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Gear Review: Wilderness Systems Zephyr 155

Gear Review: Wilderness Systems Zephyr 155

Gear Review: Wilderness Systems Zephyr 155


Paddling the Zephyr 155 at Cascade Head

Location of Test: Oregon Coast
Duration of Test: 2 Days
Product Name: Zephyr 155
Product Brand: Wilderness Systems
Best Use: Caving, Waving, and Surfing
Sizes Available: There were two models tested: the Zephyr 155 and Zephyr 155 Pro.  The only difference in specs between the two is weight.

Length: 15’6” / 472 cm
Width: 22.50” / 57 cm
Max Capacity: 275 lb / 125 kg
Deck Height: 16” / 41 cm
Zephyr 155 Pro: 55 lb / 25 kg
Zephyr 155: 52 lb / 24 kg
Cockpit Length: 35.50” / 90 cm
Cockpit Width: 19” / 48 cmMSRP: Zephyr: $1,519 Zephyr Pro: $2,929
Value Rating: 9
Durability Rating: 10
Overall Rating: 9

Next Adventure recently purchased a Zephyr 155 pro to add to our demo boat fleet.  Being a dirt bag whitewater kayaker, I didn't see the value in paying more money for kayak that seemed to be exactly the same except for a different material.  I know fiberglass gives a boat more rigidity, but I didn't think it would make a significant difference. I was wrong.

I still see value in having both types of materials for different circumstances. For example, while rock gardening I would much rather have a poly boat because in whitewater I hit rocks all the time with a plastic boat and don't flinch. Every time I hit a rock in the fiberglass boat I could see my paycheck slipping away (hopefully my boss doesn't read this).  For surfing and basically everything other than rock gardening, I would rather have a fiberglass boat. The fiberglass boat is faster, more responsive, and there is much less flex in the boat when I'm paddling in bigger conditions.

To test the boats, my girlfriend Mayah and I went on a camping trip to the coast. We stayed at a campsite pretty close to Pelican Brewery and went surfing on the first day.  On the second day we went rock gardening at Cascade head. On the first day the swell was four to six feet, with a 9 second interval and there was a westerly wind making the waves fall on themselves and create an unpredictable break.   The Zephyr pro and poly both acted like they were at home in the less than ideal conditions. In the soup I was able to T up to most waves and blast right through. When going down the back side of the waves I could feel the poly flex which I'm used to, but when I was in the glass boat it blasted through everything with good speed and when boofing off the back side of the wave the boat barely flexed. Both boats were incredibly fun to surf with, but I preferred the pro over the poly.

Day 2 we went to Cascade head and the conditions picked up with the swell at 6 to 8 feet so we stayed away from the caves we usually frequent, but we were still able to play around on some cool features. My girlfriend preferred the glass boat over the poly but she doesn't have to explain it to my boss if something breaks. I had a blast with both boats but I felt a little guilty I every time I hit a rock with the glass boat.
Paddling the Zephyr 155 Pro at Cascade Head
The Good:
Easy to edge turn.
Awesome maneuverability.
Great at surfing.
Great at Rock Gardening.

The Not So Good:
I'm used to whitewater outfitting in kayaks, and with the Zephyr I think the thigh hooks and foot brace could be improved. I'm taking old whitewater thigh hooks and a foot brace out of a Wavesport and upgrading.
The poly boats hatches didn't stay as dry as the fiberglass.  The poly boat also wasn't as rigid as the fiberglass which is expected.

The Bottom Line:
Both boats handled really well surfing and in rough conditions and I'm in the process of purchasing a Zephyr now. Once the boat arrives I will make adjustments to the outfitting and put more bomber whitewater outfitting in it. I'm glad my boss bought a fiberglass boat because now I don't have to buy both!

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