Review – Carbonology Zest

Weight: Glass vacum 23kg            Length 7.2m

The first thing that struck me was how light it is – even in the glass layup. My wife and paddling partners often complain when I ask them to help with my current double but with the Zest no one even murmured. The ski is so light that it comes with two handles that actually work! Traditionally even on my upmarket ski the only way to carry a double is by the nose and tail, the Zest has handles next to the cockpits that you can actually use to carry the ski. This is a BIG help at the start or finish of a race because often the calf / paddle leaches are not long enough especially for the back paddler to be clipped in and reach the back of the ski.

The next is how easy it is to set up; on the first morning that we demo’ed it there were three teams anxiously waiting to try it. Within seconds we were able to adjust the front and back footplates for the next team and off they went. No looking for tools or fussing around.

Demo day 1 was choppy with the wind coming from the south and the prevailing swell from the west causing a frustrating chop on the sea.

Team 1 usually train on a more stable double so their comments would be telling in terms of stability. Well they shot off in to the deep and returned about twenty minutes later with big grins on their faces – “this ski is light and wonderfully responsive”

We were very keen to try out the new boat on trial and it didn’t take much to get our butts into the Carbonology Zest!

My thoughts as a relative novice? Firstly, very fast! I assume the weight difference compared with our older heavy boat makes a massive difference. Or perhaps the more streamlined shape? Maybe a combination? But it felt like we could fly. Quite effortlessly!

Secondly, stability: although the sea conditions were really kind that particular morning, the boat felt pretty stable.  We purposely rocked it side to side a bit and it felt really comfortable (I think they refer to this as secondary stability?) I would definitely feel comfortable taking this boat out in choppy conditions or for a Millers run for example. – Mike Harrison

Team 2 are relatively new to surf ski’ing but have a white water history that would make you green with envy. Within a couple of seconds they had the Zest all set up for them and then off they went chasing Team 1 (now back in their very stable double) out to the lighthouse. Quite a brave move when one considers that the conditions got choppier the moment one left the shelter of the bay. They too returned with only complements for the ski and seem to have loved the trip home with the small swells to chase.

We had the opportunity to paddle the Carbonology Zest double this weekend. We are not very experienced in the ocean and found the ski really friendly. It was stable light and fast. Especially liked the footrest and peddled which were solid and responsive. – James

Carbonology Zest:

When I think of the description for “Zest”, I think of heightened senses- the added extra to ‘perfect’ a dish. This is what I found when paddling the Carbonology Zest Surf Ski – the added extras to ‘perfect’ a Surf ski experience. The ‘zing and the zang’. The boat sat beautifully in very ‘busy’ water; she played in the currents while keeping her stability; her lines are pretty and her weight is light. My kinda boat.

Definition of “Zest” (noun) great enthusiasm & energy. – Nicola (ex editor – can you tell 😉  )

Team 3: That is us! Well in 2 clicks we were sorted in terms of leg length and ready to hit the surf. The first thing that struck me was how easy it was to accelerate through the surf. I have had the opportunity to paddle entry level and elite doubles lately and I was instantly surprised at how quickly this ski got off the mark especially since it was just a social paddle.

The next was how responsive it is, I think that my partner for the day and I have spent too much time in our stable doubles lately so had forgotten how playful a ski could be. Yes it rocked side to side more than our normal skis but within 5 minutes we got used to it and after a few more minutes really started to enjoy the experience. The big difference for me is that with the Zest even on the first paddle we started working the swell that was coming from the left in order to gain speed as we headed out the bay. As we turned and headed home it was able to accelerate on the small swells coming from the south and made good headway in the chop.

Over the next two weeks I paddled it in the vlei with new paddlers and in and out of Muizenburg beach with an experienced paddler and we loved playing in the ski. Muizenburg Beach is often amazing for wave riding with a surf ski as the wave builds from far out so one can catch it on a fast double and ride it for about 100m before the SUP and longboard surfers are in a position to contest the wave. Our usual mad scramble to get the boat speed up in order to catch the wave was soon replaced with a far more relaxed paddle to get the boat on to the wave. On the wave it was great, the nose is high enough that even with 180kgs on board it did on plough in to the bottom of the wave. But it was it maneuverability that had us hooting for delight! Once on the wave its stability seems to improve dramatically making it feel rock solid. Next the sleekness of the ski afforded us the opportunity to turn left and right on the wave without ever digging the rail of the ski in to the wave. Even at 7.2m long we were happily weaving in between the surfers on back-line in order stay on the wave. They on ther other hand were not so happy; so we moved on after 5 or so waves.

But I must be honest, we did not get the opportunity to take it on a good downwind as time and work did not permit and we erred on the side of caution, preferring not to paddle a demo ski for the G-Bay Winter Series 2019 5th race. But in retrospect we should have as the conditions were ideal for a test – two tough choppy legs due to the rebound off the cliffs and one great downwind leg from the marina to the start / finish.

The last comment about the ski is that I just love the finishing touches for example a proper scapula / bullet system to drain the boat, cut away sides for the front and back paddler and bungee cords to secure your juice bottles in front of the footplates for the longer paddles.

I have been meaning to try this ski for a while and I was delighted that I got the opportunity. Team 2 loved it so much they have already bought a hybrid. So if you are in the market for an intermediate ski I would strongly recommend that you give the Carbonology Zest a try.

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