Eli Spiegel with the 9R L on Spirit Falls. (Photo by David Spiegel)
As everyone was starting to realize that "fast is fun," bigger paddlers like me looked at new popular creekboats such as the Waka Tuna and Pyranha 9R with jealousy. Despite being 6'2″ and 215 pounds, I became so desperate to hop on the bandwagon that I even tried paddling the regular-sized 9R. This experiment ended up with me looking ridiculous in an undersized boat. Luckily, Pyranha soon released the 9R Large.
The 9R L lives up to the fast-paced fun that I saw people having in the standard 9R. Coming from the Jackson Karma, the 9R L was significantly more sporty, and it required a bit of an adjustment period as I adapted to the more demanding nature of the boat.
The 9R L is a high-performance boat, which is an anomaly for boats of this size. Normally, larger kayaks perform like tanks. While the 9R L is big enough to float larger paddlers, it still feels like you are zipping down the river in a sports car.
The boat loves to stay on top of the water. The significant bow rocker allows the 9R L to float over holes, but the narrow bow also allows you to plug through larger features that you can’t ride over.
The boat’s speed and ability to stay on top of the water can pose a challenge, however, especially on highly continuous and technical runs. When I took the 9R L down the Little White Salmon for one of my first runs in boat, I sometimes carried so much speed out of drops that I didn’t have time to set my angle before the next drop. I had recently switched from the large Karma and the combination of a new sporty boat and a technical Class V run made for a couple of moments where I was wishing I was back in my slow-and-steady Karma. After several days of adjustment, though, I was skipping down the Little White, enjoying every move.
It was the most fun I'd ever had on a Class V creek.
Outfitting and Size
At 215 pounds and 6'2", I am extremely happy with the 9R L's size and fit. It feels like it would paddle well for boaters weighing between 190 and 245 pounds. At my weight, I am still looking forward to getting the chance to load it up with 30 pounds of gear for an overnighter.
I have found the outfitting to be very comfortable and durable. I have paddled for a couple of hours straight without any discomfort. Another highlight for me is how comfortable the 9R L is to carry. I have successfully annoyed my paddling buddies on several thirty-minute hikes by repeatedly explaining how good the boat feels on my shoulder compared with other large boats.
This is one aspect of the 9R L that concerns me. After 25 days on the water, I have already had two noticeable dents in the stern. Both dents popped out on their own after a bit of time in the sun, but it does make me worry about the durability of the boat when, at some point, I take a swim.
Large paddlers generally put more wear and tear on boats so it's always a question of whether or not a creekboat can stand up to a season of use by a 200-pound person.
If you are a larger paddler looking to see why “fast is fun,” the 9R L is definitely worth demoing. Keep in mind when you demo it that, over time, the moments of magic that you feel will increase while the initial moments of squirrelly craziness will only decrease.
If you are looking for a boat that will be durable and forgiving you should probably look elsewhere, but if you want to pick up the pace on the runs you love, then 9R L is the clear choice.