I've owned my TideRace Xtra for over 3 years now and am continually impressed with the way it handles, overall features, and construction quality. I purchased it new, when I was looking for a play boat specifically for rough water where stability in those conditions and maneuverability were essential. Not only has it never disappointed, but it continues to bring a smile to my face.
Depending on mood (as much as anything else) I use both "Euro" and Greenland paddles, and the Xtra responds equally well. Turning is effortless, like having power steering, even if I don't edge. When edging, it's extremely stable and feels like a sports car. Secondary stability is rock solid!
While not the fastest hull, it's more than adequate. With so much rocker, one can't expect it to be a speedster. As hoped for, in rough conditions it really shows the intent of the designer.
My only "complaint," one which isn't unique to the Xtra, is the deck lines when new are too tight to be functional. Yeah, they look really nice in photos and in the store, but.... So the first thing I did was cut them off and replace them with slightly larger diameter and enough slack to easily grab when wearing cold water paddle gloves. I wish TideRace would (at least) leave enough extra line so replacement wouldn't be needed.
As an instructor, I've found the Xtra's ease in turning and pivoting to be a big asset when teaching. I've never regretted my purchase, and I can't see ever wanting to part with it!
The basic design features are lots of rocker, a flat planing hull with a relatively wide cockpit section and hard chines, and a very low cut rear deck.
Firstly, it's hard to overstate this kayak's positive rough water handling characteristics. Coupled with a 198 cm whitewater paddle with large blade area to allow rapid changes in stroke rate, this boat is really manoeuvrable in the sort of big confused conditions we get around Anglesey. However, this agility doesn't sacrifice stability, even whilst stationary. Once the hull starts to plane the boats tracks nicely whilst surfing waves and the hard chines allow for very aggressive and positive edging / leaning.
The combination of low rear and raised foredeck make for very easy rolling, and re-entry rolls in rough water are no problem. This boat takes serious abuse and it gets regular hits from the rocks. At 24kg (I'm British, ? lbs) it isn't light, but the build quality can't be faulted and the carbon-kevlar takes the knocks.
This isn't a touring boat, but a fit paddler will still at least keep up with most club paddlers in a group over distance.
Not specific to the Xtra or TideRace boats: I'd like to see better cockpit outfitting. The Xtra's fit is okay, but play-at-sea kayaks especially would benefit from some better outfitting along the lines of a Jackson, LiquidLogic or Lettmann WW boat, for example. For example, the rigid backband is great, but with repeated rolling the cushion slides to one side and leaves you feeling off-centred - it also tears if you're doing cowboy re-entries.
For handling and enjoyment, it scores 10.