We love rivers. We know gear. Here's our Spring Picks, including Pyranha, Dagger, Jackson and Liquidlogic WW kayaks; drysuits from IR, Kokatat and Palm; and a review of Yakima's SkyBox Pro. Every piece within this review has been thoroughly tested. That’s why it’s here. We like it. If it was up to us, we’d own it all.
Ammo may cause destruction but the Pyrahna Ammo ($1,099) will help you avoid it. And have fun doing it. The Ammo is a creeker, but one of the most logically playful we’ve seen in years. Logical in that it’s not too small to do some serious river running. The best way to relax when running difficult whitewater is to do some surfing. The Ammo allows for all this and more. It’s easy to boof and maneuver in tight situations and actually maintains speed for bigger water. Be sure to size yourself right to the Ammo, which comes in two sizes (large, small). Women will love this boat as the size and mobility is a perfect fit to the female body. Over 195 pounds, go for the large. The
The Ammo gets our nod as the most fun, agile creek boat this season.
S-6’9”, Width: 25”, 58 gal.
L-7’2”, Width: 25.5”, 64 gal.
One of the most interesting hybrid boats this spring is Pyranha’s 14-foot Speeder. We thought 14-foot kayaks went out with the Mirage but Pyranha is working to bring them back. And we get the concept. The Speeder was developed to combine speed and manoeuvrability unlike those old-school Dancers. It’s a whitewater tripper. We wouldn’t recommend it for Class V –although we know some of the lunatics on the Pyranha team have probably dabbled in Class V with the Speeder –but say you want to traverse Colorado’s Yampa River from top to bottom or Idaho’s Snake. You’ll be a Class III machine with plenty of room to store gear (complete with a rear storage hatch). Think of it as a whitewater sea kayak – and it wouldn’t be too shabby in the ocean either. The Speeder is ideal for those who want to cruise instead of huck and eat miles, not rocks.
14’ 7”, Width: 23.5”, 95 gal.
A Ronin, by definition, is a master-less Samurai warrior or “Wave man floating on the open ocean.” The Liquidlogic Ronin ($1,049) may be the most aptly named kayak this season. It loves waves (and isn’t shabby in holes either) so expanding your freestyle repertoire will only be limited by your work ethic. Liquidlogic designer Shane Benedict bumped up the volume in the nose while managing to maintain some semblance of balance. The result is a playboat with increased loop height. The Ronin is available in a 59 and 49 gallon version. Bigger foot bumps and higher knee placement make this one of the most comfortable boats on the market. And did we mention the hull? Benedict works closely with Liquidlogic-sponsored paddlers Marlow Long and Patrick Camblin, two boaters who are all about air. And combo moves. That’s why Benedict wanted a hull as loose as a bar fly without catchy edges. And he succeeded. This baby spins like a DJ. He also cut down on stern rocker to create more balance when you just want to hang loose and surf. The result is one dynamic play machine for every ability level.
59—6’2”, Width: 25”, 59 gal.
49—6’1”, Width: 24”, 49 gal.
The Jackson Fun
Eric Jackson is amped on his revamped Fun ($995) and we’re stoked too. This is quite possibly the best river-running playboat on the market. Comfortable as a hot tub, stable enough to run the meat, we enjoy using the Fun on places like Gore Canyon, where precision is needed in spots but a sporty design is required in others, especially if you want to surf it up. Plus the Jackson outfitting (more on that in a future review) fits the Fun exactly to your configurations. We would recommend the Fun to beginners or to experts who prefer river running to park and play. On an overnight trip last summer, the Paddling Life crew was witness to EJ throwing quite possibly, the biggest loop ever before a ragin’ party. And that’s no joke. Put that in your Guinness Book and smoke it. The Fun is available in a wide range so see the Web site for fit. Info: www.jacksonkayak.com
Fun—6’6”, Width: 25”, 54 gal.
Dagger’s Agent ($995) blew us out of the water with its roomy interior. Of course we tested the biggest of the three sizes. One constant with kayak manufacturers in recent history is when they try to make a big-boy play boat it ends up becoming a river runner because no one has the strength to get it off the water. Not the case with the Agent. The plastic is light and the boat is sculpted like Gabriela Reese instead of Rosie O’Donnell: Big but sleek.
We were able to blunt the shit out this dog and get bounce on the smallest of features. One positive that came from the Confluence/Watermark merger was Dagger borrowed the Wave Sport Outfitting design. Praise be to the boating gods. The hip pads and seat are simple, comfortable, and easy to adjust. And the back band is adjustable from the cockpit with grab loops that were easy to reach.
6.4—6’4”, Width: 25.25”, 59 gal.
6.2—6’2”, Width: 24.75”, 50 gal.
6.1—6’0”, Width: 24.25”, 42 gal.
A couple of products from Immersion Research caught our eye this year. First, the Double D Drysuit ($700, right) – named for the man himself, Daniel DeLaVergne – constructed with hand glued zippers so IR could feel good about protecting you while you’re out on a mission. The Double D is also designed to avoid four-way cross seams—the usual culprit of leaky suits. The second item is the men’s ($49) and women’s ($45) guide shorts. Comfy, durable, and stylish, the Guide Shorts are the shit. Info: www.imersionresearch.com
We couldn’t leave out two of our other favorite suits. Palm does it up right with the Torrent ($600). This baby has a form fit that’s flexible where it needs to be with no underarm seems to avoid ware. Latex neck and wrist gaskets seal the deal and built in booties keep your little piggies from freezing during a cold day out. The Ti zips create a bomb-proof seal and hold up to the wear and tear of the everyday boater. Plus you’ll look like a million bucks without spending near that much. Info:www.palmequipmentusa.com
Ladies, Kokatat’s highly regarded GORE-TEX Meridian dry suit ($1,000) is specifically designed for kayakers, and now, women. In 2006, the Meridian was redesigned to offer a more comfortable fit for females. New features include self draining punch-through neck and wrist neoprene over-cuffs, zippered pocket with key lanyard, and dual-adjustable overskirt which incorporates “hook & loop” compatible neoprene for easier adjustment. This design is available with or without drop seat and GORE-TEX socks. Dry suits are no longer just luxuries. They’re a necessity for cold-water paddling. Sizes: W’s S-L, XLS. Colors: Mango and Plum. Info: www.kokatat.com
Yakima SkyBox Pro 12
Get a kid, get cramped. Thank you Yakima for the SkyBox Pro 12 ($439)—12 cubic feet of storage space. Plus this sleek looking playa’ doesn’t take up the whole roof so you still have room for boats. Any dummy can easily attach it to any roof-rack system and you can still fit the kids, dogs, cats, emus and the kitchen sink inside. Booya, people! Time to go pro. Info: www.yakima.com
Keen Hood River Boot
We’ve got to admit it, Keen has stepped up their footwear design big time. Take the Hood River Boot for example. This neoprene bootie provides plenty of ankle support for the portage thanks to adjustable straps. Plus your traction is bomber and your piggies will be protected against rough plastic or the rubber rubbing of rafts. This baby is the all-around bootie. Info: www.keenfootwear.com