by Bryant Burkhardt
One brand of kayaks that I really want to spend more time in are the TideRace boats. They are a relatively new British company but with a long history of boat design behind it. Their boats combine some classic lines with some new ideas and a focus on hardy construction and seamanship. As with most of the Brit companies, they build boats to perform and be used, not just to look pretty on a sunny day on the lake.
I have paddled the Xcite a couple times and if I were to replace my Ikkuma it would be on the short list. It’s a great all around boat with a flatter stern but softer chines up front and a fair bit of rocker. And I’ve tried the Xstreme briefly – it’s a pure playboat with crazy rocker and performance. But I haven’t gotten the chance to try their expedition boats, the Xplore and Xscape, until yesterday.
Yesterday I got out in the Xplore-S and I loved it! While it is designed for the smaller person, at 6’0″ and 170 it fit me like a glove. It’s 17’6″ long and 20″ wide; a sleek missile of a boat. The seats on the TideRace boats are glassed in and feel really solid. The Xplore has a narrow knee position that was really comfortable and allowed me to push hard with my feet for speed. And it definitely has speed – I was leading a tour and even lilly-dipping I kept drifting ahead. And when I wanted to catch a boat wake or get out in front for pictures it just flew. It didn’t have the maneuverability of the Xcite but it wasn’t just a go straight boat – it accelerated quickly and put on edge it turned nicely. And speaking of edge…
The Xplore-S is a narrow boat but it didn’t feel like only 20″ – it was actually rather stable. The primary is a little loose, as you’d expect, but the secondary was phenomenal. Some boats can be edged far over and some boats are actually solid over there. This boat was rock solid. And this was empty – I think that loaded down it would be that much better. Though I did feel that if I added a 100 lbs. of gear to the S it might be a little much – I might want the regular Xplore for expeditioning at my size.
The Xscape is supposed to be a little more beginner friendly, but I really think that anyone with a little experience who really wants performance and a boat they can grow into should look at the Xplore. It’s a great cruiser and gear hauler that is still fun to take for a day paddle. And if you are worried about keeping up with others then this boat will put your mind at rest.