Submitted by: Ben Hawthorne | September, 2016.
The Toro is ZET’s 4th boat out of the mold and the newest addition to their already reputable line-up. First announced in early 2015, the design took a while for ZET to finalize which (for me at least) built up a great deal of anticipation for its release. Having since picked one up earlier this year, I’m happy to say this boat does not disappoint. The Toro is more or less the design I was hoping ZET would create and I’ve been really enjoying paddling it. As a reviewer, here are the specifics....
The Toro is long, or at least long enough. Coming in at that near magical 9 ft mark, it sits well with many current creek boat designs such as Pyranha’s 9R. This length makes the Toro fast. It’s also much more rockered than any of ZET’s previous designs. This makes it more boofable and easier to turn. On the water, you can really feel these two vital design elements straight away.
The Toro has great acceleration for a creeker, and once up to speed, she holds it really well through any feature. The bow is super easy to lift up over waves and holes with the wide stern acting somewhat like an ejector when exiting out of any larger features. As soon as the stern gets loaded up, you can feel the boat begin to shoot forward off the rocker. Together with the bow up, the boat skips out and away from drops really nicely. The displacement hull shape in the bow makes for a relatively forgiving feel. But with a planing hull and plenty of edge under and behind your butt, you can really carve the boat in and around features and then crank into those eddies.
Continuing with what I would term a hybrid displacement hull gives the Toro the ability to plane really well yet allow for soft enough landings on bigger boofs. The widest point on the hull is behind the seat, when combined with the big side walls around the cockpit zone gives the boat lots of stability when on edge. To me it feels like these are design elements of wild-water racing kayaks that are starting to find application in modern creek boat designs - something that I feel works really well in the Toro.
If I have one criticism it’s that the boat is harder to turn once it’s up to speed. It holds any line really well with great tracking, but can take a bit of effort to direct it quickly when moving so fast. I think a big part of this is me paddling the boat a tad too hard and not being used to how quickly it accelerates. But to be honest, this is noticeably less of a problem on bigger volume rivers; hardly surprising for a longer boat like the Toro.
In terms of the outfitting, The Toro comes with ZET’s well revered “simple but solid” outfitting scheme, now fitted with a re-shaped thigh brace. This new shape is quite a bit more deeply contoured than the previous version. The result is a more hook-like fit over the thigh and upper knee that feels more solid than ever before. The only other addition is a handy-dandy hex key mount built into the rear pillar strut. A small detail admittedly, but a nice touch nonetheless, especially when it's the only tool required to adjust or tighten any ZET hardware.
Like ZET's previous boats, the Toro is yet another winning design while proving to be the most radically different from their other models. It’s fast, boofs like a dream, and can be pinged around on technical steeps or charged down big water lines as hard as you like. And like ZET's other models, I would honestly say the Toro isn’t really a beginner’s boat, more so than their other models. Most modern creek boats really like to be driven, and the Toro is no exception. Indeed, the Toro name is very appropriate since it will let you charge around like a bull in a china shop, stomping boofs out at high speed all over the place. But if you let that bull take charge, it just might stomp on you. Personally, l love that sensation.
Altogether, the Toro is another great design from ZET and I’m certainly going to be paddling mine for a long time to come.
Ben Hawthorne, ZET Canada Team Alumni.