Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tiderace Xtra - the Vibe Review

We've had the Tiderace Xtra now for almost a year, and in that time I've had it out in small surf, some more torrid surf, cruised around on a couple of instructional paddles, and most recently took it on a 29km club trip along the glorious coastline of Sydney's Royal National Park.

I'm 6ft tall in heels & weight about 94kg.

I'll admit that in a sea kayaking culture that values speed (even if mostly we won't outright admit it), and has always associated waterline with speed, the Xtra has been a boat we've had problems defining.

Paddling the boat along in peaky rebound for a few hours last weekend while keeping a close eye on a group with skinny open water experience, I was thinking about how you'd characterise this short, manoeuvrable boat with a radical planing hull.
Relaxing in my Tiderace Xtra.
Our plan was a return trip to Wattamolla Beach, a beautiful inlet in the rough hewn sandstone cliffs of the Royal National Park, with an idyllic lagoon & an oasis of paperbark trees. As a designated guide, my job was to get in amongst the group, check how everyone was handling the bounce and then wait for them to pass me so I could start my sweep all over again.
View from the cockpit, Wattamolla Beach in the background.
My trace (below) from the journey down, where everyone was reasonably fresh and moving at decent rate, shows an up & down series of spikes as I got run after run angling the Xtra down the faces of anything that had a peak. If you can imagine mogul skiing on the sea, this was it, bouncing down one face, easing over the next one then angling off to skip down another as I ran in & around the group like a sheep dog. My speed varied from nearly stopped still (a big percentage of the time) to over 11kmh, and any time I lined up a run through the group I was running between 8-10kmh at will, and without any great effort, simply by paddling down the hills. It was a delight, and if I was free to paddle the distance without my responsibilities I think I would have easily maintained 8km+ all the way there.
But, this is meant to a boat review right, with the usual references to build, weight, seat comfort, even that famous old Sea Kayaker reference to 'ease of car topping', so why am I rambling on about the vibe from a day trip? Well, quite simply because when viewed in it's entirety, this day trip summed up all of the things that you would need to test out if you were considering a Tiderace Xtra, it's a 'day & play' boat, after all....
The kind of sea state the Xtra chews up
As a typical group with mixed skill levels & experience, we averaged 6kmh over the just under 30km. I haven't been on a trip with my club over the past 10 years that has deviated far from that mean, somewhere between 6-7kmh over an extended distance. So for speed, despite being damn short & rockered, a peaky sea surface provided all of the take off ramps a torquey little design like this needs to run with or ahead of a typical paddle group cruising speed.

While the longer waterline boats frequently found themselves suspended between peaks, stopping & stalling, the Xtra just kept zipping in & out, a dead flat planing mid hull section meaning any power you apply is instantly transferred to lift & acceleration.

It's stable enough to sit next to a cliff in overhead rebound & take photos. And when a little wave or two presented themselves around Jibbon Head on the way home the boat positively exploded onto the face, where you then have a flat hull planing, as well as a defined rail to edge & manoeuvre.

As for surf, it's become my go-to boat especially if the surf is a bit bigger. The video below is a little reminder of how much fun you can have in the waves in an Xtra (and for that matter a Gemini....). We have stock of the Tiderace Xtra in both the standard G-Core & Hardcore layups, feel free to give either Rob or I a shout to arrange a test paddle.

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