As people who have been reading this blog will know I ordered a Zet Veloc back in the summer of 2014. I spent most of that season paddling a demo Veloc from Canoe and Kayak Store at Cardiff, as well as being loaned that boat to take out to Austria for a few bimbles down the lower Oetz.
During this time I got to know the boat fairly well, as well as getting to like it more and more. Finally in late summer my own boat finally arrived from the Zet factory in all its lime green splendour.
After purchasing and taking delivery of my boat I took it along to Canoe & Kayak Store Cardiff so that the manager of the store there, Ronnie, could help me outfit it. I am sure most people are happy to outfit their boats themselves, however Ronnie has particular expertise in this area, and I learnt a lot. Particularly how the way many people set up their footrest and seat leads them to have bad spinal posture, which can have all sorts of effects on their paddling. There was a particular method to this. Removing the footrest, hip pads, and backrest from the equation the first thing was to make sure that I was sitting in the correct part of the seat. Often people have their footrest set such that they push themselves too far back into it.
Once the seat was set then the footrest was brought to my feet. Next up were the hip pads. Ronnie discovered that because of the shape of my hips the pads needed to be pushed out a bit at the back. Too often people wedge the top of the hip pads out over the hip, when in fact they need to wedge them at the back for more linear contact with the body. The very last thing that was set was the back rest. After all the other aspects were set up this now meant that the back rest was actually now promoting good posture.
Having the boat set up correctly and precisely like this means that I can get a much better feel for it, as well as being in more control.
The outfitting of the Zet boats is basic, but very well thought out. The seat is a solid block of foam, which works very well and is extremely light. This is attached to a diamond shaped structure which reinforces the bottom of the hull. A plastic step out pillar is attached to the usual foam bulkhead. This also contains a bottle holder. At the rear there is another foam bulkhead as well as multiple anchor points for gear.
The hip pads are strapped to a moveable plastic plate. Once loosened off the hip pads can be positioned up down, fore and aft. Loosening these bolts also loosens the seat for fore and aft adjustment. It is simple but effective.
Having most of the adjustment bolts inside of the boat has meant that the only holes in the hull are for the footplate fixing. Although you can also order a version of the boat with a foam footrest and no holes in the hull. As a result the Veloc hull has clean lines and maximum dryness.
The Veloc is a beautiful looking boat, with torpedo like lines and tasteful sculpting. It doesn’t have quite as much rocker as, say, the Karma, but it is close. The hull has a high parting line, while the sidewalls from a front profile chamfer in slightly to help deflect water under the hull. The edges are fairly rounded, with a subtle rail along the length of most of the hull. This is more prominent at the front culminating in a sort of wave deflector similar to the 9R, but much softer and less pronounced. The hull is fairly flat under the seat area, too. So the Veloc, like the Raptor, is not fully rounded, but in fact has just enough edge to stop it being a dull ride on lower grades.
The pointy nature of the hull and the water deflection sculpture on the top of the front deck means that there is slightly less foot room than other boats of a similar size. Speaking of size, the Veloc comes in at 280 litres/74 gallons (the Zet UK website gives the wrong gallon specification), and at 8′ long and 25″ wide it is a similar size and volume to the Habitat 74 and Bliss Stick Mystic. Although at 18 kg it is a lot lighter than those boats, which further translates into a sportier feel on the water.
Last but not least I should mention that the hull is made from a patented variable thickness moulding technique so that the plastic is thicker where it needs to be, and thinner where it doesn’t. This further translates into a better weight of boat.
Viewed from the top the Veloc flattens out along the side walls. This highlights a difference in design trend from newer boats such as the Jackson Karma, the new Zet Torro, and the forthcoming Ace of Spades. A lot of the newer boats follow a trend set by the Karma by having a long pointed nose with a curve that runs smoothly along the end of the boat, but that reaches its widest width at around the rear of the cockpit area.
This sounds like a small thing, and I couldn’t tell you how much of a real world difference it makes, however this design feature is attributed to how stable and under control the Karma punches through holes and resurfaces off drops. Acting a bit like a “bar of soap” effect, but due to the extra volume in the rear minimising the chances of getting back ended.
The Veloc, despite only being a couple of years older does not feature this hull design aspect. Whether it makes a real difference or not I could not say, however it is interesting as a design trend that has become apparent very recently.
Testing on the water
With the outfitting fully tuned the Veloc is generally comfortable. I wouldn’t compare it to a comfy armchair like the Liquid Logic boats. However the foam seat is warm and ergonomically sound. The most vocalised issue regarding Zet outfitting is generally regarding the thigh braces. These are an odd shape, and despite myriad of complaints I have no idea why Zet have ignored the pleas and not made them better. Surely they must have discovered how awkward they can be during product testing and in the years since the boat was released? Some people will find that they dig into their thighs awkwardly, leading many people to have made modifications. Personally my thighs just about fit, and although it would be great if Zet issued a modified update, they aren’t uncomfortable in my boat.
The leg position in Zet boats is wider than other makes, and so this will factor into your comfort level, too. Some people find that they simply cannot put up with it, and in actual fact when I first tried a Zet I hated it. Though for some reason now I find it a perfectly acceptable and comfortable sitting position.
The initial feel that you get from the Veloc is that it accelerates very quickly. Edge to edge feels very quick, but controllably so. Since I have had the boat I have paddled it on a variety of rivers in the G3-4 range. I am not an extreme kayaker and G4 is plenty for me, thanks. Rivers such as the Usk and Upper Wye at the lower end of things, through to the Upper Dart just lapping over the slab, as well a rivers such as the Orchy and Etive.
When I initially tested the Veloc at the Cardiff International White Water centre I was amazed at how well the boat could sit on edge. I found this to give the boat a huge amount of control and stability when in a side surf in the trough of a feature. There are no surprises from the edges catching in such situations and power flipping the boat. Make no mistake however, the Veloc has a flat hull under the paddler, and the boat feels crisp at all times. There is just enough edge.
The Veloc likes to be paddled. Zet boats in general are suited to active paddlers. If you have a drifting “wait and see” approach to paddling the Veloc will not be very forgiving. Zet boats like you to set a course and go. This is particularly apparent when going over boils. Get the boat up to speed and you will sail over them. Drift and you will be caught out. The great thing is that the more you put into the Veloc, the more it gives you back. It feels fantastic when you get into a flow, and is great fun to paddle down the course in a continuous “slalom” style. The Veloc, and the Raptor alike, are sporty feeling boats that work nicely even on lower grades of river.
On rivers such as the Upper Dart I find the boat to be highly controllable through the tight technical sections with any cock ups being entirely due to misjudgements by the pilot! I have found that while the Veloc locks on well to a line, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to change direction when needed.
Boofing wise the Veloc is not as easy as boats such as the Karma, Stomper, or the legendary auto-boof of the Waka Tuna. However with good technique and timing the boat will boof very well, and the nose can be brought up and over features nicely, but it isn’t forgiving of mistiming or sloppy technique. This has been a criticism I have seen in other reviews of the Zet boats, that boofing isn’t as easy as some other models. It is a fair point, however wouldn’t you like to know if you have good technique or not? Having said that if you do happen to plough nose first through a feature the Veloc resurfaces in a very predictable and stable manner, even if you happen upon a hole unexpectedly with a lack of speed.
Rolling is nice and smooth. Because the Veloc sits so well on an extreme edge, once it gets halfway up it is very easy to complete the roll. I’ve used some pretty dodgy roll technique in anger and somehow I have come back upright! The Veloc also behaves nicely when fully loaded with gear.
The Zet Veloc will suit paddlers who have an active paddling style. It won’t reward lazy paddlers, but will reward those who have an pro-active approach. The hull is strong and very stiff, but still retains a lot lightness compared to almost all of it’s rivals with the exception of the Jackson Karma. The outfitting is not as glossy as other manufacturers, but it is simple, strong, and works very well. Certainly if you are a lighter paddler, particularly if you come from a slalom background, and you want a great river boat/creeker, I would highly recommend that you take a good look at the Zet Veloc.