Surfski review Carbonology Zest X

More
1 month 3 weeks ago #39684 by manta
The Boat

It is a 2022 Carbonology Zest X in carbon hybrid layup. Fit and finish is excellent. I have had Fenn boats in the past and I would put Carbonology ahead in the final fit and finish department, they make beautiful boats.

The boat is light and so far, strong. I was caught out by the lightness of the boat one morning doing remounting practice. There was the slightest breeze which was enough to lightly push the boat out of my reach. A frantic swim had the boat back in hand, but it was a lesson in just how easily a light boat can get away from you. On this day I was doing my remounts about 20 meters from shore so there was never any danger to me.

Stability and Bucket

This boat is billed as an intermediate boat. Before purchasing the Zest I had a Fenn Swordfish S for five months. I was never able to come to terms with the SF. The main reason was due to the deep bucket, remounts were often a hit and miss affair. I am sure it was my technique, but that issue led to a loss of confidence in the boat.

The Zest is markedly more unstable than the SF. My expectation was they would be similar in stability as the SF is 45cm wide and the Zest is 48cm wide. Width however, does not tell the whole story. It is the hull where the stability factor lies. The hull on the Zest is far rounder than that of the SF. Primary stability is obviously affected by this, but secondary stability I would put the Zest ahead of the SF. The Zest has a very predictable roll all the way until the boat dumps the paddler out. One is able to save it up until the very last moment with a good brace. The SF I found will go a certain amount and then unceremoniously dump the paddler.

I must have the prototypical butt ski designers had in mind when designing buckets. I have paddled a number of makes of ski and have never encountered issues with my posterior. The bucket on the Zest is slighlty wider and shallower than the SF. I have found the bucket to be incredibly comfortable and very easy to remount in deep water. The extra width coupled with the shallower depth has made it a doddle too remount. It is right here where for me, the Zest has been far superior to the SF. Owing to this I have been tempted to take the boat into more unstable conditions than I ordinarily would have.

I have yet to paddle the boat in excess of 90 minutes in a session, so overall comfort still needs to be explored when the days in the bucket get long.

On water performance

Boat performance is directly linked to stability. The more stable the paddler feels, the more power they can put on the paddle blade. I am still not 100% stable which means I have not been able to test the full capability of the boat. What I can say with confidence is the boat wants to run. If the paddler is able to do their part, the boat will go and feel quite effortless doing so. I have pushed it quite hard on flattish water and was pleasantly surprised at the turn of speed.

I have also paddled the boat in sheltered, mixed upwind, downwind conditions. The Zest pops over waves upwind as opposed to driving through them. In my SF and in my Bluefin before that, those boats had a tendency to push through the oncoming wave. The Zest seems to want to pop over the waves as opposed to pushing through. I believe this is due to the new nose design of the Zest X. Some meat was taken away from the nose which has aided in the ability of the boat to remain true when wind and chop are coming from the side. It also seems to have had the effect of the nose going over as opposed to through waves.

The waves in question were rather small so most likely the performance as mentioned is not indicative of all waves. I found the boat very willing to go upwind and it was very stable into the wind. I was able to put down sufficient power into the wind and make good progress.

The downwind legs were surprising. Surprising because the boat seems to go without any fanfare or drama. I was able to maintain a good average speed while not feeling like I was working particularly hard. The speed feels very predictable without any shocking lurches either faster or slower. I consider myself a novice downwind paddler with only a couple hundred under my belt so the boat performance was largely due to the boat and not any particular skill I brought to bear. Once I am more confident in my stability I look forward to taking the boat out on a bigger day.

Mounting and Remounting

I mount the ski side saddle when initially getting in, remounting or dismounting at the end of the paddle. On the very first mount I was able to mount side saddle without any feelings of instability. The mentioned bucket design has a lot to do with it.

Remounting has also been very predictable. The very first remount I did, I got it first time. Subsequent to that I have had some first time failures, but in every case I was able to determine which part of my technique needed attention. I have been very happy with the boats ease of mount and remount and as mentioned this has been a major contributor to the confidence I have with the boat.

Transporting the boat

My boat lives at home with me so every single paddle requires the boat to go on and off the car. The weight is such a blessing. I had heavier boats before and after having a boat in the lighter construction, I will not go back to a heavier boat. The ease of use makes such a difference, it is worth the difference in price.

The boat comes with four handles. There are two on the sides of the cockpit, one in the front of the cockpit and one on the rear deck right by the tail. I have found the side handles to be very useful. I developed a way of carrying a boat with side handles when I had my Bluefin, which has the same configuration. The handles on the Zest work equally well and my technique enables me to use the handles in all conditions. They are a life saver and it was one area where I absolutely despised the SF. Handles on a ski are must in my opinion.

The old Zest used to have a handle right on the nose. This handle has been removed on the new boat due to the feedback from users of the previous boat. Many reported the handle causing issues in big downwind conditions when the nose went under. Carbonology listened to its customers and made the change. I have not missed having the front handle.

What I don't like

The stock rudder the boat comes with is in a word, terrible. It does not feel like it does anything well. I will be getting a DK rudder which I am convinced will change the character of the boat for the better.

This next point I am still considering. Fenn boats come with steel cabled steering systems. The Carbonology boats have the cord steering system like the Epics. The steel cables are more precise, but on the plus side there is no rust on the boat from the cables rusting. For me, the jury is still out on which system is better long term.

Summary

Overall I have been very impressed with the Zest. It is quite a forgiving platform even for someone with limited stability. I have not fallen out of the boat once yet, and even though I have been in situations where I felt incredibly unstable, the boat with the predictable secondary stability allowed to me remain upright.

The Zest X is directed at intermediate paddlers that weigh over 80kg.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Rod Thomas, malvina

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
1 month 3 weeks ago #39687 by Davidw
Thanks Manta

Interesting write-up. I concur with most of it.

I have only briefly paddled the Zest X and came away with 2 thoughts: 1. The bucket is very wide and 2. It needs a bigger rudder downwind (I’m sure Hein would disagree with this!).

I agree that the Zest is easier to remount. I am currently paddling a Carbonology Vault X. Also less stable than a Swordfish, also easier to remount. I also like the side handles.

I have some time in a Swordfish, lots in an Evo II. I chose the Evo over the original Swordfish because of its better secondary stability. I didn’t test the Zest’s secondary.

Both the Vault and the Zest are what I would call advanced intermediate skis while the Swordfish is more solidly intermediate. I think both are faster on flat water than the Fenn. Still deciding on comparative downwind speeds.

I recently also acquired a new Fennix XTS. It came with cord steering by default, not steel cables.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
1 month 1 day ago #39737 by balance_fit

I recently also acquired a new Fennix XTS. It came with cord steering by default, not steel cables.

Greetings Davidw

How would you compare the XTS's cord steering with the other skis mentioned?

I just upgraded my XTS to cord, but still haven't paddled it.

Thanks

JD

Simple, not easy.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
1 month 11 hours ago #39742 by Davidw
The XTS is better than the Vault, in which I have to be more proactive on the pedals, but then I have a big Orka elliptical rudder on the XTS which may account for it?
I don't really notice much difference between the XTS with cord and the EVO with cable.
The following user(s) said Thank You: balance_fit

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
1 month 11 hours ago #39743 by balance_fit

The XTS is better than the Vault, in which I have to be more proactive on the pedals, but then I have a big Orka elliptical rudder on the XTS which may account for it?
I don't really notice much difference between the XTS with cord and the EVO with cable.

Davidw

Thanks for your thoughts. I felt compelled to change the cables to cord on my XTS after a friend missed a great downwind when his rudder cable frayed at the start of the run.

I hadn't had any issues with my cables, but wanted to be proactive on the side of safety. Noticed that the Carbonology skis come with cords, as well as other brands nowadays.

Maybe the Vault isn't as good a surfer as the XTS, although it might not be because of the rudder only. The XTS is shorter and possibly more rockered.

Regards

JD

Simple, not easy.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Latest Forum Topics

Protected by R Antispam