Zephyr First Impressions

-- Last Updated: May-07-08 9:04 PM EST --

We received a Wilderness Systems Zephyr this week and today was the first day that I had a chance to get out and paddle it. The lake had a little swell and a foot or so of chop. The swell was cross the flow from the river and the chop right up the flow of the river. We're at spring water levels in our rivers right now, so the river was forming steep standing waves shoulder high or so. They could be confused at time. Today, the waves were forming for about 50 to 70 yards out into the lake. Closer to the mouth were steeper. I told myself just an hour and I have to get home, but, of course, I spent two on the water.

I took the boat out along the rocky shoreline first to get a feel for it. It cruises at a good pace. I was using my whitewater paddle, which is usually pretty brutal on me when I paddle my Romany, but the Zephyr seems to glide easier and feels slightly more efficient than my Romany. This could be the fact that the plastic Zephyr 15.5 is lighter than my beast of a glass boat.

Getting the boat up against the rock cliffs was pretty fun, the boat is incredible stable in confused reflecting waves from the chop. I ended up being side surfed a few times with no big surprises from the kayak. Very fun.

After playing around in rock gardens for about a half hour, I headed to the river. The boat seems to catch waves just fine. One odd thing that I'll have to work out is that the boat really locks into the wave when on edge and it takes a bit more work than the Romany to bring it around. I found myself broaching more often that I would have in the Romany. There really seems to be some kind of hard edge at the sheer that will take a little getting used to, but I was only playing in the kayak in the waves for an hour.

Afterward, I decided to go do some rolls in the 35 degree F Lake Superior. Balance Brace with a Euro paddle is something I struggle with, but with this boat, no problem. Sculling side brace, very little movement required to hold the boat on it's side. Sweep rolls are easy. The kayak takes a bit longer to go from one side to the other when upside down than the Romany, but I'd consider this as easy rolling as the R, which in my opinion is one of the easiest boats I've ever rolled.

After about seven rolls, I was getting cold, so I paddled it down the shore into a surf area, with very shallow rocks and a rock garden to play in. No surprises. The conditions weren't that rough, so I found the roughest spot between the shore and a rock and sat there a bit with some pyramid waves no and then. Stable.

A few things that stood out to me: This boat is very comfy. I'm 5'10" and 190 pounds and it fits me perfect. Remember this is the 15.5 version. This boat turns!!! Any sort of a sloppy bow rudder will turn this boat from the bow, and the secondary is so good that you could fall asleep while leaning it. I hate to say something like, "This turns better than my Romany," because I haven't paddled it enough to know this boat yet, but I certainly seems to turn better than my Romany. I didn't try doing one of those "how-many-sweeps-does-it-take-to-turn-this-kayak" things, but with the turns I was getting, I'd put it around 5 strokes. Very nice. It also tracks just fine. Speed is good.

The wind was down to about 10 knots when I was out and I didn't notice any weatherhelm problems.

I felt very at home in the kayak. I loved the Meridian and I think that I'll end up loving this kayak also, but time will tell. This is a very exciting boat and I highly highly recommend it be put on your boats to paddle before buying list.

Things I didn't like: foam bulkheads leaked into the day hatch. The front hatch and day hatch are those cheesy Wilderness System hatch covers. The rear hatch is a KajakSport. Too bad all were not KajakSport. The foot braces feel wussy, like I could break them if I pushed too hard.

Anyway, great job Wildy. I'm going to serious think about buying a glass version. Anyone want to buy a Tahe Reval? :)

Thank You
Hoping to try one soon.

Great day boat. Loved it.


thanks for the review

off topic question for you: do you know the current levels on the Cascade and Devil Track? i’m probably heading up this weekend to camp and paddle. i’ve been out with an injury for almost 2 weeks and i think i probably missed the high water on the kadunce and poplar, but i’m hoping the cascade and DT will be prime this weekend

Not off the top of my head

– Last Updated: May-07-08 10:27 PM EST –

The Cascade was raging last week, but I didn't look today when driving down to the resort. I imagine still too much water for the park section, but the upper should be flowing.

I haven't been north of town in awhile, so I don't have any clue about DT.

great review.

glad you liked!

I’m a little confused as to your issues with it’s broachability and locks in on edge? It does have more rocker than an R and will turn better. It also does not track as well. a definite trade off. the hips (beam) are quite wide and defined giving it a sorta chunky stable feel way up on edge. like you said “go to sleep”. :-)wait till you get it out on some thick swells/ surf!


Steve, I was confused by it too. I’m just chalking it up to the first hour in the kayak. I’m really looking forward to spending all summer in this boat!


– Last Updated: May-08-08 10:15 AM EST –

Recently my buddies and I were in a sound going full speed with a stiff wind at our backs. We were surfing as many of the wind waves as possible and constantly working at not broaching. Isn't this where the Zephyr would have had a big advantage... by being looser wouldn't it correct more easily?

especially due to the very loose front end. Like Brian said it is easy to turn the boat at the bow, something I have been teaching for years and NOW there’s a boat that REALLY responds.

Not that the Tempest is a slug in this respect! It WAS designed to have this characteristic, as well, just not as loose.

Both boats are very well balanced. Again the Z is a sweet paddle in Reverse, something that just doesn’t work in all vessels!


Some questions
I am looking at the Zephyr as well, but I am more or less a beginner. Do you think this is a suitable kayak for me? Further, I am 5.7 and about 150lbs. Would that be too small to have a ‘snug’ fit. Alternatively and probably in totally different league I am looking at the tsunami 135 for small paddlers. What do you think?


Give it a try
You should really give it a try. I won’t have any issues putting a beginner in this boat. The knee braces are adjustable, so you should be about to account for the length of your legs, and you can always add padding.

Had it in the pool today. This thing really turns from the bow. Cross bow draws are like a dream. Bow rudders. High brace turns are fantastic.

the Tsu135 is in another class altogether. wider and more stable with phase 3 seating. as the term states “transitional touring”. :wink:

give them BOTH a try and decide where you are going with your paddling career!


last minute pleasant surprise
a 160 in plastic made it to the WS rep and the Vancouver Island Paddlefest this weekend. didn’t think any were in Canada yet, nor did he, so this was great news. boat looked cool, and was fun to paddle. i didn’t fit in it as well as hoped, and thigh braces were’nt right for me, but others loved it. super turn-y, great playful feel. should be a blast in the reefs and surf.

what weren’t right
about the thighs? just curious if you tried the different positions? You know there is an inside and outside nut allowing you 2 X as many settings?

glad to see it made it to BC!!!


excuse me for stepping in here but
I had a question for Steve and figured he will check on this thread again! I was at a paddlefest on Lake Arthur this past friday and was excited to try a zephyr but the rep said they have not been distributed yet !?? anyway, I fit nicely into my tempest 165 and have been trying to figure out now as I may need to do a special request to try the zephyr somewhere, which one fits someone who fits a 165 (160 lbs…or so 5’3")? Would it be the 15.5 or 16? I know there is a ton of difference between the tempest 165 and 170 as I initially bought the 170 for me but was a mistake but fits my husband great. What are the major differences? Weight and size of paddler - or - rocker/length or other criteria?


I’d be curious to find that as well
Zephyr seems to occupy a very nice spot near the Tempests - more playful yet it seems reasonably fast from the reports here.

You are right that there is a huge (for me) difference b/1 165 & 170 - I fit very nicely in 170 while the 165 is totaly off (I can’t put my feet inside it in any comfortable position).

Same for Tsunami 145 and 140 - 145 is spacious and fits OK, the 140 is totally uacceptable to me - too low deck in the front for my feet mostly, but seat width is also an issue…

After 7 Rolls You got cold, wonder why?
It was 35 degrees!!!

I need to go to search and see what “broaching” mean.


Mt. Pleasant, SC

Where the water is never 35 degrees.

Thanks for pointing out the obvious. :slight_smile: You get used to paddling in cold water when you’re on Lake Superior.

Broaching minus the flip :slight_smile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8soPClP3Ag

I’m 5’10" and 190 pounds and love the fit of the 15.5. I think the 160 is going to be too big for you.

that dude has his skeg all the way down. while surfing this can (and it does here) trip up the back, more of the cause of his roll than broaching!

His edge control is pretty far out there, as well.