Submitted: 08-15-2005 by Oren
After reading some reviews - particularly the one in Canoe and Kayaking magazine which said "Don't paddle the Tsunami in a Tsunami", and even more so after speaking with Ben from WS customer service who recommended against the Tsunami for what I needed - I was REALLY worried that I had made a mistake and ordered the wrong kayak.
I can tell you now that they were both wrong. After paddling the Tsunami 145 Gen2 (no rudder though I did buy the SealLine SmartTrack Rudder but haven't installed it yet) for about 4 weeks not - This kayak is EXACTLY what I needed, and I am very happy with it.
Here is the whole story:
I am a novice paddler. I live by the Mediterranean Sea and wanted to paddle solo along the coast in varying weather conditions. My goals for paddling are: Fun, fitness, relaxation and maybe some fishing if I really wanted to.
I am 6'1", weighing 230lbs, and - since some people considered it worth mentioning - size 11 shoes...
My primary requirement from a kayak was: confidence. Since I planned on mostly solo paddling in diverse conditions in the open sea, I absolutely had to feel confident in the kayak I chose. So stability - both primary and secondary were critical. The Tsunami 145 has both. I sit in it and paddle, and - except for 6' waves, don't really care about what is ahead of me since the kayak stays stable no matter what. When I do lean it for turns - it holds the angle without feeling like I am about to roll over. However - when I practiced self rescue with the club I now paddle with - I had no problem tipping it all the way over and rolling back up again using the "Eskimo Roll" technique we practiced.
I have to emphasize this point further: Before getting the Tsunami I rented a RTM 17' from the club I just mentioned, and also borrowed the guide's WS Tempest 170. Both felt like I had to work hard to stay upright. The WS more than the RTM - of course. I felt like I couldn't enjoy the workout since I always had to fight to stay upright.
With my Tsunami - I found that I could paddle along side my club mates and talk to them in pretty rough conditions without even looking where I was going. I didn't have to - the kayak simply stayed stable and I didn't feel that I was at risk of being surprised by a sudden swell or wake as with the previously mentioned kayaks.
On this feature I give the Tsunami a score of 10. It is perfect for enjoying the workout without worrying about capsizing all the time.
My second concern was - I have had a serious lower-back problem for several years now which really limits my physical capabilities - I have Spondylolisys and disk protrusion in verts. L4-L5. Because of that, the kayak had to at least not cause me greater pain than I already have. I can tell you that the lower-back support of the RTM and also the WS Tempest actually made me feel better during and even up-to 48 hours after paddling them. So much better that I stopped going to my Chiropractor and Shizau therapy sessions which had much less effect than paddling did. I know it is incredible - but I can tell you that it is true in my case.
In that respect, I - surprisingly enough after reading all the praise about WS's seating system, have to give the Tsunami a score of 5. The high seat might be comfortable for some people, but I found it to completely lack lower-back support as provided by the strap back rests of the RTM and WS Tempest. This seat back was so bad for my back - I was unable to walk or turn my body side-ways for hours after I paddled with it until I fixed the seat.
What I did was fit a RTM back-rest used in their strap back system over the lower part of the original WS Tsunami back rest. That made all the difference and now I feel as good as with the RTM and WS Tempest + I have the added bonus of all the adjustment capabilities the WS seat offers along with its high back rest which extends over the RTM back-rest which I latched over it.
My third and final concern was - in light of what I heard and read - sea-worthiness.
The review in Canoe and Kayaking magazine labeled this kayak as un-worthy for real sea conditions. A boat for calm lakes. WS customer service basically said the same and recommended the WS Cape-Horn 15 instead. Since I am a novice, I had no idea what that meant - Where and how would I feel that? Does this mean this kayak is not good for me?
Yesterday I have paddled for 5 hours in conditions that included 5' to 8' swells - some of which broke into waves of similar height. People from the club who paddled with me and were in the RTM capsized several times. We had to go back and help them back up several times. My Tsunami did not capsize once. And better yet - It never felt like it was going to - and I paddled along side the swells and waves with the kayak lifting over the wave along side it as well as into the waves nose first and getting a smack full of water in my face since it is - after all - a 14.5' boat and not exactly "Greenland Style".
Other than getting the water in my face - which I don't mind so much and wasn't really that bad considering the height of the waves - the experience was absolutely fun and felt safe and in control the whole time. Oh - those three hatches the kayak has? They stayed bone dry.
On that I give the WS Tsunami 145 a score of 10.
My needs did not include speed - which this kayak obviously lacks compared with the RTM and WS Tempest people paddle in the club I go to, but it is no turtle either.
To summarize - This kayak is exactly what I wanted and hoped it would be - it's fun, it's safe and stable, it is (now) comfortable for my back, and it is great in both calm waters as well as rough.
WS should consider beefing-up the lower back support on the Phase3 seat back. While it is highly adjustable - it simply lacks rubber material in the particular area. Since this was so simple to solve - the grade of the over-all review has not been significantly reduced:
My over-all score for the WS Tsunami 145 Gen 2 is 9. Great Kayak.