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Equipment Review: ZBSports Waka
by Chris Norbury (mhc_antigen@yahoo.com)
September 6, 2008

I got my Waka third hand from Chan Jones, who bought it at the Junior Worlds. It is not a top end construction, the hull is very stiff - the deck behind the cockpit is pretty floppy and I might end up putting some carbon reinforcement in there. That said, the construction quality is not bad, and at least rivals what I have seen in recent Zastera or Prijon boats - a higher end construction might be nice.

Speed is very very good - probably one of the fastest wildwater boats I have ever paddled. I don't find the fastest boats to be the ones I generally want to paddle though.

Stability is ok, depending on what kind of water you are on. This is quite far from the most stable boat I have ever paddled, and even when I get really used to it I still have some twitchy moments. I haven't worked out the characteristics of my paddling that are causing the twitching, but I feel uneasy about the possibility of having a twitchy moment sometimes. Some of this might come from being a little guy who weighs a lot (i.e. short and fat) - being short does not help paddling some boats, such as an Esox (which I hate). The size of the Waka's nose really helps when paddling whitewater and I love how the nose will come back up whatever the size of the wave - it is a very different experience than the Savage 2000 that I also paddle.

Turning is a bit weird. Most boats will turn quite well on the flat is you lean forward and sweep - the Waka does not - the nose goes down and the boats stays pretty straight. If you lean back you don't turn well either and then you will begin to have stability issues. So, pretty much on the flat this boats does not turn well, at least at my weight. If you are racing on a course with boils (e.g. Cheat Narrows at Team Trials) and no big waves to align yourself on (e.g. Tohickon) then you will have some difficulties, no matter how good you are. If you are racing on a continuous wavy course I think this may well be the boat to have - it turns very well and very predictably on waves and feels more stable doing so. In fact, I love front surfing this boat - there is a sweet spot that I discovered on pretty much the first wave I put the Waka on and I love being in that spot. VSo, in summary, this is a fast boat that doesn't turn that well on flat water (who would have guessed those 2 go together?), but which handles well in rough water, particularly moderate to larger waves where it turns very well and the additional volume in the nose keeps it moving quickly. I wish it was a bit less twitchy, but that may be me more than the boat.

Chris

More from John Pinyerd (jpinyerd@usawildwater.com)

I agree with Chris's assessment. Some additional thoughts on a Waka from a big guy are where the hull feels too small for me:

  • The more weight the twitchier the boat ... and a big boy like me (185 lbs) really makes the Waka twitch even more.
  • The hull feels very round and hard to find a stability point
  • And I like an Essox and other bigger hull designs better (and I'm faster because of my weight)
   

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