SOAR Inflatable Canoes
There has been some discussion previously about the SOAR Canoe and many people have opined, including the owner/designer. I recently got my hands on one and thought I would share my experiences.
Me, 46 years old,
255 before lunch
Paddling canoes since 1972, whitewater paddling since 1986, long, long past my prime paddling fitness
Lots of experience paddling canoes in easy 2/3 whitewater, sometimes with a dog passenger handicap
Very little experience paddling outfitted whitewater canoes in very technical water
Most of my recent experience is in rafts paddling with friends and family in up to Class IV
Cache La Poudre in the Canyon west of Fort Collins, Colorado
Lower Bridges (III), Poudre Park (IV) & Pineview Falls (IV)
The first thing I noticed when I got into the Boat is that the seat ďholdsĒ your Butt way too high for my comfort. I first kneeled in the Boat with my Butt against the seat and was very uncomfortable. I took the seat out and left it in the car. The Paddling position I adopted was to kneel just aft of the midpoint in the boat, hunkered down on the backs of my feet. This allowed me to easily and quickly shift between hunkered low down in the boat for stability and kneeling upright to extend my reach and keep my legs from getting tired or falling asleep.
In a SOAR 12, 14 or 16 boat I think the seat would work great for sitting while cruising and switch to the off the seat hunkered down position for rapids. The SOAR 10 seems too short for that to work without throwing off the boatís trim in the water.
The Boat handles beautifully!! One of the interesting features is that the ends of the boat are an upward sloping of the floor of the boat without the pointy ends found in my NRS Maverick Duckies. This creates a bow that is flat fronted and looks a lot like the front ramp on a landing craft. This flat, wide, sloped end causes the boat to climb quickly when it runs into waves and holes. There were a number of drops through both Cardiac Corner Rapid and Pineview Falls rapid that gave me a lot of worry when I was approaching and the boat climbed right out of the drops and was very easy to paddle.
The side tube width made forward strokes a bit of a challenge, but after a few minutes of paddling I was getting the hang of moving the boat around the river. It is definitely easier to sideslip this boat back and forth across the river than to establish and maintain a ferry angle. This probably has a more to do with paddler skill (or its absence) than the Boat design. The Boat was certainly very maneuverable and itís fast spinning design allowed me to dodge my way through a lot of boulder gardens and a couple of class IV rapids that terrified the everloving snot out of me.
One of the characteristics that took some getting used to is that the inside of the boat is not as wide as the inside of a rigid canoe hull, while the outside width is substantially wider. When I kneel in a rigid canoe I tend to take a splayed knee stance where my knees are shoulder width or wider apart. In the SOAR the tube width squeezes the inside dimensions a bit and my knees were pretty much straight down in front of me at hip width. While this took a few minutes to get used to, and started out a little discomfiting, I didnít notice any problems or discomfort after the first rapid.
While the thickness of the tubes was the source of some necessary paddling style adjustment, the thickness was also the source of the tremendous stability inherent in the boat. While hunkered down on my knees basically sitting on the backs of my feet the Boat was incredibly stable, but I was still able to apply the full range of onside and offside strokes to maneuver the boat. Due to the extended reach imposed by the thickness of the tubes, I would suggest a longer paddle than someone would normally use in a rigid canoe. This is similar to people needing longer paddles for duckies than hard boats and was not a surprise.
One concern I have is that with my weight , and without the seat to distribute my weight through the tops of the side tubes, I am concerned that the floor will wear out under my backside fairly quickly as my butt did cause the floor to ride looow. I have pondered rigging a low slung sling seat to keep my center of gravity low, but that raises immediate concerns of something flapping around that could cause an entanglement.
I will also be looking into some way to rig the thigh straps without the seat. A large number of rocks caused me to shift in the boat or fall off balance in the boat and I think that rigging the thigh straps, even without the seat, and positioning my thighs under them can give me more protection against bumps pitching me around the boat.
All in all, while my paddling style required some easy adjustment, the incredible stability of the SOAR 10, itís wave and hole climbing design and itís self bailing feature opened up some class IV rapids that I would never have tried to run in a rigid open canoe. Yesterday my new SOAR 10 provided me with one of the best days Iíve ever had on a river in over 40 years of canoeing, kayaking and rafting.
Well Done Larry Laba!!