“It’s quite difficult to go out paddling these days and not find yourself encountering at least one or two (or five or six) Tiderace kayaks in your group. There have been times on the water when I’ve felt like I’ve stumbled into a Tiderace demo day without anyone informing me. Naturally, I started getting curious about the attraction of this particular brand and the reasons behind its proliferation. This curiosity was then fed by a growing realisation that I just might be in the market for a new kayak. It wasn’t that my existing kayak was falling to bits or anything, it was more a desire to introduce a little variety into my paddling life, as well as a bit more storage volume. I couldn’t ignore the fact that whenever a Tiderace owner started talking about their kayak, they always smiled with genuine pleasure and pride. The brand is also gaining quite a reputation for quality. I’d noted that the Tiderace kayaks’ layup (starting with G-core) is robust and does not “oil-can” and that the refinements and finishing touches are in a class of their own, not to mention that the colourways and graphics are extremely eye-catching.
Somehow, I found myself attending one of Kayak Bute’s regularly scheduled demo days, where Roddy, the owner, arrived with a trailer full of beautiful, shiny, new Tiderace kayaks for folks to try out. Also in attendance was Alice who works for Tiderace and whose acquaintance I had already made in paddling circles online. I brought along my Greenland gear (paddles, tuiliq and norsaq) as I thought it would be especially fun to try out some traditional skills with the various types of kayak on offer.
Looking at the specs for Tiderace’s extensive range of models, it was clear that the Xcite S had been built with someone of my dimensions or thereabouts in mind (1.65m, 53 kg). I do love when that happens as it seems like it was only recently that I stopped wishing I was a tall 80 kg man so that I could get a kayak to fit me. Fresh from recent traditional skills training with Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson (who also use Tiderace kayaks), I have gained an appreciation of how the original Inuit vessels and paddles were built around the dimensions of the individual paddler. Therefore, in relation to fit, I’m no longer quite as inclined to make do. Upon seeing the Xcite S, the first thing that struck me was that this was a narrower kayak (at 50 cm) than I’ve known and I strongly suspected that connectivity would be very good, a key factor for practising traditional skills in particular. Indeed it was, with the thigh braces contributing to a nice snug fit. Even so, the kayak possesses more volume than you might expect, at 311 litres.
On the water, it became clear that this kayak had a quite different feel from what I’m used to. It has softer chines than my existing one and it therefore has a more lively character, turning on the proverbial dime. Edging is decided by the paddler, and not the “locking-in” point of the kayak. I then started on my Greenland rolls repertoire and am happy to report that, after lots of immersions, no swimming was involved! I was very impressed by the absence of a day hatch behind the cockpit – the bane of the layback roll. Many are the times I have become stuck on that particular hatch cover in other kayaks. Besides, I much prefer the Xcite S’s convenience hatch in front of the cockpit, which is extremely useful for all the little things you need to have handy when on the water. Every kayak should have one! (Well, every Tiderace kayak does).
Before long, Roddy then Alice joined us on the water in order to try out some skinny sticks, whilst other attendees worked on their standard rolls. Rolling is not compulsory at Kayak Bute’s demo days! But it can certainly add to the fun if you’re so inclined.
I tried out a couple of other Tiderace models, including the new Xplore M. I’ll be honest, at that point, I became a little torn. The Xplore M was rather nice! It was a little roomy for me, but it did feel comfortable and – for want of a better word – familiar. In other words, I think it is more akin to kayaks that I happen to be accustomed to (perhaps that related to its width). The Xcite S, on the other hand, was a somewhat different animal.
I came home that weekend and reflected on my experience. As I prepared to make a choice, I recalled Roddy’s sage advice, “Choose the kayak that makes you smile”. There was no doubt that the Xcite S had raised a big smile and, a bit like a schoolgirl crush, I now couldn’t stop thinking about it. Biting the bullet, I proceeded to contact Roddy and advise him – I want one, and I want one now!
Kayak Bute pulled out all the stops to secure my chosen vessel quickly. Suffice to say, I have rarely experienced such exceptional customer service. As a highly experienced kayaker and coach, Roddy’s natural enthusiasm and knowledge contribute to achieving a shared understanding of needs and preferences. Within a couple of weeks I was in possession of my beautiful kayak and its first outing was at the Scottish Women’s Sea Kayak Festival which was, as it so happened, being run by Kayak Bute. I’d deliberated on whether I should take a brand new kayak that was synonymous with lively and exciting conditions out into somewhat lively and exciting conditions. I admit there was a small part of me that was slightly nervous that this might be the point where I realised I’d made an error of judgement and that the kayak’s reputed playfulness might require more advanced skills than I presently possessed. Throwing caution to the wind (literally), however, I decided there was no way I was leaving it behind. What a pleasant realisation when I felt perfectly happy out in some rougher water and wind, where the Xcite S composes itself and acts like a responsible adult, taking care of its paddler. Yet, it also offers improved manoeuvring capability and responsiveness – all the ingredients that go towards making me a better kayaker.
Kayaking is a big part of my life, so buying a new kayak is an important landmark. I’m delighted that, not only is paddling the Xcite S pleasurable and lots of fun, but so was the process of choosing and purchasing it from Kayak Bute. As a matter of fact, I haven’t stopped smiling!”
Submitted by Pam – August 2012