Kayak Buyers Guide.
(I will be following up this article with a kayak design post to help understand how it all works and help understand kayak design terminology)
Buying a kayaking can be a really difficult decision for two main reasons;
Buying a kayak is a really big investment with modern whitewater kayaks ranging in price up to €1400! With that amount of money being invested in a new product you really want to know what you are looking at buying. Even buying a second hand boat can be expensive so its worth having a good look around.
The variety of choice is absolutley insane, from large headlining brands to the smaller manufactuers the choice is pretty much endless. For this reason, I think it is really important you identify exctly what kind of water you will be predominantly be using your boat on.
You need to ask yourself some questions; What type of water do you most regularily paddle on and what style of kayaking do you like? For example…. do you like bombing down your local creek? Do you like stopping and having a play on a few waves as you head downstream but still want to keep some speed so your not having to slog across the flat sections at a snails pace? Or...do you only want to play and stay in the one spot for most of your session?
Below, I’m going to list a few answers I get alot when I ask someone what they like doing on the river and this is how I would decide if i was in their position.
“I spent nearly all of my time on Castleconnell/ Liffey/ Inny and I want something I have some speed in and can break in and out of eddies maintaining speed and gliding across those ferry glides”
For the type of paddler above, I would definately recommend a river runner. River runners, as a general rule have sharp edges for catching eddies and keeping you on line as you paddle down stream. They really excel at teaching you the bread and butter skills of kayaking. They reward good technique with tonnes of speed and break-ins and break-outs with the awesome feeling of cornering on a bike with heaps of speed. When you get something wrong in a river running kayak you get instant feedback from the boat because of its sharp edges and low volume. Sometimes, while learning, the boat can be un-forgiving of mistakes. My advise would be to give it time and focus on improving your skills and the kayak will reward you with loads of performance, speed and a much improved skill set. Examples of a River Running kayak would be the Dagger Axiom, Pyranha Zone one andJackson Zen these are just examples of a many available.
“I am looking to push myself on harder whitewater such as the Clare Glens, The Flesk, and the Dargle. I would like something I can learn to boof in and something more forgiving when I make my first trip to the alps this year.
When looking to really push your skills on harder whitewater or on steeper rivers with drops I would reccommend a creekboat. Here’s why;
Volume; the volume of a kayak is basically its size or the volume of water it can contain when full. Creekboats generally have more volume than river runners. This volume helps the kayak sit higher on the water, resurface faster, keeps the nose high and dry and helps you maintain control when you’re paddling through the chaos that whitewater can be.
Rocker; this refers to the curvature of a boat’s hull towards the bow and stern. In its most simple description rocker is what stops your boat from simply looking like a really fat plank of wood. Rocker helps again with keeping the bow of your kayak high and dry and you in control. However, generally the more rocker a boat has the slower it tends to be. Rocker allows the boat to “release” better when boofing and so makes boofing easier.
Edges; Creek boats generally have more rounded edges than river runners. This makes the kayak more forgiving. However, they make sacraficing some of your ability to rely on your boat to keep you on line and tracking downriver as easily as you would in a river runner. The plus side of this is when sliding over rock and when jets of water are pushing in from multiple directions at once you remain stable not catching your edges and making you unstable. Examples: Waka Tuna, Dagger Nomad, Lettmann Granate, Pyranha Shiva, Liquidlogic Stomper/Flying Squirell, Zet Raptor/Director/Veloc
“I just want something that I can play around in, as well as being able to keep up with my friends in there river running kayaks”.
A river running playboat is what your looking for here. It is one of the many crossover classes of kayak. It doesnt do anything amazingly well nor does it do anything really badly. Its mixes speed of a river runner with the agressive edges and relativey low volume of a playboat. It has to be said that river running play boats can make your standard weekend run an absolute blast surfing and stern squirting your way down your local run. I find river running playboats a fantastc way to push me on my local run that I paddled hundreds of times. Simply put it adds the fun element to my local run again. Examples; Jackson Fun, Pyranha Varun and Liquidlogic Freeride.