Dagger RPM Max
Specs: Price $980; length 9 ft., 2 in.; weight 42 lb.; internal volume 75 gallons; paddler weight 180-265 lb.
A bigger version of the best-selling whitewater kayak of all time, the RPM Max is a classic river runner. Two feet longer than most rodeo playboats, it also has an old-school rounded displacement hull instead of a flat, trick-turning bottom. These traits make it stable and predictable in big water, but they also make it fast, so you can power through glassy stretches or escape to that boat-width shoreline eddy above They All Died Falls. It's not that you can't play with the Maxroll it up on edge and it's rock solid, slip it onto a wave for some front surfing and the Max is at the top of its game, plunge in the bow and the Max will pop bigger ender air than the best rodeo boatit's just that its size and shape make it difficult to perform spin maneuvers. Oh well, it also doesn't fit like thong underwear on a Holstein. Indeed, at 75 gallons, the Max is downright comfy, and the extra room means you can load up enough camping gear for an overnight. Smaller paddlers (under 180 pounds) should stick with the standard RPM, which is 9 feet long, weighs 39 pounds, and has 60 gallons of internal volume.
Specs: Price $1,080; length 7 ft., 6 in.; weight 33 lb., 8 oz.; internal volume 44 gallons (size medium); paddler weight 130-180 lb.
"Man, I got spanked big-time." Sound familiar? With the Dominatrix beneath you, now you can spank back. She rules when it's playtime. Loose (it spins easily on waves) and retentive (it wants to stay in the hole during vertical moves), this boat is designed for park-and-play, meaning you drive to a specific hole and bust some moves in that one spot. River running? Be careful. More than one skilled boater has taken the Dominatrix out in big water only to get worked relentlessly. There just isn't enough volume for that type of boating, and all that retentiveness is not a good thing when you're trying to punch through a nasty keeper hole. As you might expect, the Dominatrix is very demanding when it comes to fitOK, it's as tight as a leather jumpsuitbut there are three volumes to choose from, all of which are about 7 feet, 6 inches long. Because they use a plastic that's stronger than standard polyethylene, Riot is able to offer the Dominatrix in an ultralight 251/2 pound version for only another $120.
Wave Sport EZ
Specs: Price $1,025; length 6 ft., 9 in.; weight 34 lb.; internal volume 47 gallons; paddler weight 110-230 lb.
EZ is right. This boat makes it easy to pick your way through rapids, easy to surf, and easy to ride in a hole. Although there's no such thing as a do-it-all boat, this one comes close. (What it won't do is handle steep-creek drops where you might hit bottomyou need more bow in front of you for that, and its modest volume will get you pummeled in really large flows.) It's not overly edgy, and because it's rockered more at the bow and stern than a pure rodeo boat, it's manageable enough for less skilled paddlers to initiate daring moves without tanking. At 6 feet, 9 inches, the EZ is capable of fitting on the smallest wave or wimpiest hole, but the length in this case doesn't detract too much from the boat's river-running prowess. It's stable and predictable in all but the biggest water; it also just happens to be a loose and fairly retentive play machine. What sets the EZ apart, though, is the way it's outfitted: The hip pads are sculpted for a snug, comfortable fit, the adjustable thigh braces feel plush yet grip securely, and a no-slip back band supports and cushions the spine. It's a tight squeeze, though; bigger paddlers should go with the 7-foot Big EZ, a 52-gallon version that's only a few pounds heavier.
Dagger RPM Max