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Old 05-21-2014   #11
gringoanthony's Avatar
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 115
We've rented the Super, Super Duper and regular Pumas for years. And love them.

But we just bought our first boat over the winter and it's a 13'6" SOTAR SL. And we love it.

We've only paddled (never rowed) any Aires, so I'll stick strictly to paddle performance.

Initial impression after paddling the SL last weekend is that it is very nimble and responsive.

The side tubes on the Aires are more straight than the SL's. With a rounder overall shape (not talking about "round" in the traditional sense), and more rocker, the SL pivots more easily. (check out the wireframe diagrams on the Aire and SOTAR websites) When paddling (or rowing), this is advantageous. When relaxing, chugging beer and generally being inattentive, it's disadvantageous. You have to be a little more attentive in the SL to keep it where you want it. But, conversely, you can move it where you want to more quickly than any other boat we've paddled.

The Aire seems to stay in the current a little more easily, while the SL seems to slip across the surface more easily. This, in my estimation, is due to a variety of factors including material, waterline shape (footprint), floor design and amount of rocker.

If you don't mind being a little more attentive/vigilant about staying in the current, the SL has a slight advantage. If you'd rather be a little less attentive and swill more beer, the Aire might be advantageous.

I feel that with one or two more paddle trips, I'll already be used to the SL's performance/handling and will be transitioning out of my Puma captaining tendencies/habits without even thinking about it.

We hit some good size waves/holes last weekend and the SL rode up and over them like a champ. If you prefer this kind of excitement, vs punching straight through a wave, the SL is a great boat.

It may sound like the SL is our overwhelming favorite. This is not necessarily the case. It just happened to be the best boat for our needs (factoring interior width, cargo capacity, custom length, etc) . It is, however, IMO a slightly more nimble and higher performance design than the Puma series. Which is saying a lot because we love the Pumas.

If money were not a factor, we'd probably have a Super Puma for R-2ing and a 15' Aire D or 15' SOTAR SL for family multi-days. But money is a factor, so the 13' 6" SL was the best boat to allow for my wife and I to R-2 to R-7 but also take a group of 4 on a multi-day.

Good luck!

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Old 05-21-2014   #12
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,326
I've pushed mostly maravia, nrs, vanguard, aire, and hyside. By far the most "tunable" is the maravia. The tubes of a maravia can function in the widest air pressure ranges. I've ran 1 to 3 lbs in the tubes depending on water conditions and how I want the boat to function. Low pressure and it performs like a hypalon boat but slithers over rocks better that any other boat on the market. If you want fast you jack up the pressure. Same goes for the floor. If you want a floatie boat that spins on a dime pump it up to 2.5 lbs. If you want to track better drop it to 1lbs and it rides like a bucket boat and punches holes like no other!. You can also change up the lacing of the floor and get different performance. I-Beam floors are not a tunable as drop stick and hypalon will never get a stiff and maravia class 5 fabric. Most hypalon and pvc boats work in a narrower pressure range and you don't get as much adjustment. That's my .02 in performance.

Bound is boatless man
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Old 05-22-2014   #13
Sarge6531's Avatar
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 60
Sotar, performance wise, no question.

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Old 05-22-2014   #14
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,661
You're basically asking a ford vs chevy question here. Most folks are going to vote for what they like which is likely different than what you would like. That said I went through this same isssue last fall. Started looking at NRS, then Aire, then Maravia and finally Sotar. I decided on an SL for 2 primary reasons - 1-The material was touted to be stiff and slippery and 2- the constant curve/rockered hull shape. I was wanting to duplicate driftboat mobility when lightly loaded while preserving the cargo capacity of a raft. I'm very happy with the result and I don't think I would have gotten it with any of the other designs (mostly due to hull shape). The other boats similarly designed all had much longer straight sections and really no true rocker, just turned up bow and stern. The rocker is what fits my needs. I've rowed all but the RMR and Maravia's (recently) so I had some personal experience to fall back on, but realistically my decision was based almost solely on theory.

The other thing you bring up is speed, which I've found on this forum to mean different things to different folks. If speed is grabbing the current and making miles the SL wouldn't be for you. If speed is how fast you can row it across the water (up, down stream, ferry, etc) than it's the fastest boat I've ever been in. Most WW guys think of speed like the first example (as far as I can tell). I think of it as the second example, how much effort to move in any direction. You'll have to decide for you what it means and make sure you understand how other posters are treating it.

I reality you'll love what ever you get once you get used to it. They all have their advantages. I agonized over every little detail for months and definitely over analyzed the concept.

The only thing Idon't agree with from above is that Aire's "holy" floor was designed for stability. I firmly believe that is a side effect of the bladder system and marketing ploy to address a shortcoming of the pocketed floor. The sealed floor pocket is expensive, complicated and ultimately a complicated fix to a simple problem. It would seem so much simpler if they'd sell a normal I-beam or drop stitched alternative to their floor with no bladder. It would be cheaper and way simpler than the sealed floor pocket and they could certainly keep the holy floor for those that like it. I think they are too stuck on bladders and are forcing the issue where it makes sense to go traditional. This concept is a huge reason why I moved away from Aire in my search (along with the rocker issue).

Anyways, good luck in your search and happy floating with whatever you find.
Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae
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Old 05-22-2014   #15
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,326
The sotar SL sure looks like a slick design. I love to try one out! If I were in the market I'd demo one before I bought a new boat for sure.
Bound is boatless man
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Old 05-22-2014   #16
Dipshit with the most.
carvedog's Avatar
Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,497
He's wanting opinions not data. Here's mine: I love my Maravia. I will never give it up and will get another one if I ever wear this one out. For many of the reasons dirtbag touched on. High water I pump it up stiff and blast through the big waves. Low water run it soft as hell and slime over everything better than any other boat out there.

High water performace may be matched by other manufacturers and I haven't run a Sotar to compare, but nothing comes close in running over rocks in low water like a Maravia.

I will also add that I got to use an RMR quite a bit last summer and the one before and I really liked it. They will only get better with the drop stitch floor too. I thought the RMR handled a lot like an Avon. Which is good. And comfortable.
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Old 05-22-2014   #17
Whetstone's Avatar
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1976
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 362
I've Run Aires, Avons and Maravias. Hands down (for me) the Maravias are the most nimble and adaptable boats I've experienced. Currently I am married to a 14' Diablo, diminishing tubes with lots of kick and drop stitch floor. It has never given me cause for complaint. Cant Imagine I'll own anything else but gotta admit that the Sotars look real good.
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Old 05-22-2014   #18
Post Falls, Idaho
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 84
I have paddled and owned both the Sotar SL and Maravia Willy and my favorite is the Willy by a long shot. The continuous rocker of the SL just sets too deep compared to the Willy and the SL feels slow to get to speed and catches way to much current and gets pushed around more than the Willy. The Willy definitely has the edge on sliding over rocks too. I don't have the SL any more and the old Willy is priceless to me.
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Old 05-22-2014   #19
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,933
I agree with the above sentiment....unless you are rowing more laps then most of us ever will their differences we may hear about hear aren't likely to play a major factor in your rowing experience. I have rowed AIRE, NRS, Avon and Maravia rafts and have never found much of difference in the experience beyond how the boat is rigged. I tend to think carrying an amount of gear/passengers appropriate to size, how you load and how you inflate the beast is often more important than the marketing associated with design features. I have only been rowing for 11 years but the only thing I have experienced that may me pause about a raft was when the owners didn't match oar size to raft properly or overinflated their floors.

I would also agree....given the chance and funds go with one of the major names: they have higher resale value if you decide you want something different and they have been proven to have durability.

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Old 06-04-2014   #20
San Francisco, California
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 105
The last post nailed it. I have the fore mentioned Aire 156D with sealed pocket floor. If you were a paddler, this boat would truly excel in maneuverability and speed. But, if you are rowing with even decent gear load and passenger, all the design advantage becomes a moot point. How much weight, distribution of the load, oar length and geometry will have far more effect on the speed and nimbleness of the boat before you begin to cash in on the design advantage. I just rowed a bunch of Sotars on the Rogue, and to be honest, I didn't feel much difference from my Aire in any discernible sense.

Before you consider boat performance, I would pay more attention to type of materials, how you plan to store and haul the boat, etc. if this is your first raft,I would highly recommend getting a used boat in the size you will want, build a frame, gear and Ora's, and eventually upgrade the rubber. Tinkering and customizing is a big part of the fun in this sport, but don't over analyze. Just get a boat that will get you on the water and have fun.

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