The Wave Sport Diesel has been around for a number of years now, and it is an extremely common kayak to see out on the river. For good reason. The Diesel is a boat that comes with a reputation for delivering performance in a wide variety of environments, from river running with a bit of play, through to full on creeking. The Diesel is currently in its second incarnation having being updated in 2009 with a modified hull shape and three size options.
The older version of the Diesel is now called the “D Series” and comes in two sizes, the 65 and 75, numbers which represent the volume of the boat in gallons. These versions of the boat come with more basic outfitting and are suited to clubs, schools, or beginners on a budget.
The current version of the Diesel is available in three sizes, the 60, 70, and 80. Once again these numbers refer to the volume of the boats in gallons.
The current Diesel Mk2 is made in the US and shipped to the UK for sale while the UK sales version of the D is I believe manufactured in the UK by Perception Kayaks. Wave Sport are fond of describing the Diesel as the SUV of kayaks, a description which, along with the name doesn’t really conjure up the best impressions of a high performance nippy boat! However contrary to the plodding image that the name and description conjure up the Diesel has gained a reputation for being a fast, playful boat that carves and surfs nicely, and holds speed through the turns.
For a while now I have been paddling a Wave Sport Habitat 74. I really liked it, but it was a full on creek boat with a full displacement hull. After I split my Habitat on the Etive, it was recommended to me to take a look at the Diesel. My reasoning was that the it will run most rivers of the type and grade that I will do. I have no plans to regularly run grade 5, and the Diesel would hopefully offer me more fun on the lower grades while being able to handle the high ones if it was needed.
The current version of the Diesel looks great to be sure. The previous version looked good, but the 2009 revamp ups things quite considerably in the looks stake. White water kayak design is often about practicalities, how the deck sheds water, how well it resurfaces through waves and after drops, volume distribution and such like. An aspect that I feel is often lost through the practical design process is how the boat actually looks. I believe that a kayak should look elegant, sleek, and fast. Newer boats such as the Recon are much more like a Hum Vee in the looks department, and some may prefer that more rugged look. However for me I like to see graceful lines.
The Diesel looks fantastic in this regard, with sculpted lines and curves in the right places. It is probably one of the nicest looking kayaks out there. The plastic feels rigid and strong, although initially I had one concern regarding the upward curvature of the cockpit rim. Sharp uprises and angle changes on the cockpit rim are often a reason why water can get through the spraydeck. Many people blame their spray deck for leaking when the reality is that it could be the design of the cockpit rim. I will soon find out if my concerns bear scrutiny when I test it on the water.
Outfitting & comfort
My boat came with the Whiteout Outfitting. This is the predecessor to the current latest Core Whiteout version, and it lacks the new features such as the spring loaded footrest and ratcheted knee lifter that are part of the latest incarnation. That said it still looks very nice indeed.
One of my gripes about many types of outfitting is that the seat pads are often fixed down with plastic plugs. This means that adding height to a seat or extra padding for leg support can be difficult. With the Whiteout outfitting this is not a problem because the seat pad is fixed with velcro and wraps around the front and back of the seat. The result of this is that any foam additions are kept nicely covered and hence the looks of your lovely boat remain intact. I managed to outfit the boat very quickly.
Of course such setup would be made even faster with the new Core Whiteout system, but despite this the slightly older version works very nicely indeed and has the added benefit of being a tad lighter. It has to be said that the Whiteout outfitting looks the business. I know the seat isn’t going to be seen once a paddler is in the boat and the spray deck is on, but it is still nice to have a boat that looks good when sat on the bank. I am glad that manufacturers are no longer expecting people to fill their cockpits full of poorly carved out glued on bits of foam any more.
The removable covers that go over the thigh braces means that they can be easily custom fitted with padding without the need for messy glue as well. This meant that I could get a nice connected fit for my thighs. It should be noted that Wave Sport thigh braces wrap around, so they offer support to the outside of your legs. This is in contrast to thigh braces on many other boats which require extra custom shaped foam to be glued to the side walls of the boat to offer outer leg support.
The thigh braces have full fore and aft movement adjustment as you would expect, as well as two positioning options for left and right rotation to suit the angle of your thighs. This adjustment was a little confusing at first because the hole that is not being used is blocked. I thought at first that this was a mistake in manufacturing. However all you need to do is push on a little recess in the side of the brace, or use a small screwdriver to poke into the screw hole to rotate the inner fitting to line up the threaded hole with the position you wish to use. This sounds complicated to explain but it really is very simple once you see it in practice.
It is rather puzzling as to why Wave Sport didn’t just make two permanent screw holes instead though!
Fore and aft seat adjustment is simply a case of loosening two screws either side of the cockpit and then positioning the seat where required. The newer Core Whiteout system is even simpler with a tools free system for this adjustment.
The front bulkhead is of the minicell foam variety. There is no plastic step out pillar such as that found on the Habitat, the latest Dagger Mamba or the Jackson boats. This is not a big issue in itself, although clearly a rigid reinforcing pillar would offer a small amount of extra safety margin in the event of a pin.
On the water
My first impression of the Wave Sport Diesel 70 on the water was of smoothness. I fall near the bottom of the recommended weight range so the boat errs on the large side of things for my weight. While it is true that the Diesel 60 would have coped with my weight perfectly well, I was still near the top of the recommended range and on trickier water with more meaty stoppers I wanted to be able to punch through more easily.
Having said that the Diesel 70 certainly has a different feel from my previous boats such as the Habitat. The rails on the Diesel are quite pronounced, and although there is a slight tapering you do still need to be more aware of the boats edges. One of my concerns about changing to the Diesel was that the edges might be catching all the time.
I took the boat out for the first time on my local weir. This is a place I would usually take a playboat, and the person I was with wasn’t convinced that the Diesel would surf or spin there.
Suffice to say that I wished I had made a monetary bet with him! The Diesel, despite it’s length span really nicely on the wave there. Although it wasn’t nippy on the wave like a playboat, it still handled things really nicely for a large boat.
A few test rolls confirmed that it was also a nice boat to roll. I found that I couldn’t quite clear the sidewall with the rear blade to do a traditional C to C roll, but a slight modification to sweep out more handled this issue perfectly. If you have a longer reach or are taller than me then this may or may not be an issue for you. This is not a problem that is confined to the Diesel since many flat hulled boats with a vertical sidewall have this issue as well.
Although I have not paddled on any big water with it yet, some quick blasts down the upper Tryweryn and on the Cardiff whitewater course, which is renowned for its funny boily water, proved my fears about catching the edges to be unfounded. They do catch occasionally, but for the most part everything is kept predictable and under control. There is of course the caveat that if you paddle on very low volume, rocky runs the edges might well become an issue.
The Diesel is a fast boat. It takes a good three strokes to get to top speed, but once it is there it holds it nicely. Through sections such as the Graveyard on the Trywryn I found the boat to be predictable, and it did not need a huge amount of correction to hold it on line.
A good sweep stroke allowed quick changes in direction, and at no point did I feel that the edges were going to trip me up. Paddlers on the heavier end of the weight range may find that the edges are more of an issue, so I can only comment for myself in this regard.
Planing into eddies followed by a controlled carve is a good feeling in the Diesel. The boat holds speed and momentum well throughout the eddy turn and will make for good linked moves. Something that I am not particularly good at at the moment, but I am working on it!
I consider myself to be quite adept at going through the middle of holes. Not intentionally, but usually due to missing my boof stroke! With that in mind I have found the Diesel to be quite stable if you head through the meat of features.
My fears about the deck rim shape turned out to be unfounded, and I have discovered that it is very dry with minimal water getting through. The plastic too appears to be slightly harder wearing than my Habitat, which seemed to gouge or dent at every given opportunity.
So who is the Diesel aimed at? Judging from many articles out there the Diesel is aimed at newcomers and intermediates. Given that the boat is being used on some pretty serious creeks by many, as well as in creek race events I would say that this is a fairly narrow view of the boats appeal.
The Diesel is used in a good many paddle schools for certain, but do not mistake this for meaning that it is designed for beginners! The Diesel is a boat for all occasions.
The proof is in the pudding, in this case actually going out and paddling the boat for yourself, however I can say that I am very impressed with the Diesel 70. It is very comfortable with a roomy cockpit, and easily adjusted outfitting. Even more so on the newer boats that are fitted with the Core Whiteout system. It paddles well and responsively and will allow people who only want, or who can only afford one boat to have fun doing most things on the river up to and including spins on suitable waves.
It holds speed well, and is a carving machine. If you want to step things up onto the steeper stuff it will handle that too. In other words it is a far more capable boat than my paltry skills can currently make full use of.
I sincerely hope that Wave Sport never discontinue the Diesel as they have built a solid mini brand name with it. If there were any improvements I could suggest for a Mk3 version of the boat, perhaps they could add a tiny bit more bow rocker and maybe a plastic step out pillar to reinforce the front foam bulkhead to create a bit more safety margin, similar to boats such as the Jackson Zen and the current version of the Dagger Mamba.
The Diesel is pretty much the perfect go to boat for all occasions and if my current boat became damaged beyond use I would not hesitate to replace it with another Diesel.
For comparison and an insight as to why I bought the Diesel, the alternatives are boats such as the Dagger Mamba, the Jackson Zen, and the Pyranha Burn. For me as an individual at 5’8″ and 63kg I found that the Mamba 7.6 was too small for me and for the duties I would have expected of it, while the 8.1 was too big and floaty. I never felt fully in control of it or connected to the water.
I have not paddled the Burn, however I have tried the Zen, and I think that it is a fabulous boat, but perhaps a bit too long and pointy for tight British ditches. If I had the money I would have one though!