I had been considering whether to buy or not to buy my own sea kayak for some time. Buying your first Sea Kayak is a decision I am sure many people find difficult. I wasn’t really paddling on the sea at that point as I didn’t know anyone I could regularly paddle with. None of the local clubs catered for sea paddlers nor ran any trips, so the only other way I could get out was to pay for commercial courses and trips that would therefore allow me the ability to use one of their boats.
The opportunities are clearly there with course or trip providers and obviously you can hire a boat from certain watersport suppliers, though I could see no point in that if I still didn’t have any sea kayaking friends. Going down the commercial route makes perfect sense for courses and expeditions, but again the cost would mean I would only probably get out 3 or 4 times a year.
My other issue is each time I then attend any courses or trips I am having to get used to a different boat each time. Not everyone has a small volume boat free when I need one that would suit my size and ability.
I would keep window shopping and looking at various boats but still felt completely undecided whether I actually wanted to buy one or not. Was I paddling enough to justify the outlay? To be honest, no. Though that again left an issue, how do you progress your skills and experience without buying your first Sea Kayak?
The new boats are a big outlay. I am also conscious of the fact that until then, I have only paddled carbon/composite. So would I feel a big difference if I went for plastic?
Love at first sight
It was whilst casually flicking through one of the used kayak sites one morning that a particular boat caught my eye. A Tiderace Xplore S for sale in Lincolnshire. It looked and sounded good so it was worth a drive down to have a look. I am still pretty uncommitted at this point, though I convince Mark to drive down with me after work.
We arrived at the address in the early evening and waiting for me in the garden was this:
‘Mark get your wallet out…’ It was absolutely stunning. Completely flawless with not a scratch or scuff on it. The hatches are all dry, well sealed and in excellent condition. It was the right size for me, so test paddle here I come….
With the owner taking us to a section of water nearby, it was time to try this beauty out. The water was disgustingly filthy and we have to climb over some fencing to get to it. But if, like me, you are buying your first Sea Kayak, you really must try before you buy. It was certainly twitchy, but oh so responsive. Light and easy to paddle, tracking beautifully in a straight line and easy to manouvre.
Tiderace Xplore S
Tiderace Xplores are a beautifully designed kayak and the creation of British designer Aled Lloyd Williams. Someone whom I had the pleasure of meeting on a trip at the Menai Straits on a later paddle. His other work include Rockpool and the earlier Nigel Dennis expedition kayaks. The Tiderace clearly drew on all his experience and knowledge of what makes a great kayak.
Try before you buy…
I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel relaxed, as you can probably see from the look on my face, but I knew instantly this beauty was coming home with me on the roof of my car. The Xplores have a moderately chined hull, making them easy to turn and more than capable of handling rougher conditions and I was more than happy with this boat. The cockpit and seating were extremely comfortable, lending itself perfectly to longer trips and expeditions. I hadn’t paddled a boat of such quality before, and yes you really can tell the difference in the design and build when you find it.
Once off the water I cleaned the boat down and waited for the nod from Mark. I was beaming from ear to ear. Mark…not so much. I would have paid for it, course I would, but with no signal on my phone and unable to access my online banking (honest) I gave him my best smile, while he rolled his eyes. So to buy or not to buy, really? I had made the decision as soon as I had seen it. The deal was done, of course it was, so it was time to set off home.
Whilst Mark sat in despair at yet another kayak taking over his man cave, I put my mind to a name for this beautiful piece of engineering. To be honest it had named itself from the moment I saw it, with its bold and distinctive colour scheme. The very first thing we did next morning was go straight round to the sign writers nearby for its name and logo.