SUBMITTED BY SVEN PERSCHMANN | JUNE, 2016.
SO. MUCH. FUN!
...But I guess that's not quite enough now, is it?
All right, here's the full scope.
First let's review my capability to judge a kayak's performance:
I'm 6' tall, 180 lbs, sz 10 feet. I've paddled creek boats for 17 years now. Granted since 2005 it had always been for a sponsor of one form or another. Robson, Riot, Fluid, and now ZET Kayaks. I guess I am biased. But keep in mind that us ZET Canada team members do not get free boats. It would be a lot cheaper for me to paddle any used boat around. But instead I signed up for one of the first Toros to hit Canada solely because I believe in ZET’s outstanding reputation for building quality boats. Not to mention, the design of the new Toro looked like something I would really enjoy - And I was right.
Coming from Riot and their Magnum 72 & 80 creek models, I really liked the idea of having an early rise rocker and more defined tail edges. Fluid took this concept further with the Bazooka and added more volume and a bigger stern.
Now ZET did what I really hoped to find in a boat and designed one that has a similar rocker profile and edge placement while lengthening and streamlining the entire thing. A little narrower, a bit more rocker front and back and a less awkward volume distribution from tip to tail. To say this design proves remarkably versatile is an understatement. By now I have had the boat out on technical steep creeks, pushy river runs and big water. Hell, I even took it play boating one day.
HYBRID HULL DESIGN:
The first thing I noticed was that this boat wants to stay dry. The huge amount of rocker makes it supper easy to lift the bow and skim over holes, reactionaries and anything else that might come your way. Not having any hard edges in the front 1/3 of the boat helps make all this very predictable and it doesn't feel grabby at all when hitting stuff. The first contact with any river features feels like a forgiving displacement hull.
Now the cool thing about having hard edges in the back 2/3 thirds of the boat and being mostly flat-bottomed is that after skimming up onto and over features, the boat becomes a real carver and keeps its speed. I have found myself going for bigger boofs because I know that instead of getting stalled out, I only ramp up and carry my speed over and out.
On shallower, rockier runs however, I do feel like I need to pay some attention to the edges when grinding over rocks. Once I knew where the edges are, it never catches me off guard or throws me off line. To remind you, the Toro does not have a full displacement hull.
For the length of 8'10” it turns extremely fast on the flat of the hull and with the generous amount of rocker front and back. The boat also resurfaces well and likes to push forward when doing so. And on low volume runs where hull speed may be less of a necessity, I actually have to slow myself down as the Toro just wants to rally.
Something I wasn't expecting and thought looked odd at first was the wider stern and narrower bow profile. However, this works very well. The boat feels stable in pushy water while still allowing for aggressive paddling and tight vertical power strokes. The cockpit sits low enough in the back so that it never gets in the way despite the generous amount of stern volume. In short, I have never felt as confident in a boat that was this much fun to paddle! Intuitive is the best term I can use to describe how the Toro feels when paddling.
Basic, bomber, and comfortable. Just like the Director and Raptor models I paddled all last year, I’ve yet to encounter any issues. The seat and centre pillars are held in place by flanges that are part of the hull so there are no extra hardware mounts attached to the cockpit. In fact the only hardware holes in the boat are for the adjustable footrest. And even those can be omitted by opting for any one of ZET’s models to be fitted with a full foam footrest. While I appreciate the foam option, I like allowing others the ability of demoing my boat with room for adjustment. Not to mention having a bit of space to pack a couple things in the bow for any over night trips.
The foam seat and newly re-shaped thigh braces are comfortable, stay warm when wet and don't absorb water. The hip pads are easily adjustable with the use of foam shims that actually stay in place. The backband is comfortable and provides good support. The unique hollow plastic Y-Frame the seat sits on is strong and gives the hull as much support as you could ever want. For example, the Director I paddled all last year had previously experienced 3 seasons of heavy use as a demo and school boat on the Payette River in Idaho and has yet to show any sign of oil canning or outfitting failure - Impressive to say the least.
The bungee cord lacing on the front pillar and seat frame is useful for throwbags, a sponge (when your skirt leaks like mine) and/or a water bottle. Behind the seat is a well-placed cord loop to clip gear onto. The only minor thing I would care to change is access to the stern. In other boats I used to like cutting away the front edge of the rear foam pillar so that I could easily slip in a peli-case or any large dry-bags. The plastic flange used to hold the foam pillar in place tends to restrict this. One way of gaining more access space is carving a bit of foam out of the corner of the seat, which I have yet to do. Other than this, there's nothing else I can think of saying in regards to improving the design of this unbelievable kayak!
So there you go. My full review of the new ZET Toro.
So. Much. Fun!
Sven Perschmann, ZET Canada Team Paddler.