A few weeks ago I had a call from a friend at Pyranha who asked if I would like to borrow a small Ozone for a while and write a piece on how I had found it. I could not have said the word ‘yes’ any faster than I did! Afterwards though I asked my friend if they were sure. I did this on the basis that it was possible the only moves I might achieve were the classic ‘capsize and roll’. He laughed and just said that it would be a more realistic review then! 24 hours later my living room floor was set up to outfit the new boat that now occupied it. I should point out now that I am proud owner of a Z.One and so a lot of my following reflections on how I have found the Ozone come from my comparisons between the boats.
As soon as I sat in the Ozone I was surprised by how roomy it felt to sit in. My Z.One is also a small and I am used to feeling quite tight in that. The Ozone in comparison has a higher knee position and consequently felt a lot more comfortable to be in which was nice. I was also surprised at how much extra outfitting I used; three extra foam foot blocks, the extra hip pads and foam for around my knees. I like to feel quite snug in boats and at 5ft6 there was enough outfitting provided to achieve this. Smaller paddlers than I would perhaps benefit from adding some additional foam to get that snug feeling, the same as they would have to in any playboat. Friends who have sat in or tried the boat since I have got it have also made similar comments about how comfortable it is. I think that many kayakers accept that they may have to put up with a level of discomfort when paddling smaller more playful boats, so it is wonderful to realise that the Ozone is as comfortable to sit in for a longer period of time as a creek boat is. This is something that led to a very positive first impression.
My first thought about actually paddling the Ozone was how easy it was to manoeuvre. Even on flat water I found it relatively easy to paddle whilst holding a strong edge and this position felt quite stable. On moving water, I was able to hold far more edge than I would normally be able to in my Z.One. I am lucky to live very close to Holme Pierrepont (HPP) white water course and so the sessions I have had in the Ozone have generally been here. I admit that I was a little nervous before my first time down. As the Ozone is designed to be easy to tailee, I assumed that I would be vertical most of my way down the course as I would catch my tail a lot. It quickly became apparent that this was not the case and as I paddled down the course I felt very much in control. I felt confident being able to ferry glide, catch eddies of my choice and generally paddle the course as I normally would in my Z.One. The real difference between the boats was when I chose to play.
‘WOW. This boat can tailee!’ Was the message I sent to my friend after my first session at HPP in the Ozone. I can tailee my Z.One but not consistently and with a huge amount of effort involved. With the Ozone however, it just felt so good. As long as you hold your edge, it is very easy to get it vertical. Even when I messed up I would generally get the nose of the boat up in some form. And when I did it well, I could hold my boat completely vertical as I moved down the eddy line. I have never been able to do that in my Z.One before! It is so much fun that I spent at least half of that first session just practicing tailees. (My core thanked me later for that!) As I later described to my friend, the Ozone felt ‘more tippy but less flippy’ than my Z.One. It was so easy to get up on end and yet so much easier to control once it was vertical.
I did have to remember about how easy it was to tailee when side surfing in a hole for the first time. Normally in my playboat I can move backwards and forwards in the hole by shifting my weight. When I shifted my weight backwards, however, I found myself quite suddenly vertical and consequently popped out the hole. This was no issue as the Ozone is incredibly easy to roll. (Perhaps the easiest boat I have ever rolled!) It did however make me more aware of my body positioning the next time I was surfing. I have done virtually no freestyle kayaking before but I assume from how easy it was to get on end that freestyle moves would not be too difficult to achieve in an Ozone.
I asked two freestyle friends if they would like a go in the Ozone and they excitedly accepted the offer. I was keen to see what they could both do in the small Ozone. They are both very talented and usually paddle small Jeds. I was also intrigued to see how the Ozone behaved when paddled from a more objective viewpoint. They enjoyed their sessions and were able to easily loop and Space Godzilla the Ozone. (Neither of which I can achieve in a playboat hence why I asked them!) But rather than just take my word for it, I asked them to share their own words.
Niamh Macken is a local young paddler who is on the junior GB freestyle squad. She says “Paddling at Pont in the Ozone was truly an incredible experience. This boat creates the perfect potential for freestyle tricks while carrying the speed you want for a river. Coming from a young freestyle paddler there is a learning curve to the Ozone. It is easier to throw around a playboat compared to the Ozone as the Ozone needs longer strokes in features. It gives you more time to get the best results and the Ozone is definitely on my list of future boats!’ Her opinion of having more time when carrying out moves in the Ozone is something I would strongly agree with. You have more time to really think about your movements in the Ozone and this I have found very useful.
Nathan Hefford is a true kayaking enthusiast and avid freestyle kayaker. Nathan says “It is a really playful and great boat to use. The edges are really nice for initiating tricks and the boat it self is far more capable then I could of ever imagined! This boat is definitely one I’d love to add to my own collection and would often take priority over my Jed. I’d love to see how it handles on big waves and flooded river as I imagine it would be epic!”
Whilst my Z.One will always have a special place in my heart, I think it is going to be very hard to go back to it after paddling the Ozone. The comfort, the playfulness and the ease with which it rolls are all very strong positive characteristics of this boat. I had to keep reminding myself that I was paddling a small boat as it felt so roomy. Whilst I believe smaller paddlers will enjoy this boat once outfitted to them, I really do think that paddlers at the top of the weight range (35-75kg) will get a huge amount of joy from it as well. (I am closer to the top weight than the bottom but it did not feel this way at all.) As a keen river runner and someone who likes to play on rivers my view is that the Ozone is perfect for this. It is so much FUN to paddle and really helps you to make the best of the water you are on. So go on, give it a go, you know you want to!
All photos by Tom Clare