Gareth Tate paddling the Toxaway River in North Carolina.
Gareth Tate paddling the Toxaway River in North Carolina.

The Best Kayak of All Time Just Got Even Better

The classic Dagger Nomad 8.5 gets its first update in 12 years

Gareth Tate paddling the Toxaway River in North Carolina.

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When Dagger announced it would update its much-beloved Nomad 8.5 kayak, a bunch of eyebrows immediately went up, including mine. That’s because most people who use the boat, which just so happens to be the number-one-selling creek boat of all time, didn’t think it needed an update.

Here’s why. For 12 seasons, the predictable, smart design has remained the same. Pros and beginners both like it because its wide, rounded hull makes the boat supremely stable and prevents it from getting caught by currents. Thanks to the moderate rocker profile, it doesn’t lift at drops, making it easier to run a 45-degree angle off a waterfall (which is key for boaters who can’t afford to land flat.) The 8.5—Dagger's largest version—is perfect for a six-foot-tall paddler plus some extra gear, but won’t swallow smaller paddlers, either.

So what’s new? The company added a more aggressive rocker profile as well as a bit more edge to make the new Nomad, or Newmad, faster and more maneuverable. There’s also a new Nomad 9.0, which is six inches longer for bigger paddlers. It's still a solid platform, but Dagger team pro athlete Gareth Tate says the company made the update so the boat could handle bigger whitewater. “With the progression of the sport towards bigger, harder, more complex whitewater, there was a place for it to have more speed and control,” he says.

Remarkably, it's also supposed to perform better in intermediate water (class III and IV), too. “The old Nomad was great for experts and beginners, but not as fun on intermediate whitewater,” Tate says.

While I won’t give up my old Nomad, Dagger says a new test boat is on the way. Stay tuned for an in-depth review soon.



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