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Aquabatics Calgary Creek Boat Comparison - 2015

 Words by:  The Aquabatics Calgary Team

Gday Everyone,
Welcome and thanks for visiting our first annual creek boat comparison blog post.  We have started this as a way to get 'real life', subjective thoughts on many of the creek boats that we sell and use in the shop.  Our staff paddle a bunch and know what they like and, conversely what they dont.  Hoping this is a valuable and honest resource for those of you in the market (or thinking about being in the market) for a new/first creekboat.

Boats that we have reviewed below are:

Click on links below to go directly to the boat you would like to see

Dagger Nomad  |  Pyranha Burn  |  Wavesport Recon  |  Liquid Logic Flying Squirrel  |  Pyranha 9R  |  Dagger Mamba

 Dagger Nomad Specifications and Review

REVIEW

Size Reviewing:  Nomad 8.5

Pros: 

  • Proven design (over 10 years), it is a design that just keeps people coming back for more
  • Resurfaces like a submarine if you end up underwater off drops etc.  Rarely does it want to back loop when surfacing.  You usually just ‘track’ underwater and surface upright ready to go.
  • Amazing primary and more importantly secondary stability, the Nomad is so balanced on edge it is hard to go to a different boat
  • Even the larger of the 2 sizes carves super tight turns, making it great on tight, technical whitewater
  • Rockers and edge profile allow for super easy boofing and soft landings with the generously shaped displacement hull
  • The outfitting is super comfortable, adjustable and simple, no magical foam gluing or tube inflating required here 

Cons:

  • With the push towards the fast, sleek designs (see 9R) of late I have heard it referred to as the ‘Slomad’, definitely some truth to that.  Its straight-line speed is much less than some of the other boats on the market.
  • With only 2 sizes and the big one maxing out at 78 gallons, some bigger paddlers just simply won’t fit in the Nomad series.  Now, with the proliferation of big boats (often being paddled by small people), this limited size is a weakness for some people.
  • For newer paddlers, who aren’t necessarily super comfortable paddling on edge, they may find the Nomad a little hard to control, definitely paddles better on edge than flat.

Summary: 
There is a reason the Nomad hasn’t had a design change (only an outfitting upgrade) in 10 years.  As an all-round creekboat I still think it is the best in the business.  For beginners through to hard charging Class V the combination of primary and secondary stability lead to boat that is suitable for the full gambit of paddlers.

If your primary goal was to paddle big water I would encourage paddlers to look elsewhere, however for the steeper, low volume (generally) runs that we have in this neck of the woods, the Nomad is a standout performer.  I am sure Dagger will come up with some design changes at some point to keep the boat ‘commercially current’, but from the standpoint of standalone boat design it doesn’t need any work at all.

My last 2 boats have been Nomads (8.1 and now the 8.5) and although I now have a planning hull boat for bigger volume paddling, my go to for creeking is and will be for the foreseeable future the Nomad

Staff Name:  Simon Coward (pictures are of Simon Behman)

Click here to see the Nomad on our website
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Pyranha Burn Gen III Specifications and Review 

REVIEW 

Size Reviewing:  Large

Pros:

  • The Burn is a super responsive creeker, that when driven and online it likes to stay on line.
  • The primary stability of this boat is huge compared with many others, but is very happy being edged.
  • When the edges are utilized, you will be rewarded with eddy turns and carves that take you along for the ride.
  • The extra rocker that was added to the third generation of the Burn makes it fly off boofs with relative ease.

    Cons:
  • The things I would like to see improved with the Burn are the outfitting and the cockpit. The cockpit size is maintained throughout the medium, large and extra large sizes. The massive cockpit makes it incredibly challenging and frustrating for smaller/weaker paddlers in the medium and large to get a skirt on. There is no worse feeling than being exhausted and frustrated putting your skirt on above the next big rapid.
  • The outfitting system in the Burn is classic Pyranha. Despite two reincarnations of the outfitting in the past two years, the outfitting remains barebones and for some, rather uncomfortable. With many modifications and foam, the outfitting becomes bearable and the weight savings are very nice.

    Summary:
    Whether a novice or a seasoned veteran, the Burn III tracks straight and is easy to manage in all types of water. It is responsive when tested on low volume creeks, but navigates big water with ease. The four sizes available means that there is a boat that fits everybody, including those that normally find themselves in between the available size offerings.

    The sharp edges allows this boat to feel smaller than it is, making being on the low side of the weight recommendations enjoyable.

Staff Name:  Tori Harrison

Click here to see the Burn on our website
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Wavesport Recon Specifications and Review 

REVIEW

Size Reviewing:  Wavesport Recon 83

Pros:

  • Best in class outfitting
  • Extremely tuff boat
  • Easy to boof
  • Soft landings
  • Very forgiving shape

Cons:

  • Very heavy to carry
  • Heavy rocker can make it difficult to hold on line
  • Slower straight line speed

Summary:
Over the last two seasons I’ve got to know the Wavesport Recon 83 quite well. When the boat was first introduced it was marketed as a boat that would take the aspiring class 4-5 paddler to the next level and make that transition as stress-free as possible. As someone who was looking to transition from years of playboating and start running some of the classic 4-5 rivers of the Rockies this definitely appealed to me.

I would say first off that Wavesport absolutely achieved their goal with the Recon 83. The boat is easy to paddle, quick to turn, and hammers through anything. This is of course as long as you are keeping the boat straight which may not be the easiest for those new to creekboating. The continuous rocker and soft stern edge make the boat agile and easy to turn but limit the boats ability to track or hold a line as speed. With all that rocker the boat boofs with ease, if great on steep shallow creeks, and lands bigger drops comfortably but is more affected by boils and unpredictable water. I would say the Recon is best suited for paddlers who prefer to enter rapids at a slower pace and make adjustments on the fly.

The one thing that can’t go without mentioning about the Recon is the weight… yes this boat is a tank. Pretty much every boat manufacturer tends to be very frugal when listing their boat weights, but the Recon is exceptionally ill labelled. Even if the boat were 50lbs it would be considered heavy. When we actually weighed the Recon 83 in the shop 55.5lbs was a bit shocking. The weight is unquestionably noticeable on the shoulder when carrying but the boat actually feels relatively light on the water and in 2 years we have seen just one cracked Recon. I have never paddled a boat that felt as indestructible as the Recon and after 2 years of fairly substantial use my recon 83 is still in great shape.

If you’re in the market for a new boat, want something that is going to help you take your paddling to the next level, and last you until the next millennium check out the Recon!

Staff Name:  Tom Stewart  

Click here to see the Recon on our website
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Liquid Logic Flying Squirrel Specifications and Review 

REVIEW 

Size Reviewing: There are two sizes in the Flying Squirrel range, a 85 and 95 gallon. I usually paddle a Dagger Nomad 8.5 (78 Gallon) which has been my go to creek boat for the last three years. I am 150 lbs, 5’ 6" and thought the 85 gallon and thought the Flying Squirrel would be too much boat for to handle but I was proven wrong!

Pros: 

  • Firstly, the boat carves with a lot of speed and I mean a lot. If you liked the Remix series, you will enjoy the Flying Squirrel.
  • I love paddling the boat on the class 2/3 where the boat shows off its ability to "boof" into eddies.
  • The extra volume makes the boat really predictable and stable, especially in more creeky drops and slides. 
  • I have always been hesitant on paddling larger volume boats because it always feels like I am paddling a big bath tub but not the case with the Flying Squirrel. 

Cons: 

  • It's a longer creek boat, so I would not recommend using it for super tight and technical creek boating.
  • My only other con is the Liquid Logic back band, I find its not super supportive. It sits way to low for my liking and it can't really adjust the height. In addition to the back band problem, the access to the stern requires fully loosening the back band ratchets, which is pain when you want to whip a camera out.

Summary: This kayak is wicked, and I'll probably pick one up next summer (already ordered a Nomad this season).  

Staff Name: Allen Yip

Click here to see the Flying Squirrel on our website
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 Pyranha 9R Specifications and Review

 REVIEW

Pros: 

  • Incredible hull speed, faster than any other modern creek boat on the market. This means it easily accelerates and coasts once it has momentum. This feature allows me to take less strokes which in turn makes it easier to focus on their precise placement and execution. 
  • The rocker in the bow is comparable to that of a Jefe or a Recon. That is to say, it is extremely upturned and this allows me to easily boof over everything, even when features sneak up on me. It also helps the bow to not pearl on a wave when I am surfing or jet ferrying (something the 9r does extremely well). 
  • The "bow deflectors" are a feature that is specific to a 9r and they are not just for looks. I now like to refer to them as my "water wings". They give an extra, almost magical, lift to the bow that brings it to the surface upon landing drops. I can land a drop at 45 degrees or more and still have the 9r coming to the surface upright, pointed straight and accelerating. An added bonus of this feature is that I can notice water being redirected to the sides of the boat as I paddle through small to medium volume wave trains. This allows for a much drier ride and reduces the splash blindness before a feature. 
  • The combination of tracking vs. responsiveness is almost unbelievable. Strokes that I take at my toes to hips almost fully translate into directly straight momentum. On a typical kayak design, this would automatically mean that the boat is hard to turn. However the 9r has no trouble turning as soon as I extend my stroke past my hip. I think it has everything to do with the 9r's unconventional shape. It is a very asymmetrical teardrop shape combined with high bow rocker and limited stern rocker. Regardless, the 9r tracks straight when I want it to go straight and it turns on command. 

Cons:

  • One of the current trends in kayaking is speed, speed and more speed. The 9r certainly lacks nothing here. However, this is certainly not always advantageous. There have been many creeks I have paddled where maintaining control is pertinent, not only for style, but also for safety. Steep, low volume boulder gardens require very precise navigating and quick eddy turns. On these creeks having a long fast boat can be downright scary. There have been multiple occasions already where the 9r has sent me reluctantly into a feature or the next rapid simply because I could not shed that speed. On this style of creek, I feel much more at home in a nomad. 
  • Those awesome "water wings" also have a disadvantage. Many kayaks out there don't have this feature partly because it is very grabby. To have a very aggressive rail at the bow tends to pull the bow to one side or the other, depending on which side you edge on. The 9r gets away with this a bit because it has so much rocker. However, if you put the 9r heavily on edge and keep it there, it will be nearly impossible to turn back. This can be negotiated by flattening out the boat, but that is not always an option. This is something that I have had to change my paddling style a little bit to accommodate. It is certainly not a make or break. 
  • The 9r is very long! It gets in the way and is undeniably a bit more awkward in tight spaces. This may be a consideration, but in my opinion the boats maneuverability and responsiveness more than make up for these "short comings".  
  • The stability on the 9r is a bit tricky, particularly with the secondary stability. This is not to say that the boat feels grabby.  Opposing currents don't have a particularly strong effect on it. However, I find myself simply "falling over" sometimes. I feel as though if I land on edge, or if I edge it too aggressively, it doesn't give me much support. This has lead to a few unexpected upside-down moments and is maybe the biggest thing keeping this boat in the intermediate to elite category.    

Summary:
The 9r perfectly represents the advancements in kayak technology. Designing a kayak has always been a balance of the performance features and their respective drawbacks (eg. more length = more tracking, but less turning. More rocker = better boofs, but less speed.) The guys at Pyranha proved that boat design isn't this cut and dry. By thinking outside the box, they have shaped a modern boat that nicely incorporates many of the features I look for, without sacrificing performance in any one of these categories. "Don't be a whiner, buy a 9r"

Staff Name:  Brandon Willms

Click here to see the 9R on our website
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Dagger Mamba Specifications and Review 

REVIEW 

Size Reviewing:  Mamba 8.6

Pros:

  • The mamba is an extremely versatile boat for beginners and advanced paddlers alike. It's stable platform is confidence inspiring when first learning, but likewise inspiring when performing difficult moves in challenging water.
  • There is no guesswork with this boat. If you are driving this boat with any amount of power it will do exactly as you direct it to do. A person will never outgrow the mamba, it's just that versatile.

Cons:

  • If all you want to do is huck drops bigger than 50 feet, this isn't quite the hull you want, the flat hull doesn't displace the energy from flat landings well.
  • If you are looking for a boat that has seamless edge transitions, and carves turns in tight spaces, then maybe the Nomad or Recon would be a better fit.  It is that double edged sword, tracks a dream, but doesn't quite turn as quickly as a more rockered, displacement style boat.

Summary:
The Mamba really is the boat of the moment.  It is versatile enough for anyone (truly) from first timers to Class V chargers to paddle in almost any situation.  It is a boat I would feel equally comfortable running down a steep technical creek or on a big volume challenging multi day full of gear.

The only sacrifice is the slight lack of quick turning radius, and also it takes a bit to get used to balancing on it's edge (if you are used to a displacement style boat).  The other side of this is once it is on line it is literally on rails.  The Mamba goes where you want it when you want it to, so predicatble and confidence inspiring

Staff Name:  Jiri Stolarik (and Simon Coward)

Click here to see the Mamba on our website
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