Monday 12 August 2013

A Year in the Tiderace Xtra - Peter Kelly

We got our hands on the first of our stock Tiderace Xtra's on Friday, but there has been another one at the far edges of the colony, busting moves in the cold waters of southern Tassie, plioted by our buddy Peter Kelly. We brought this boat in for Pete in our first ever Tiderace shipment last year.
Pete was asked to pen a review of his Xtra for a paddle mag in the US, and he's kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.

The Tiderace Xtra
It is always tricky business to pen a review of a boat as choice is such a personal thing, I will only compare the boat to craft I have either owned or spent considerable time in.

About Me 
I am 194cm tall and 115ks, cursed with size 15 feet, I have been sea kayaking for about 6 years, mostly in the cold windy waters of Southern Tasmania. In my paddling life I have owned an Aquanaught HV RM, North Shore Atlantic, Impex Assateague, Rockpool GT, Valley Etain 17.7, Valley, Nordkapp and now The TideRace Xtra.  I have also Spent a reasonable amount of time in a SKUK Explorer, and for the purposes of this review will compare the boat directly to the Boats mentioned.

Initial Impressions
When the boat arrived in August 2012 the first thing that struck me after the initial “ooh very shiny” (And it was VERY shiny) is that the boat looked like a lead tipped arrow (or Darth Vaders Codpiece if you were my mate looking on) the boat is Very fish form and carries more volume in front of the cockpit than any boat I have ever seen. There is a heavily bevelled deck that creates a spine running the entire length of the boat, this adds to the incredible stiffness of the deck, the only one I have been able to sit on without ANY flex, it also allows for a knees up paddling position.
The second most striking feature has to be how flat the section of the hull is under the cockpit, sitting out on the grass the boat sits completely flat with no rocking side to side, it has very hard chine’s, and compared to my other kayaks and insane amount of rocker. The seat was comfortable and the footpegs sturdy, build quality was the best I had seen.

On The Water 

The boat is stable, and the transition to secondary stability is smooth, and once up on edge, it locks onto its chine and sits there, with an incredibly predictable healing motion akin to the Atlantic or Aquanaut when hard over on edge, although far more agile than either. As it turns out the boat turns faster than any boat that has been in the water next to it in the last 10 months. It responds predictably to both bow and stern rudder and sideslips on a hanging draw faster than any boat I have paddled. Close quartering amongst rocks or manoeuvring in the surf the boats agility adds to its feeling of security, and while most boats are still broaching, the Xtra has turned around and facing out to sea.
Although not marketed as a fast boat, I have not had any trouble keeping up on club trips, as given any texture in the water, regardless of direction, the boat just gets up and uses the planning hull to its advantage, I don’t want to speculate what sort of magic has been applied to the hull by Aled Williams, but I am grateful. Other paddlers that have tried the boat described it as a Hydrofoil feeling where the boat “Sits up out of the water at speed” These are not my words, but mirror my feeling in the boat on textured water. As I hate paddling on mirror flat water, I cannot comment on its speed in these conditions.
In rough water, rebound and big swell the boat is extremely predictable and secure, it tracks well enough, a little loose like an Atlantic, not as hard as a GT or Explorer, the skeg aids with this in strong wind, but I like my boats lively. I have not struggled ever to maintain a heading.
I have loaded the boat and taken it on an overnight paddle where including myself the boat carried about 150kgs, the noticeable thing was there was no apparent change in the agility of the boat when loaded, and as I was leading the group, it was great to be able to easily move amongst the group back and forth without any perceived extra effort.

Ok, I need to say this boat surfs better than ANY boat I have ever paddled. The planning hull has to be experience to be believed, making the boat sit up and the higher section of the wave similar to a surfboard. This means that the boat is easily able to change direction with an applied sturn rudder, or by digging in the very hard chine and transferring your body weight. The boat can run strait and true along a wave face, carve turn or make diagonal runs along a wave face with ease, it performs the “hit and spin” easily and can quickly turn from front to reverse surf, or vice versa.

The boat encourages you to attempt steeper waves than you previously thought possible as the massive volume up front allows the boat to pop out and shoot forward on its planing hull. When it all goes south, the boat is very predictable and doesn’t stay caught up in the front of the foam pile, preferring to pop and sit up on top, or “hit and spin”, both allowing for a speedy exit from the danger zone. The boat is an easy roller both in set up, unpredictable situations and re enter and roll, the aggressive thigh braces locking you in place.

I must admit I have been pleasantly surprised by this boat design. I ordered the boat untested from Expedition Kayaks in Sydney on the basis of reviews I had read from Europe, and whispers amongst the European community of a new great boat for surf/instruction.  It has done all that I need in a boat, has bomber build quality, is always up for a play, and looks damn sexy on the water. If these are qualities you are looking for in a kayak, I strongly recommend you take one for a blast, just make sure you are near some surf or rough water when you do so, because a boat design this good needs to be in a place where the hull was intended to shine. 

Happy Paddling.
Peter Kelly.


  1. RM? or is it strong enough to stay in one piece after loosing bits of gelcoat?

  2. The RM version is the Vortex, but unfortunately we're not likely to have it here any time soon. They're strong Fer, the Xcite has taken all the abuise we've thrown at it for a year without a problem. In fact I think some of bangs on the hull were done by you!

  3. That is defamation!!! I don't take kayaks near the rocks... I mean, kayaks that I don't own or I was given explicit permission to do so. I took the xcite only to the surf and it was a good session.

  4. 'I don't take kayaks near the rocks'….? Are you saying the rocks come to you…?

  5. I accidently dropped it getting it of the car once, stern first onto the concrete. After standing just looking and not wanting to turn the boat over, when I eventually did.....nothing????? I don't recommend you try it with marks boat, but the are VERY strong;-)

  6. Sometimes, I am Einstein follower, all is relative :-)


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