Submitted: 08-09-2011 by mprogers
The following is based on the impressions of a "Tall Guy", a subset of the "Big Guy".
The most helpful reviews for me included an introduction to the reviewer, from dimensions to type of paddling. That's how I'll start here.
I'm 6'5", 210 lbs, fairly athletic build (and intent on dropping 10-15 pounds), 35.5" inseam, with smaller 11.5-12 shoe size (stubby toes!). While I think I've progressed well beyond the casual rec paddler, with respect to where I want to be I place myself solidly in the beginner camp. I was (and am!) looking for big water boats that I can paddle off the coast of Maine, and boats that I can use for fun and fitness on bigger lakes from Champaign to Superior. From quick fitness paddles, to day trips, to multi-day trips. I don't necessarily expect one boat to do everything. But any boat, one more tailored to purpose, has to fit, to be sufficiently comfortable, and be something I can use as I improve my skills.
One problem that I frequently encounter — assuming I could even fit in the boat — is that "Big Guy" boats tend to increase in volume as they increase size in ways that accommodate my overall leg length, femur length, and feet. What this means is that many of the boats billed as great for me would indeed be great if I were on a month-long expedition. But unloaded, I don't pull the boat down into the water enough, changing the waterline, affecting stability, tracking, and wind impact. It hasn't necessarily been easy. In the past two years, I've sat in probably 50 boats, and paddled about 20. The Xplore is a keeper. (If you search the discussion board, I'll comment on other boats for tall guys.)
Tiderace seems to take a different deck approach than most Brit-style boats—much higher. What this means for us longer-legged creatures, is we can get more of a knee-bend, and knees-up position, than a splayed out yoga position. The deck height/cockpit opening mean I can do a seat first entry, one-leg at a time, and get a bit a knee - bend relief while on the water. And all of this was in the regular Xplore, not the Xplore X, which I mention but which I did not get to paddle. Because the legs fit in the Xplore, and didn't have to go the HV route. And this means I didn't get the extra volume — something I don't needed, didn't want, and worked against me in several boats.
I found the boat a remarkable combination of speed, maneuverability, and both primary and secondary stability. Beginner that I am, I had no problem keeping up with anything or anyone else on the water. And yet with the right lean and paddle stroke, I could swing it around quickly. A skilled paddler should be able to spin this on a dime.
The Xplore has excellent primary stability. Let me illustrate with an example. On a long test-paddle on a river, we stopped for lunch at a river-side restaurant. The exit point in this urban environment was a dock three feet above the water. *Standing* in the cockpit was remarkably stable — albeit with a strong hand on the dock. I was able to reenter by dropping a foot to the hull and then sitting on the back deck, at which point it was purely the boat's stability that let me enter. Secondary stability is excellent with the hard chine giving it a solid lock point, beyond which I didn't push it.
On the Xplore model, I will move the seat back as much as an inch, something that Tiderace says shouldn't affect the trim of the boat much, especially with more longer than normal legs counterbalancing the backwards shift in weight.
As one might expect in an expedition worthy boat, they've emphasized durability over light weight — and I'm great with that. The construction seemed rock solid with no visible defects. The glassed in bulkheads appear strong. The bow and stern are filled solid. I want a boat that can stand up to the hard use I'd like to heap on it as I develop skills. One thing I'll note here where that Tiderace does not angle the bulk head right behind the seat to facilitate emptying water before reentry. The NDK boats and the Assateague do. It seems this should be a more common technique — but I'm not a boat engineer.
I'll comment that, like the P&H Cetus for example, the Tiderace has the front/center micro day hatch just fore of the cockpit. I immediately found this welcome and useful and not interfering with leg position or comfort. I'm a hard guy to fit well, but I'm looking forward to really seeing whether this might be THE boat for most of my needs when I take possession in a month!
Note that the Xplore comes in Xplore S and Xplore X variations for smaller and larger paddlers, with the boat scaled accordingly, not just squashing or expanding the deck height. Could be something for everyone here.