Research Kayaks in the Buyers' Guide!
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
I have padded the thigh braces with 1/4" foam. This went a long way to give me a more connected feeling. I would agree with others who say this is not a boat for slight builds though I've seen them very thoroughly padded out in hips and thigh pads to accommodate slender builds.
Overall, I would agree with the consensus that this kayak is a very good all-arounder and fun to paddle. It's very responsive to edging, it is quick though not fast (but not a tub by any stretch). It is a pretty high volume craft that sits quite high in the water, in spite of this it behaves fairly well in wind with any issues being easily remedied with a little skeg.
I wouldn't categorize it as a 'roller' but it comes around quite easily for me and I have only this summer developed a layback roll. The back deck is quite high as it characteristic of CD kayaks.
Initial stability is very good with the secondary being very solid and predictable. It is not as 'locked in' as some harder chine boats, but I've had very inexperienced paddlers use edging to steer for the first time in the Gulfstream. The boat inspires confidence.
If you are new to the sport, or thinking about an upgrade from a rec or transitional kayak...I would certainly give the Gulfstream (or roto version Scirroco) a whirl. It really does have a nice blend of favorable characteristics as far as speed, acceleration, and handling.
Great initial and secondary stability, you can edge comfortably, it will help beginning paddlers start to feel comfortable in a true sea kayak, but is playful enough for advanced paddlers to practice new roll styles and impress nieces and nephews with existing ones... most of the time.... I digress. It holds enough for good long weekend trips, it is fast for it's size (it is wide) and it handles and responds to paddle strokes very well. In short it is a very good kayak. You can take it out in the surf, rough open ocean, and the Lilly pond out back and it will be fun and functional.
I think another review points this out, Look at a picture of Derek Hutchinson, It was made for his frame. wide, stocky (and brilliant!) I am 6' and 200lbs and I need a pile of foam to fill out the cockpit to feel tight in the boat, thinner paddlers will be challenged to fit the boat properly. The back band CD puts in is horrible, but here I'm just nitpicking. It is not especially fast or nimble, it isn't the best surf boat (landing in heavy surf can be a challenge, it has a tendency to pearl). Otherwise it is a very good boat.
This is a classic boat and a excellent design. If you can only have one boat, get this one.
Overall I am quite pleased with the performance of the Gulfstream. As others have mentioned, this boat is a true all-arounder. Having an almost 24" beam, itís not the fastest boat around. However, once up to speed, it seems to have decent glide (because of its Swede form hull I presume). That beam width also translates into some very good stability (both primary and secondary). You have to lean over pretty far to capsize. I canít speak to its rolling ability as I have not yet acquired that skill. Likewise, I havenít gone camping with the boat yet but, it appears to have adequate capacity if I pack smart. The skeg box might get in the way a little bit.
With its generous rocker, the boat is very maneuverable and responsive to both sweep strokes and leaning. Of course this comes at the expense of tracking and, as a result, the boat weathercocks quite a bit. However, if the skeg is deployed, the boat tracks well. I try to rely on corrective strokes and boat lean to hold course but, the skeg is absolutely necessary in any significant beam wind.
The Gulfstream seems to prefer rough water to calm and itís most at home in 1-2 foot wind waves and chop. The features that make it slightly slow (width and rocker) contribute to its excellent rough water performance. The only conditions the Gulfstream doesnít seem to like are large quartering or following seas. I find I must fully deploy the skeg in those conditions. Even then I find I must occasionally brace or rudder to stay on course.
The quality of construction of the Gulfstream appears quite good both inside and out. Likewise the skeg system seems to be well designed and sturdy. Unfortunately, my 2006 model has the plastic bulkheads and plastic H-channel seam with a glass strip on the inside. I understand newer Gulfstreams have glass bulkheads and can be ordered with the optional glass outside seam. As for the rest of the boatís features, I like the looks of the minimalist deck rigging, deck lines and end toggles (BTW Ė theyíre not for carrying). The seatís pretty comfortable although Iíve replaced the stock back band with a more comfortable one from NSI. The Kajac Sport hatch covers seal very well and are easy to work with.
All in all, I believe the Gulfstream is a high quality boat well suited to larger kayakers paddling in somewhat rough water. Iím only giving it a 9/10 because I wish I had the glass bulkheads and glass outside seam. Nonetheless, I am quite pleased with the Gulfstream and hope to paddle it for many years.
Fastest? Maybe not. Narrowest? Maybe not. All around do everything very well boat? Definitely. I love mine so far.
Bottom line, I absolutely loved the boat, but alas at 170 lbs and a size 33 waist the cockpit was just too large for me to feel comfortable in. Foaming out the major points of contact didnít really do the trick for me so I sold my Gulfstream and moved on.
I still find myself comparing every kayak I paddle to the Gulfstream. Even after moving on I am still amazed at how nice this boat was to paddle.
Oh Current Designs, if only you would have glassed in the bulkheads on ALL of the Gulfstreams I could have rated the boat a 9, but you didnít, so you get an 8! (Iím reserving my 10 rating for the perfect boat which I am still searching for)
I get some leaks in the for and aft hatches, between the ring and hull. My guess is it's just time for new gaskets. It can be hard to turn until you put it on edge, more than just a little. If I lean it until the cockpit rim is just about in the water it will spin on a dime.
For day tripping I might like something a bit narrower and lower, but as others said, if you can only have one, this is a good one.
I wanted a boat that was light, nimble, quick, easy to turn yet capable of supporting my weekend camping habit. Previously I had several kayaks to pick from. I finally gave up my poly CD Scirrico and my Kevlar CD Solstice and purchased the Gulfstream. I'm still having expedition kayak capability withdrawl having given up the Solstice, but the joy I get out of the turning performance and ease of use of the Gulfsteam seems to make it all worthwhile.
THIS BOAT CAN DANCE. It performs more like an extension of your mind and body than something you put in the water and sit in. It may not be the individual best boat in each category, (i.e., fastest, lightest, quickest turning, stablest, etc.) but it's definitely the best when you combine all of the categories together. It's the fastestlighteststablesteasiest turning boat I've ever paddled.
Stability and handling: The initial stability is light enough to make it easy to edge the boat into a wave or to carve a turn, but it doesnít feel twitchy once youíre acclimatized to it. The secondary stability kicks in about when the coaming gets down to the water, so the boat wonít embarrass you for not paying attention every second, and there is a confident point you can push it down to when carving a turn. Maneuverability is very good in all conditions, and it responds very well to carved turns on the inside edge Ė much better than many British-style boats. In a following sea, I find I need to lower the skeg most of the way down to avoid broaching. I sometimes use a little bit of skeg in a beam sea. In flatter conditions I donít use the skeg at all. The Gulfstream doesnít roll itself, but it comes around effortlessly when my form is right. Punching into the chop in a 20 mph wind a little water comes over the bow, but it flows off the foredeck in front of the hatch cover and doesnít spray up into my face. I havenít had it out in anything more serious than a 20 mph wind, but at that level of intensity it seems to have no vices.
Fit: Iím 5í7Ē and 175 pounds. I have size 10 feet, but wear size 12 booties to fit over the Gore-Tex booties in my dry suit. Foot room is comfortable. The cockpit felt a little bit loose until I added about an inch of foam in the thigh brace area.
Cargo capacity: The soft cooler and Dutch oven that fit comfortably into the Nimbus Telkwa had to get left behind when I moved to the Gulfstream, but all the other camping gear fits comfortably. My only camping trip with this boat was in mild conditions. It handled the load so well I could forget I was carrying cargo until it was time to carry the boat up the beach.
Build quality: The only quality problem I had was with the original equipment backband. It was fastened in with bolts run through grommets set in a loose-weave webbing without any reinforcement. The grommets pulled out the first time I used the boat. Current Designs should know better. Iíve had the boat three years now and nothing else has gone wrong with it. The skeg is controlled by a solid rod of some amazing alloy that doesnít corrode in salt water and doesnít kink the way cables often do.
Little quibbles: The position of the skeg slider allows me to nick my fingers on it occasionally. Itís also right in the area where I needed to add outfitting foam, which complicated shaping the foam. Both these problems would be solved if the slider was located about six inches aft of its present location.
There are four small bungee cords that stabilize the backband. There are two holes in the bottom of the lip of the coaming that the bungees run through, where they are secured Ė sort of Ė with cord locks. Two cords go through each hole. The cord locks donít hold up to the pressure put on the backband when I do wet re-entries. Itís also a nuisance to figure out which bungee you need to adjust to fine-tune the backband position. I solved both of these problems by drilling additional holes so that each bungee goes in through its own hole, then comes out through another hole. This makes it easy to find the bungee you want to adjust, and the additional friction keeps the cord locks from slipping.
The seat pan is the right shape for my butt, the top back edge of it has a sharp edge. After my butt got pinched between the edge of the seat pan and the backband a couple of times, I moved the attachment points for the backband forward as far as I could to allow me to adjust the backband far enough forward to prevent this. The manufacturer could mold a curve into the top edge of the seat pan to prevent this problem.
Summary: The Gulfstream is a good, well-rounded choice for a serious paddler or aspiring intermediate looking for a boat large enough to carry camping gear. There are other boats that are trendier, flashier, and have a trimmer waistline. There are boats that out-perform it in some particular attribute, but only at the expense of some other important characteristic. The Gulfstream is my boat and I donít care what the fashion police say about it, Iím well bonded with it, and weíre together for the long haul.
Some people seem to take issue with the plastic bulkheads. Two things should be mentioned here. First every boat needs to be outfitted to be perfectly suited to your individual tastes, style and also for safety. As a guide I always change and modify things. Every boat I have had has needed changes. Personally I have liked the plastic bulkheads since it is easy to repair them. This is especially true when out in the wilderness. Second, fiberglass bulkheads can always be added if you really wanted, but one should always inspect your boat before and after each trip. As a guide I have seen a lot of abuse and use of kayaks. I've even had fiberglass bulkheads crack and leak.
Back to the Gulfstream. Yes things can be better. I have had to rig the handles with elastic cord so they don't knock about in the wind and the CD safety line with those plastic clips has to go. What I have not had are seam and gel cracks, broken skeg boxes and faulty hatches.
I know some folks rave about this boat. For playing in a cove or surfing, I suppose it would be fine but for long, fast crossing where you're going to do some mileage, I'd consider a different boat.
As far as speed. Yes there are faster kayaks but this boat is not slow and it will hold a good speed better than some longer boats that are thought to be fast. I would suggest that anyone looking for a great kayak to check out the Gulfstream. I feel that it is one of the top 10 sea kayak designs there is.
The cockpit is quite loose, though I have no trouble rolling it with the wonderful thigh bracing. I am not particularly large; 5-11 and 168#. I have not outfitted it with any additional foam. I find the seat to be the MOST comfortable one that I have ever sat in. This is the fourth kayak that I have owned and I have paddled many, many others while assisting with classes (including whitewater boats).
My paddling consists of the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Pacific Ocean (including surfing). The boat handles well in surf (though not nearly as playful as a WW boat!). The boat does tend to give a bit of a wet ride in swells. This is a trade-off with choppy water handling. What allows it to slice through chop is also what allows it to ďplungeĒ a bit powering down the backside of a swell. The hatches, however, stay bone dry. Itís not really a complaint, just a ďheads-upĒ.
If I had one complaint it would be the day-hatch. Being right-handed, I would prefer it to be on my left side so that my ďcontrol handĒ could remain in control of my paddle in rougher conditions when I want to access items. It also is a bit voluminous for a day hatch; but I am nitpicking now! A wonderful boat that anyone would love!
The boat has great initial and primary stability. It tracks well with out the skeg, but in windy conditions or choppy water the skeg puts the boat on rails. It is very nimble. The only negative is the wet ride, I was out today on Lake Washington winds were 15 to 20 mph with waves 1 to 2 ft and I took a lot of water over the bow. The hatches were bone dry.
The quality is excellent from what I can see, nice finish, smooth gel coat, no flaws or quality issues that I can detect. I replaced the stck back band with an Imersion research back band. The stock band is ineffective in my opionion. The boat is beautiful to look at and a pleasure to paddle, just what I was looking for. Overall rating 9.5/10.
In Feb. of this year I was able to get my hands on a used Gulfstream that has changed hands many times and has obviously had some repairs. It still doesn't leak (including the hatches) and it handles like it just came off the shelf. I had it out this week in 20mph winds and 2' seas, and it tracked like I was on a lake. I was told that I might have trouble rolling this boat because of its width and the high rear deck (being an older Gulfstream). But, I was rolling it (after some instruction) on my 4th time in a kayak.
I am 6'5" 220lbs and I still have some extra padding in the knee braces. I like the storage capacity and I prefer the skeg over a rudder. I love this boat!!!!
This boat is beautifully made -- it is almost flawless in construction. I took it on the water today (where we experiencing a 10-15 kph wind with gusts up to 25. The boat performed beautifully. I was surprised (pleasantly) by the initial stability. The reviews had led me to believe that it was a tippy boat with great secondary stability. This boat has more than adequate initial stability. However, it loves to be put on its edge. The impact of the skeg is very noticeable. With the skeg down, the boat tracks -- it is hard to turn it; with the skeg up, the boat is highly manuevrable. It took small beam waves with an unbelievable ease. I was fighting the wind and the waves, but not the boat.
I am very pleased with it and would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a boat that they will hard pressed outgrow. Lets put it this way -- if I had only one boat to own, this is the one that I would keep.
It beautifully marries the best of North American and British design. Finally, for the record, it is a Derek Hutchinson designed boat -- I now see why there is such a mystique about these boats.
120,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!