I have had a plastic WS Tempest 165 for eight months now. I am very happy with this kayak.
My boat was a 2005 model, new from a protected storeroom ($500 off), so it may not have the same seat as newer models. The OEM seat was uncomfortable and I have modified it. The seat was the only aspect of the boat that I am not absolutely thrilled with.
I use the boat on reservoirs, rivers with barge traffic, and small creeks. I am a powerful paddler (male, 45 years old) and I can easily average 4-5 knots per hour with my Tempest. I occasionally paddle 5-8 knots upstream, dawdle in the woods for an hour, and then paddle downstream-all in one long afternoon.
I cover so much distance that finding good water to paddle has become a problem. The river in my area has both power boat/jet ski traffic in good weather and tug/barge traffic at all times. I had been river kayaking at night to avoid the power and jet ski operators that constantly endangered me, but an uncomfortably close call with a tug and barge tow has put me off night river kayaking somewhat. There are no creeks longer than five miles locally, so I have to drive from 30-100 miles to find a long stretch of “small water.” But back to the review…
My Tempest is a high performance vessel and has never let me down. I abuse this boat. I have a Werner Corryvrecken paddle, and I put it to good use. I paddle my Tempest into creeks that are just a few inches deep and so narrow I have to split my paddle and use it like hand paddles. I use an aggressive, high angle paddling style, and I have, on several creeks, inadvertently paddled so fast and so far that I ran aground before I saw the stream bed.
I have slid my Tempest over stumps and logs (skeg retracted, of course) and it just keeps going. I have launched and beached in nasty areas. My Tempest has a many scratches and gouges, but like the Energizer bunny, it just keeps going.
My boat has taken me places I didn’t think were possible in a kayak. I have gone so far in streams that I have to pick up my kayak and pivot it, upright on the stern, to turn it around. I have come within 50 yards of beaver; the wild animals are apparently unaccustomed to a human venturing so far into the bush.
This boat will do whatever you want-from fast fitness paddling on rivers and reservoirs, to surfing chop and boat wakes, to lazily drifting in a narrow stream. I absolutely love it. The array of deck lines and bungees does become entangled in tree limbs and such when I am deep in the bush, but this is, after all, a sea kayak. The lines and bungees serve me very well when I setup for a nighttime or river paddle and need a full complement of gear, spare paddle, paddle float, deck bag, bow/stern lighting, etc.
The Tempest weathercocks badly with the skeg retracted. I can be drifting downstream with my skeg up and the boat will pivot amidships with the lightest wind. I can gradually lower my skeg and observe the instant that the skeg’s lateral resistance equals the windage and my vessel stabilizes. The reviewer that said the Tempest skeg was so small as to be ineffective was, in my opinion, completely incorrect. The skeg’s effect is pronounced, both in correcting windage and, if you are a perceptive paddler, in the additional hydrodynamic resistance it incurs.
I don’t view the weathercocking as a design flaw. As a previous reviewer stated, the 165 has a tremendous amount of rocker. The heavily rockered hull, when combined with a little body English and paddle work, makes this kayak extremely maneuverable. The rocker causes the Tempest to pivot amidships noticeably. I believe this is as per design.
I put the skeg down on the river with winds of 15 knots and it readily handles 2’ chop and following seas. I have had my Tempest out on the river in 3-4’ wind-driven waves when the power boat crowd was nervously heading for the boat ramp-and looking at me like I was insane. The limitations I experience are my own; this boat seems unsinkable and unstoppable.
I can put the skeg up and go stump jumping. I am not a whitewater or extreme paddler, but this kayak will make anyone of decent ability feel like an Olympic sprinter or extreme athlete. I am in good physical condition, but I am by no means an advanced paddler.
This boat will bring out the beast in you if you tend toward an aggressive stroke. I sometimes hear the theme music from “Hawaii 5-0” in the back of my mind when that big paddle blade takes bite after bite after bite. I really have to watch paddling downstream-it is far too easy to get going for an hour or two and forget how difficult the upstream leg will be.
Although the WS website describes the friendly handling of the Tempest, I do not think it is a beginner’s kayak. I paddled a 12’ recreational kayak for two months before I bought the Tempest. I called my rec boat “the barge” because I had developed my skills such that the first kayak felt ponderous and slow. Launching with a good deal of unmerited bravado, I nearly capsized the first time I took my Tempest out. That said, one quickly develops the necessary skills. I am very comfortable in the kayak now-I actually dozed off once in my Tempest after taking a long break in warm weather…
The kayak definitely seems to handle better and paddle more smoothly with a bit of cargo. I always carry a heavy toolkit and extensive first-aid kit. As most of my paddling is of late, cold weather, I also carry two dry bags with extra clothes and Mylar blankets. I am a budding sailor, so the idea of ballast may be more acceptable to me than to others. The Tempest just seems smoother with a bit of weight, this is particularly true when I have it up to speed, the momentum seems aided by the weight low in my bilge.
This kayak, especially when combined with a large-bladed paddle, high angle stroke, and aggressive cadence, will give you a workout like you won’t believe. You will cover a surprising distance in short time-regardless of the paddle style and cadence you prefer.
I have not experienced leaky hatches. My rescue repertoire is a paddle float reentry or swim to shore, so I have not repeatedly rolled my kayak. WS hatches have something of a two-step hatch cover sealing requirement. The lower edge of the cover doesn’t audibly “snap” or such, but I can definitely feel whether it is fully seated or not. I have observed fishermen with WS SOTs not properly seating their hatch covers; I believe this may contribute to the problem. I also use ¼” bungees in the hatch cover recess. I always store and transport my vessel with the hatch covers removed and stowed within the hatches. This prolongs the life of the hatch covers.
The 165 is intended for small or midsize paddlers (I am 5’8” and a fairly muscled 175lb). It is significantly different from the 170. This boat won’t carry enough gear for an extended wilderness expedition, but it does everything I want to do incredibly well. This is an excellent all-around kayak and I give it my highest recommendation.