Thursday, April 24, 2008

2008 River Runner/Creek Boat Reviews

We've had a couple months now to put the new boats through their paces. The following are the instructors' thoughts on the new offerings. For reviews and comparisons of last year's boats click here : Jackson Funs and Dagger Mamba ,here for the Pyranha Ammo, and here for the Pyranha Burn. Without further ado...

Liquid Logic Remix

You’ll probably like this boat if: you’re a driver (as opposed to a floater), y
ou want a boat with speed that can lock in a line.
You probably won’t like this boat if:
you’re used to paddling a hard-chined, planning hull boat

Finally! It’s taken a decade for someone to design the next RPM – the most beloved kayak to ever hit the water. Liquid Logic has brought back everything we loved about the RPM, but given it some new-school flavor. The Remix locks in a line well, has good speed, and is easy to roll, thanks to its narrow hull platform. Unlike the RPM though, the Remix floats the paddler higher in the water. This fact, coupled with a more modern chine placement, makes the Remix a stable river runner. The Liquid Logic outfitting is the best on the market.

This boat isn’t for everyone, and like the RPM, if you’re looking to get into playboating or you want a really responsive boat that turns quickly, this probably isn’t the best boat choice. Because of its narrow width a heavy paddler may feel a bit tippy as well. Still, if you loved the RPM, or are looking for a fast, comfortable boat that’s easy to paddle down river, this is a great choice.

Pyranha Everest
You’ll probably like this boat if: you liked the Burn, you’re a ser
ious creeker/big-water paddler, you’re looking for a stable river runner that turns well, you’re a bigger paddler, you like to carry a lot of gear with you
You probably won’t like this boat if: you’re a smaller person

You’d be hard-pressed to find an instructor here who doesn’t like the Everest. Like the Burn, the Everest’s stability is the feature that sets it apart from other boats on the water. Put simply, you place this boat on edge and the Everest will stay on edge for confident, precise carving across pushy currents. The edges were softened a bit from the Burn which means you don't have to worry about tripping over that edge once you cross the eddy line. The Everest accelerates quickly (a highly desirable feature when creeking or big water paddling) and has a nice downriver feel. The increased bow rocker gives the Everest predictable performance in big water and seldom buries in waves. It’s an easy boat to paddle and has a nice balance between tracking and turning. Like the Millennium Falcon though, the Everest has it where it counts, and can boof with the best of them. (The Everest has softer chines than the Burn, which makes landing rock boofs flat a little easier)

If you already have a roll, the Everest won’t feel any different than rolling your current boat. If you’re just learning to roll, or have an unreliable roll, the Everest may feel more difficult to roll. The paddler sits low in the boat, the hull is wide, and the sidewalls are somewhat high. Still, for what it is, the Everest is an easy boat to roll. (Our instructors are in agreement that it's easier to roll than the Burn)

Our instructors love creeking in this boat, but our beginner’s also love it for river running. The ample volume, wide hull, speed, and responsiveness make it a great boat to learn in. This is one of those boats you can’t outgrow. You can learn in it, use it as your reliable river-runner when running rivers right on the edge of your limit, or take it creeking or on over-nighters.

The outfitting is our biggest criticism of this boat – not everyone agrees on its comfort. Larger paddlers have felt quite comfy in the boat while smaller paddlers have remarked that they have a difficult time getting snug in the boat. Still, we love the long cockpit and the step-up center wall as safety features.

Jackson Hero/Super Hero
You’ll probably like this boat if: you don’t like to flip-over, you want a boat that’s easy to paddle, you think of yourself as a class 2/3/4 river runner.

You probably won’t like this boat if: you want something responsive or want a river-runner that can play

I’ll admit it – I judged this book by its cover. I wanted to dislike the Super Hero, but after paddling it I just couldn’t – it’s just so darn easy to paddle. I’ve never felt so stable in a boat in pushy water. It was almost as if waves and holes had no affect on the line I was trying to hit. This boat is predictable, extremely stable, turns well, rolls pretty easy, and is the most user-friendly river runner out there. This is a great choice for the class 2/3/4 paddler looking to paddle down the river in comfort. It’s not the fastest river-runner but it is responsive and turns well. It tends to lose it’s carving momentum once it crosses the eddy-line, so paddlers may need to throw some extra strokes in to prevent slipping out the back of an eddy in faster water.

The Dagger Mamba was our go-to boat for beginner’s last year- it was stable, held its speed, and carved well. The Heros do not carve as well as the Mambas, and are not as fast, but are more stable.

Can you outgrow this boat? Maybe. It’s not designed to be a playboat, so if you like playing your way down a river, this isn’t the boat for you. It would be a fun boat to creek something like the Tellico in, but if you were looking to get into advanced creeking, the Burn or Jefe would probably be a better choice. It’s the perfect size boat to learn to boof though.

Riot Thunder/Magnum
You’ll probably like this boat if: You like an aggressive river runner, you liked the Dagger GT, you like to stop and surf while river-running
You’ll probably dislike this boat if: your edges are still a little wobbly, you want a big stable boat

We really enjoyed the Dagger GT series for novice and intermediate paddlers. The Thunder and Magnum have that GT feel, but with a little more rocker and a little sportier hull, this Riot offering is both more stable and more playful than the GT. We were surprised by how well this boat accelerated and enjoyed its responsiveness and speed carving in an out of eddies. This boat is for the paddler who wants a more aggressive feel while river running without sacrificing the speed and stability that often comes with paddling a true playboat. This boat is fairly easy to roll. We’ve found the people fall into two camps with regards to the outfitting – they either love it or hate it.

Easiest Boat to Roll: Jackson Fun Series
Having paddled the new boats, we still find the Funs to be the easiest boat to roll regardless of your size, flexibility, or strength of hip snap. The Funs are great boats for the C-to-C roll because as the paddler arches out to the second position the boat already starts to come up before a hip snap is even initiated. Paddlers that learn a sweep roll will have an easy time of rolling when they commit to leaning back a bit in the boat. Bigger people that may have a difficult time rolling other boats will find that they can sink the stern down of the Funs and do a “wheelie” up.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Paddle Offset Study

45° versus 0°

Coke vs Pepsi. Kayaks vs Canoes. Republicans vs Democrats. Star Wars vs Lord of the Rings. These are the timeless debates that occupy our time. These debates have no real answer, which is why they’re fun to argue about. Let’s add the 0 degree vs 45 degree paddle debate to that list. Ok, ok – that one is not quite as fun to argue about. Still, that has never stopped the instructors here from debating the merits of each. (Of course, instructors will debate anything – I once overheard two instructors arguing over what color moss, green or brown, was more conducive to seal launching)

Anyway, instructors fell into three camps in this paddle offset debate – a zero degree paddle would enable beginners to learn quicker; the forty-five degree paddle would enable beginners to learn quicker; it didn’t matter what paddle they used – it was simply a matter of instruction. After about six months of back and forth debate, we decided to design an actual experiment to put the argument to a test.

Typical spirited debate

The prevailing hypothesis was that a paddle with a zero degree offset would make learning to kayak easier. We reasoned that:

• Novice kayakers would be able to go straighter faster with a zero degree paddle
• Novice paddlers would have better blade control with a zero degree paddle and they would therefore execute better strokes.


Only new paddlers participated in this study. At the beginning of our novice clinics the participants were taught how to wet exit but no other instruction was given before the test. In the test we had each participant paddle thirty yards out on a lake, pass behind a fixed object and paddle back to the starting point.

Each participant completed this loop twice, once with a zero degree paddle and once with a forty-five degree paddle. Half of the participants used a zero degree offset first and half started with a 45 degree offset first. After completing the second loop each participant selected a preferred paddle to use for the rest of the clinic.

The participants were video taped just in case something funny happened that we could post on Youtube. Ok, that’s not true. The tapes were used to determine the elapsed time for each trial and to categorize the quality of the strokes executed and to identify the paddler’s final paddle preference. The elapsed time was from the moment the participant’s boat left the beach until the boat touched the beach upon the return. Stroke quality was judged on three dimensions: how well did the paddler reach out on the stroke, how vertical was the stroke, and was the paddle blade completely immersed.

We ran 34 brave volunteers through the experiment in an attempt to answer four questions.

  • Since we ran the paddlers through two trials, did they learn to go faster between the first and second run?
  • Since we had paddlers use two different paddle offsets, did they go faster with one offset over the other?
  • Were there differences in the “quality” of the paddle strokes between the different offsets?
  • Which paddle did the beginners choose?

If you’re playing at home, feel free to take a guess before you see the results. (If your answers are correct please fax your resume to human resources at NOC)



Question 1: Did paddlers learn to go faster between the first and second run?

Answer: No. Keep in mind that no specific instruction was given about the use of the different paddles. We thought this would have made the 0° paddles more effective because the 45° paddles require a twist with the right hand to get good blade orientation to the water with the left paddle blade. We expected that without instruction new paddlers would struggle with this twisting movement. The lack of instruction about the twist did not seem to matter though.

Question 2: Did one offset enable paddlers to go faster than the other?

Answer: Yes and no. There was no significant difference in the speed with which a subject completed their first run using either a 45° or 0°. However, their was a difference on the second run. The paddlers who started with 45° paddle and then used a 0° paddle were faster on their second run than the paddlers who started with a 0° and then used a 45°. This defied our conventional wisdom – we actually predicted that the opposite would happen.

Question 3: Were there differences in the “quality” of the paddle strokes?

Answer: No. The novice paddlers’ stroke quality was equally modest.

Question 4: Which paddle did the beginners choose?

Answer: Both. Given a choice between 45° or 0° paddles, 18 of 29 paddlers preferred the 0° paddle. This is not a significant difference in preference. (In the videos it was impossible to determine the choice of five paddlers.)

Final Thoughts

The results of our study were inconclusive, and probably raised more questions than answers. We are already planning a second test and are exited about the chance to apply the scientific method to other debates about kayak equipment, boats, and paddling technique.

So in conclusion: Coke, Kayaks, Democrats, Star Wars, Green Moss, hand paddles.

More details here for those of you that just need to see the numbers:

Sample Video of a volunteer during the study

(Note: The Instructor in the kayak is tethered to a cable that is hard to see in the video. This was anchored at the waterline for every test so the the distanced around the instructor was roughly the same for every test.)

Figure 1
Average Elapsed Time for loop 1 versus loop 2 across paddle offsets

Figure 2
Average Elapsed Time for loop 1 versus loop 2 for both paddle offsets

Table 1

Average time for 0° versus 45° for loop 1 versus loop 2

Used 0° first
(Trial 1) M = 34.8, SD= 8.6
45° (Trial 2) M = 34.2, SD = 8.5

Used 45° first
45° (Trial 1) M = 30.5, SD = 6.3
(Trial 2) M = 29.3, SD = 4.5

Were there differences in the “quality” of the paddle strokes? What of the other data we collected? The table below listed the number of strokes scored as having a vertical catch, good extension and full immersion. As would be expected, before any instruction, the stroke quality for beginners was pretty modest. However, to the point of this study there appears to be no difference in stroke quality for 0° versus 45° paddles.

Table 2
Used 0° first 0° 45°
Catch Vertical = 25 18
Extension = 7 3
Catch Immersion = 38 30
# of strokes scored = 54 54

Used 45° first 45° 0°
Catch Vertical = 21 20
Extension = 1 2
Catch Immersion = 26 26
# of strokes scored = 48 48

Table 3

Preferred 0° Preferred 45°
Used 0° first 8 6
Used 45° first 10 5

Note: In the videos it was impossible to determine the choice for 5 paddlers.