I love my Diesel 70 kayak. It is a fantastic boat. It’s fast, agile, and can be quite playful. It looks great too, and while it does have all of these fantastic characteristics, and although many of the Wave Sport team members often take their Diesels on some extremely gnarly runs, I have still felt a few niggles in the back of my mind with it.
The first is that despite padding it out a fair amount, it still feels slightly on the big side for me. Not surprising as I am right at the very bottom of the recommended weight range for it. This is my fault for being a midget, but it does stop me from feeling like I am part of the kayak on the water. Recently in more pushy water I have also found a few aspects that niggle. It definitely likes to go through features rather than over them. The lack of rocker means that it can be a wet ride, although I have improved my boof technique to minimise it. With a missed boof however, the boat doesn’t accelerate out of features that quickly, something I noticed when comparing it to boats like the Dagger Mamba on the same water.
Most recently I had to use the Diesel loaded up with gear for a promotional video shoot in Slovenia. I had done the same in Scotland last year. It is when fully loaded like this that the sharp rails start to bite and punish. Great if you like to be kept on your toes, but not so great if you have several thousand Pounds worth of camera gear to worry about! For such missions I would like my boat to be a bit softer.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love this boat. I might see if there is a way I can keep it alongside my new ride. I have been advised not to by one coach because it can cause confusion in paddling style. I’m not sure I agree as variety is the spice of life! Most likely it will be sold, but at a price of my choosing. I am in no hurry to sell my beloved Diesel 70! So while I probably do need to sell it for funds, I won’t lose any sleep if it doesn’t sell.
What will be my new boat? Despite numerous testings I discounted the Dagger Mamba 8.1. It is too big for me, and it is very heavy to carry. It is very well built though, and the outfitting and finish are very professional. The 7.7 version is too small for me. I usually always fall at an awkward weighting for boat models. The Mamba doesn’t really offer me much apart from volume over my Diesel.
The Wave Sport Recon. This is a nice boat, but again it is heavy and I fall below the lower weight range for the medium and the large side for the small. As a result the medium feels very floaty, while the small feels, well, small. I can’t win with Confluence boats! The Recon is most definitely and out and out creeker with a very rounded hull. It couldn’t be more rounded if it was drawn with a compass. This is a boat designed for very steep, low volume runs. As Canoe and Kayak UK Magazine put it, on lower grades it may feel like you have brought a rocket launcher to a fist fight!
The Jackson Karma. Once again, an amazing boat. This is a flat hulled creek boat, and it will power through anything, and I mean anything! The JK clan have come up with a winner here. I love the Jackson outfitting, and the finish on the boats. What stops me once again is that I am at the top of the small, and below the bottom of the range for the medium. The medium Karma is a big boat for sure. When I see one I have to look at the size label at the back to check if it is the large version. Not surprisingly the large Jackson Karma is truly colossal! I was told of one fella who packed his large Karma for a two week expedition. It doesn’t surprise me at all. If you can’t get a housing mortgage simply buy one of these boats and move into it!
Other options on the table were the Lettmann Granate, made famous by Joe Morley’s win at the Sickline event last year with one. It’s a great looking torpedo of a boat, but it is very rounded indeed.
The boat that I was after should have decent volume, decent rocker for steeper stuff, be lightweight to carry, strong, contain more internal carry/storage points than my Diesel, be able to cope with steep, low volume runs, but be fast and sporty on lower grades too. Maybe not a flat hulled boat, but one that had a bit of rail, but that was flattish in the right place so the feel of the water wasn’t completely diluted on lower grades.
The answer came in the form of the Zet Veloc. This is the smaller brother of the more famed Raptor. The Veloc is rarely reviewed or commented on, which is surprising as it suits a very wide range of paddlers. All of those who fitted the Wave Sport Habitat 74 for instance. It is quite surprising that the Veloc is marketed as a small paddlers boat when in fact its volume, dimensions, and carrying capacity are pretty much exactly the same as the Habitat 74 and the Bliss Stick Mystic.
I tried a Zet Raptor first because the demo Veloc wasn’t available for various reasons. While I found the Raptor to be a good boat, I am simply too light for it and felt a bit swamped. I found it easy to boss around though.
A few weeks later and the demo Veloc was back, and I jumped on it to give it a go. When Zet first came onto the scene I avoided them like the plague. I found the knee position to be extremely uncomfortable. Yet in both the Raptor and the Veloc that I demoed I suffered from none of those issues, so I am presuming that Zet have changed something since the initial release.
I fitted into the Veloc like a glove. Like my previous Habitat 74 it felt just the right size. The more rounded displacement hull gave a more more sporty edge to edge performance than the Diesel, yet it wasn’t so round as to dull the feel of the water. I have a feeling the Veloc will be a lot of fun even on lower grades, zipping around the rapids slalom style. The hull is actually fairly flat under the seat area, and so it is a bit more carvy than most creek boats such as the Nomad.
The boat felt fast, with its light carry weight being felt on the water too. It accelerates quickly in one or two strokes and most notably it felt like it punched stoppers very well. It is an often overused expression to say that a new kayak resurfaces and sheds water well, but the Veloc was noticeably better at doing this than the Diesel.
The outfitting is basic. The seat is simply a closed cell foam hybrid for instance, but this shouldn’t mislead you. It is a comfortable seat, and beneath it is a diamond shaped structure that adds a heck of a lot of rigidity to the bottom of the boat hull. This structure also provides for space to store a throw line, and the plastic step out pillar, which is a part of the boat hull plastic that most manufacturers cut away, allows for water bottle or secondary line storage.
It might look a bit more agricultural than other boats such as those from the Confluence family, but it is elegant yet versatile in its simplicity. This outfitting design combined with the variable thickness hull means that even with a set of splits in the back the Veloc weighs less to carry than the Diesel with nothing in it. For those complaining about the weight of new boats you would do well to take note of this.
It is no surprise then that I have ordered a new Veloc, a lime green one. I will have to wait a while because this colour is a special order, but I am prepared to do so. I have my fun Diesel and playboat to muck around in in the meantime. I would like to push the Veloc forward as an option for paddlers more prominently as its thunder has rather been stolen by the better known Raptor, which can be too big for many. If you are used to paddling a Diesel 70 or the Habitat 74, or like me you find that you feel that the small and medium Dagger Mambas are an awkward size for you, take a good look at the Veloc.
I will be posting a more thorough review and photos when I receive my boat.