twenty years of serious use.

Even if you do damage it, fiberglass is significantly easier to repair than plastic, but chances are all you’ll ever have to do is refresh the gelcoat every few years to smooth out the accumulated gouges and scrapes. Try re-smoothing a well worn plastic hull and see how far you get. Bear in mind that scratches and scrapes increase resistance and thus reduce speed so for someone interested in maximizing paddling speed it is an issue to consider.

Aside from repair-ability, fiberglass is significantly lighter than plastic and it doesn’t flex like plastic does. Even the best plastic boats will flex to some extent and that flexing equates to wasted paddling energy.

Your need for speed

– Last Updated: Aug-08-16 1:32 PM EST –

I felt exactly like you. My bet is that you will soon find yourself on a natural progression towards faster and faster boats.

My personal path led me from sea kayaks to the surfski. I haven't looked back since.

Ski's have changed so much over the last few years;they really have come to offer something for everyone.

The old idea that all skis are expensive, skinny and unstable is past.

In the next two weeks we will be in the Atlanta area for a boat demo. Message me if you are interested in getting some seat time in. I'd bet you wont regret it.

Mountain Paddler

Thanks Willowleaf and Mt Paddler.

I will message you

Then Do As The Olympians Do:
Get yourself an Olympic level K-1 racing kayak. Don’t fool around with slower kayaks. You’ll blow away surfskis with ease and half the strokes. Go check out the K-1 sprints happening now in Rio. Once you mastered it, get your kids involved with them.

Fast Kayaks
Impex Force 4, Force 5 and Outer Island. Current Designs Solstice and Nomad. Epic 18X. I suggest these because I’m familiar with them and can purchase them locally if I really have to have one of them.