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The Zone by Current Designs
A casual review by Tom & Athena Holtey - for an ocean paddler's review jump to: Zone Review by Chris

tank wellAthena: We paddled it at a show for dealers in Sturbridge Massachusetts on Cedar Pond, a long small lake, so not much of a test, but great to try it out. They revealed it at the end of the 2008 season as they do in the industry so that dealers can order for next year's season. In a nutshell, it paddled much like our Heritage Nomad. Similar seat support, but not quite the high ride and quiet and smooth through the chop. Very fast. My Nomad can get noisy due to the hard-chine sponsons.

The Zone has a "fish-form" soft chine hull and that may be why it made a significant difference for me in my enjoyment of the glide. The net on the tank well was very sturdy yet easy to pop off all around. Very well made, still I'd want a hatch back there. All in all it appeared very well thought out.

The Zone

Length: 17'0" (518.16 cm)
Width: 24.25" (61.595 cm)
Hull: Shallow "V" Fish Form - Soft Chine
Depth: 7 1/4" (17.78 cm)
Cockpit size: 59" x 18" (149.86 cm x 45.72 cm) Cockpit type: Sit on top
Fiberglass: 54 lb. (24.3 kg)
w/ Standard Equipment $2399.00

Forward Hatch: 8" x 8" (20.32 cm x 20.32 cm)
Day Hatch: 8" x 8" (20.32 cm x 20.32 cm)
Rear Hatch: 32" x 14.5" (81.28 cm x 36.83 cm) Front Hatch Volume: 18 gal. (68.4 L)
Day Hatch Volume: 11 gal. (41.8 L)
Rear Tank Well
Max. load*: 325 lb. (146.25 kg)
Rudder/Skeg: Rudder

hatchTom: The Current Designs new sit-on-top kayak, the Zone, is much faster than most other SOT touring type boats. It is a bit tippy, but that should not be a problem after a couple days in the saddle, for a new kayaker, or for one used to a more stable boat.

I did not get a chance to try it for a long trip, and then only on a lake, flat water, but we did have a good wind blowing, and I had no problem handling or tracking with the wind, from a variety of directions, rudder up. I wish I had a chance to test paddle the Zone in the ocean, but demo days are rarely ever on ocean waters.

The Zone is fast, quite fast, almost ski-like, and as such it is kind of tippy. However, the Zone paddles and feels like a kayak, much as one would expect from Current Designs. Again, I did not have it in ocean conditions, so it is hard to tell what it would feel like with some rolling seas. The demo was outfitted with knee straps and they fit me well, without any need to customize the strap eyes. If a Zone paddler was well versed in bracing, with loose hips, and using knee straps they will not feel intimidated by a bit of tippyness. One thing about the Zone is that unlike a surf ski you will not have that moment of "unease" as you lift your feet into the foot wells.

zoneI am sorry to say that I did not try a deep-water re-entry, nor an Eskimo roll. My "arm chair" opinion is that the Zone will be easier than a "classic" Heritage, or ski, to re-board from deep water, and that rolling the Zone will be easier than rolling a Scupper or Tarpon. That said I would speculate that this is not a good scuba kayak, but could handle the surf zone and some rough water play.

While the tank-well is sort of a "flop" for those of us who look forward to a touring sit-on-top with both bow and stern hatches, for serious sea kayaking adventurers, I found it to have the best tank-well net I have encountered.

It is easy enough to sit sidesaddle and access the tank-well, but the net has many tie downs, and the well is too long to reach to the back, so keep your gear to the forward part. If the well were full of cargo it would displace water that may collect there. I would take care not to obstruct the scupper hole if the water were rough, that is if the well was not full of cargo. While it is easy enough to sit sidesaddle in the Zone, I would suggest that one consider a way to secure a net bag or dry bag in the cockpit for easy access items.

reachI found the Zone to be a tad hard to turn, not particularly responsive with lean, but OK. The rudder was good, very sturdy and functional. The Zone could be a good candidate for a SmartTrack system, maybe if only for the Vertical Adjustment Kit. (Athena had mentioned some trouble with jam cleat for the lift line, and I do not know why they bothered to install one. It seems to lock in place just fine.)

The hatches are very dry, and have several "layers of defense" so I would not recommend any regular on-water access. There is a hard, strap-on outer cover, under it is a rubber ("Tupperware") inner cover with a bungee cinch ring around the edge. The ring is not secured and seems like it could easily fly, like a rubber band, into the great beyond, so take care to keep an eye on it. I would say that the cinch ring is probably not needed, so don't sweat it if you loose it.

Over all I see this as a very promising SOT kayak. The comfort was OK, as far as my short ride could prove. My impression is that it is a worthy sea-touring kayak. If you are looking for an advanced open water paddler's SOT, or if you are planning to "grow into" a performance SOT then this kayak is for you.

Zone Reivew By Chris:

It is with a bit of regret that I am posting my CD Zone for sale. It has been a really frustrating boat to get my arms around.  I have taken several lessons and had some good hours under my belt with it but I still find it to be very tippy with no secondary stability--especially in ocean swells and small chop. Several instructors have noted that the seat bottom seems too high above the water line--especially for a taller paddler. Rudder controls/foot pegs have been upgraded to the Smart Trak Toe Pilot system. Anyway, I have gone back to my 15' OC Prowler, and have been enjoying shorter paddles and surfing once again. 

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