WHEN WILDERNESS SYSTEMS wanted to extend its Tempest lineup to the coastal day-tripping crowd – folks looking for agile handling in fickle waters versus expedition chops – its designers looked back to the Dagger Meridian. The British-style rocker profile and softer chine that meant secondary stability for the '90s classic is apparent in the Zephyr. But Confluence Watersports V.P. of Research and Development, Bob McDonough, still sees similarities with the Tempest family, with which he says it shares a slightly wider but otherwise identical mid-hull V-shape. Though the Zephyr's design is decidedly less wave-centric than the other boats in this fleet, our testers took notice of its "Phase3xp" outfitting—far and away the easiest to fit into and comfortably customize. Still, our need to wedge into the roomy cockpit as tightly as possible to hold an edge or to roll exposed a handful of criticisms, from the seat feeling a little loose to foot-peg weaknesses. While forgiving, fast and buoyant enough in the bow to avoid the purl, the Zephyr is not a wave specialist. Rather, this boat stands out as the best all-around platform for skill progression out of the box.
$3,150 in fiberglass composite, 52 lbs.; $3,700 in Kevlar composite, 47 lbs.; $1,550 in rotomolded plastic, 52 lbs., wildernesssystems.com. Length: 15'5"; Width: 22 1⁄2"; Depth: 16". Three hatches, retractable skeg, made in Easley, S.C.
This review first appeared in the March 2009 edition of C&K, as part of our review of Skook-worthy sea kayaks.