Had the opportunity to demo the Tiderace Xcite kayak this week in New York City where they’ve just became available at NY Kayak Co. In sum – great boat! I’ve seen few reviews of the boat online so thought I’d add my first impressions.
I’ve been sea paddling for 12 years; nowadays prefer shorter jaunts in rougher water over all-day journeys; hold the BCU 4 Star award; lead beg./int. paddlers on organized day trips in season; have owned boats by Necky, Valley, and NDK; weight: 180 lbs, height: 5'10".
Seat/cockpit ergonomics are a personal thing, and given time one can get used to a range of deck-heights, seat shapes, etc. But the first thing I noticed when I planted my behind in this boat is that it was the most well-fitting cockpit of any boat I’ve paddled – and this without making any adjustments. (We unwrapped the new boat as it was shipped and put it directly in the water.) The front of the cockpit coaming has thigh-grips that are more centrally located than other boats, allowing for a bit more knees-up paddling position. Front deck height is similar to many boats out there – not radically different there, but because the thigh grips are closer to the center, one can get a bit more up-down knee movement during forward paddling which helped rotation and stroke power. I also found the seat and backband comfortable. Footpegs are mostly plastic, but are easily adjustable from the cockpit (yes, from a seated position) – easy to adjust first time.
I paddled the Xcite for about one hour on the Hudson River, empty of gear, no appreciable wind (5 knots perhaps), mild, following swell and boat wakes, in approx. 1-2 knot current. Admittedly a short amount of time under conditions that didn't allow a real "vetting" of the boat's performance, but enough to get a good feel for the boat. Paddling a new boat you first notice the differences to your current boat - I've been paddling an NDK Romany recently, a 16 foot boat good in rough water. At 17 feet, the Xcite has more displacement than my current boat and since I weigh 180 pounds, this is generally a good thing. The added buoyancy gave the Xcite a lively feel. It tracks a bit straighter than the Romany, but still a lively and maneuverable boat. In moving around some buoys, I was surprised by how easily the boat side-slips (hanging draw). This may be due to the cross sectional shape of the hull and the fact that the boat was empty of gear. The boat has a rounded hull in the front, transitioning to a fairly aggressive chine under the cockpit (harder chined than many boats but still a "soft" chine, not a 90-degree Greenland chine). Edging the boat allowed me to make full-commitment turns and sweeps. Edging "locks-in" the boat making it more effective against weather-cocking than other boats I’ve owned recently.
I found the boat well-balanced fore and aft, it appears to have roughly equal volume in front of and behind the cockpit. Having paddled boats with different proportions over the years, I think this set-up may be best. Allows the boat to catch swells and surf early but also allows the boat to get up to speed quickly. In 1-foot following seas during my demo paddle with no skeg, the boat accelerated well, had a mild amount of yaw. Would love to try it in bigger seas. Other things – backwards paddling, turning the boat with sweeps, rolling, primary/secondary stability – I found all such aspects great. Overall it was a fun boat to paddle.
A new boat line from any company is always a question mark, will it be worth paddling or owning? Many experienced paddlers are familiar with the Xcite's designer Aled Williams, who is an expert paddler himself and helped design such boats as the Romany and Rockpool Alaw. So from the outset, I think people are expecting only good surprises from the Tiderace boats. With the Xcite, I don't think they'll be disappointed. As a first impression, it appears to be a boat that will do many things well – play, journey, whatever. If all you're doing is playing in the surf, perhaps a shorter boat that fits like a vice would be best. If you're primarily going on long journeys point-to-point, boats with less rocker might be better. I think this boat will appeal to those who only have room for one boat to do many things. Of course, I haven't paddled it in big stuff – conditions for which it was designed...
Some extra points:
- The finishing of this boat is immaculate: Bulkheads are finished on both sides, so there are no sharp edges of fiberglass that could puncture a dry bag. (Don't laugh, this is sometimes the case). Deck fittings are the screw-in Kajaksport type and are encapsulated in glass under the deck (similar to VCP fittings) to ensure water-tightness and prevent snagging. Skeg and slider work well, no problems. The boat has a new style of Kajaksport hatch cover – lighter and stiffer than the older version. I was skeptical at first, but in use they snap on more easily than the older, fully rubberized version. And yes they were water tight after bracing, edging and three eskimo rolls. The 2nd "day hatch" in front of the cockpit is small but could hold a radio, Powerbar or small flare. All hatch covers come tethered to fiberglass grommets inside the compartments – very nice.
- The rear of the back band is held up by short loops of line attached at the rear coaming. This is a higher position than other back band attachment points and appears to prevent the band from sagging down or pinching the lower back. Very nice.
- The seat is aligned with the cockpit coaming and attaches to coaming flanges with screws. This means it is positioned identically from boat to boat – which is a good thing. This may seem minor, but I've found that fore/aft seat position does have a surprising effect on boat behavior. So it is good to have a consistent benchmark for the seat location.
- I had read good things online about the boat's full-plate footrest and adjustable seat. So was disappointed to hear that both options have now been dropped by Tiderace, and were not included in the boat I demoed. Am unsure whether I would have liked these features or not – perhaps Tiderace will offer them as options.Here is my review of my new Tiderace Xcite. The better reviews state the background of the paddler, his or her size, and biases, the conditions tested in, and the factual reason for the conclusion reached. I wanted to see if Aled’s design statements held up to my experiences in the boat so far.
Designer statement: Aled Williams
The Xcite is designed as a fast yet maneuverable coastal touring kayak. At home playing in rough water, equally comfortable carving turns through rock gardens, the Xcite has ample storage for week long trips. Its high stability and quick turning response make this boat a joy for those paddlers looking to improve their skills and take on advanced conditions.
The Xcite has been in development since it was originally designed by Aled Williams in 2001. This final version is totally redeveloped through the use of CAD design software and a new wood strip plug was made. The Xcite now benefits from a more refined hull design: waterline volume distribution has been equalized, waterline length increased by 80mm, lowering of waterplane(cwp), prismatic(cp), midship area(cx) and block(cb) coefficients and finer Half Angle of Entry and Exit, giving a more efficient hull. The bow volume has been redistributed to reduce slamming in choppy waters and the stern area shaped to reduce squatting of the stern while paddling forward. The rear deck has been raised to increase stiffness and storage, a fore-deck hatch added and the bow hatch profiled to ease vacuum construction. The final version of the Xcite is faster and more efficient while still retaining volume, stability and the seaworthy rough water handling performance is has become renowned for.
Height 6 ft 3 in, weight 178 lb, waist size 34 in., shoe size 12 Additionally I had about 10 lbs of gear with most of the weight in day hatch,and spare paddles one foredeck.
Intended uses and desired attributes in a boat
Paddling coastal Maine. Does-everything boat geared toward day touring, surf, and rough water play. Would like to be able to do 3-5 day overnight trips. Emphasis is on the play boat but would love it to be as efficient and stable as possible for several day trips.
Comfortable in 25 knots wind, can handle 30, waves to 6 feet,solid rescues and roll in same. Comfortable in 2 ft surf. Solid roll in same. Wanting to expand to bigger surf. I currently own an NDK Explorer and a Jay Babina designed Outer Island.
Started in whitewater 30 years ago, sea kayaking last 15 years. Instructor of beginning and intermediate paddlers. Sierra guide. Helping professional and educator.
One hour, 5 hour and 2 hour sessions. First on Hudson River, winds to 15 k, second on Lake George (32 mile x 3 mile lake)winds to 22 k, third Hudson River, winds to 25 k., wind against tide.
My bias is that no seat ever fits me, and I always replace with custom foam Seat. However, the seat provided was solidly built and comfortable to me. I don’t use a back band. However, the one provided was comfortable and very Well made.
The left pedal broke within minutes of my first brace. The dealer replaced it Immediately and was totally helpful. Alex himself stated that the model shipped to them was inferior to the one specified and it was already corrected. He personally apologized for the oversight.
The build quality was totally on par with the best boats I have seen made in the 15 years. It was finished outside and inside, reinforced in all the right places. I Got the Hardcore layup and it appears very stiff and rugged. I especially liked The small skeg box, and the small extra compartment in front of the cockpit, Since I want it to be a 3-5 day boat as well as a playboat, I specially liked the Roominess in the cockpit for my 34" inseam legs and size 12 feet.
Aled states that the Hardcore layup is not meant to be lighter. It is meant to be tougher. I agree. The boat is only 2 lbs lighter. The trade off is that repairs to fiberglass are generally easier.
The statistics back up my conclusion that the initial stability, is excellent. I Found it on par with my Explorer, a boat most students and instructors rate Very high. The transition from primary to secondary is very linear and
All the way to laying on the water for bracing and sculling.
Secondary stability and edging characteristics
The statistics also back up my conclusion that the secondary stability is very Firm as well. The boat does not need to be edged to turn smartly, but edging Produces a very predictable and very quick slip or carved turn.
I found the best characteristic of this boat the fact that regardless of direction of the wind, the boat could be edged easily to accelerate or check turning without use of the skeg. The skeg is very effective on a long beam run in high winds.
For a boat with this much rocker I found it amazing that I could make it track so Easily. This is why, in my experiences with it, that it did so well in the really Rougher stuff. Any boat, for example when it is well into a broach is very hard to control. However, I found I could prevent broaching with a hip and edge check, and if I let it broach it was more controllable even then than any other boat.
Performance in wind and waves and chop
I found the boat actually lived up to the designer statement. All boats flaws and must have comprises. However, this boat surpasses any other boat I have paddled as a play boat and also as a 3-5 day trip boat. I find this remarkable. For me, It is more predictable and stable in high wind and waves than a Romany, for example, a boat that is famous for these capabilities. And yet it is more efficient and holds more.
To be totally objective and accurate with only 6 outings and only 3 in conditions is not possible. And it differs by paddler size, experience, skill, and biases. However, so far, with not surfing, and in current only of 2 knots, winds to 25k, waves of 3 feet on Lake George, I find this boat actually meets or surpasses my experience in all other boats I have had the pleasure of trying, and actually does what the designer states, a true rarity. Since all boats must have compromises, I was very pleased to find this boat was an absolutely confidence inspiring play boat but was amazingly efficient, roomy, and well tracking for 3-5 day trips. I had intended it to be a great rough water boat and settle as that. To find it so capable for gear and week long trips makes this boat my favorite boat of all time. A good friend WisoJ pointed out to me that it really helps if the designer has authority and little red tape so the boat can be refined and evolved. Many times in a short period of time. This may be the reason the Xcite has profited from a number of prior versions and now appears to be a very refined design. As I get to test the boat is additional conditions I may find flaws not as yet discovered. I will post back to the board for an update at a later time.