Splash Course

Even if you can't throw down a donkey flip—yet—a new flotilla of kayaks guarantees you'll have more fun in raging water

May 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

REMEMBER WHEN whitewater paddling was all about running rapids? Well, today's action centers around holes and standing waves, and in an effort to squeeze every last drop of fun out of your local hydraulic, the paddle-sports industry is cranking out boats that are impossibly stubby and dramatically more maneuverable—a few with surprise add-ons (surfboard fins, anyone?). And while the new designs are edgy, they're also a windfall for recreational kayakers: A once-steep learning curve has seriously flattened.

"People who get in a kayak now are able, in one year, to do playboating moves that took me ten years to learn," says Montreal-based Corran Addison, a designer for Riot. As engineering advances developed for the hole-and-wave crowd begin to show up in big-rapids runners (which still constitute the majority of whitewater rigs sold), gone are the auger-prone bows and sharp, easily flipped edges. These reinvented kayaks can survive Class V whitewater but also turn basic playboating tricks with ease.

Here, then, are three spanking-new river runners that love to surf, spin, and jump; a pair of state-of-the-art playboat designs for expert paddlers yearning to nail an aerial front-flip or an aerial corkscrew (a.k.a. a donkey flip); and a state-of-the-art expedition kayak for those dreaming of remote and epic Class V+. All follow the industry mind-shift toward "a more user-friendly package," says Dagger designer Marc Lyle. In other words, you'll spend more time floating on the river than swimming in it.

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