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Review: The Pyranha Ripper is one of the most talked about white water kayaks at the moment, and it would appear to be flying out the doors at a rate of knots. Is it worthy of the hype, and what’s it like to paddle for people who’s name isn’t Bren Orton, Kyle Hull, or David Fussilli?

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Old is the new new

It was only a matter of time. White water kayaking until fairly recently hasn’t been truly old enough to have trends come around full circle. This is because truly mass market roto-moulded kayaks weren’t really available until the mid-late 80’s. Until then, kayakers were predominantly using fibreglass boats.

It took until the mid-2000’s before white water kayak design truly matured, with several distinct categories of boat after a lot of experimentation produced lots of weird and whacky designs in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. Playboats became ever shorter, and creek boats gained ever more volume. But overall, boats, whatever their category, were a lot shorter than those of old.

These days we see creek boats with flat hulls, whereas in the past they were all much more rounded. Today there is an emphasis on more aggressive paddling style all round, and this is reflected in the hull designs we now see. Modern short playboats aren’t for everyone, and big creek boats can be, let’s face it, limiting in scope (read fun) when used on the types of grade 3 rivers that a large proportion of UK paddlers run. For some, the older style of freestyle and river running boats such as the RPM, Blade, and even relics like the Sabre, which were longer and slicier, are more in tune with what they want.

More recently Liquid Logic truly kick started a desire to re-evaluate the longer designs of old and bring them up to date with the Braap and Party Braap. Both designs are lauded as being some of the best of recent years. But they lack one feature that a lot of modern paddlers would prefer. A flatter hull with carvy rails. A counter to this are the boats from Corran Addison’s Soul Kayaks, which now contains a number of very long, slicey, high performance products. However there is one UK based boat that is taking the kayaking world by storm. Enter the Pyranha Ripper.

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The elegant, fast lines of the new Pyranha Ripper. A classic in the making?

The Ripper has been getting a lot of attention in the last few months, for good reason. It’s a boat that promises to be one you can paddle just as safely on a class 5 run as you can playing the river on class 2 and 3. It’s a tall promise to make. But from many accounts this is precisely what Pyranha have achieved. A boat for all occasions. One that will teach you a lot, but will carry you through to advanced water without holding you back.

So what’s the Ripper like in the hands of, err, shall we say, someone who is rather less capable than the uber dudes we see throwing the boat down rivers like the Little White? Let’s find out.

Hull design

The Ripper is long. Not as long as the 10ft+ norms of old, but one thing that stands out about it is that no matter which size you opt for, they are all 9ft long. This puts the small version at a potential slight advantage in the hands of someone with a very high power/weight ratio because it is narrower than the other sizes, yet is the same length. Potentially the small Ripper could be the fastest!

In fact one reason of many that I like the Ripper is that Pyranha opted to keep the length the same across all sizes.

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The Pyranha Ripper hull takes a few cues from the 9R

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The hull profile of the Pyranha Ripper isn’t totally flat

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The rails on the Pyranha Ripper showing the double edge design. Carving when you want it, forgiveness when you don’t

The hull uses some cues from the 9R such as some of the rocker profile and the wave deflectors at the bow. The Ripper has some quite sizeable volume up front, while the tail is, clearly long and low volume, demonstrating clearly the fun potential of this boat.

The bottom of the hull isn’t truly flat. There is some rounding off, making the Ripper a slightly more ‘friendly’ design than the 9R, which had some very slab sided edges. The dual rail design should also mean that the edges won’t catch aggressively.

Outfitting

The Ripper comes with Pyranha’s latest Stout 2 outfitting. For more connectivity, and for the fact that I like the outside of my leg supported just as much as the inside, I opted to have the optional Hooker attachments. In short these are much like the Bliss Stick thigh grips and are much more adjustable and useful than the default ones. They also have a nice spongey feel for comfort.

Being a custom colour I went all swanky and had anodised handles and a lovely red trim around the seat. Such details will, after all make the boat go faster.

The seat appears to have a lot of support. And I was glad to see that the back of it raises up ‘bucket’ style.

The hip pads on the latest Stout 2 outfitting are much softer and better shaped than Pyranha’s previous boats. They also fix in much more nicely using heavy duty velcro in addition to an easy to tighten buckled strap.

The central track contains ample room for a throwline and a bottle. Up front is a solid plastic step out pillar, indicating that this is not simply a boat aimed at grade 3 fun. This pillar also has the famed Pyranha hand grip moulded in for ease of carrying.

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The seat in the Pyranha Ripper offers a lot of support

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The new softer Stout 2 hip pads

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Thigh braces showing the optional Hooker grips

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Stout 2 backband

Ease of adjustment

I have previously criticised the outfitting on Pyranha boats for containing too many screws and bolts. The Stout 2 outfitting has gone a long way to simplifying things. It isn’t perfect, but better.

Seat shims can be placed under the seat cover by undoing three clip screws. Easy enough. The hip pads too are loosened off easily for more shims to be placed inside. Adjusting the fore and aft position of the seat still involves undoing two side plates on the  hull, and placing the components back again once the seat has been adjusted to your liking can still be finicky and could involve swearing.

Likewise placing the foot block foam on the footrest involved some trimming to size. There is an outline of the shape you might need to cut to, but as with a lot of these things you will need to try it in the boat, pull it out again, trim, wash, rinse, repeat. Once done though the foot block is comfortable and primed to absorb any frontal impact. Just make sure you put the airbag or whatever extra flotation you are using behind it before you attach it! If you forget it isn’t the end of the world, but you’ll find it easier if you do it beforehand.

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The built in GoPro mount area.

Initial impressions on the water

The Ripper is a fairly narrow boat, especially the small size at 23″ width, which might lead some to think that it is very tippy, like a slalom boat. But in fact the reality is that the boat is very balanced, and has a very smooth edge to edge transfer. Quick, but not twitchy.

When I first tried a Ripper, like a lot of people my main concern was what that tail was going to do. But there was nothing to fear. The tail is not grabby. All it takes is good edge awareness, which is something a boat like this teaches you. But on the occasions where I went into boils and the tail did catch, all it does is sink it a bit, which is very easy to control out of. In other words you are unlikely to power flip unless you get things very wrong. And for those of you who out there who like to make excuses not to paddle this sort of boat because of ‘tail fear’, that sort of mistake would put you off balance even in your big bathtub creeker.

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Narrow like a bullet. It paddles like one too!

The Ripper is fast. Very fast. It is fast up to speed, and it really glides once it’s there. This is the stuff I really miss ever since I sold my slalom boat. In fact its turn of speed is really quite staggering. Before I knew it I was doing the sorts of attainments I could only manage previously in my now sold slalom kayak. Obviously I’m not going to be achieving the same sort of attainments an expert slalomist can (I only dabbled in slalom and I was really quite rubbish at it), but it is great to know I can now practice this stuff in my primary river boat.

The Ripper has a lot of secondary stability. As I mentioned it is quick edge to edge, but it can hold very solidly around an 80 degree angle with ease. You will generally never need that much edge, but it’s another reassurance. This is a very sporty boat, but it doesn’t hold any nasty surprises.

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A fair few readers I know stick with their creek boats because they think a boat such as the Ripper will back end them if they go through a decent sized stopper. Such misconceptions stem from older boats  such as the RPM, and even more modern boats such as the Axiom, which is a much shorter, slower, and far less rockered boat than the Ripper.

I don’t know how Pyranha did it, but the Ripper doesn’t get hung up when going through features. Somehow it squirts through, fully stable as it does so. The generous front rocker allows it easily ride over things, much like most modern creek boats. But the rocker profile in general allows for easy boofing as well.

Reviews of white water kayaks often come in for a ribbing for using phrases such as “It boofs like a dream”. However the Ripper really does boof easily. Then there’s the speed. The Ripper is so fast that this is also a big factor in how it can fly through and over features. As a result it is quite a confidence inspiring boat.

Did I mention that it is very fast?

Tailie time!

The Ripper paddles extremely well as a river runner then. What about its play prowess in the hands of a less than stellar playboater?

Performing tail squirts/tailies in the Ripper, and other similar long boats, requires a slightly different technique to the short playboats. Things go much slower, and you need to be much more edge aware, ‘flying’ the tail under the water more gradually than you would in a stumpy boat. It took me a few goes to get the knack, and even now I’m hardly perfect. But when I got the timing and the strokes right, the Ripper pirouetted beautifully. Bren Orton’s highly useful video on the subject helped me along greatly with this. You will need good technique and timing, but it’s a lot of fun.

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Tailies are a lot of fun!

Surfing

This review is starting to sound rather sycophantic, but at the risk of it becoming even more so, when it comes to surfing waves the Ripper is just ridiculously good. The hull is so fast that it seems to want to surf absolutely everything, no matter how small! In fact on occasion where I have had my angle slightly wrong on a ferry I have found myself surfing on a wave that in most other boats that I’ve been in I wouldn’t have even thought surfable! So a reassurance there that if you cock up, the Ripper allows you the benefit of making it look like you did it on purpose, and did it with style! 😉

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Just Rippin’ around. Fun even on low grade water.

Changing the way you think

One thing the Ripper will certainly do is make you change the way you look at the river. In a creek boat new and creative lines are opened up when the water becomes bigger and more confused. A boat like the Ripper opens up a slalom like creativity on all grades. That tail, far from being simply for making the river more playful for getting vertical, is also a manoeuvrability tool.

Slalom boats are designed as they are for a reason. When you have a such a long boat how do you make tight turns into the slalom gates? How do you run tightly staggered zig-zag gate set-ups? The answer is that you actively make the hull shorter, and you do this by dipping the tail.

The low volume tail on the Ripper opens up a load of possibilities, from quick stern dip turns, to pivots mid flow for direction changes, and fast, tight continuous eddy hopping using quick stern dip turns.

The sheer speed of the Ripper means that attainments are much easier. This opens up moves that might not be possible in shorter boats due to the confidence you can instil in ending up where you want to be.

Conclusion

The Ripper, no doubt will go down in white water kayaking folk lore as an all time classic. Having a quiver of boats is still usually a good idea, because, well, because. But if you did have to own only one boat, currently the Ripper should be it. If you are new or an intermediate and you are eying up a creek boat, just forget it. Unless you are running the steeps on a day to day basis, you need a Ripper. If you consider yourself advanced, but have only ever owned a creek boat. Get a Ripper. For everyone else, just buy a Ripper!

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The Ripper will put a smile on your face too.

Specifications

Sizes S M L
Length 274cm / 9′ 274cm / 9′ 274cm / 9′
Width 59cm / 23″ 62cm / 24.5″ 63cm / 25″
External Cockpit Length 95cm / 37.5″ 95cm / 37.5″ 97cm / 38″
External Cockpit Width 50cm / 19.5″ 50cm / 19.5″ 54cm / 21″
Volume 216l / 57gal(US) 235l / 62gal(US) 271l / 72gal(US)
Weight 20kg / 44lb 20kg / 44lb 21kg / 46lb
Optimum Paddler Weight 40-75kg / 88-165lb 65-90kg / 143-198lb 75-125kg / 165-275lb

8 comments on “The Pyranha Ripper puts the zing back into kayaking

  1. Tony McCabe says:

    I have to agree with this review, I didn’t expect to like the ripper and now I paddle one on all but the big stuff (big for me). Great fun and sharpens up your paddling. I think it may have the effect of encouraging lots of people towards slalom, and at the very least transitioning slalom skills into white water kayaking. An all round great boat 🙂

  2. Duncan says:

    At 5’8″ and 145lb , I bought a small and did find it tippy at first and i heard rumors before hand of some people not liking that and going for a medium size.
    I have only had it for a month, but i,m learning to adapt to that tippy feel, because everything said in this artice is true, its a hot boat.
    How about sharing that Bren Orton squirting tip video please?

    1. Malachy O'Dolan says:

      Hi Duncan,

      See the link for Bren Orton How to do a Tailee,
      http://www.unsponsored.co.uk/press/how-to-tailee-with-bren-orton/

      Malachy

  3. Toby M says:

    Have you tried any other of the other similarly squirty-sterned boats such as the Axiom, Antix or Braap/Mullett, to compare?

    1. kayakjournal says:

      I haven’t been able to try the Braaap or the Mullet due to the way Liquid Logic now distribute. It’s hard to get hold of demos. Although the LL boats do not have the defined rails that I was after. They are very soft edged boats. The Axiom I had tried previously, and I’m afraid I didn’t like it. Much, much slower than the RPM it tried to bring the essence of back, and of course far slower than the Ripper. Not to mention that the Ripper is designed to be able to cope with pretty big water, while the Axiom is the sort of boat you’d want to leave at home when things become really pushy.

      1. Alex says:

        I’ve had the chance to try the Braaap and Mullet, used to own a Z.One and afterwards an Antix. All of the kayaks are great, that I can say freely. Since I come from a slalom background, I NEED the edge! When I saw the Ripper, I knew that it was the one. Ordered it as soon as the Large one was available since I’m sort of a tall guy, hence a bit heavier as well. Don’t regret getting the Ripper, not looking back on selling my Antix, although I absolutely loved the kayak, it carried me over everything nasty with ease. The Ripper is not only easy to paddle once you get hold of the stability (for some it’s gonna come faster, for others slower, but once it does, it’s gonna be super rewarding and fun), but it gives you a challenge and willingness to learn things you never imagined doing in a whitewater kayak.

  4. Jno says:

    I’m wondering what size the Ripper is in the review, please? The first shipment of Ripper’s to arrive in New Zealand is due in October. Apparently custom colours are only for UK and European customers, but my retailer managed to help me get one, so I’m looking forward to the colour mess I’ve asked for (not so sure now). I saw two medium Pyranha Ripper’s on the Tully river, north Queensland, Australia, while paddling with friends last month. In real life the Ripper looks well defined – I like the overall width, it’s certainly not squashy. I have tried the Axiom 8.5 and 9.0 – too many nuts/bolts/screws/washers and quite sluggish on the water compared to an RPM. I was amazed by this because there are a lot of Axiom’s on NZ rivers and those who own them rave about the Axiom. I’m looking forward to seeing Ripper’s carve up Axiom water! I also tried a Liquid Logic Mullet – like a whale – a flatter version of the Braaap which lacks surface definition. I owned a Braaap 69 and liked it very much, but I’m a surfer and found a Braaap can’t hold a wave for too long, I think a Braaap is more a ‘quiver’ meaning it can’t multi task as well. My current kayak count includes 2 RPM Max, a Burn.3.L, a Delta.V.88, a Pyranha i4.L and a Prijon Hurricane. Quite possibly there will be a ‘garage sale’ if the Ripper is as good as I am hearing. Thank you

    1. kayakjournal says:

      The Ripper is far faster than the Axiom. Night and day difference. Not just that but it seems to carry speed really well too. I was never tempted by the Braaap due to the rounder hull. Liquid Logic don’t seem to like making boats with much edges or rail apart from its new Home Slice boat.

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