Last Saturday I decided to leave my kayak at home and use one of our student boats, the Tempest 165, to coach the intro to sea kayaking class. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you take a kayak out to test paddle, you can sometimes be blinded to certain qualities of the boat simply by over focusing on reviewing the it in the first place. I’m not sure how that happens other than you are somehow out of your normal element when you test paddle and it can change your perceptions. I think that doing something you do all the time in your personal kayak and simply switching boats, then getting on to business can somehow allow certain things to stand out much quicker simply because you’re not really looking for them. So for what it’s worth…
Not having my own kayak meant that I had to make adjustments to the fit before going out with the class. Actually that made for a good intro to boat fit demo in that we simply adjusted our kayaks together. The first thing that stood out to me was that adjusting the seat and the peddles was dead simple. I’ve played with their cool seat before so I was able to adjust the seat quickly with little fiddling. The WS seat is pretty sweet. Properly adjusted it’s easily as comfortable as the custom foam seats I have in a couple of my own boats. The lip on the back of the seat is high enough that I simply loosened the back-band to get it out-of-the-way. If it were my kayak I’d just take the back band out. There was plenty of room behind the seat to secure the paddle-float and pump. If I owned the boat I’d glue in a “D” ring to tie them off. The quick peddle adjustments work well. I was a bit worried that the seemingly flimsy adjustment bar would slip out of place with use, but it stayed in place throughout the day. The one thing I don’t like, but it’s standard on most plastic kayaks is the thigh pad adjustments. Most thigh pads can be moved forward or back using a screwdriver. That means in a class it’s rather impracticable to adjust the thigh pads to each student. This can be an issue when you have a student with short, thin legs or conversely wise large, chubby thighs. Since WS does such a great job with the seat, I think they could certainly come up with an easily adjustable thigh pad as well. (Derrick throws down the gauntlet!)
Now I took out the plastic version of the Tempest 165, which is about 16 and a half feet long and 21 and half inches wide. It’s max capacity is listed at 300 lbs putting me about 100 lbs below the max. To be honest though, I felt 50 lbs over. The boat, especially at the bow, was running low in the water. I don’t mean slightly low, but almost scary low. I didn’t mind so much for the class, there was still some free board, but I certainly couldn’t use the 165 for an over-nighter. A student said she thought the kayak had gotten lower over the day, but we check and there was no water leakage anywhere. A good sign after a season’s worth of classes in any case. Still, in the end it just seems that the plastic 165 is not simply, “designed for the smaller frame” as they say, but the smaller of mass as well.
The 165 handled well as I went through the day, demonstrating strokes and such. Without an edge it was not as nimble as my Romany, but that could have been simply because it sat so low in the water. Once I edged the kayak it was fine. The speed felt OK and I had no problem with quick accelerations when needed. One thing worth mentioning is that when we went through balance exercises (sitting on the back deck, turning to the side.. etc), even when I decided to stand up on the back deck, the 165 was rock stable. Compared to my other kayaks it was like standing on dry land.
All in all, the day in the 165 confirmed my initial impression that it’s a great all around kayak. I preferred the “Pro” fiberglass version as it felt much more nimble than the plastic one. Again, probably because the glass version sat higher in the water. If I were to recommend the plastic version to someone, I’d set the max weight at 200 lbs when geared out and less if you want it to maintain it’s best behavior.
The Tempest 156 MRSP is $1599.00 and here in Wisconsin you can give one a go at Rutabaga in Madison.