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Submitted: 09-30-2013 by SWriverstone
I'm an expert whitewater canoeist (former slalom racer) who has been wanting to get a sea kayak for years — both for fitness paddling on a local river, and for longer journeys. Though I'm familiar with the advantages of composite boats, I decided plastic was best for me as I planned to store the boat outside at a local marina (because I'll paddle it 3-4x/week).
After doing some research, I found a great deal on a second-hand Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165. The boat is about 5 years old but has been garage-kept and is in mint condition.
My first impression on picking up the boat is that it's HEAVY. But that wasn't really a surprise. I knew it weighed around 65lbs, and knew that's just a characteristic of large plastic boats.
This particular year model (a 2008 or 2009) doesn't have a backband, but does have the Phase 3 seating (with the seat back that can be raised a good 6 inches). I kept the seat back all the way down and tightened the back strap considerably to cant the seatback forward, giving me plenty of lower back support. Between the Phase 3 seat and the adjustable padded knee braces, I found the cockpit to be very comfortable for someone my size: 5'11" and around 225lbs.
After dropping the kayak in the water for the first time, my next impression is that it is---as advertised---an extremely stable boat. I'm accustomed to tippier boats, and I could take a nap in this one, LOL. The multi-chined hull is rock-stable when leaned up on edge.
On my first paddle---on a flat, wide river with a slow current---I was able to easily get the boat up to a cruising speed of 4.7-5.0mph (according to my GPS). Paddling harder, I could get my speed up to 5.5mph without killing myself... but that's where the "speed curve" flattened out. I'm a strong paddler in good shape, and I found it *very* difficult to get the boat up to 6mph. So I'd say 4.5mph is an accurate "easy cruising speed" for this boat, with 5.0-5.5mph being the "pushing hard" max speed one could reasonably sustain over time. I'm not sure how this compares to other touring kayaks, but it's fine with me.
I should also add that I'm an aggressive, high-angle paddler. I tend to lean forward in the cockpit and smoothly link strokes, with a higher paddle angle than most.
Though my boat has a rudder, I literally haven't used it yet...mainly because the boat tracks pretty well and I haven't felt the need for the rudder. It does tend to pull to the right a bit (even in no wind)...but I'm starting to think that this is more a result of my paddling: being a lifelong canoeist who paddles on the left, my left side is obviously stronger than my right. So I think the rightward pull I've noticed will diminish as my right side catches up to my left!
As far as turning goes, this kayak is like most others: it won't turn on a dime (no long touring kayak will), but its excellent stability makes it easy to lean it up on edge, where it will carve a nice turn with multiple strokes on one side (and sweep strokes will turn it more quickly).
Regarding fit and finish, it seems fine. The thick rubber hatch covers go on and come off easily---I had no trouble with them. All the other hardware, safety lines, etc. seems well-crafted and solid. There's nothing shoddy about the construction I've noticed.
I haven't paddled the boat loaded with gear yet, no have I paddled it in rough water or open ocean. I do intend to do that eventually, so will add to my review then!
Overall, I'm very happy with this boat---and it certainly makes an excellent first sea kayak for my purposes.