Best Z Current Designs

Paul Gonzalez
• Monday, 02 November, 2020
• 19 min read

I am 5'10” tall and was 170 lbs when I started my solo trip paddling a current design extreme from Steinway Alaska to Port Hardy on Northern Vancouver Island in 2008. I had just completed the Yukon River Quest race the week before and my blisters on my hands and backside hadn't healed when I put in at 7 pm on July 4th.

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There were a few cruise ships departing at the exact same time and as they each sailed past there were camera flashes coming from every deck. Being Independence Day they were celebrating with a huge fireworks display just as I arrived at Haines.

I don't think I would have been able to pull it off in that amount of time in any other boat that I had paddled. When the boat was up to speed the effort to maintain it was minimal and knowing that I could achieve my daily goals gave me confidence and peace of mind.

The level of comfort and accessibility allowed me to paddle for long hours at a time without having to get out of the boat and that attributed to the mileage that I was able to obtain. I also go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota and pack it for one week or more.

The kayak's ability to cut through any condition while weighted is wonderful. My impression of the Extreme is that it is very much a purpose built boat for extended expeditions and not a great all around kayak.

Its purpose is extended expeditions, and it handles well when loaded with a weeks worth of food, water and gear. The boat requires this weight and does not inspire confidence when empty.

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There is plenty of room for big feet and the seat and backhand are comfortable. The hatches on the extreme are flush with the deck and have a weather seal that is recessed and hidden.

The boat tracks and glides extremely well and is very fast through the water. This boat goes in a straight line and is resistant to turning even when put on edge.

There is a decent amount of rocker to the bottom which helps with rough water handling and a dry ride. The v bottom does not give enough initial or secondary stability to feel comfortable without an expedition load stored below deck.

When empty the boat feels hippy and is slow because a lot of energy goes into bracing. When loaded the boat takes on a completely different personality and is stable and confidence inspiring.

The Extreme does not edge turn well and is subject to weather cocking, especially when the cargo holds are empty. With the rudder deployed and enough cargo to sit the boat down in the water the Extreme handles winds very well.

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Overall, if you are looking for a boat to carry a week or month worth of gear and supplies that will cover distance fast and efficiently, the CD Extreme is a great choice. The well-rounded touring boat can handle an extended expedition and the paddler will be much happier in a well-rounded boat on short camping trips and day paddles.

I hadn't planned on buying another kayak but my beloved Impel Curious was seriously damaged, and it is in the midst of being repaired. I usually put an extended inch and a half thick hard foam pad in front of the seat because of a back issue.

They HV model has good room for entry and exit. I like the feel of the cockpit and the HE seems more normal for me even though I do not think I am that big at 5ft.

In other words it is no worse or no better than what I am used to, and I have paddled a lot of kayaks as well as toured extensively on the west coast. I just know that big kayaks are usually not as easy to roll unless you have goods skills and are physically fit.

I was in twenty knot plus winds and gusts from all angles on the west coast and had a solid secure feel. It is a great surfer and there was no cork screwing when waves are not directly on the stern.

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I eventually get tired of edging or doing corrective paddle strokes. I have been hired to help build boats and worked with a few skilled hull designers.

Russel & Graham Henry, the sons of Brian Henry who started CurrentDesigns, did an amazing trip from Brazil to Florida in the renamed version of this kayak, the Nomad GT. I am looking forward to finishing the major repair on my Curricula but not in a rush because in the meantime I am loving this kayak.

I have paddled this boat primarily on Long Island Sound and the Hudson River, with past paddling experience on the Maine coast and Cape Cod. The narrow beam and soft chines make it very easy to make fine adjustments in your edge (I've found other boats with excessive initial stability to result in muscle fatigue trying to hold them on edge), while secondary stability is rock solid.

I have limited flexibility in my hips due to surgery, but the ample cockpit makes it easy to move your legs when you need a stretch, while still fitting snugly enough to facilitate edging, leaning and rolling. Speed is compromised somewhat by the moderate rocker, but this enhances maneuverability, surfing and handling in big seas.

It does surf well, but due to its length it needs fairly good-sized, long-period waves (which are less common on LI Sound in summer); in shorter period waves where a shorter boat might surf well, it bridges the trough and tends to stall. It handles well even when surfing on waves steep enough to cause the bow to plow, although the rudder is a lifesaver here unless you have a very strong stern draw/rudder.

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The high volume up front provides a fairly dry ride in head seas. Weight is quite reasonable for its size, and it balances well at the cockpit for carrying it solo.

An adjustment allowing the seat to move forward and back would have been a nice addition. The cam straps on the hatch covers are rather finicky: not enough tension, and you don't get a good seal, but too much tension can result in cracking a D-ring, with the difference between these extremes amounting to perhaps 1/4” adjustment of the strap.

The relatively high back deck makes rolling and self-rescues somewhat more difficult than some other boats. Although the bow deck lines are well laid out, the stern lines are problematic: it is designed with a full crisscross pattern in the bungees which is useful if you use those as part of a paddle float self-rescue, but this leaves only a very small triangle of perimeter lines aft of the bungees, which is wholly inadequate for emergencies.

I had to remove my stern bungees, so I could extend my perimeter line up to the cockpit. While I can enter and exit the boat easily under normal circumstances, with my size and physical limitations, I am unable to do so without grabbing the combing to pull myself in or out, which creates instability during a surf launch or landing.

The kayak I was planning on getting was a Below Sport but ended up with the Extreme by accident because of the price. Compared to the Below, I thought it might be unstable or nervous in its primary, but I adjusted fast to it.

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Pretty much all the key attributes given to the Extreme in these Paddling.net review articles I agree with including the speed, secondary stability, and the ability to handle rougher sea conditions. It has a snug fit around the hips as well as good leg and foot room for a medium built guy, 5 ft. 10”, 165 lbs.

It has more maneuverability than most boats this length because of the amount rocker but doesn't seem to compromise the speed that much. CurrentDesigns did a good job on the infused resin glass lay up, so the weight is around 55 lbs.

It is sometimes hard to look back analytically at the different kayaks you have owned through the years and rate them today because your skill set and specific focus to paddling changes as well as your body. What I have learned is not to be too critical at first of a new kayak until you give yourself time to adjust to its design and what I call 'personality'.

This is an amazing “feel” of a boat... round hull is stable but great speed, (I like hard chine but this is sweet). This boat is not as fast as the new generation 18X types but will beat them in a long rough water race with the same paddler. They comprise British, East Greenland, North American, Kevlar, composite, thermoplastic, roto-mould, etc.

It has some wind cocking that I have experienced on some other fast boats I have paddled. It has a lot more hull up front so is more buoyant in the bow and is a dry ride.

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It has enough rocker to get a long fast tour kayak turned around in a reasonable distance. As you get older, kayak weight becomes a factor when loading and unloading on a vehicle.

I like the weight of this kayak which is the lightest I have owned this size (including the Kevlar Quest). They have a simple lid clamping strap that makes the hatches a dry seal.

I was a little nervous in the Extreme when encountering some tide and wind slop off the west coast of Vancouver Island. I just bought a used 2004 CD Extreme kayak for exercise paddling on a local river.

I currently own a Cape Horn 170 pro and a CD Solstice GTS, but was looking for something a bit faster. After going through many reviews I wanted to provide a summary of my observations relative to these other boats: All three are excellent kayaks, all three are from 2004/2005 and outfitted with the fiberglass layup.

My Solstice GTS is the only one that I find water seepage through the bulkhead into the rear hatch. The required liner on the Cape Horn and the buckles instead of levers makes the CD boats rate higher.

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All have large openings and a nice flush look, unlike earlier models or the retooled version of the Cape Horn. I have racks that are set high on top of my truck and can still load any of the three easily by myself.

The wider width of the Cape Horn and its harder chine provides the highest initial stability of the three. With the rudders down (there are lots of tubers and sporadic paddlers to dodge on my river) all three will hold a straight line with only the most minute adjustments.

It simply does not respond as well as the others to edging or sweep strokes; once it has a path it likes to keep it. I have a set 3.3 mile course (loop, so equal upstream and downstream), and I typically use my Epic wing paddle.

Lots of factors here that I'll gloss over, but hopefully the relative comparison helps. The Cape Horn Pro is a fully adjustable padded seat and so very versatile.

I don't typically go beyond 5 miles at a time and all suffice just fine for this shorter length. Foot pegs: I am 6'-1”, 200 lbs, size 12 shoes, and fit well with plenty of margin in any of the three.

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The one note is that the Cape Horn rudder adjustment is a buckle-type, so not as easy to fiddle with as the CD design that can easily be done from inside the cockpit. All three are pretty easy to get inside, higher stability of the Cape Horn makes this the easiest.

The Extreme is easier to get my legs in than the Solstice, feels like a longer but narrower cockpit opening, but I would have to check the dimensions to be sure. The raised loop on the CD boats is better for cam straps at an angle than the flat bar on the Cape Horn Pro as they stay off of the glass and on the metal, not an issue if you use wall brackets.

For me personally (largely from a speed standpoint) the Extreme is my favorite, the Solstice GTS is 2nd, and the Cape Horn 3rd. This said, my visitors and guests get to use the Cape Horn due to its stability and ease of use, so my preference for my use should be noted for what it is.

I have a CD Extreme HE and find it is one of the faster ocean touring kayaks around. And test paddled several dozen kayaks before I found one with suitable legroom for someone of my height.

I took it on a 9-day camping/island hopping trip to the Adirondacks with my wife, and it fit everything I needed for the duration. In the ocean, the front deck sheds waves nicely and provides a dry ride.

The boat's relatively narrow beam takes a little to get used to, and at first I was hesitant to buy a kayak that did not feel “rock steady”. However, after several years of paddling it, I'm now wishing that CD will create a somewhat sleeker extreme with a beam of 19 or 20 inches.

(My wife and I recently purchased some Epic V10 surf skins for fun. Is a bit heavy, although I can still lift it over my head to place on the roof rack; I now wish for a slightly narrower beam.

The wives boat is a tad to big for her at 5-2 and 140# but she can handle it extremely well and has learned to deal with it. It was not my first boat, not my most expensive, not made with the fanciest materials, nor is it my newest.

For the paddling that I most often witness people doing, turn ability seems to regularly be given too much clout vs tracking. Considering the speed of all four, sprinting aside, I seem to average 4 knots, give or take, just doing my thing for 10 to 20 nautical miles in all 4 of them.

So Derek Hutchison seems to have something when he says the Sirius is a fast boat and others take it out for a sprint and say they're unimpressed. Take it out for a 20-mile run with some swell and wind blown waves.

I know a lot of folks ask about bracing and rolling, but once I had it truly learned, it's hard to tell the difference anymore. It's kind of like standing an egg on its point, it wants to go one way or the other, and once it starts, there is a force making it continue that direction.

The boat has plenty of room for gear, is comfortable in the cockpit which is properly snug (no slop), handles well in rough water and is a fast boat to paddle. As fast if not faster than the Looks ha III in conditions with any kind of wave action.

I bought my Kevlar Extreme 6/03 (my prior boats were a Perception Eclipse, Neck Kook, Neck Looks ha Sport), When I acquired the Eclipse in 2000, I also looked at the Extreme, but thought it was too much boat for me at the time. I’m middle-aged, in fairly good condition, 5'10”, 172 lbs, paddled for 9 years, took advanced lessons, rate myself intermediate.

The dealer (South wind Kayak) refit it for me and provided a loaner hatch while they did it. Hatch tie down buckles are undersize, brittle and have broken at times.

Steering gear is very sturdy, but uses conventional pedals and rails. There a very nice low drag rudder assembly, designed to pop off if it is struck very hard, presumably being left hanging by the rudder cables and waiting for someone with a very large screwdriver to reinstall it.

Some might eat those words, if they try to do a 27-mile open ocean crossing with one knee raised, leaving them feeling like an exposed dog by a fire hydrant, lifting its leg in a hurricane. My first long paddle, while wearing soft booties, left me in agony and cramped my calves up, as well.

The seat back is relatively comfortable and adjustable, but it is anchored by a bungee loop which sometimes pops off at inopportune times, like re-entries. I recently installed a Yak-Pads gel seat pad, which works great.

There is a little room for safety gear, jacket, food and water behind the seat in the cockpit. I keep my pump on the front deck in a specially included bungee loop, with a cord to secure it.

Wet exit is not hard, but with the short opening and narrow beam, it’s a little more difficult to re-enter than I am accustomed to. Under-hatch storage space is pretty good, but substantially narrower than my other kayaks, requiring some new skinnier dry bags.

There is a built-in rudder tie down bungee, nice for those 80 MPH trips back home at night. The rear deck lacks real straps for tying things down.

I remedy this by leaving my first aid kit in the rear compartment when I carry it, adding extra weight. Regarding performance: Now for the best part- The Extreme is one of the faster production sea kayaks you can buy, that still is fairly stable and handles acceptably.

Edging is good-- if you lean the boat hard, it will carve pretty well, but it won’t turn on a dime like my Eclipse or Looks ha Sport. In surf play sessions, it stays upright when most around it capsize.

The boat handles very well fully loaded, perhaps better than empty, with relatively little performance loss. I leave the rudder down on long crossings or when there is any real weather influence, and then it tracks like it is on rails.

That way, I can focus on forward progress, instead of practicing the BCU strokes class. However, in 30+ knot winds off Santa Rosa Island last summer, weather cocking was significant, even with the rudder down.

The Extreme has a high bow and large forward cross-section, great for plowing over waves, but there is a performance loss in rougher seas (as well as additional weather cocking). I don’t mind paying that penalty, because I believe that it is a safer boat that tends to rise over and through waves, rather than merely plow through them.

I find that, unlike in my Eclipse, I can’t just sit in the cockpit reading a book out on the ocean, but must actively control the attitude of the craft by bracing or hip flexing. The boat rolls surprisingly easily for a nearly 19’ craft, because of its roundness and low back deck.

The Extreme is a top quality, fast, seaworthy boat, worthy of extended ocean open touring. The most important thing in choosing a Kayak is to know what you want and to find what fits you best by trying many models and manufactures.

The Extreme is a very fast, yet stable boat, from what I believe to be one of the premier kayak manufacturers in the world. I have guided sea-kayak expeditions for more than 4 years and have paddled many models from some different manufacturers (including Nimbus, Neck, CurrentDesigns, Seaward, & P&H), and the CD boats are among the most comfortable, the highest performing & best made.

The Extreme is the best coastal touring boat I've ever had, and I made two crossings to the Santa Barbara Channel Islands in her. They handle surf landings, wind waves, chop and large swells with ease and I never took a drop of water in the hatches even during rolls.

I switched from a Wilderness Systems Solution XL protocol to an Extreme (think Motor home vs. Ferrari) I love the change! The Extreme is a joy to paddle, although it is definitely more tender, which has allowed me to become a better paddler.

The Wildly had a bulge attachment that kept the pedals in tension to avoid this, and I might retrofit the CD to do the same. The speed of this boat is great, but almost negligent when compared to my Paddling partners Solstice THE, so if you are worried about compatibility of the two, don't be.

I love watching people come into my camp and look around, and then exclaim “where did you get the chair”?! (that extra length gives you a treat that even my aircraft carrier Wilderness Systems XL couldn't carry).

My weight is 145lbs, and I paddle an FG HE version mostly in the Great Salt Lake. And I've found that once in a broach proper technique is important in rough conditions.

I feel very stable in it unless I turn to retrieve items off the back deck. I've paddled most CDs line and have never found this hatch system to leak.

It is an excellent fast cruising boat for a wide variety of conditions. I would buy one again. On the negatives, it is a wetter ride than I had in a Solstice GT, and the cockpit is small enough to make entry or egress difficult.

The positives far outweigh the negatives, since this is such a fast and surprisingly stable hull. To get a faster boat, I think one would have to get a surf ski or a kayak that is essentially a racing hull.

I use the rudder whenever I feel I am working too hard on one side to balance wind or current. The Extreme is very well-designed, stable in 3 foot waves, with winds gusting into the low 20s.

I purchased the “high volume” model since I do regular multi-day camping trips in South Florida. That would make the boat much easier to enter and exit for larger persons.

I am a long time canoe person who recently took up sea kayaking. I own three canoes, but spend most of my time in my Kevlar 18' Jensen Cruiser.

I wanted a kayak that would provide better rough water capability and a similar performance rush for one person as opposed to two like the high performance Kevlar canoe provided. I started to demo fast kayak touring boats.

I tried the Kevlar Neck 1.9 (fast but low carrying capacity and very tender), Kevlar Perception Eclipse (sluggish, but very stable) and then the Fiberglass CurrentDesigns Extreme (Aha). It looked beautiful and felt like it had a gyro for handling the rough stuff in San Francisco Bay.

I wanted additional strength for the surf and less carrying weight, and so I ordered a Kevlar high volume version in Green and Crème. California Canoe and Kayak offered to provide a free stroke lesson with an Olympic caliber coach as part of the purchase package.

I discovered that the Epic Excalibur II wing paddle was the optimal high performance cruising match for the Extreme. It is designated as a “high performance boat”. The narrowness of the beam concerned be in the beginning since being new to the sport I was afraid of too much tipsiness.

It turns easily; Can stand on edge forever; Is fast, tracks straight and an instructor I know said it was the easiest boat he ever rolled. A boat that is comfortable (like the P&H Sirius), fast, tracks well, and turns easily (especially with a little lean), good storage area... what more would you want.

This kayak is fast, comfortable, sleek, looks sharp, tracks well, has plenty of room for gear, and is an absolute joy to paddle. I like to take it in the Hudson River and catch air off the wake of the Circle Line.

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