Wilderness Systems Kaos...opinions?

Alright…I’m getting very close to pulling the trigger on buying a surf SOT and I’m leaning heavily toward the WS Kaos. I’ve been reading reviews and it sounds like a pretty good choice for a beginner surf kayaker. Does anyone know if it comes in a color other than orange/yellow? I assume I want the back-strap/seat option, is there anything else I should order at the same time? There are fins of some sort correct? Do I need those?

:slight_smile: Thanks…I’m looking forward to getting out in some small surf down at the beach in the near future…!


Looks Good On Specs Page
of the WS site. Got rails. Add on the thigh straps and definitely fins. Try little fins first for smaller waves. Should be able to carve some waves. :slight_smile:


Oh boy…
Damn…you know how it is when you have the fever to buy something…but now it’s a bit too late in the day to make the purchase…hehe…! I just got off the phone with a local retailer that has a last year demo model in stock, he says it’s in awesome condition for $300. He said it has the back-band…thigh straps and fins. :slight_smile: I’m stoked…I think I’ll take a drive up there tomorrow (just 30 minutes away) and scope it out. He also has a new one with a “factory blemish” so I’ll take a look at it as well.

Any suggestions on a type of paddle? I have two touring paddles but I assume there is a difference in a wave paddle and a touring paddle correct? And I suppose I should buy a helmet to protect my noggin’ from sand rash?

This is gonna be cool…hehe…


$300 fully outfitted is a great deal! Don’t ask me about looks. I couldn’t give a darn as long as the boat is structurally sound and functional. (I am the guy that wears a pink skateboard helmet because it fits my head with two neo hoods on…)

Paddle definitely much shorter than what you use for touring. I was using a 191 cm ww paddle but am now hooked on a 185 cm prototype paddle. (As reference I like my custom Onno Euro paddle of 205 cm compared to my other 220 cm paddles.) Shorter helps give me more control and less drag on stern rudders on the wave face.


A Local Favorite

– Last Updated: Mar-02-04 5:36 PM EST –

The Kaos was designed by a guy named Dave Johnson. I think that is Dave, the Wave, Johnson. A local Santa Cruz guy and probably the best big wave kayak surfer in the world.

The Kaos outsells every other SOT surf boat around here by about 4 to 1. The SOT surfers I know, not from this board, all have the Kaos.

At last year's Santa Cruz there were about six Kaos verus one Cobra Strike, but the Strike won.

I prefer the Strike myself. It is more forgiving. The Kaos is longer and narrower. That does make it faster. The Kaos does have a tendancy to Pearl on steep wave faces. I took a bad spill on one last year. That one was blue...

Also, the footwells on the Kaos are NOT comfortable, but it is hands down the better constructed boat. The Strike has real problems with brittle plastic and with hardware that breaks.

I think the Kaos has a lot more potential than the Strike once you get good with it, the Strike is just easier to learn. I think that is probably best where you need to make the most out of the surf you get.

I think the Kaos is a very good SOT surf boat, and you are not going to get really thrashed that much in the South Carolina surf. That is a great price!

BTW: Get that helmet!

For $300 bucks go for it!

– Last Updated: Mar-02-04 9:33 PM EST –

Make sure you are under the weight limit for the boat.
Cuda Mentioned the footwells. The one I tried hurt.
It is also heavy, I think about 10 lbs more than the strike.

(I prefer the Strike but I would take a Kaos at that price. The Strike also flies like a bullet when you get it dialed in but it is very easy to widowshade if you catch the groove wrong when turning. The hardware is cheap on the Strike but the plastic is very durable, my boat has been crash tested many times.)

You can get a decent helmet from NRS for about $40.
A used aqua-bound white water paddle will work for surf. (Easy to find cheap.) Keep it short under 197 cm. I have an Onno Paddle Patrick made for me that is nice. You want a very strong light paddle because you will be using the paddle very fast for take offs and then using it for rudder. Light paddles make surfing more fun.

Have fun, it sounds like a great deal.

According to their website it’s available in eight colors.


If you really wanted to get creative, maybe you could fill in the ones you do not use with foam. I have seen it done…

Mind the trigger finger!!!
Paddled a Kaos for 3 days in Hawaii a couple of years ago. The boat has speed and survivability. However the boat is heavy and like it’s decked version (the Alamax) a bit of a barge. The fin layup is too far back with the result that once you are locked on a wave, turning requires a ton of effort. It’s not a smaller paddler’s boat.

You definitely need a helmet! Using a touring paddle? I’m sure it’ll work but a bigger face would give better ruddering. Unless you have a bombproof roll( it can be rolled) really think about a paddle leash. Would be better for you and the swimmers this will be ploughing through as it makes it’s way to shore.

Looked at a Rrrrapido?

Paddle Leash

– Last Updated: Mar-03-04 3:01 PM EST –

Some disagree, but I always use a paddle leash. It has saved me from be separated from the boat and/or paddle several times.

Board surfers out here really want to see leashes on SOTs so they do not go ballistic in the surf.

The rapido was a really good boat. OK doesn't make it anymore, but used ones are really cheap out here. Someone offered me one for $75 once.

I know two surf kayakers that have owned a Mako and a Kaos and in the case of the Mako it was returned to the manufacturer after 2 days of surfing, very difficult to paddle out through the waves and constantly pearling while surfing, the Kaos was surfed for about 3 months and sold, same complaints as for the mako. I wouldn’t spend $300, $200 or even $100, it doesn’t work.

Look at a Pyranaha Surf Jet, great boat, however do not buy a used one, until recently they had problems with cracked side decks. They have changed the design of the seat area and hopefully have solved that problem. I have had one for 8 years and it is a great beginner/ intermediate surf kayak.


Well…I bought the used Kaos. I was just sitting in it on my living room floor…now I can’t wait until I have a few days off so I can get down to the beach and give it a whirl. The differing opinions are interesting…you have some that say it is preferred 4 to 1 over any other brand and then you have some people that say it just doesn’t work. Interesting. I’ll be sure to post my opinion as a beginner surf paddler…I guess I won’t have anything to compare it with, but I can give a good idea of what a new person might find (esp. compared to the touring kayaks I’ve been paddling…).

I did buy a new paddle with it…a one piece Werner…I figure this outfit can be a good stepping stone to further investment if I enjoy it (which I suspect I will…). I’ll keep you all informed of how thing progress…thanks for all the tips and advice…


Have Fun!
South Carolina has some of the best surf on the east coast. Enjoy!

Pictures of the new “baby”…lol…
Here it is…my new toy! My cats thinking I’m sorta nutty with all my “vrooom vrooom” sounds as I’m sitting in it…hehe…


Beach “Walter Mitty” AV8R

Well, There Goes…

– Last Updated: Mar-03-04 4:56 PM EST –

the fins as he sits there going "vroom, vrooom..." :)


PS. Happy for you. :) The wife was probably okay with the new boat. But that new paddle put it over the top. You owe her big time.

My comment that it doesn’t work was too extreme, I’m sure you will enjoy your new yellow kayak.

My wife screams everytime she see views a picture of a boat in someone’s living room, I built two boats in our living room and she will never get over it. Let us know how you do!


Wayyy Coool!
Oh, remember to take out the scupper plug before you go surfing…

Lol…I thought that was the “relief tube”…hehe…learn something new everyday :wink:


Try before you buy as the footwells can rival Medieval torture devices. May be a function of inseam and foot size, but they can be killers.

More Info?
You don’t happen to know anybody else who has a “Mako” that doesn’t work and wants to get rid of it do you?