Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tiderace Xtreme Review

Now...where did I put that champagne?
Paul Kuthe
5'10"  165 lbs  size 10 shoe
Team Tide Race Paddler

Photographers: Dave White and Bob Burnett

Test locations:
-Rosario Strait (Washington)
-Ocean Side, Oregon
-Cascade Head, Oregon

When Tiderace Sea Kayaks first hit the scene a few years back with two hull shapes, the X-Cite and the X-plore, the choices were simple.  The X-cite was the playful one an the X-plore was the expedition boat.

Both boats featured beautiful lines with clean smooth transitions and quick acceleration, but the X-cite really turned heads with it's flat semi-planing hull and well rockered maneuverable shape.  It made you want to surf just looking at it!

Leave it to Aled Williams, lead designer of Tide Race Sea Kayaks, to make the most radically designed cutting edge hull of the time seem like an 'all around' boat.  With the addition of the new "Xtreme" it becomes obvious that he was simply compromising to start.  Careful to hit the right mark with his first offering from his new company.  Now it's time to let loose!

Photo by: Dave White      Paddler: Paul Kuthe   Location:  Ocean Side, Oregon

Let loose he did!  The boat felt smooth and greasy on the wave, willing to be coaxed and nudged in whatever direction you desired.  I have never felt a sea kayak that could so readily be spun 360 degrees on the foam pile.  The highly rockered stern is loose and dynamic allowing the boat to carve the face of both small and large waves with subtle shifts in weight and edge.  This may be the first true planning hull sea kayak.  

Photo by: Bob Burnett        Location: Cascade Head

Photo By: Bob Burnett    Paddlers: Paul Kuthe left, Dave White right

The ends of the boat are high volume making for a dry ride and the ability to break out over towering foam piles with ease.  After repeated attempts to drive the bow under water while dropping in to some steep offshore break, I decided that this boat is difficult to front ender at best, but the low deck around the paddler makes for increased control when the boat is up on it's stern.  Back surfing and back enders were a breeze due to the rocker profile and volume distribution. 

Photo By: Bob Burnett  Paddler: Paul Kuthe  Location: Cascade Head, Oregon

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start the test by taking the boat out cruising in the San Juan Islands in Washington State on a short multi-day staff trip with the gang from Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe (a regional Tide Race Dealer here in Portland Oregon).

Photo By: Dave White

 I loader er' down and made the 3 mile crossing through the wind while towing a short plastic touring kayak and she did pretty well.  I had to drop the skeg for a half hour or so in the middle of the channel, but I was surprised at it's speed across the choppy strait.  That being said, to give you an indication of this boat's intended use, the deck is void of something we have all grown accustom to seeing on performance sea kayaks... As my eyes scanned the flat table top like bow for the first time, I noticed that it had no compass mount moulded in!  I already knew I was going to like this boat.

Photo By: Dave White  Paddler: Paul Kuthe  Location: 3 Arch Rocks , Oregon

At near 17 feet, the Xtreme carries plenty of speed even under a load, but where she really shines is on the wave.  If you want a boat that can take a beating, hold the big line, and come back for more then look no further.  The lay-up is stiff and feels rock solid on the water.  Tide Race is taking it to the next level with this one, and I don't think they are going to look back.  You have got to take it for a spin!  

Read more about the new X-treme at the Tide Race Website   and test paddle many of the Tide Race boats at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.

On "The Fringe"

What does it mean when National Geographic considers you and your friends to be on the "fringe"?  I'm not so sure it's a good sign.  One thing is for sure, working with Bryan Smith and Fitz Cahall continues to provide opportunity after opportunity.  This latest project was a really fun culmination of many of our best tidal race trips over the past few years.  It's set in classic National Geographic death defying style and directed at a mainstream and perhaps even youthful audience.   

Dave White, Nick Jacob, Richard Davis, and I along with Bryan Smith and crew have been seeking out many of the biggest tidal races in North America to both challenge ourselves and to capture what it means to us to be a sea kayaker on camera.  In the end, we may have just helped bring sea kayaking into a new era.  When most people think of "sea" kayaking, they envision floppy hats and flat water or perhaps agonizing extended trips that cover hundreds or even thousands of miles across open seas or around huge islands in record breaking fashion.  

Tide race paddling can take you deep into the wilderness, but more often then not, it has you waiting for that perfect moment, that perfect wave to take shape.  It's a form of the sport that is accessible on a day to day basis.  Locations like "Yellow Bluff" in San Francisco, California and "Reversing Falls" in St. John, Nova Scotia are actually located within major metropolitan areas, but for some of the best rides you will need to travel a bit further from the beaten path.  

It's not about how many miles you can crank out, or how far from land you can exist.  Tidal race surfing is a rhythmic dance with the sea as it breathes slow deep breaths of life through the channels and basins of it's outstretched extremities.  It's experiencing a place on a deeper level and exploring it's complex nooks and secret recesses, many of which can be peaceful sanctuaries of bliss or horrifyingly powerful and deeply humbling torture chambers depending on the position of the the sun, the moon, and the rest of the universe beyond.     

Check out the episode and be on the lookout for sea kayaking to grow in some... interesting directions.