I have been searching for the perfect crossover kayak for the last decade, I have owned many and none were really good at "crossing over". I owned a Liquid Logic stinger, and a Pyrahna Fusion , and paddled most of the mainstream crossovers. I liked the Stinger but it had to much volume to be responsive, and weighed a ton. I had been using a Pyrahna Speeder as a crossover and love the stinger, but it is not responsive enough to handle much WW. I was wishing for a cross between the Stinger and the Speeder, I found the District 11 and decided to give it a try. As I am a little rough on kayaks I ordered the heavier plastic option. The fit and finish of the hull is very good, and the design of the ridges and skeleton frame make the hull very ridgid. The outfitting is not like most "main stream" kayaks, it is designed to be modified by the user to become what you want and fit like. Once set up, the outfitting is comfortable and practical, and easy to work on while out on the river. The district 11 comes standard with a drop down skeg that I wish was a delete option, if you have good paddling skills it does not need the skeg, and it takes up a lot of room in the stern. the stern hatch is only needed to access the skeg tube and help in putting in float bags, and does not offer much storage. The split footboard is comfortable, easily adjusted and makes putting in float bags or storing gear in the nose easy. The foam seat is easily adjustable and comfortable. The design is fast as the stinger, and does not plow like a bathtub, it is nimble and can turn on a dime when on its tail. The nose is similar to the Stinger and effectively cuts through waves and eddy lines. The low back lets you lay way back to aid in turns and rolls. It is a very stable boat and secondary stability seems to be good also. The boat can catch the edge of the tail and scare you if you are not prepared to brace. I have taken the boat out rock gardening and on some light C3 WW and I am very pleased with performance. There is a learning curve to getting the boat to perform. It is sensitive to front/back weight transfer in active water. Is the District 11 the perfect self support crossover, nope, but it is a good crossover, better than anything I have ever paddled. it does WW and rough water rock gardening well, and is decent on flatwater getting to the fun areas. I think it will remain in my "fleet" as a boat I will take when I am not sure what I am getting into that day when going out to play. I am giving the District 11 4 stars because I wish it did not have a skeg, that would make it a better self support kayak. Overall a well made, fun and light crossover.
I bought the Zephyr as a rough water day touring boat, it is that and a little more. I have owned the poly 155 for about 4 years, I have used it as a down river boat in class 2/3 white water, light rock gardening, rough water and day touring. It does them all fairly well. The low profile and skeg make the Zephyr an ideal boat in high wind. The boat tracks very well without the skeg, when it is put down it tracks like a much longer boat. The mild rocker allows edging to make fairly tight turns for a 15' 6" long boat. The outfitting is adjustable enough to suit most paddlers, and very comfortable. The Zephyrs handling and turning are very sensitive to weight and center of balance, so loading the boat changes its manners quite a bit. The front hatch has never leaked, the oval rear hatch has leaked a little during rock gardening when surf breaks on the deck of the boat, but it has not imploded yet.
One down side to the poly Zephyr is that its robust nature makes it a little on the heavy side. Its drop down skeg does need to be kept clean, a little mud or small rocks not cleaned out will easily jam the system. The wire push pull is much better than ropes or cables used in many other skegs, and allows for adjustment of deployment with different winds.
I currently have 6 kayaks in my "fleet" of very specific niche kayaks, the Zephyr is one of my favorite kayaks, it is never the wrong kayak to pull out of the rack when you are not sure what the day will bring.
I only will give 5 stars to the perfect do- everything kayak, but I think this may be wilderness systems best boat.
I have had the boat out on moderate flow flat water rivers and flat water lake (20mph winds). I was worried about claims the boat was unstable, I find this to be not the case, the initial stability is nearly identical to my Valley Avocet, and its secondary stability is quite high as well, but there is a very fine line if edged over to far, the boat quickly snaps upside down if you cross that line. The boat really show its WW heritage, as it turns very quickly using sweeps and draws; at speed it also is very maneuverable when edged.
I was a little surprised at the boat hulls profile, much like a flat bottomed U, with no chiming to speak of, it does make the ride very "quiet" with little wake at speed. The top of the boat is very rounded giving a very dry ride in chop. There are recessed areas next to the cockpit that allow for high angle paddling without banging your hands. At this time the rear hatch has remained dry, but it has not been seriously tested. The outfitting is typical Pyranha; top quality and very comfortable. I have modified the foot pegs by adding Sea Lect foot pegs instead of the standard WW foot board.
For a poly boat under 15' it is indeed a quick boat. It accelerates fairly quickly, and cruises easily once at speed. Tracking is good, but if you have difficulty edging, tracking may be problematic as the boat is very sensitive to leaning or imbalanced paddling. I would say speed wise it may equal a touring boat in the 15' to 16' range, but for a shorter boat this maneuverable it is indeed fast.
The boat does weather cock in wind a little, but no more so than most other non skeged boats.
I know the Speeder was discontinued, but feel it is a good little runabout that is a lot of fun. Its light weight makes it easy to throw on the rack and take it out for a spin, being a poly boat and reasonably priced you can take it anywhere without fear of damaging a work of art. I am happy with this boat and will keep it in my fleet.
The seating and hip pads and thigh hooks are among the best I have ever been around, all-day comfortable. The foot board adjustments are a little wide spaced causing me to drill new holes for perfect placement. I installed a waterproof bulk head behind the seat to seal off the large rear storage area. The rear hatch seal (and my bulk head) are waterproof under moderate water exposure. The skeg operation is easy to manipulate and seemingly robust enough to be considered a much better design than Piranha and Dagger skegs.
The boat is advertised as being fast, it is faster than any WW boat I have ever paddled, but compared to other 12 foot kayaks it seems about average, it does accelerate and plane out very quickly.
This is not a beginners kayak as without the skeg deployed it will point out every bad habit or lack of paddling skills by running wild. Proper strokes and form make the boat track very well for a boat that will spin like a top when asked to do so. Due to my lack of skill quartering waves did catch the long tail making me slide sideways on waves, but I think that is my issue to overcome, not the boats problem.
I have not had the boat on big WW or narrow fast WW so I cannot advise on those characteristics or give the boat a 10, so far I like what the Stinger is capable of. In my opinion, a seasoned paddler should be very happy with the boats capabilities.
As a single, the boat was much faster than anticipated for such a wide heavy boat, glide was also better than anticipated. As a single the boat is very controllable, and tracks on rails, turning is not a huge problem for those with proficient paddling skills, non experienced paddlers may need to install a rudder for assistance in turning. A rudder is not needed in my opinion as a tracking aid.
With experienced paddlers, as a tandem it again, is faster than anticipated but glide suffers with the additional weight. For such a short tandem a small paddler may not interfere with the strokes of the rear paddler, so when a child is in the front synchronized padding is not essential. Both tandem and single this boat offers a very dry and "quiet" ride not splashing when cutting waves, or pushing a noisy bow wake often associated with SOT tandems.
As an entry level recreational tandem it is (in my opinion), in the top of its class. If it offered back band seating, a front sealed bulkhead, and was 10 pounds lighter I would have given it a 10. As it stands I am very happy with the boat, it does exactly as intended.
The L does feel considerably larger than the S and gives a little dryer ride in rough conditions. The L still handles and turns as quickly as the S, but it does catch the wind making it a little prone to wind cocking. Tracking is excellent for a boat this short, the skeg is handy in windy conditions to control cocking in side winds when you are not moving. The Alchemy seems fairly efficient as far as speed and glide are concerned for a shorter wider boat.
I would not classify the Alchemy a rec boat as it likes confused water and surf, but it would suit a beginning kayaker as the primary stability is pretty good, secondary stability can be felt once you learn where the "edge" is.
The outfitting is comfortable and very adjustable. The seat does seem a little forward in the cockpit to me making it tough to get a tight fitting skirt on quickly, also the day hatch is not very accessible unless your back is very limber.
I gave the boat an 8 as it can do many things pretty well but not as well as a design built boat. It is a good jack of all trades boat, it relatively low cost and good quality make it an excellent choice for a paddler that sees themselves in multiple types of water, day touring, lakes, flatwater, light rapids and surf are all do-able with the Alchemy.
Would I recommend this boat, yes I would, I bought two of them because you can have a lot of fun in them where ever you wind up in your adventures.
If you are looking for a seat that feels like a rec boat lounge chair this is not your product. It is a very comfortable well built product. The only reason I did not score it higher is that for some people it may ride a little high and could interfere with a low fitting PFD.
The cart bends to adapt to nearly any shape sit inside kayak; not sure about SOT with a wider beam. The wide plastic solid tires are great on sand, mud and weed infested areas; on rocks and large pebbles not so great. The soft pneumatic tire model would be better for rocky surfaces. The cart easily breaks down and fits inside of all of my boats (WS Zephyr 155, Dagger Alchemys, Pyrahna Fusion S). I have had 2 kayaks with nearly 150lbs of gear on the cart and it works well.
I have had the boat out in flat water streams and limited light surf and rock gardening (entry level stuff only) The primary stability is very high making it a good beginner kayak. Secondary stability is not bad, but to me, I could not reliably feel the "point of no return" and found myself rolling when aggressive edging. I think moving the seat back hurt the boats rolling behavior as I can not lay back flat on the deck, but it seems to be easy to snap the boat back under you.
In my opinion, this is a good general use kayak for a beginner that wants a boat they can grow with, learning new skills. It also seems to have the ability to turn and handle very well making it a good surf boat (I am still learning this skill).
The Alchemy is well built, has dry hatches, and is fairly light for a poly boat.