I'm only 5'9" but chose the Isle for three reasons:
Just returned from a 9 day, 8 night trip in Everglades and Keys in the Gulf of Mexico. The Isle handled all the gear (plus 10+ gallons of water) with ease, I definitely feel that the Isle could haul as much gear as I could ever need on a kayaking trip. The large hatches easily fit large dry bags and gallon jugs of water. There was also room behind my seat (for water bottles/sponges etc) and at my feet behind the foot braces for gallon jugs or dry bags. The hatches are well designed, very secure but also easy in/out. The foot braces are very user friendly- easily adjusted while in the boat. The seat is as comfortable as any I've ever experienced in a kayak.
- because of being a "hippy" woman (the Isle's cousin the caribou was just too tight for me)
- after three knee surgeries I wanted a larger cockpit that would be easy to enter/exit
- I wanted a large "expedition" boat for lengthy trips.
The largest waves we experienced were 2 ft (ie 4 foot from crest to trough) and the Isle handled with total ease. A few waves were large enough to break over my torso and yet the Isle never felt squirrely or unstable. I'm sure the Isle could handle larger water than I want to paddle. The Isle turned well when on edge but with the skeg down tracked well too.
I'm thrilled with the Isle, really have no complaints at all. It is stable without being a tub, large capacity, very well designed. I've taken out empty for day trips and while it sits a bit high in the water then, it still handled well. I have the kevlar option and appreciate the reasonable wt for a full length boat, and also no fears as I dragged it over oyster shells. I would recommend the Isle for larger paddlers who want some serious carrying capacity.About 6 weeks ago I purchased a fiberglass Isle from Current Designs. I now have almost 150 miles in the boat, and can offer a few initial impressions...
I'm 63 years old, built like a pro football lineman gone to seed. I'm 6-foot 3-inches, with short legs and arms for that height, and a long trunk. Weight when I bought the boat was pushing 300 lbs., but it's now about 280—one of the reasons for the boat. Age, injuries and medical conditions have left me with a few skeletal peculiarities. One knee has been surgically replaced, and both sacroiliac joints have fused spontaneously, because of arthritis. The physical stuff taken together pretty much dictates a large boat with a large cockpit, and the Isle provides that.
The other boats which I have paddled extensively enough to provide comparisons are the Impex Assateague and the Current Designs Titan — both big-person boats. I liked paddling both of those, and each has its points, but I prefer the Isle as an all-around paddling experience. The Isle differs from the others in having hard chines, a few inches of extra length, and an amount of rocker intermediate between them, with the Assateague having the most rocker and the Titan the least. The Titan has a rudder; the Isle and Assateague are skeg boats, which I prefer. The Assateague is narrower at 22 inches (the others are 24), and has a lower deck and shorter cockpit. I found it somewhat less comfortable than the other two for that reason, but adequate. The Isle has a lower deck than the Titan, which I prefer because the deck on the Titan is so high that it sometimes forced me to hold my hand higher than I wanted to.
The Isle was actually quite uncomfortable for me at first, because the thigh braces molded into the cockpit combing were too low, and badly positioned for my large thighs. They dug in without adding utility—because my knees have plenty of contact under the deck—and complicated getting out of the boat. I had a fiberglass guy take the thigh braces off, making entry and exit much easier, and vastly improving my paddling comfort. A further improvement came when I removed the soft seat cushion that comes with the boat. It was comfy, but inhibited changes in body position and body rotation when paddling. I don't mind the hard plastic seat at all. The back band on the Isle is narrow and hard. It doesn't bother me, but I may sometime replace it with one like the Titan has, which is a bit taller and softer. Or I may let well enough alone, because I LOVE the way the boat paddles as it is now equipped.
The Isle gives me better initial stability than either of the others, perhaps because of the hard chines. I can sit at rest without the slightest unsteadiness, which I could not due with the Titan, and could do only with concentration with the Assateague. Because of my build, long trunk, height and weight, I seem to be a bit challenged for stability in rough water with any of these 3 boats. I have inadvertently capsized both the Assateague and the Titan when caught broadside by boat wakes. Compared to them, the Isle seems better, although it too makes me nervous at times. But I have had it in rougher conditions than the other two, and so far no mishaps. Small whitecaps have been okay, as well as a couple of 4-foot tugboat wakes coming in simultaneously from different angles (when I saw that developing I expected a swim, but came through okay). With 20 mph winds kicking up 2- to 3-foot waves over a 3 mile fetch across the bay the Isle has been right there for me. When heading into waves that are close together, like boat wakes often are, the Isle rides nicely over the first, then drives the bow through the next. Even then the cockpit has stayed dry. Surprisingly little spray comes off the bow, and so far no solid water into the cockpit even when the bow cuts through.
With the skeg up, the Isle seems to turn a bit easier than the Assateague, and far easier than the Titan without the rudder. The Titan tracks amazingly, but with the skeg down the Isle does nearly as well. The Titan seems to be the best of the three for glide, but the Isle is not far behind. The Assateague glides well too, but not as well as the other two.
In a strong crosswind (20+) with the skeg down, the Isle has a slight tendency to turn toward the wind. It is so slight it doesn't even seem to require extra energy to correct. I do wonder if someone who weighed less than I do might experience a bit more of that.
Overall, the Isle feels to me like the fastest of the three boats, the most easily driven, and the most responsive. Using a GPS on flat water with no wind or current I find I can paddle the Titan for 2 miles at about 4.8 miles per hour, and the Assateague at about 4.6, but with somewhat more effort. I think the extra rocker on the Assateague makes a bigger wake, (although it also make the Assateague much easier to turn than the Titan.) I can push either boat above 5 mph with effort, but it's hard to sustain that speed, especially in the Assateague. In the Isle I find I can sustain 5.2 mph for two miles with relative ease. When I switch back to the Titan I find that it feels absolutely stately by comparison.
I'm not particularly fit, but may be a bit stronger than average for someone my age. Plenty of young athletes are far stronger and fitter than I am, and they could probably make the Isle fly—if they didn't end up choosing the similarly designed but lower-volume and narrower Current Designs Caribou.
Anyway, I'm very happy with the Isle so far. I go out for an eight-mile paddle and come back in less than two hours with a great big grin. Hope this helps.I recently purchased a new kevlar Isle. I have been touring in my Nigel Foster Shadow for several years and I really like the boat, yet the fit was never quite right. I am 6'4", have very long legs, size 12 feet and weigh in well over 230 lbs. I am a fan of hard chine boats, and wanted something with a higher foredeck and even more volume for longer trips. At my size, all of my "stuff" takes up more room than a smaller paddler.
The Isle fits the bill perfectly. I was hooked after a 30 minute test paddle. This is the first boat I have owned where I don't have the foot braces all the way toward the bow, so there is room in front of them for a dry bag or two, the forward storage is very good and the rear storage is massive. Easy to bring everything I needed on a recent trip of the west coast of Vancouver Island, with room left over.
The boat has decent initial stability, and edges really well. I found paddling confused seas with 3'-4' chop no problem, it cuts through waves very well and locks onto the edge as well as my Shadow. The boat sits fairly high in the water when empty, so weather-cocking is noticeable, but once loaded it tracks really well, and I didn't use the skeg very often, except in following seas. Paddled one day in 4'-5' swells with opposing chop and there were no issues. The boat is responsive and predictable. Even though it is 24" wide, it is still quite fast, paddling at 3 knots loaded was almost effortless.