I just sold my Pyranha Ripper. There, I’ve said it. Phew, that’s a weight off my mind! Why in the hell did I do that, and what’s that psychedelic coloured half slice machine that I’ve bought in its place? Why, it’s the Party Rexy of course.
The Pyranha Ripper is a seminal boat. I have no doubt at all that it will go down in kayaking lore as one of the all time classic designs. It’s a boat that can do pretty much everything. It will challenge you, it will bite you, but when you do get it right it will reward you.
The trouble is at my weight and size the medium felt like too big a boat for me on the water, while the small that I had was, well, small. In wet kit I was pushing towards the upper part of its recommended weight range. Not right at the top, but in the portion where the boat is considered ‘spicy’. The small Ripper I felt was a different boat to the medium and large sizes. At 23″ wide it’s half an inch narrower than an ICF slalom boat. Coupled with some very defined chines and a flat sidewall it becomes a boat where you need to pay attention. There’s no casual drifting down the river in a Ripper, especially the small one.
Indeed that was why I bought a Ripper in the first place. To be challenged and to become a better paddler. The trouble was that when I bought it I was doing much more river paddling than I do now and my general paddling confidence was pretty high. But with paddling friends going off to do other sports my river running paddling became more sporadic, and I ended up spending far more time in a playboat because my partner and I could just turn up at a spot, have a great time in a feature, and go home without any group organising and faff.
But I do still love river running, but I found that I was crapping out on moves that I would normally find easy in my trusty old Veloc, despite it being much slower than the Ripper. Get your break in or your approach angle wrong in a Ripper and it lets you know very quickly. Having a fast boat is fine, but if you are taking more correction strokes you can miss moves you might otherwise make. It’s good in a way because it has made me much more aware of what the boat is doing, but it got to a point where I was wondering if I was just losing skill on an exponential basis!
However a number of goes in other boats proved to me that I could still paddle without looking like I began boating yesterday. In short, sometimes, especially on pushier water, I wanted a boat that would afford me some leeway if I was having an off day, and allow me to focus more on where I wanted to go rather than be concerned about how the boat was going to behave.
Some may say to get a creek boat. A creek boat is for truly hard white water. If you’re paddling grade 3 90% of the time you do not need a creek boat. You just don’t. Because I am unlikely to be running any hard rivers any longer apart from the very occasional grade 4 rapid, I don’t have the money or the storage space to keep a creek boat that I would only use once in a blue moon.
But if I sold the Ripper the question then became “what would replace it?”
Which half slice boats are available?
Surprisingly despite the more prevalent nature of half slice boats there isn’t as much choice as you might think there is. The Antix (only the mk1 was available at the time of deciding) is not exactly known for its amazing performance. Hammer Factor famously described it as like paddling an anvil.
The medium Ripper felt too big for me on the water and would be much harder for me to tailie, the Exo Rexy was also too big and known to be more demanding to get vertical. Liquid Logic boats are nigh on impossible to both demo and get hold of in the UK. The Antix 2.0, which was announced very recently is an unknown quantity at the moment other than the usual Kool Aid promo videos. And I knew that if I even so much as glanced for a nanosecond at a Titan Nymph, the guys at Pyranha would send a hit team to track me down and I’d have to spend the rest of my life living like Rambo in First Blood. God knows I have the hair for it right now.
There’s also the Dagger Rewind. Whilst Dagger boats are extremely well made and the Rewind gets very glowing reports, there are, well, those ‘colour schemes’. Black with splurges? Hmmm… The other issue with pretty much all the boats out there is that I’m either going into the upper quarter weight of the small sizes or I’m right at the very bottom of the medium ones. <Jeremy Clarkson voice on> Until now <Jeremy Clarkson voice off>.
Yeah, yeah, I know, the weight specs are speculative, but they are the manufacturers official guidelines. Exo threw me a lifeline. I’d seen pictures of the Party Rexy before, but it hadn’t fallen onto my radar much because I hadn’t then decided to sell the Ripper. However once I had sold my boat I started to investigate more, and one thing stood out about it. Even with sopping wet kit on I fell around the magic midway point for recommended paddle weight.
Again, volume is something that is not a black and white issue, but in this case it is a good indication of how much more weight capacity there is in the Party Rexy than the small Ripper I had. The Party Rexy is 240 litres while the small Ripper is 216 litres, and the medium Ripper is 235 litres. That latter figure is important as you’ll see later.
Because the Party Rexy is pretty much just a slightly pancaked version of the standard Rexy, it retains the same width as the original boat. It has very rounded chines with a hull that flattens underneath towards the rear of the boat, but is rounder up front. At 264cm (8’7″) it is shorter than a Ripper, so combined with the more displacement style hull, on paper at least, it will be slower. The hull shape is very much reminiscent of a slalom boat in terms of its cross section, except that it’s 64cm wide. That’s actually wider than the large Ripper.
So the Party Rexy isn’t the super surf carving machine that the Ripper is. Or is it? Actually nobody would accuse a slalom boat of being crap at wave surfing. They are in fact very good, and on a hard edge the tail becomes the rail. The Party Rexy has a good rep so far when it comes to being a surfing machine, although I have yet to properly try it myself. I arranged a demo with Jiri at Radical Rider. Party Rexy’s are selling like ice cream on the summer’s hottest day. As fast as they are being imported they are being sold. So I put a deposit down to reserve one in case I liked the demo.
Party Rexy outfitting
Before I get into my first impressions of the Party Rexy on the water, we need to get in a time machine and fast forward to the point at which I had bought the boat (sorry about that spoiler) and I was outfitting it at home.
I found I could pretty much get in the Party Rexy straight out of its bubble wrap and onto the water aside from adjusting the foot plate to my leg length. Though when I got it home I just needed to adjust the sitting position and shape of the hip pads to my very finicky body shape. This took me all of five minutes to do to make the hip pads stick out more at the back rather than the front. I have to do this in all my boats to avoid pins and needles.
The outfitting in the Party Rexy is strong yet simple. It uses rope and cleats to adjust the back band. The central rail is very solid feeling plastic. There’s a full plastic step out pillar at the front, and a plastic pillar in front of the foam bulkhead in the rear similar to how Zet boats are up front.
The central plastic rail has four holes in it, which I presume are for adding your own extra tie in points for gear. This puzzled me because it looks like the Exo boats don’t have many points for locking in your throw line and water bottle etc. I was mistaken.
In front of the step out pillar there are two bungee cords that fit a throw line quite nicely. But what I didn’t realise until I was putting air bags in front of the foot plate was that hidden in the side of the central pillar is a bottle shaped recess with more bungee cord. At first I though this was clever, then I thought that the bottle might get in the way of my feet as I was getting in. So I got my water bottle and tried it. Although it was initially a fiddle to get the bottle in, once it was in it was nicely flush with the pillar outline, so it doesn’t stick out at all. And because the recess is bottle shaped it won’t move around anywhere. By the way, it is faster to get the bottle in and out once you have the knack.
The central pillar is full of surprises. Once you lift the boat up and onto your shoulder you also find that there’s a carry handle on it as well that you can properly fully grip with your hand because it is round and not just a finger grip like the Pyranha boats (nice though that is).
Seat adjustment is super easy. Just undo two wing screws, move the seat, and screw it back in. It takes seconds. Exo, it has to be said, has really nailed the outfitting. It is super simple, seems very strong and sturdy without being overly heavy, and is super easy to adjust. There’s no fiddly hex bolts, or trying to undo screws that are aligned awkwardly under the spray deck rim such that you end up stripping the screw or hex pattern. The simple design also means that the only potential leakage point is where the bolts for the foot block locating pins go. It’s a good lesson for all kayak manufacturers looking to up their game when it comes to outfitting design.
Party Rexy on the water impressions
Okay we now need to go back in time again to my first go in the Party Rexy on the water. Sitting in the boat for the first time showed that it’s not just the hull shape that is reminiscent of a slalom boat. The leg position is a lot lower than you might be used to in most modern white water boats. I know some people really don’t like a low leg position, but it really doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It just is what it is.
There is a good amount of foot room. Or rather there is ‘enough’ foot room. It’s not super spacious, nor is it super tight. Those with size 13s might struggle. Usually I need to fiddle around quite a bit to get a new boat to fit me, but here, although the hip pads would be shaped a bit after I bought the boat and got it home it pretty much fitted me like a glove from the get go.
I did a few warm up ferries below the chipper at Tryweryn to get a feel for the boat. The extra width and rounded chines meant that it was very smooth and forgiving into the flow. I had a brief test to see if I could get the tail down. I could, which was nice. So I left Emily practicing with friends and went to test it on some of the other sections of the river.
A few sessions on upper graveyard showed me it was a very clean, predictable boat. It was fast and accelerated well, but it was as I predicted much more forgiving of angle when entering the flow. I found that I was taking less correction strokes than I did with the Ripper. Sometimes the Ripper was so fast that I ended up reacting with that cardinal sin of paddle strokes, the back paddle. Not so here. The Party is fast when you want it to be, but it won’t fly off like a rocket when you don’t want to!
Interestingly, despite having more volume than the medium Ripper it actually felt smaller on the water. At my weight the rocker on the back and the front of the Party Rexy allows it to ride up and over stuff. The Ripper can have a side-to-side listing motion at the front portion of the boat when paddling unless you are aware of it and make efforts to stop doing it. This can make it harder to stay on edge while paddling forward hard (such as on a crucial ferry on fast water). I didn’t notice any such issues with the Party Rexy.
A flare boof or two showed that the boat carried its speed very well, and because of the hull shape landings were all nice and cuddly soft, like falling into a blanket. Lovely. It also accelerated and lifted the nose very nicely with the boof strokes. Putting a power stroke in on the eddy line, or even too early, the Party Rexy still carried its speed over the eddy lines nicely.
One thing I found with the Ripper is that off drops your landing and your lateral angle need to be spot on. I often found myself spinning out on a landing if it wasn’t quite right. I’m not sure if it was those 9R style front ‘wings’ on the hull that catches, but this is really just a case of needing more precision and ability as a paddler than a defect in the design.
I did a lazy run down the centre of middle graveyard to see what it was like if I was not being proactive through steep boily stuff. It handled it pretty well, carrying speed through waves and stoppers even when I let it plough through the middle of them.
On my second run down I tried a few eddies. To put it mildly the boat made me feel like I could paddle again! I’m going through some problematic head games with my boating in general at present, but it’s a mark of how I confident I was in the Party Rexy that I felt that I could experiment on middle graveyard on my own, making moves that I sometimes struggle with fairly easily. I can only put that down to the fact that I was able to focus more on where I wanted to be rather than what the boat was doing.
I decided to run through ski jump right through the middle without doing anything at all. The boat seemed to just cut through the large stopper at the bottom with no back ending. I didn’t go as far as Chapel Falls so I’m not sure what a bad line through there would look like with it, but even if it did get some tail end action it’s not a problem on this grade of water, nor on the grade of water I paddle most of the time these days.
Now, it could well be, and it is entirely possible, that paddling the Ripper has made me super aware of what the boat is doing, and when translated into a more forgiving boat it may well have made my precision and control that much better without me realising it. If true this could mean that I settle down and become lazier in a more forgiving hull. Again this is something only time will tell. But I have no doubt that paddling the Ripper will likely have had an effect.
Party Rexy preliminary conclusions
Although I have by no means paddled the Party Rexy extensively, if you fall into the 60-63kg weight range it is certainly a boat I would recommend looking at. So far at least it has fulfilled the main criteria I had when I was looking to replace the small Ripper.
A high number of boats today have very performance orientated hull designs, with extremely defined chines and rails. In a playboat this is good to have, as well as in playful river runners like the Ozone. But the needs and wants of highly skilled sponsored paddlers when it comes to general river runners don’t always tally with the real world requirements of the average Joe or Jane Soap who might only get on the river once a week if they are lucky.
What the Party Rexy appears to do is give you speed and playfulness when you want it, but reassurance when you need to be just focussing on a line. In big pushy water that tail may well become its chilli spice, but for those paddling on lower grades it still offers the opportunity for tailies and stern dip turns as well as surfing.
You will lose some of the playfulness of a boat like the Ripper in terms of performing more playboat orientated moves, and those rounded chines could make it ‘interesting’ if you got into a side surf in a powerful hole (read hole bait). Although maybe the way the tail forms its own hard chine on edge as it flattens out towards the back will minimise this. I’d be interested in any thoughts from more experienced readers on that aspect, or experience of anyone with a Rexy who has encountered this sort of situation. This isn’t generally a concern paddling grade/class 3 to 3+ though.
Then there’s the colour. Nobody will miss you. The party Rexy is only available in one colour combo. Psychedelic purple and green. It looks pretty awesome. Normally I’d avoid such colours, but I have to say I’m loving this one.
How the boat will pan out in the long term I shall see. However so far I really do love it. Since testing on the Tryweryn I have had a chance to try some more tailies on my home stomping ground and I have found the tail is pretty easy to get under, with the boat feeling very stable on end. I still have to work on finding the sweet spot to get it under every time, but what I have tried so far is extremely promising.
The Party Rexy retails at £995. I purchased mine from Radical Rider, although they are also available from Flow Kayaks, who import the boats into the UK. Beware, the Party Rexy is only having limited production runs and it is selling out almost as quickly as they come into the country.