Whitewater Kayak Review: Chalka One Up for the Waka Steeze (If You Please)

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Stylin' in the Waka Steeze (Photos ourtesy Squatch Shots).

My name is Alex Dodge, and I’m here to write a review of the Waka Steeze.

But first a little bit about me, for a reference as to why I think the Steeze is one of the most fun boats on the market for paddlers of all abilities.

I started kayaking when I was 13 as a slalom racer based out of Boulder, CO. This gave me a good technical foundation to build my paddling on (although it did leave something to be desired in my roll).

It wasn’t until I was 17 and began working for Confluence Kayaks in Denver that I broke away from the slalom gates and got into river running and creeking, developing my passion for the river. I have since moved to Index, WA, to work as a raft guide, while kayaking as of Washington’s whitewater that I can. In 2018, I started Sky Mountain Experience with my business partner, Matt Doyle, where we offer rafting, fishing, and inflatable kayak tours, as well as hardshell kayak instruction. But every fall, I’m still drawn to my slalom boat to train for the coming floods.

The boyz from Down Under have gone up and over in the design of their latest “half-slice” kayak

 

This has helped me appreciate the half-slice revolution that kayaking is experiencing right now — with most of my experience in the Steeze. The first thing I have to say about it: Wow, this thing is fast! Whether you’re running big water, a small creek, or anything in between, the Steeze is fast in a straight line, then can turn on a dime and reaccelerate back to top speed so smoothly and easily that it has drastically changed how I look at the river.

Wake Steeze kayak
Attach the removable pod to the stern for an extra 13 gallons of volume.

It’s opened up lines and possibilities I had never noticed before while paddling a bigger creek boat. All that rocker is no joke either, and that Steeze skip is no hype, either — it is very real and you will skip out of every boof. Another nice touch: high sidewalls in front of your hips, combined with the slicey stern, make you feel like a pinched watermelon seed, rocketing out of a seam or boof.

The stern isn’t necessarily the most playful of the half-slice sterns out there, and it can be tough to squirt without a good seam or on-point technique. But it’s perfect for a “pivot” turn, slicing just under the water and allowing you to turn effortlessly in the middle of hard whitewater and redirect your momentum.

Boofing is the Waka Steeze’s middle name.

The boat also has a wide hull, making it stable. Combine this with the Steeze’s crisp edges, that are also soft enough to not trip you up if you make a mistake, and you can see why it’s the go-to boat for the likes of Aniol Serrasolses, while also being a great learner kayak.

Stern squirt, Steeze-style.

Also unique is its “pod” that can be attached to the stern via four inserts to give it more volume. I’ve used the pod a number of times when paddling sections that I wasn’t comfortable taking a slicey kayak down. It definitely makes a difference having it attached, but I don’t know if that difference is all good.

The Waka Steeze edging through Eagle falls on the South Fork of the Skykomish.

It is perhaps a little bit less likely to get pitched over backwards coming through something bigger (the hull rocker provides most of the stern stability, so what’s on the deck is of less consequence), as well as it is a touch easier to roll when the pod is attached. Its designers say, “We’ve kept a creek boat nose with lots of rocker to keep you moving forward while cutting the volume off the tail to enable the paddler to whippy and pivot turn.” As for the pod, they continue, “it lets you gain the extra volume required when shit gets real.” With a volume of 300 Liters (79 gal.), the Steeze jumps to 360 Liters (95 gal.) with the pod attached., which also adds 5.5 lbs.

But at the same time, the pod also makes the boat lose that beautiful pivot turn that is so much of the kayak’s magic. So there is some give and take to attaching the pod, which is why I have been using it less frequently and become more accustomed to paddling without it. It’s also likely why you can purchase the Steeze without the pod in some places.

Bottom line: the Steeze is such a delight to paddle and so versatile that it will likely be my boat of choice for years to come.

— For more info on Sky Mountain Experience, visit https://www.skymountainexperience.com

Length: 274 cm
Width: 67.5 cm
Weight: 21.5 kg (47 lbs.)/24kg (53 lbs.)
Paddler weight: 60-120 kg
Volume: 300L – 360L (79-95 gal.)
Style: River play / turn creeker/race boat

 

Info: www.wakakayaks.com

Kayak Review: The Waka Steeze
The Steeze from New Zealand’s Wake Kayaks.