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Old 10-20-2014   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 18
The Ultimate River Runner/Creeker Discussion

I am creating this thread because I am in need of a river runner/creeker and I would like to assemble all of the pros and cons of the different models out there right now. Most of the reviews that currently can be found for the different models are by sponsored paddlers or the reviews just don't really say much. I am looking for input from real paddlers, not professionals or retailers who have an obvious interest in making the boat sound good. That being said, I am going to start by discussing me, my paddling style, experience, what I am looking for in a boat, and the models I have considered. Though I obviously am interested in getting input to help me find the ideal boat for me, feel free to discuss other models if you would like.

I am 6' tall, 190lbs without gear (plus or minus 5 pounds depending on PBR intake). I have been paddling off and on for 5 years. I am comfortable in class 3 to 4- river running in my playboat and am looking to step up to class 4 (eventually 5) creeking and also big water. I am looking for a boat that will do well both on big water runs (Upper Gauley for ex) and creeking runs.

One of the the most important characteristics I am looking for is a boat that will keep me safe and inspire confidence. When I am going to be using this boat, it is going to be for stepping it up. I want a boat that I know will take care of me when I get in it. I don't want an edgy boat that I will have to worry about funny cross-currents or catching edges. That being said, I would like enough edge to aid in catching eddies. The second most important characteristic I am looking for is maneuverability and ability to hold a line. I don't want a boat so long/difficult to turn that it is hard to boat scout a line and be able to make a last minute move. I am also looking for a boat that is great at punching/going over holes; I prefer going over holes to through them. Of course, boofing is important too.

I am currently considering the follow boats:

1. Jackson Karma (M) - I have heard nothing but good things about this boat. However, I don't know how much of that positive buzz is from real world paddlers or how much of it is Jackson generated hype. It doesn't really look like an elegant kayak and almost appears to have some kick rocker at the stern which concerns me since historically I haven't liked boats with kick rocker. I am also concerned that the length could make it less maneuverable. At 86 gallons it should float me well.

The pros that I have heard:
-Rides up over cross-currents and boils without being disturbed

2. Liquid Logic Stomper (90) - I have heard lots of mixed reviews of this boat. It looks like it would fit the bill nicely for me in that it has some soft edges that will help with catching eddies but hopefully will not get caught at inopportune times. The negatives I have heard about this boat is that it handles "funny" and has a tendency to not track well and spin out on eddy lines. Any additional input on this boat would be greatly appreciated.

3. Liquid Logic Flying Squirrel (95??) - Obviously this boat is too new for much info to be out on it, but most of the comments have been glowing. My concern is that this boat is waaaay too long for my boating style. My weight puts me between the 85 and 95...but to be honest both are longer boats than I would prefer. If it somehow has good maneuverability at its long length, then I would interested.

4. Pyranha Burn III (L) - The Burn is supposedly great at both big water and creeking. One concern is that it is too edgy for my taste (for a creeker anyway). As I mentioned before, when I am stepping it up I don't want to have to worry about sharp edges catching funny cross currents and throwing me off my line. The large is also only about 78 gallons which sounds kind of low but we all know the volume figures should be taken with a grain of salt. Overall I am less interested in this boat due to its sharp edges.

5. Dagger Mamba (8.1??) - This boat sounds pretty good on paper. Soft edges that are present only on the bow will help with catching eddies but will not catch funny currents. However, I am probably a little heavy for the 8.1 but am not big enough for the 8.6. It is also relatively low volume compared to the other boats.

6. Fluid Bazooka (M) - I don't know a whole lot about this boat. I was considering buying one when they were like $400 but they didn't have any mediums left.

7. Wavesport Recon (83??) - Haven't heard much about this one. Supposedly it leans heavy on the creeking side of things; though if it is a planing/semi-planing hull boat with edges, I don't know why it wouldn't be good for big water.

The rest:
-Pyranha Shiva (M) - Not as interested in because it is displacement hull
-Dagger Nomad (8.5) - Displacement hull
-Remix (79??) - Too long, not enough volume in stern
-Wavesport Diesel - Too edgy
-Feel free to discuss other modern river runners/creekers as well

TL;DR version:
Let's discuss and give real world reviews of all the current river runners/creekers out right now.

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Old 10-20-2014   #2
tango's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 689
You're overthinking it. Paddle the boats you might want to buy. Chances are your skills aren't yet developed enough to be so picky and specific about what you want in creek boat.

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Old 10-20-2014   #3
KSC's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
Have admittedly not paddled half the boats the boats on your list, so I recommend you send me each boat, I will paddle them for you, and give you a thorough report on the best one.

Of the ones I have paddled, I'd say Mamba 8.6. It's just super comfortable and forgiving and you don't have to be an advanced paddler to take advantage of the design. You are certainly not too large for it.
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Old 10-20-2014   #4
Minturn, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 43
You might try searching the forum as this topic has been extensively covered.
Also, you might try demoing the boats you are interested in.

By searching for "creeker"
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Looking for creek/ river running combo
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Old 10-21-2014   #5
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 149
I'm 5'11" and 185 pounds (winter goal to be at 175 for next season) and paddle a Mamba 8.1. It doesn't seem like it lacks in volume or that I over weight it (specs go to 220). For class 3-4 creeking, sometimes I miss my Mamba 8.0, which does supposedly lack in volume but was an awesome, responsive boat for almost anything. Of other creekers I've paddled & owned, I liked the Mamba (8.1) better than the Burn and the Super Hero for basically intangible reasons. More than anything, I would say it was because my first "big boat" was a Mamba and the other models haven't felt right, whereas the 8.1 was just a bigger, wider version of the 8.0 with the feel I was used to. And I prefer the outfitting. So anyhow, I can't give you the level of analysis you're looking for, but so far, I'm a Mamba guy. I'm maybe a half a season ahead of where you are at--comfortably paddling front range class 4 mank towards the middle and end of this season.

If you're considering buying new (which is really your only option if you want to be picky, which it sounds like you do), Confluence will put your demo fees (25/day) toward your new purchase, up to $100 I believe. They have Dagger, Wavesport and Jackson and used to have Liquid Logic although I assume that is changing with the Direct-to-consumer model LL is using, although they may still have a few 2014 models. Other paddle shops (e.g., Golden, CKS) typically have a similar demo-to-own options.

If I had to summarize, there is no "best boat" (although Jackson seems to indoctrinate raving fans out of people, who would have you believe otherwise...) and a lot of it comes down to preferences, which are individual. In the end, there are at least 15-20 current models that would work well to get you safely down the creek, all of which have their proponents. Your best bet will be to Demo until you find one you like, or just pick one and drive it until you get used to it and like it.

Lets paddle some time, you can try my boat if you like.

PS, if you want deep analysis of gear, and the Buzz isn't biting, try posting your bait over at Boatertalk--seem to be some serious gear heads lurking over there.
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Old 10-21-2014   #6
lmyers's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
Originally Posted by tango View Post
You're overthinking it. Paddle the boats you might want to buy. Chances are your skills aren't yet developed enough to be so picky and specific about what you want in creek boat.

Sent from my iPhone using Mountain Buzz
Agreed. If you have the skills, all the options you listed will work great. No need to be so picky. Its less about gear, and more about technique.
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Old 10-21-2014   #7
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 807
I agree with the other posters who have stated that any of these boats can be paddled in Class IV-V if you have the skill set.

I have paddled a Stomper 90 for the last 2 years though, so I will offer my opinion. I think that it is a great boat, definitely geared towards running Class V. It is really stable, boofs very easily (If you can't boof the Stomper, you just can't boof), punches through holes without getting spun, and resurfaces well. I think the semi-planing hull is a good compromise. At my weight (170) the edges do not trip, but I can engage them if I want to snap into an eddy.

The Stomper spins more easily than some creek boats due to the semi-planing hull and big rocker, so it might not hold a line as well as some, but it still holds a line way better than the Jefe. It is more of a creeker than big water boat, but it does fine in big water as long as you stay on top of your boat angle.

The Stomper 90 should fit you and float you well.

The only real downside that I can think of is that if you are going to be paddling more moderate Class IV, you might want to get something a bit more sporty (edgy) like a burn or Mamba.
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Old 10-21-2014   #8
Preacher of the Profit Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,062
Might be the wrong time of year to get all the demo options you might want to know about. Most of the good kayak shops have sold off their demos by now, so they can replace them with the newer models in the spring.

It does seem like a good choice to demo the boats you are asking about just based off the level of questions you're asking and the amount of info you have already gathered. I would go down to Confluence now and in the spring and take a demo over to the park, do a bunch of drills, paddle down to the shop, and switch out as many times as possible. You can most likely try several boats in one day for one price and then roll that money into a new boat.

Everything else is just an opinion.
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Old 10-21-2014   #9
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BZN, Montana
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,489
I have a lot of answers to your questions but this is probably the answer you need to hear the most.

Pay $600 or less and buy any used creeker made in the last 5 years that roughly fits your weight. Paddle it until it breaks and then figure out what creeker you really want. No one is making bad boats. Barely anyone can afford a quiver and the modern "creek" boats do a really good job of being well versed at everything. Even when they aren't they are all more stable and predictable and faster than your playboat. Use the money you save to take a kickass paddling trip. That will do more to help you to "step up" than the perfectly selected creek boat.
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Old 10-21-2014   #10
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 18
Thanks for all the replies. I especially appreciate Jmack's and BenR's input; that is the kind of real world paddling information I am looking for.

I do realize that I am probably "overthinking" the choice, but I just would like as much information and opinions on the different boats so I know what to expect. Believe me, right now I am looking for a cheap used river runner/creeker, but it doesn't hurt to have as much information on the different boats out there to help inform my choice.

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