Submitted: 10-31-2002 by pikabike
Now that I've been paddling this boat for 6 months, usually twice a week, I feel like I have enough information to do it justice in a review. The Squall fits my 5'2"-110 lbs body reasonably well. I did have to add some padding under the thigh braces, and I hated the seat back so I immediately replaced that with a Snapdragon seat band. For someone of my build, this boat is stable and forgiving in rough water. I have paddled it in gusts over 40 mph (though I definitely do not *recommend* doing so) without being dumped.
Since this was my first narrow kayak, it's the one in which I learned to do J-leans, hip snaps, low and high braces, and sculling -- anything that uses edging or leaning. Recently I also learned to roll it. This boat behaves predictably (maybe because of the rounded hull?), making it easy to learn new skills.
The Squall has served me well on camping trips along the North Platte River (Wyoming), Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, and Yellowstone Lake. While the longest trip I took was 3 days/2 nights, it appears that a week's worth of supplies would fit if I used the water filter instead of carrying it as backup. Four gallons of drinking water takes up a lot of space. While there is adequate room for camping trips (if one packs carefully), the Squall is no slug for daytripping, either. It has a nice glide, very noticeable when I demo'd it before and after other plastic boats. I have had no trouble averaging 4 to 4.5 mph on outings of 7 to 10 miles, and a friend with a GPS has clocked me (us) hitting 6.1 mph in a sprint. It's a plastic boat, but don't let that deter you from using it to the max; it might surprise you.
If you want to TURN fast as opposed to barreling ahead fast, you'd better put the Squall on edge, because when sitting flat it is a leisurely turner. I have not found this to be an obstacle, though.
Lest it sound as though I consider the Squall perfect, let me describe the shortcomings also. I find the foredeck higher than it needs to be; I have a paddling style with high enough angle that I rarely scrape knuckles, but the height undoubtedly contributes to weathercocking. (Some people thought the deck might be too high to allow me to roll the boat, which has not turned out to be the case.)
Another area that could use improvement is the standard rudder footpeg/rail system. I do not like the fact that the footpegs move if I have the rudder deployed -- there are times I put the rudder down merely to improve tracking in a quartering wind and do not wish the footpegs to move when I am exerting normal pressure on them. (I do like Current Designs' rudder activation lever better than the usual pull-on-the-cord-with-hands set-up.)
Finally, my boat shows some sloppy touches that I am surprised passed inspection. For example, a bolt on the left side of the cockpit does not align with its counterpart on the right side. Also, the stern hatch cover (the plastic lid, not the neoprene undercover) has two buckles whose release snaps are oriented in opposite directions, whereas on the bow hatch cover they both face the same way.
Overall, the Squall seems like a good touring all-rounder: stability in waves, decent speed, enough volume for several days of camping, predictable handling.