All-Around River-Runners

I want a whitewater kayak on my car that’ll prevent me from having to exchange boats every time I want to surf a wave or paddle a creek. Rob McKibbin wants a single boat that he can paddle down Washington State’s Class V+ Top Tye and use to throw flatwater cartwheels on the Main Skykomish later that afternoon. Veronica Bruffy wants a kayak that matches her mango-and-black dry top and reduces the number of times she feels compelled to exit her kayak.


The three of us, with varying degrees of experience, passion, and naivete, want an all-around boat. That’s what we want.


Six whitewater kayak companies tried to figure out how to engineer a boat that would make the three of us happy without making Veronica swim or frustrating Rob on a play run. To appease us, a couple of companies adapted old playboat designs that had won cartwheeling rodeos a few years ago. One company’s idea of an all-around river kayak bore a suspicious resemblance to its old creek-boat designs-just a little shorter this time around. A few brave kayak companies abandoned the idea of modifying old designs and created new designs specifically for their role in whitewater.


Just as the boats we tested are made for the all-around paddler, so is this review. We evaluated these six kayaks’ ability to perform on a wave, in a rapid, and upside down. We did not worry about hull design, planing surface, or dihedrals. We analyzed the boats simply by identifying what we liked about them.

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Buyer's Guide