Creek boating is no time for compromise; you’ve got enough to worry about besides your boat. That confidence is instilled in spades in the Wave Sport Recon, a creek boat available in three sizes (70, 83 and 93 gal.) that helps give you military-like paddling precision behind enemy lines…
We got our hands on the mid-sized 83 this year, the perfect size, it seemed, for our testers sized 5’7” to 5’10”-ish (recommended paddler weight: 140-200 lbs.), which most of our testers fell between. What you’ll notice first is its fit. Simply put, the company has it dialed.
Its Contour Ergo new-gen “Whiteout” Outfitting makes you feel ski-boot snug the moment you sit inside, security that’s reassuring when you’re upside down in the mank or getting worked in a hole. A rotomolded, fully padded, tank-style seat is stiff with little give, as is the rotomolded pillar with step-out wall, designed to make egress easier (thankfully, we never had to test it in a pin situation). For the feet, a reinforced and, again padded, bulkhead footbrace includes a toe cup system that expands up and outward to fill potential entrapment gaps from pitoning. It’s intuitive and works.
But perhaps the best outfitting touch is the new rachet-controlled leg lifter, which raises the seat and snugs your thighs into the thigh grips. Combined with a supportive (and yes, padded), racheting backband, it’s the most secure we’ve ever felt in a creeker. Two other nice features are an easy-grip handle for more comfortable shoulder carrying, and a tray in front of the seat that increases storage capacity (no more digging behind you for your throw rope.
As for performance, it hangs its helmet on the hull’s continuous rocker profile which blends speed and that oft-bantered term boofability. An upswept bow shape helps it resurface and shed water quickly, while a domed stern deck lessens the chance of the dreaded back endo. The stern also employs a full chine and ample sidewall flare for secondary stability and carving.
Designer David Maughan says its displacement shape (the dome between chines) was made for “forgiveness in manky rock jumbles and soft landings, yet turns on a dime like a planing hull.” The chine, he adds, is designed to engage only when you need to lift a knee to carve, as in heading into an eddy. “It’s up and out of the way when you don’t need it,” he says.
The company has also made safety a priority. Joining its pillar step-out wall and entrapment-preventing bulkhead, it comes with seven rescue points in addition to its carrying handles.
Where’d we take it? Our first peel-out was a seal launch into the solid Class IV+ gauntlet of middle Fish Creek outside Steamboat Springs, Colo. It was a baptism by water as far as testing goes, with nary a warm-up. But the boat felt great from the first turn to infinite rock boofs and hole charges. Subsequent tester runs on Class V Gore Canyon of the Colorado, Cross Mountain Canyon of the Yampa and even the creeks of Crested Butte reaffirmed its rise to the top of the class as a confidence-inspiring creeker. “As comfortable creeking as I’ve ever been,” said one tester. “You can tell they put a lot of thought into it, which meant I didn’t have to think about it in the midst of Class V,” said another.
The only knock we have against it is its weight; at a published weight of 50 lbs., it’s not a boat we’d want to hike into a hard Cali run or portage much farther than a hundred yards.
Weight: 50 lbs.
Volume: 83 gal.
Pro: Uber-comfy and secure fit right out of the box; continuous rocker hull shape for speed and boofing; awesome safety features
Con: Heavy for long portages and put-in/take-out hikes; outfitting makes you realize how long you’ve settled for less.