Read reviews for the Thunderbolt by West Side Boat Shop as submitted by your fellow paddlers.
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Looks like its been a long…
Looks like its been a long time since reviewed. Doug is still building these boats. Everything I've read here rings true. Last year I got a Thunderbolt X. I am an old fart and like the fact that I can hold it at shoulder height with one hand. Once I had a spray skirt made for it became even more fun to paddle. Easily rolled even with a wing. The one downside is the wear and tear on my bottom. After two hours of rotating, I have stone bruises on each cheek. Since I want to use it for touring as well as conditioning, I am looking for a solution. First thing I am trying is an Epic pad, then maybe the angle of the seat. Fun on ruff water. Oh mine came with air bags for bow and stern. Rolling is better than pumping.
Follow up review after one…
Follow up review after one year of use: Still an awesome boat. Some notes: I paddle mostly flat water and sometimes very shallow water. I thought I needed a overstern rudder for this. I bought a used understern for the price, but found something unexpected. With a two inch rudder, the boat will bottom out in the center before it even touches the rudder. I currently am running a four inch rudder for better control (21 feet is hard to turn). But, don't be afraid of the understern. On stability, it really is all relative. I came out of a 22 inch wide sea kayak, and the Tbolt was a huge handful at first. After a year of heavy paddling, I am totally comfortable in this boat. I can reach for my water bottle, watch planes overhead, and put layers on/off with no problem. I now have a spec surf ski too 19' X 19". Spec skis are generally believed to be the most stable (with a few exceptions) of surf skis. The Tbolt is more stable. I don't feel the Tbolt is inferior in any way when I race against the faster surf skis (flat water). I think a radical olympic K1 like the Nelo Vanquish is faster in flat water, but only for someone that has really put in the time to be efficient in it. Many people complain about the lack of bulkheads, and choose surf skis instead. I will say this though, the Tbolt does not sink when capsized intentionally (has foam center supports). You can add float bags if you are really concerned. Additionally, I can jump right back into my Tbolt with no floats or support(I really should just learn to roll, duhhh!). Yes it is a pain to pump out the water, but I feel MUCH less likely to tip in my Tbolt than my surf ski. I can paddle much faster in chop in the Tbolt too because I feel much more stable. I would consider the Tbolt similar in stability to a Laser, which is listed as a five (on a scale to ten) on a olympic scale for stability (one is radical K1, ten is 23"wide sea kayak). As for speeds: I paddled sustained above 6mph from day one, and now cruise at up to 8mph with short sprints to 10. I have worked hard to get these speeds, but 6mph is realistic for almost anyone in this boat. Hope this helps.
I recently made the…
I recently made the transition from an EFT to a Thunderbolt. After less than 5 minutes the boat felt as stable as the EFT. However, I was going a whole lot faster. Kudos to Doug Bushnell. If there is a better boat builder, I have not found one, and I have been paddling since 1984. I do not know of any boat that has the speed and rough water capability of his boats. Try one and see.
I bought this boat for flat…
I bought this boat for flat water racing. I kept my Tempest 17 for rough water. That was 3 months ago, and I now have dust on my Tempest. Paddling anything less just feels dumb. Occasionally I miss the storage and bulkheads, but that is only when I am on the land. If I had any complaint, it would be this: It is impossible to go slow. Many times I have planned on taking a leisurely paddle. But, every time I give in to the speed demon within. It will be a sad day when Doug Bushnell retires. Awesome boat!
The Thunderbolt is all around…
The Thunderbolt is all around great racing and training boat. It has been paddled in all types of conditions. I live on Lake Ontario and the water throws you almost any type of conditions. The first tips to move the seat forward about 1 1/2 inches to get you boat trim. I installed a good backband and toe bar. The boat flies in flatwater, chop, and really bumpy water. I have raced all types of kayaks from flatwater sprint, downriver whitewater, and surf skis. The Thunderbolt is only slightly slower than a sprint boat on flatwater. In rough water it flies. You can just bear down and focus on paddling. Into headwinds and tailwinds tremendous. Surfs 2 to 3 foot waves like mad. In braking side chop up to about 4 feet is great over that and your hanging on. I have not paddled any racing boat that could blast thru huge braking side waves. The boat, if trimmed right, can move thru shallow water. If your serious about your sport than this is the boat for you. Very well made and the cost is well worth it. Doug is master craftsman and designer.
If I could have only one. I…
If I could have only one. I expected great speed and craftsmanship and have not been disappointed. What has surprised me most, is the comfort level. The seat is amazing for a kayak and surely contributes to the boat speed after an hour and longer. Everything about the Thunderbolt favors the full body rotation style of paddling so necessary to really take advantage of its glide and efficiency. Due to its bow and stern rocker its very nimble for a craft of 21 feet. Mine is equipped with a small understern rudder (awesome control). I might need to switch to overstern if the rains stop (fitted with a stern insert). Mr. Bushnell has a rudder for everything from the bathtub to the ocean. The beautiful upswept bow is incredible in both head and following wind rollers, and with close to 21 feet actual water line it plows through the shallows like a train. The only thing that Doug missed on this one is to make it run by itself! I own other racing boats and after my Thunderbolt the others are just not as fun to paddle. If your looking for a training/racing kayak this one has got to be the ultimate. If I could never race again, I would still choose the Thunderbolt for pleasure paddling and fast cruising. If you want to really go fast and prefer the freedom of being on the water as an alternative to the gym or running, this just might be the one.
What a rocket is this boat.…
What a rocket is this boat. Maybe the fastest open water kayak ever built. It wins races such as www.saranaclake.com (90miler) and blackburnchallenge.com I added a rear bulkhead after hurting back trying to flip water out. And I added thigh braces from dagger animas so my old whitewater knees will have something to grab onto. And added 4 Ibolts on rear deck for platypus hydration pack with water tube that velcroes to top left of pfd. Do not even think of setting down your paddle to open water bottle in this boat. Mine has kickup rudder for shallow water racing in adirondacks and run of charles. Rudder is not long enough to touch water when surfing so you go paralell with waves. Also has olympic fin rudder that is no good for shallow water. Maybe you could let a long feathercraft type rudder hang off the back. My wing paddle and I are born to rip holes in the water as we blast along in the power of God Almighty at 10 mph. In the olympics they do the 500 meter sprint at one minute 35 sconds or 16 mph in a 17 ft boat that is so tippy they tip over when empty.
Mr Bushnell may reign fire from Zeus upon those mere mortals who make any changes to his boats. His boats are worth the effort of just keep your mouth shut and acknowledge his omniscience. "You do not need a bulkhead if you do not tip over." Doug would build the winning race car at indy500 but no roll bar because you would not dare scratch his car. "Do not put paddle on rear deck to attempt reentry lest you sratch it." Mr Bushnell is always right and you are always wrong when you even think of disagreeing with him. He has threatened to chain saw my t-bolt in 2 with chain saw because i made unauthorized changes.
I've only had the Thunderbolt…
I've only had the Thunderbolt for a few weeks now, but I'm frankly awed by the speed of this boat. It will legitimately cruise at 6.5-7 knots and I haven't yet come close to figuring out its top speed. Although my initial impression was that the boat was staggeringly tippy at rest (and it's still pretty tippy), I've been very impressed by how stable it really is under speed, for a boat that is maximum 18'' wide, and mostly 14'' wide. Craftsmanship is superb and it rolls very easily. Only complaints would be that it is very tough to fit with floatation, owing to the split and very long bow and stern. Also, Doug Bushnell can be a bit prickly to work with, and I probably would insist on certain safety features, like rear rigging for a float rescue (see above under Wave Exceed) that he is very reluctant to provide. Also, the boat comes in any color you like- as long as it is ungelcoated carbon/kevlar green! All in all, a fantastic speed machine that you will be able to grow into for years. Highly recommended.