Reviews - ZET Raptor Whitewater Kayak Review

Canoe & Kayak UK Test Team - Posted on 10 Nov 2011
Zet Raptor Whitewater Kayak
Zet Raptor Whitewater Kayak
First a little background. ZET Kayaks is the brainchild of three people, extreme kayaker Honza Lasko, top Czech slalom kayaker  Viktor Legat and production engineer and plastics specialist Zelezny. Each had there own specific skills to bring to the design table and the combination of those skills resulted in the Raptor. The ethos was to produce a kayak that was designed by paddlers for paddlers with pure function being blended with innovative features and design processes and a healthy dose of styling too.

Facts & Features
The Raptor kayak is, in our opinion, a thoroughbred creek kayak and most at home on bigger volume steep runs. It has a displacement hull with a subtle touch of edge. The ZET guys believe that planning and semi-planning hulls are a complete waste of time on creek boats and hard edges tend to get in the way on rocky slides. And we’d agree with that. The Raptor has a displacement hull that is stable and easy to roll but has enough edge to help you carve snappily into tight eddies.
The Zet Raptor kayak in action on the River Dee in Wales
The hull is fast! Lots of boats claim this, but the Raptor is like greased lightning in the downriver speed department. If piloted correctly and driven hard it keeps its speed incredibly well over drops, though holes and over boily eddy lines. Many of the faster creek boats on the market are great downriver, but don't turn fast enough for tight manoeuvring. The Raptor does both, and that’s why it’s already won so many European extreme races, and why it’s set to become the Extreme racing and Boater-X weapon of choice for many paddlers this coming season.

We mentioned innovative features and variable hull thickness Zelezny technology is certainly one. Basically the linear high-density polyethylene material is thicker in the hull and sides, to take impacts and higher wear and tear, and thinner on the front and rear decks. The end result of that is that you get a very strong kayak for the least amount of weight. The Raptor weighs only 19kg but ZET reckon that it is as strong as a boat weighting 24kg. We only had the Raptor for a couple of months, so haven’t paddled it long enough to fully substantiate that claim, but we can tell you that it is considerably lighter than any other boat of its type that we’ve paddled; which makes for making it all smiles on long walk ins or portages and giving it a nice lively feel on the water. We never deliberately smash boats on rocks in tests, but in missions on the rivers of the North Wales, the Peak District and the North of England it did take some consider table hits and was left with only minor scuffing, Time will tell, but it certainly seems that the Raptor is as tough as the hype says it is.

The other innovative feature that we really liked was that there are no holes drilled around the cockpit. For years we’ve moaned about leaky boats on the river. Nuts and bolts come loose, fact, and inevitably start leaking making your boat wet. No holes equals no leaks, making the Raptor dry and no annoying bolts to tighten up every month or so.

The Raptor has a respectable 303 litres of, which keeps you riding high in bigger water and resurfacing quickly on big drops. Some of that volume though, has been shifted to the back of the boat. This makes the Raptor really stable through rapids, but can make it feel a little different to other kayaks at first. We’d been warned by ZET about this but have to say that it wasn’t a problem at all and all of our testers loved the feel of the boat. Interestingly the older testers who grew up paddling older, narrower kayak designs adapted straight away. Some of the young guns, used to the super-wide knee position, and volume distribution of many modern designs took a little longer, but once they’d settled in really appreciated the Raptors speed and stability.

Outfitting
On first appearance the outfitting on the Raptor looks a little industrial and basic, but once in and paddling it becomes apparent that function comes first as it really works well. The seat is made from a solid piece of moulded closed cell foam. We always add a good layer of foam to our creek boat seats to raise height and to improve shock absorption and the raptor seat takes care of all of that, can’t split either. The backrest gave good support and we liked the tough, chunky ratchets.

The seat comes set fully to the rear from the factory, It’s adjustable but bearing in mind what we’ve said about how the boat feels give it a good few paddle in that position before you decide move it.
Added safety features always get the thumbs up from us and serious river runners will appreciate the fact that the front and rear buoyancy blocks are retained by a plastic pillar. The Raptor also comes with a set of free airbags, which means she’s ready to hit the water straight out of the bag! Last but no means least is the fact that all the outfitting carries a two-year warranty and the boat’s shell an impressive four-year warranty. To us that speaks volumes about ZET’s confidence and belief in their product.

The Ride
OK here’s the bit you really want to know. How does it paddle? Well it’s a kayak that responds well to an aggressive, dynamic style of paddling. If you like a boat that’ll look after you with the minimum amount of input then the Raptor’s Whitewater kayaker testing the Zet Raptor Whitewater kayak on the River Dee in Walesnot for you. But if you like to really drive your boat on the river then it’s going to appeal, it’s a boat the reacts well to a modern dynamic style and an active blade. Its speed and manoeuvrability are really impressive and allows the Raptor to move across the river with ease and control. It holds its line really well, especially in bigger pushier water. We’ve already talked about how snappy it feels in to eddies, but you need to adjust your paddling style a little. With your weight forward it really fires round, feels almost a little like blunting a playboat. The rear seems to become free and skids round. This it cool if it’s a really micro eddy, but on bigger eddies it can mean you end up on the eddy line and sliding down. A bit of time needs to be spent practicing and adjusting to the Raptor and how to get the best out of its edges, it’s sensitive to body positioning and weight transfer. They’re subtle but for such a gentle edge provide impressive performance.

For beginner, intermediate and club whitewater paddlers looking for a forgiving, easy ride the Raptor may just be a little bit of handful as it’s a boat that provides a high level of performance, but that expects a certain level of performance back from the paddler in return. It can, and, on occasion, punishes sloppy paddling.
As we’ve already mentioned the Raptor is really going to appeal to you if you like a spot of Extreme racing and Boater-X events. And if you revel in steep, bigger volume runs. We really enjoyed it on tighter, technical water too, but it came in to it’s own when the rain fell and the rivers became higher. For instance we can’t wait to get it on high water levels on things like the Fairy Glen, Ogwen, Aberglaslyn Gorge in Wales. Findhorn, Orchy and Nevis in Scotland. And the Upper Dart, Tees and Upper Swale in England.

In conclusion the team at ZET have created a stand out kayak at their first attempt, so we look forward to seeing more designs from them in the future.

Specs
Length: 255cm
Width: 68cm
Volume: 303litres
Weight: 19kg
Paddler weight: 65 – 120kg
RRP: £849

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