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I recently had a chance to pull a brand new Wilderness Systems Ride 115 fresh out of its wraps and into the water. My intention was to go fishing for Crappie just before sunrise but with prevailing 35MPH winds and gusts up to 40MPH I had to change my plans. I decided to use this opportunity to truly test drive the Ride 115 and to some extent, take it to its limits. While I am a huge fan of sit on top kayaks I am more of a “hybrid” type of paddler. This all stems from the type of paddling I do and three characteristics I personally prefer, which are stability, comfort and capacity. The Ride 115 checked in all three categories, making this one of my top three favorite kayaks and quite possibly my next purchase.

The 2012 Wilderness Systems Ride 115

So let’s just get right to it, at 76lbs. (with the seat) this is not your average 11ft. sit on top kayak, it’s a beast of one…but all for good reasons. First off, take a look at the capacity range. According to Wilderness Systems, it’s rated at a whopping 500lbs. — I could put my entire family on this boat! Now, this is mostly because we are all pretty skinny but our very own Chris Hackerd, who pushes 300 pounds, could still put his whole family on the Ride! Part of this comes from the “pontoon” style hull design and extra wide width (33”) both contributing to the use of more plastic. Known for offering the ability to stand up, they also had to reinforce the deck area to create a more stable and rigid platform that was built to last. Add some of the newly integrated features and it all adds up pretty quickly — trade offs, eh?

You Had Me at Stability
I like standing while fishing, period. Not only for sight casting, but I am not the kind of guy that likes to sit around for a long period of time. Standing is a hands down requirement for me, which is why the Ride series has always intrigued me. The hull design, combined with its capacity rating, flat deck and extra width all contribute to its rock solid stability.

The Ride 115’s Unique “Pontoon” Style Hull Design

Tracking and Speed
Sure, it’s not a speed demon but that’s not what it’s built for. You want a fast sit on top? Get a Tarpon 160, that’ll get you where you want quickly. I need to give this boat some credit though, it’s not the hog I thought it was going to be. It actually seemed to glide quite well. I was dealing with a good chop and stiff headwinds and still I felt that it got me where I wanted to go as fast as I needed it to. The hull design (pictured) not only provides stability but also contributes to a smooth tracking experience. I’ve paddled many sub 10-11ft. kayaks and naturally, they don’t track as well as your longer kayaks. Not in this case. The Ride 115 offered the same tracking capabilities you would experience in most 12ft.+ boats. Now that’s a big plus for me! For those who want the ultimate in tracking and control, the Ride 115 is also rudder ready.

Adjustable Freedom Elite Seating System’s (FES) in Action

Comfort is Key
Probably more information than you need but I have a “boney” butt and bad back. Comfort is important to me as with most people so a good seat is one of the first things I look for in any kayak or canoe. The Freedom Elite Seating System’s (FES) flexibility is ideal for a person like me. With forward, backward, thigh and back adjustability the FES provided multiple seating options for just about anyone. I particularly enjoyed the ability to move the seat forward and backwards with just the push of a button and the pull or release of a strap. This was helpful when I wanted to stand on the deck area by having the seat pushed back all the way making room for my feet.

The Innovative SlideTrax System

It’s a Fishing Machine
When customers ask me, what is the difference between a regular kayak and a fishing kayak, I usually respond with simple answer: “just a rod holder”. Of course, it’s with a smile and I do follow through with a conversation that focuses on all the things that do indeed make up a good fishing kayak. The Ride 115 pretty much sums it up. Of course, who am I to speak when my plans to go fishing got cut short due to weather conditions but I will say this, it’s has it all and more. Specifically, the SlideTrax Accessory System, which basically lets you mount a wide variety of paddling and fishing accessories without ever drilling one hole in your kayak. Need more than that? Just like it’s bigger brother, the Ride 115 also offers up a variety of flat areas to install additional rod holders if the position of the SlideTrax system doesn’t meet your needs.

Drainage, Skid Plate and the Orbix Hatch System

Small Things that Make a Big Difference
Other details that may no be so apparent include a cup holder and hook and lure trays that all have drains so that your gear and drink doesn’t sit in water all day. Another detail, one that I think all manufacturers should incorporate into their designs, is the replaceable skid plate. With a boat this heavy, you’ll eventually find your self dragging it when loading or portaging in low water situations. And of course I can’t go without mentioning the innovative Orbix turn and lock hatch covers  that make it as easy as it gets when storing gear inside the Ride’s hull.

Prior to actually taking it on the water, I could honestly say I was already a big fan of the Ride 115 and after spending a few hours on the water my preconceived notions were validated. I give this one two thumbs up. Sure it could stand to shed a few pounds but I’ll take that over a boat that is less stable. Click here for specs and pricing.

Check out this short video clip I recorded and scroll down to see the complete gallery of photos.

Roland @ACK

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