A review of the Current Designs Squall GTS sea kayak from Adventure Kayak magazine.
Sharing many of the winning design attributes of the best-selling Solstice GT and its plastic counterpart, the Storm, the Current Designs Squall has been a reliable workhorse for outfitters and small- to mid-sized paddlers since its 1997 debut. Redesigned for 2012, the new Squall GTS is seven inches shorter yet actually accommodates a larger range of paddlers. Along with a larger cockpit and updates to the deck, the CD design team says the new hull “offers increased efficiency.”
When it comes to defining efficiency, CD’s designers evidently focused on speed over maneuverability. Despite being just shy of 16 feet, the Squall’s waterline carries the cruising speed of a longer hull thanks to minimal rocker in the bow and almost no rocker in the stern. On calm water, the miles slip past effortlessly. In rougher seas, expect a wet ride.
Tracking is excellent, making the rudder unnecessary even with a tricky quartering tailwind. Which is just as well, given the challenges our testers had with CD’s SmartTrack foot braces. Taken on their own, the foot braces are a clever compromise between stability and ease of use. However, pair them with the leg position imposed by the Squall’s molded-in thigh braces (more on that later), and it’s all but impossible to achieve the toe extension required to work the pedals. Those who enjoy using their rudder to aid steering may want to consider retrofitting adjustment plates available from CD.
The shallow V hull is nearly flat at the cockpit, but once again looks can be deceiving. Combined with a slender, 22-inch beam and rounded chines, the hull cross section results in a stability profile better suited to confident beginners and intermediate paddlers. Moderate initial stability leads smoothly into consistent secondary stability. Roll the Squall onto its side for more nimble turning and spinning.
Discriminating bottoms are well supported by an elongated seat and plush, fully adjustable back rest. CD also redesigned the keyhole cockpit to improve accessibility and fit. Large thigh braces are placed low to enhance boat control for edging and rolling, allowing smaller paddlers to lock in while providing the length and foot room needed by larger folks. On longer tours, however, this configuration triggered leg cramps that had us wishing we hadn’t skipped yoga that week.
Current Designs bills the Squall GTS as a “sporty tripping kayak capable of extended tours”. Indeed, if you can’t fit all your gear and the collapsible kitchen sink in this 16-footer’s two voluminous hatches, then you should consider downsizing your kit, not upsizing your boat. A consistent performer with heavy loads or empty hatches, the new Squall is a predictable, all-purpose companion on longer tours and after-work jaunts.
Current Designs’ new SmartTrack foot braces are designed to provide the stability of a fixed peg while facilitating rudder control. Elongated slider arms make on-the-fly adjustments a snap, but the toe pedals challenge all but the most dexterous feet.
The Squall’s two-lid system does more than look good. The rubber hatch provides a more watertight seal than earlier models’ neoprene covers, while a polyethylene lid protects against UV damage.
HIDE AND PEAK
The 2012 redesign includes hidden rudder haul cables and updated lines that do away with the old Squall’s distinctive peaked decks.
A VIDEO REVIEW OF THE CURRENT DESIGNS SQUALL GTS SEA KAYAK