For the last decade, most of the Wilderness Systems boats you’d find crowding the racks at outfitters and clubs across the country would belong to Wildy’s versatile, and still wildly popular, Tsunami line. But that might be about to change. Released in late 2013, the Focus series tempts beginner-mediate paddlers with the promise of improved tracking and faster cruising speed, not to mention sleeker lines, in a sub-16-foot package.
Wilderness Systems says the Focus blends the beloved stability and predictability of the Tsunami with the enviable speed and efficiency of their performance skeg boat, the Tempest. A welcome compromise, no doubt, for Tsunami paddlers who find a grain of truth in disparaging “Salami” references. But comparisons—whether they are to cured meats or design bloodlines—seldom tell the whole story. With its symmetrical shallow V hull, soft chines, almost-nil rocker and pronounced keel, the Focus reveals a riot of influences, not merely a combination of two popular designs.
On the water, that long waterline and surf ski-inspired bow and stern result in very strong tracking. So well does the Focus hold course that, particularly in windy conditions, some paddlers will find the optional rudder helpful to assist with turning. We found acceleration and cruising speed quicker than a comparably sized Tsunami, but the real efficiency comes from all those minute course corrections you save thanks to the Focus’ affinity for straight-line paddling.
Combine the aforementioned hull characteristics with predictable stability and a low, unobtrusive deck profile, and the Focus shines as an affordable, entry-level option for aspiring fitness paddlers. Those planning longer day tours and weekend trips will find plenty of storage space in the three hatches, as well as ample wet storage behind the seat.
The Focus holds its own in rough water, with fine secondary stability and increased maneuverability on edge. But even in lumpy conditions, that near-zero rocker waterline makes for better A-to-B cruising than playful wave hopping
Wilderness Systems is an industry leader in comfortable, functional cockpit outfitting. Slide yourself into the Focus’ Phase 3 AirPro XP seating system, and all discussion of waterline efficiency or rough water performance may start to seem like frivolous fluff.
Adjustability? In spades: tweak the hip pads, foam thigh braces, back support and leg lifters to create a custom fit. Comfort? La-Z-Boy would be envious: the padded, generous length seat and thigh support are especially welcome for those who suffer from numb bum or sciatica issues. Fit? Dialled: there’s room to perform a solid leg drive off the SlideLock foot braces while forward paddling, without sacrificing the contact and support required for bracing and rolling.
The Focus is available in three sizes to suit paddlers of every description. From light touring to fitness training, for beginner-mediates who want a kayak that combines efficient design, user-friendly handling and supremely comfortable outfitting, Wilderness Systems brings your priorities into Focus.