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Unless you are a sponsored paddler, choosing the boat that is best for you is not easy, especially when no single boat excels at everything.

Right, you’d like to buy a new kayak, but do not know which one to get out of the multitude of models out there. You’ve watched Sickline and the Green Race, as well as countless videos of guys like Aniol Serrasolses and the Lamler brothers boof skipping their way through hard class five rapids.

You go to your local runs and there are Waka Gangsta’s galore, Pyranha Machnos and countless other ‘flavour of the moment’ models floating around. So you drink some of the Kool Aid and you order your new boat because, well, because. But hold on there cowboy! Don’t be so trigger happy. Here’s a list of questions.

Do you run steep and/or low volume grade 4 and 5 every time you go paddling?
Yes – Buy a big creek boat
No – Move onto the next question

Do you run big volume grade 4 and 5 most of the time?
Yes – Buy a big creek boat
No – Move onto the next question

Do you run mostly grade 3 with a bit of 4 thrown in on occasion?
Yes – You could consider a creek boat, but there might be better options
No – Move onto the next question

Do you run mostly grade 3, with a lot of grade 2 in between?
Yes – You could buy a creek boat if your intention is to move up to grade 4, but it probably isn’t really what you need right now
No – Move onto the next question

Do you mostly run grade 2 (most usually with the intention of progressing to grade 3)
Yes – You do not need a creek boat at all
No – Why are you reading a white water kayaking blog?

This is a pretty simplistic set of questions. And it is one that I recently found myself having to answer honestly. I am loving my playboating right now as readers of this blog well know. I was in fact recently accused of being the playboating version of a heroin dealer, but I still want a good boat to run general rivers in.

Interaction with the water

Here’s the thing, a lot of the fun of white water kayaking lies in the interaction with the water. We use the features of the water, or at least the aim is to use them, in the same way that a skate boarder or mountain biker uses berms and humps, and other obstacles to their advantage to move along. As white water kayakers we have waves, holes, cushion waves, eddy lines, waterfalls, and even rocks to use to help us make our way down river, and have fun doing it.

On most lower grade UK rivers, such features are not as ubiquitous as they are on, say, a French Alps run, or even on a more pool drop style river such as the Soča. Additionally interaction and feedback from the water is part of the fun, so we don’t really want to be dulling the sensation with the wrong boat for the wrong job.

A big boat for big jobs

A creek-boat for has one main function. To get you down the steepest and gnarliest rapids in existence. They have thick hulls to take huge impacts. They have strong front and rear pillars with step out functionality to enable escape from pin situations and to resist hull collapse in an entrapment. They have much forgiving edges, sometimes hardly any, to allow the hull to slide over rocks on shallow runs easily. They have lots of volume to keep the boat floating high on such runs, and also to allow lots of gear to be stowed in the front and back during expedition runs. They are designed for rivers where getting down to the end successfully is literally life or death.

In short, they are big, heavy, and designed for the ultimate in abuse and hard white water. They are not on the other hand designed for a Sunday bimble down the local class 2 or 3. That’s not to say that you can’t take such a boat down such a run, many people do, but I’d argue that it’s not much fun. You wouldn’t take a Land Rover Defender onto Brands Hatch and claim that it’s a load of fun, would you? Maybe you would. But then that would make you very odd indeed.

Of course it goes without saying that some paddlers just want a safe boat that makes them feel confident, and that will absolutely minimise any chance of them going upside down. Some paddlers make it their life mission to avoid going upside down, ever.

Again, this is fine, and valid. But bear in mind that you won’t learn or progress as much or as easily. There’s a reason why people who paddle lower volume, edgier boats are generally better paddlers in the long run. They have had to hone their skills much more finely.

Those nice forgiving edges won’t give you as much solid feedback on lower grades to allow you to truly learn them for instance, nor will you learn anything useful about boat trim. You will get so far, and then hit a learning wall, especially if you stay on grade 2/3. Is grade 4-5 where you want to be making mistakes while learning your boat control properly? Didn’t think so.

New boat time

I recently sold my Veloc. One reason was that for an all out creek-boat it was a bit small for me. But for non creek-boating duties on lower grades I found myself wanting something a bit more fun. At the same time I didn’t want to be restricted too much if anyone wanted to run something a bit harder.

In an ideal world three boats is the magic number. A playboat, a playful river runner, and a creek-boat bathtub. But this isn’t an ideal world, and I don’t have room for three boats any more.

The solution for me has presented itself in the form of a Pyranha Ripper. It’s a boat that allows playing on even the lowest grades, yet it can be taken onto very hard white water without issue. It has high performance edges, taken from the 9R, that give solid feedback and epic carving on a wave. It can be tail pirouetted due to the low volume stern, which also opens up stern dip turns and direction changes, as well as some pretty dynamic on edge boof style. It’s a very fast boat, which is great for attainments, and surfs like crazy.

It’s got a load of foot room, too. In short it’s a boat that will make river running fun, giving me back much of what I miss from my slalom boat, but not holding me back on slightly harder grades either. It’s a boat that will teach me a number of things, and one that I can spend time getting to know, learning its secrets.

If you choose a boat based upon how it will stop you capsizing, then as far as learning goes, it is like reading a textbook with most of the pages missing.

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