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I am 5'2", 130 lbs., and the footholds are molded in and fit me fine but may not so much for a large person. My only complaints are (1) the side handles are very small and rigid and it is almost impossible to carry the kayak solo unless you use a shoulder harness of some kind. Weighs around 40 lbs. (2) Even though it tracks fairly well, a skeg would have been better. Overall, it is a very nice looking stable kayak.
It has one shortcoming for me. I use racing strokes with wing paddles and push with the feet on the paddle in the water side by extending that leg to initiate body rotation at you sitting end. Your knees should look as if you were bicycling using your bigger muscles to tire less. The foot brace system I got does not help doing this. I got this boat by some gent buying two, one for the wife one for him. The wife did not like it so it was 1/2 price almost brand new.
I can highly recommend it for general purpose kayaking/touring/surfing with its optimized least effort design cruising at moderate speeds. It is an easy to surf boat even in moderate waves.
Boat has a HUGE waterline & is supposed to be very fast. Goes straight very well. I'm having trouble with turns, especially upstream. I feel much more confident that I can go a bit more into the open water with the Kestrel and get back more easily. The Kestrel is better for more difficult paddles.
The 2010 kayak is a year old. Seat is not impressive. Ripped at a seam and the velcro is coming off. so I ordered a SKWOOSH.
Drainage is inadequate...no drainage in seat.
Kestrel has some things I wish were better. But she is a beauty...and for dry storage...she cannot be beat. Hard to get into hatches, but anything you need should be easily accessible on top. Note: ALWAYS loosen the hatch after each trip...so the seal doesn't crimp.
I rinse the kayak especially the foot pegs after each use (especially after salt water). My yak is white. For Florida white may be an ideal color.
It IS easier to wet entry. I use a double paddle with sling backwards reentry method. But I only need one paddle float with a dual float. NOTE: use stiff paddles only. I use spare paddles rigged underside the kayak with webbing.
Tippy? Not exactly. Has a very slight "rock" due to slight v bottom. It was easy to get adjusted but I am aware.
Compared to our RTM Discos it was faster, but a good bit more "tippy" on initial stability. I was able to take it to almost the gunwale without going over, but could tell it was as far as it could go without dumping. It was tippy at rest, and also while paddling. Neither of us dumped it, and both of us thought we could adapt to it.
I tried the Kestrel 140 SINK (same exact hull design), and it was very stable with the factory seat about 1.5" off the deck. This lead me to believe that the old style kestrel SOT with the deeper seat bucket would be more stable than the new design SOT.
Another taller paddler tried the 140 SOT extensively, and he intentionally was pushing it to and beyond the limits (right next to shore). He dumped it at least 3 times, but was not discouraged by that. He'll likely buy one.
My wife and I talked it over and decided to see what deals we could make. Another shop we visited the day before had old styles for $1300, new for $1699, and would give us $375 trade in per RTM Disco, but only on the new style boats (more profit margin).
The shop who hosted the demo day had the old style for $1399, new for $1640, and would do $250 trade in per RTM Disco. For us it was a toss up on old versus new. We really liked the foot brace track on the new style, but also really liked the deeper seat for more stability on the older style.
On the older style, the deeper seat does not bother us at all, but the stepped braces do put pressure on the leg. On the RTM Disco stepped braces, they are only on the sides and do not put pressure on our legs. On the old style Kestrel the braces are on the sides, but also on the bottom, and are a fairly sharp edge that feels uncomfortable (on the bottom side). I have some ideas on mitigating that.
Sitting in the older style, we both fit one stepped foot brace bare-footed, but were between with our normal paddling water shoes on. The dealer put in a Hobie seat with thicker back rest as a test, and then we both fit. He offered to throw in the Hobie seats along with the original seats.
I asked them to drop the price from $1399 to $1300, and take the Discos in trade at the offered total of $500, with 2 seats per boat (original and thicker back rest Hobie seat). They took the deal. We left the shop with 2 older style Kestrels which we still had not paddled yet (only the newer style demo).
On the way home we tried the Kestrels with the deeper seat pan in Tampa Bay. With the Hobie thicker back rest seat in, it was a fair amount less tippy than the new design with the higher seat pan. I took the seat out, and sat directly in the pan - and it was only a bit more tippy feeling than our Discos were. I will experiment with the 2 seats, and just sitting in the pan before deciding what to do.
My wife is more stable on both old and new style Kestrels than I. She is lighter by 60 lbs, and shorter. We sat on the water side by side and could easily see the difference in "tippiness".
At our normal paddling touring/cruising pace (easy pace), the Kestrel was between 1/2 mph to .9 mph faster than the Discos pace, both up tidal flow and down tidal flow as per GPS. Both boats are 14' * 26", but longer water line (less rocker), Swede form, a bit more V, and "slicker" on the kestrel.
We are happy with our trade, but need to work on the pressure of the stepped braces on the bottom edge. I have some ideas to try with foam to even them out to level under the legs - and may test with duct tape first to see if it might work.
Durable, it is not. I don't know if I just got a bad boat layup, or if this is the way all of Current Design boats come out, but I have de-lamination and chipping of the gel coat all along the keel. I can't even barely bump it without more of the same. So, enough of the construction. It is a beautiful boat, elegant and clean lined. However, I feel the paddler sits too reclined. I know, its an SOT and it supposed to be that way, but this boat feels extra reclined even with the seat back in. I bought one in 2008, and I'm not sure of the year this one was made but Current Designs changed the foot well area. Good thing. Mine has four step style increments for placing your feet, and only a midget could use the first one. I am 5' 9", and I use the last one. These 'steps' also take up all the area around your legs, and there is no room at all except for the water bottle holder, which is so shallow its unusable. CD has changed it to a normal adjustable foot peg style, and the well area looks deeper.
I think Current Designs creates beautiful craft. I would buy another boat from CD, but I think they missed some key design elements on this one.
Wish list; I would like to see the cockpit a little deeper for better stability. This would require a venturi instead of a scupper and would eliminate the need for a back band. A hatch instead of the bottle holder would be handy. A larger tab on the rear hatch cover would help. The boat is working quite well for me now but it did take a little time and effort to work it out. 40 lbs is a lot nicer than 60 lbs for loading. The older I get the lighter I want.
We are going to purchase a second one of these. I have a "full on" sea kayak that is a bit much boat for shorter trips so I will be purchasing a Kestrel.
The reason I am giving a 9 and not a 10 is because I do not like the new deck configuration on the 2009 model. If I can find a 2008 boat it is a done deal. Also, the 2009 has foot pegs and not "steps" which I like better. If I can only get a 2009 I will not be as happy but it will not stop me from buying it.
Short version: buy this boat and don't look back.
The tracking on this craft is virtually faultless, it is a very "dry" SOT even in 2' waves and when any water broke into the cockpit, it flowed out the one and only scupper faster than I thought possible. There are very few "nitpicks" I have with this craft. It doesn't respond enough to "edging" into a turn and "ruddering" is often necessary to negotiate tight to moderate turns. It does, however, accelerate briskly away from those lower speeds and it does have a wonderful "glide". The foot rest configuration, while appearing adequate, fell between the needs of my 32" inseam. I had to apply an adhesive dense foam to the further step point to get my knee-bend where it needed to be. This has been addressed on the 2nd generation 14' Kestral SOT with a conventional adjustable peg system. I was very surprised when I opened my rear hatch to find that knee straps are standard but I find that they are not "required" to paddle this Yak.
I am 5'9" and 190 lbs. I have not felt the need to change the supplied seat system and I can say that I find this craft a very comfortable paddle. My excursions have run from 3 hours to 6 1/2 hours in this craft and that is a testament to their ergonomic set-up. The Heritage Ultra-Lite 14' Tandem I was paddling with my wife was only bearable for 3 hours at best. At 39 lbs. and $1,550, this is a great value. My "9" rating is only based on the footrest configuration and my wish for more response to "edging", and the lack of ability to add a rudder to this craft knocked it down from a 10-- my heart wanted to give it. I have no regrets with my purchase. The stability of this craft is fine once you reset your expectations (and balance) from what is required for a ''beamey" roto-molded craft to what my wife called a "racehorse" craft. I was acclimated within 10 minutes.
The PROS: fast, light, tracks in a nice straight line and glides for quite a ways after removing paddle from water. The boat has front and back hatches, the 2nd hatch is double sealed for very dry storage. It also has several hook points and bungee lines. AND it only weighs a mere 39 pounds!
The CONS: It does not have foot pegs therefore you miss a bit of the custom fit and comfort. My 6'1" husband could not use this boat as his long legs laid on the foot ridges and was immediately uncomfortable for him. I'm 5'5" and was OK with them.
The boat feels very tippy when I get in but only takes a minute for me to feel settled in. I guess if it were a more stable boat it wouldn't be so fast! I can't wait until we get some really light ergonomic paddles so we can really enjoy longer paddles.
Note: If you're looking for a nice, non-rotomold plastic SOT for much less $$, look at the Hurricane Phoenix 140. My husband bought this boat. It has the foot pegs and the benefit of both closed and open storage, looks great and retails at just under $1000. It's not quite as fast as the Kestrel but that's a good thing for my husband and I. Since he is a much stronger paddler, the fact that my boat is a bit faster enables me to keep up with him.
Needless to say I couldn't resist and I bought it. I am very pleased with my purchase. At first the boat seemed a little tippy but I quickly got used to that. I also had trouble getting a comfotable seat and seating position but I just solved that by slightly modifying a Surf to Summit GTS high back seat. I am very comfortable now. I was in the boat for 3 hours the other day doing some spirited upstream paddling and I was very comfortable.
With my limited experience I find the boat to be very nimble and quick. On the upstream paddle I was easily out performing my colleague's Tarpon 14. I am 6' and 200 lbs. The boat fits me like a glove. If you are looking for a sporst car SOT this is it.
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