Bagel-boaters in action. Photo by Dugald Bremner/National Geographic.
By Eugene Buchanan
If nothing else, the Russian bublik is commendable for its unorthodox approach to river-running. The odd-looking craft— best likened to two giant donuts standing on end, connected by wooden poles—dates back to 1986, when a paddling club from Novokuzneck paddled the Kitoy River using homemade chesters, another oddball craft best described as a sideways catamaran in which the paddlers face each other. One of the chesters featured pontoons curved up high to protect paddlers' backs from rocks. At camp one night someone suggested curving the balloon all the way around to make it a bublik.
It may have been meant as a joke (bublik means bagel in Russian) but V.R. Gerasimov and K.H. Eriksson took the idea seriously, and the next spring the first bublik debuted at the Chuya Rally. By 1989, this odd-looking craft was found on increasingly difficult rivers, as far away as Turkey and Nepal. While the craft is truly impossible to flip, its shortcomings include an inability to hold a line, and the fact that paddlers can't help but feel a bit like gerbils.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 2009 edition of Canoe & Kayak, as part of our feature The Innovators.
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