I have been wanting to try out a Pyranha Loki ever since it was released back in 2012. The Loki is not very popular in the UK, and would appear to be a very under appreciated kayak. The reasons for this are numerous. From shops who do not understand it, and want to push the bigger, easier to sell, creek boats instead, through to paddlers either not understanding such boats either, or being more in favour of running big drops and bigger white water in big creek boats.
The change in play boating
In the early 2000’s playboating went through a bit of a change, from something that anyone could do in longer more graceful playboats, into short ‘butt bouncers’, which were designed for acrobatic aerials, rather than smooth linked cartwheels, spins, rock splats, and eddy moves. As a result of this a sizeable number of people who enjoyed casual freestyle lost the types of boats that they preferred, and with them a lot of the tricks that they could actually perform with ease. This meant that the choice of boat on offer eventually fell between big volumous creek boats, and short, stumpy play boats. There wasn’t much left in the middle. And so the playboat river runner lost favour.
Boats such as the Axiom attempted to filled the void to a degree, and there were other attempts, too, such as the Wave Sport ZG and Pyranha Varun. But while these boats were undoubtedly very good at what they did, the sheer playful sliceyness of boats such as the I3, S8, Centrifuge etc eluded the market.
The Loki Arrives
Enter the Loki, the sort of boat that a lot more people really should be paddling.
I took delivery of the demo Loki just before Christmas and have been paddling it for a couple of months or so. It is a lovely looking boat with very clean lines. It certainly looks like a reincarnated boat from the early 2000’s, with shades of the S8, I3, and other legendary boats of the time in equal measure.
The Loki utilises a continuous rocker design, more pronounced than, say, the old I3. It is a smaller boat than it’s predecessor, too. The Medium Loki is noticeably smaller than the medium I3. In fact, the large Loki is much more similar in size and volume to the medium I3 222. At 147 litres, the small Loki has much less volume than the small I3 at 214 litres.
This hints at the Loki being aimed at the much more playful end of things than the I3 was. A playboat that can run rivers rather than a river runner that can play.
The first task I had, and one of the main reasons I wanted to try it, was to see if I could get my feet into it! Not only that, I also wanted to see if I could get into it with my Teva Cherry Bomb 2 shoes.
With playboating socks on I could fit into the boat very easily, and needed some sort of foam block. With my size 9 (UK) Tevas I could also just about get in, though there was no need for any foot support. It wasn’t armchair comfort with these on, but I couldn’t say that it was totally uncomfortable either. Just don’t expect to get your Canyoneers in there though!
Initially I played around in the boat with the seat in the factory supplied position. I generally don’t like messing around with the seat position much, but after a few paddles I relented. I was being pushed too far back into the seat by my foot position, so I brought the seat back a notch. With the Loki there are only three positions. Forward, middle, and back.
The outfitting in general is very adjustable. Adjusting the seat fore and aft position involves completely undoing and removing two screws either side of the boat by the cockpit rim, making sure to catch the metal plate that will be released as a result. Slide the seat into position, then replace the plate and screws.
It sounds simple enough, but it is quite fiddly to do. With the thigh grips, there are also a few screws and bolts to undo. These are much easier to adjust than the seat, although I felt that they could do with a bit more freedom of adjustment. I also took a leaf out of an existing Loki paddlers book and removed the thigh grip padding. This didn’t impact much on comfort initially, but it really did allow noticeably more freedom of leg position and comfort, at the expense of some possible knee bruising after a days paddling! They went back on not long afterwards! For smaller paddlers this won’t be needed. But if you are on the larger side it is a tip worth bearing in mind if you are having issues with fit.
The thigh pads I felt could also do with more ability to pack them out and shape their position, since they do not currently allow as much shim to be placed at the top of them as the bottom. Because of my circulation I need to be able to pad the hip pads out towards the back of them and at the top. So I velcro’d in some additional foam shims behind the pads to give me better connectivity.
The supplied seat raiser pads are very useful and easy to fit, by way of unscrewing the back of the seat pad and sliding them in.
Overall the Pyranha Connect outfitting is very functional and adjustable, if a little fiddly in places. Although one school of though is that once you have set things up, you shouldn’t really need to touch it again. However by way of comparison, my preference is for something along the lines of Zet, with minimal screws and bolts, but with very easy access where they are required. Daggers’ outfitting is very adjustable without many tools, but unfortunately it adds a lot of weight to the boat in its creek form. Jackson Kayaks are also very good for tool-less adjustment, although the rope system has its lovers and its haters. Zet seems to have the balance right out of all the manufacturers on this front, although they have some very weirdly shaped thigh grips!
If Pyranha could implement a tool-less one screw/lock fore/aft seat adjustment, it would make things a lot easier, as well as reducing to two the number of screws on the outside of the hull (the remaining ones for the thigh grip movement). Particularly in playboats where it may take a bit of fiddling and readjustment to get the ideal seat position.
On the water
My first initiation into the Loki was at good old Symonds Yat. A lovely place to take an unfamiliar boat to get a feel for it. The boat felt great right from the word go. Paddling the flat section towards the rapids wasn’t a slog. The Loki has glide. Exactly what I was looking for.
Eddying out, the Loki carried its speed well, and carved beautifully. It felt very lively and slalom like. Even better was that the tail didn’t catch. Although at this point I hadn’t put the seat back a notch. The rails, despite being fairly sharp by modern standards, also did not catch me out. The Loki felt like a very user friendly boat indeed. It rocketed off, firing across the river on carving jet ferries, like an eager young pup that wants to please its owner. I didn’t have any issues with circulation or comfort during this paddle, either.
The Loki’s next outing was at The Washburn in Yorkshire. A grade 2/3 dam release river, very similar to Tryweryn. If much narrower, faster, and shorter! Being in a group made it harder to stop off and play on waves. But on those that I did, I got a good hint at just how wonderful this boat would be on a nice grade 3 river run.
It can carve properly on a wave and will quite happily sit there even on the smallest riffles that chuck most people off. Doing the eddy hop dance once again proved how nimble the Loki is, and how ideal it is for play runs such as this.
The nose lifts nicely on boofs, and if you miss the all important stroke, it cuts through the features like a knife due to the slicey nature of the bow, often not losing a whole lot of speed in the process. On wave trains the Loki is a very wet ride! But then isn’t that part of the fun? Even going through the main event at the Washburn, a sizeable broken weir with a good breaking wave at the bottom, the Loki didn’t lose momentum, nor did it fire me up into the air, looking at the sky. It is all very controlled and predictable.
The Usk (Talybont to Llangynidr)
My ‘local’ run was running very low the first time I took the Loki onto it. A shame, because at a good level there are plenty of surfable waves. As it happened there were still a good few smaller ones to take the boat onto. The hole in the middle of Mill Falls was good, although the Loki’s pilot was having a bit of an off day due to a hangover from a Christmas do the night before! So I am not going to put much stock into this until I go back and have a proper stab at it.
Once again, I found the boat to be nippy and predictable. Which was reassuring with a bad hang over that the boat won’t punish you if you are having an ‘off’ day! One thing I did find was that in some wave trains, the nose of the boat could dig in on the secondary wave, putting my line off. This is to be expected when the boat has such a slicey front end, and can be rectified with better technique, wave position, and paddle timing. Boats such as this teach you a lot that you can usually get away without noticing in bigger, more bulbous creek boats. You are forced to read the river much more closely.
In the surf
I was really looking forward to trying out the Loki in the surf. A trip to Whitesands Bay in Pembrokeshire soon sorted that out. The waves were breaking pretty high, but with not much in the way of usable ‘green’ on the section I was on. That said, once on the wave I found the boat to be pretty forgiving, although it did have more of a tendency to like to be more sideways than my Jitsu in the white stuff. It would be great to try the boat out in some more consistent waves, but as always I am at the mercy of the weather. I did have a hoot though!
The Loki is a fun boat. A lot of fun! Other manufacturers are now bringing out more playful river runners, but many of those are in the vein of longer boats such as the RPM and Axiom, which have volume up front, and a long, low volume tail. The Loki is different, and is much closer to the playboats of yor, with its low volume bow and stern, and makes a very good alternative to the Jackson Fun series.
The Loki carries a decent speed, too, making continuous slalom style eddy hopping a joy. My only criticisms with it are that it could be limited as to who will fit into it. So your mileage may vary. I wasn’t totally uncomfortable in the Loki, but I certainly know that I am crammed in. Although I have been told by other owners of the medium size who are 6′ and over, that they can still get into it!
One thing would definitely like to see change is the ‘notch’ of plastic that sticks out from the sides of the front foam pillar. During a pool session my legs caught this on multiple occasions when I had to bail, and it wasn’t pleasant!
It would be great to see a Loki 2 that took a similar design ethic, but that gave a smidgen more foot room. This may sacrifice some flat water cartwheeling ability, but it would allow a wider range of paddlers to use the boat. Unfortunately it seems that in this day and age the Loki is very much a niche boat, so it remains to be seen if Pyranha feel that they deem a successor to be worth the time and money that would be required to make it a reality.
That said, the Loki is an absolute hoot of a boat. More people should be paddling one. It is noticeably faster, with more glide than the Jackson Fun, and the edges feel more predictable. It carries beautifully on a wave, and because of its length it does so with more grace than much more skitty short boats.
Should you get a Loki instead of searching out an genuine old play boat? That’s a tough question, because clearly an old playboat will be an inexpensive proposition. But the Loki in differing outfitting guises can be found brand new for a smidgen under £600, which in new boat terms is an absolute bargain.
While an older boat may appear similar, older designs often have much more punishing edges, smaller cockpits, and less comfortable outfitting. Progressive design when it comes to things like rocker and tail shape can also make a big difference, with some of the older boats much more prone to catching the tail during spins, for instance.
There are of course slightly newer ‘old designs’, such as the original Fun series, and the Dagger Juice etc. But again, the Loki may look at first appearance very similar to some of the old classics, but it has the benefit of modern design knowledge. While I loved the hull of the Juice, I couldn’t sit in it for more than 5 minutes before my leg circulation got cut off!
Modern alternatives would include the latest Jackson Fun design, the Lettmann Plan B, Soul Kayaks Main Squeeze, and to some degree the Pyranha Z.One.
Who should buy the Loki?
Where should the Loki fit into your boat quiver? This is a boat for people who want to play, or learn to play, but for who the short stumpy butt bouncers like the Jitsu, Jed, and Rockstar are just too high performance and designed for aerial tricks that they might never do. If you want to learn how to soul surf, spin, cartwheel, and blunt on a wave, then the Loki is for you.
If you want to really run your local grade 2 or 3 river and want to take your paddling up a notch by playing all the waves, doing eddy turn pirouettes, stern squirts, wave wheels, and just enjoy all round zipping around the river rather than clunking around it in a great big lifeless bathtub, then the Loki is for you.
This is a boat that beginners could learn in, and advanced paddlers can enjoy the river in a new (old) way in. If you have a creek boat, but want a second playful boat, but have no intention of doing aerial loops or McNasties, then this is the boat for you.
*Usual caveat that I am a playboating newbie applies