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Great for its niche, but...
Had the Stratos for a couple months now and have had it on flatwater, class 2/3 rivers and some really windy lake surfing days. I am a mid level sea kayaker. 5'10" 220lbs athletic Marine type. Previous boats include WS tsunami, WS tempest, WS focus, dagger alchemy and fenn surf skis. I bought this boat to be a mid sized river and play boat. Plus I row with my wife most of the time and shes really slow so speed wasn't a concern for this boat.
The bad first, bear with me it gets better.
I knew getting into it that it would be a bit slower with the rocker profile and length, but wow, it is slow. Definitely not the "lets go crank out 20 miler on flatwater" kind of boat. I can keep it around 3.5mph comfortably. So set your own bar on speed. In comparison my ws tempest (given...with 2 more feet of boat and 4 inches skinnier) holds around 4.8mph for me. So i guess its not that its bad, its just not that good unless you are ok with 3mph... Secondly, the seat... This is my 2d dagger. My previous being the Alchemy. Alchemy had same seat. Horrible to spend any more than a few hours in at a time. Once again, if you get our of your boat all the time its too bad, but for me the seat causes butt/leg numbness that no amount of adjustment makes up for. And the backband never really feels supportive. It just digs into my lumbar. Dagger could learn a lot from WS on both the seat and backband systems. In comparison i can sit in my tempest and except for bio breaks i dont need to get out of the boat all day. In either of the daggers I'm 2-3 hours tops without getting out and stretching.I am going to find a way to fix this. Maybe a new band and resurface the seat pan with some foam or something. Also, after using a phase 3 seat in all my boats i hate the way these adjust. Really Dagger, go buy a WS phase 3 airpro off a shelf and steal that seat design.
OK enough bashing. All that said i love rowing this boat for the kind of water i bought it for. It is especially fun on nasty water. Very stable, I find myself doing things in it that i would shy away from in my other boats unless i just felt like practicing my bracing and rolling skills lol. Turns great but skeg settles it down when its time for going straight. The deck height is like 16 inches. After coming from low profile boats it feels like i could do flips inside it. Lots of room to move legs around. The seat does hold you in really good and the braces are decent for a RM boat. The pedal adjusters are a bit finicky for me but not too bad. Hatches stay dry. Rolls easily. The skeg rope mechanism works very well and it removed the skeg slider that rubs my leg wrong on the alchemy. To me this boat was what i wanted from the alchemy, but it just never seemed to pull off. Build quality is good, no blemishes or weirdness to speak of. And ebing 14 feet i can still load it in back of truck or jeep top it if I don't feel like breaking out the kayak trailer.
All said, i still gravitate towards my longer boats when i have to cover miles or I'm rowing with a faster crowd. But if any kind of craziness is in the forecast then I don't pass up the opportunity to play in this boat. Chattahoochie flooded or enough wind for lake swells? Grab the Dagger! Very niche, but it does that niche extremely well.
Just wanted to chime in for the heavier rowers considering a tempest 165 but scared off by average rower reviews. Im 5'10 215 lbs, size 11 shoes. Intermediate to advanced rower. Former Marine and stocky.
I was worried at first that i wouldn't fit this boat. Especially since the website says small to medium people and reviews were all by smaller people. But the measurements looked right so I gave one a shot. Pleasantly surprised to see that i slipped right in. Feels like a normal greenland style to me. Feet can move in all direction without hitting deck and the cockpit fit right. After sitting in it I immediately purchased from the seller. My intentions were for it to be a playful day boat that I could still use to cover some ground in. It has been great for that. Still enough room for few days worth of stuff if you expedition row.
Been rowing this boat for about 2 months now. Initial impressions were good and have only gotten better. Good primary stability, excellent secondary. It is a fast boat that holds 5mph ish all day speed for me. It does weathercock if you don't use the skeg. Not noticeably more than any other boat I've rowed (theres been a lot)but it does happen. On flat water it feels pretty much like every sea kayak i've ever rowed. If you usually row sea kayaks then you get it. Very much like a dagger alchemy with more speed. But where it really shines is when the water gets a little disturbed. Loves chop and speed. Just feels at home like that. Not sure if its the boat or me but on flatwater i feel bored its so predicable. Thats kind of nice in a way.
First trip was a 17 miler down a local river that has a nice long class 2/3 strip in the middle. I was a little concerned taking a new to me boat on that run but it really got me to trust the secondary stability and test the edged turning on cutbacks. Even had a chance to do a recovery of another rower that went in. Since then i have been out in conditions up to 20kt winds and 3-4 foot swells mixed directions. Felt comfortable and playful all the time. I have rowed stuff in this that some of my other boats would have me bracing non stop in.
Rolling is easy, self recoveries are smooth. Just enough room for me to slide in and do a re-enter and roll. No accidental spills yet though. its just matter of time lol.
Rigging is good and up to sea kayak standards. I had happened to pick up an older boat so it had the regular phase 3 in it. That wasn't gonna work for me so i stole the airpro phase 3 out of my loaner tsunami 140 and put it in this boat. Sucks for people that get my loaner, but go buy your own if you want a nicer seat :-) As a side note, yes it is def worth it to upgrade if you can. The Airpro phase 3 is a great seat.
I find that my weight really makes the boat just a little more sweet. Kind of like where they say boats settle with more gear, this boat settles into the perfect zone for me. If you are thinking of a 170 due to size, do yourself a favor and try out the 165 first. you may find that it feels better than a 170. For some reason unless you are like 120lbs they always push you to the 170. I gave it a 9 purely due to weight of the boat. Cant wait to test out the pro for comparison.
I'm a 5'10 210 lb rower for reference... Boat has good glide…
Boat has good glide and is def fast. I like the rounded hull that is decent on primary, great on secondary. Is not tsunami like with the rock solid first, more sea kayak feel to it. Which is what i was looking for when i got it. Boat rolls great. It also loves to lean on edge and get playful to my great surprise. Def suffers from wind cocking, at least for me, on anything heavier than 5-7mph winds. YMMV depending on weight and distribution of course. I have to use a rudder on this boat at times where if i was in my greenland, or even my tsunami 140 with hard chines, i wouldn't even notice. That being said, i got caught out in 20-30mph trailing/quarting winds with 2-3 waves and whitecaps on the way home the other day and was flying back to house. Really ate up the miles quickly. Was comparable to rowing my chatham 17, but faster. But considering the hull shape the water line is probably comparable. All hatches stay dry, love the little day hatch, no longer use a deck bag.
Gave it an 8 because even though it tracks well on calm days, with wind I really have to work if I dont use the rudder. if you are ok with rudder use then put it back to a 9. But for a boat with this long of a waterline I think that tracking could be better. On the one i have i put in the toe controls for rudder, best purchase ever.
I think if you are looking for a good all day kayak you can't go wrong. Only downside is that it is heavy. I can move it by myself, but I don't like to....