All-around WW Kayak 4 River Run/Play????

What kayak do you recommend for an all around whitewater kayak for both river runing and play?

It has been a few years since I did any whitewater kayaking, having focused on sea and surf kayaking and whitewater canoeing and I am not looking to get a ww kayak again.

Will use in Class III and maybe IV WW for general river running and some surfing/play while running down river.

The first boats that came to mind for me were the Wavesport Diesel and the Dagger Mamba, but there may be better choices.



I don’t have a specific suggestion, but
if you’re really going to be throwing ends, donkey flips, etc., then there are some playboats that are known to be decent river runners. One place to look is among the Jackson Kayak Fun series.

The Mamba and Diesel, and the Karnali, are really more river runners that can be used for some serious creeking. Their potential for advanced play moves is more limited.

You might check out what NOC says about their offerings. Sometimes they will cross-list certain kayaks in the playboat and river runner categories, or they will comment specifically when a playboat is also a competent river runner.

I bought the Ammo a few years back and I’ve really liked it. Comfortable boat for an all day run down the river and nice flat planing hull for surfing.

From what I understand, Fun series if you want for play but good running, Hero if you want good running but play is more limited to surfing.

River Running and Surfing
I guess I should specify that my play will be more limited to surfing. A boat with more volume in the bow and stern would probably be more what I am looking for I would guess.


white water experts
try, great people in the heart of class III, IV, V whitewater. You just missed their paddlefest. They have on online chat or call them for lots of help…jesse

Less volume than diesel, good surfer .
You can get a Necky Jive pretty cheaply. Fairly decent all around boat and surfs well.

I have a few of the boats mentionned

– Last Updated: May-30-11 11:58 AM EST –

Diesel. Great boat for big water or extre low water with drops when a fall over is going to hurt. Great deck volume to keep you afloat. I don't creek but have ran some knarly stuff when that was the boat i wanted. I find it a too big for really enjoyable front surfs as once the boat looses its angle it is big too get back. Spins well, keeps you above the swirls and boils and truly confortable. Heavy for me to carry out. Due to its volume i have a greater challenge rolling it. Never used it in the ocean for surfing and doubt i would as better boats.
Jackson 4 fun. It is like the name - fun. It rolls and a great river surf boat. I have my bitches about the layup but the pluss make up for it.
Old Necky Rip for ocean surf.. Once it goes sideways with the surf it is sometimes hard to get straight in.

Have only done only minimal amount class iv and if I am into that i would prefer the Diesel to give me speed, volume for drops and keeping me upright. Not going to be a play run with the Diesel.

See you on the water.

Big Dog Havoc
While it’s a bit slower than a river running boat it surf well and is great on the river. I use it for surfing on the coast as well as running rivers. For coastal surfing it has a tendency to spin so it requires a light hand when it comes to control.

hard to answer
Without knowing your weight and what you plan to run, but I would suggest buying a creek boat, or a boat with volume in the ends suitable for creeking.

The Dagger Mamba, Jackson Hero, Wavesport Diesel would all be logical possibilities and these boats come in different volumes. I would choose whichever you find most comfortable to sit in for a while.

If you find yourself getting into playboating more, and want something with shorter, lower volume ends that you can slice vertically through the water, you will have a better idea what you are looking for. Many whitewater kayakers who paddle low volume playboats also have a larger volume boat for creeking and big water anyway.

River running + play
Most makers have a boat(s) that fit that description. The diesel and mamba are not among them. I think you will be disappointed in their surfing performance. I second the Jackson fun series. They behave well going down river, surf well, and are easy to roll (especially if you do the lay back roll that Jackson teaches). If you want the Cadillac of river running play boats get a Dragorossi pintail. It is the best design out there. If you want to save some $ and go used, look around for a Wavesport EZ in your size (EZ, bigEZ, etc.) They are Jackson designed and the precursors to the Fun series.

Get aused jive or even better jive 8’10"

Best all around boat I have ever had. had dozens of different boats .

it surfs great runs big stuff. very good on ocean and great lakes


Depends on what you want to surf

– Last Updated: May-31-11 11:46 AM EST –

If you want to surf long fast waves, you will be better off with a longer boat. If you want to surf shorter pushier and steeper waves, you will be better off with a shorter boat.

I paddle a WaveSport Fuse 64 (I can't fit my long legs in anything less than that in the range). This is marketed as 60% play and 40% river, but that probably applies to the lower volume versions (the 56 and below). At 64 galons of volume and about 7 foot long, mine is more like 50-50 -;). It has tons of volume in the bow and stern - it is very hard to make the bow go under on flat water for me (190lb). If you are 220-250lb, then it may feel like a playboat, but for people under 200lb it feels like a playful river runner.

It surfs short waves well and has enough speed to move to some of the faster waves but can't match old style or longer river or creek boats for speed.

I've used it for river play and to run down Class II and III and it is great for that with enough buoyancy not to throw you off too much even in pushy whirlpools where shorter boats would do unitended squirts. I'm sure if the paddler can do class 4 and above, that boat can do it too.

In the same class of boats are the Jackson Fun and some others. If you are a big guy, you can get yourself in the Jackson Mon Star - it is in their playboat range, but again due to the size of it I think it is more of a very playful river runner than a pure playboat.

P.S. You can try my Fuse 64 if you are near Angler's though you may need to bring some padding for your feet (I almost have nothing in it in the front and most people would need something more than that to get footing). Or get a demo of some of the others from Potomac Paddle Sports (Wave Sport and Pyranha, maybe LiquidLogic and some others) or from Valley Mill (Jackson mostly)

And here is the video of it …
With my rudimentary surfing skills on display, he-he:

A couple of older reviews – useful if you’re looking for something used.

Check out the Fluid Spice or Detox
The Diesel and Mamba are more along the lines of the Detox from Fluid and I would describe them and a playboaters’ creek boat. The Detox is, however, a little more playful than the mamba or the diesel for sure. If you just want to front and back surf these are great options. If you are looking for more play, you should be looking at something like the Fluid Spice or the Big Dog Havoc. These are both good options. You can also see the other boats in the category such as the Jackson Fun, the Pyranha Varum, the Liquid Logic Freeride & the Wave Sport Fuse. All other manufacturers make river/play boats, so you can check them out as well.

great video Kocho
had me bursting out laughing when the kayak went by upside down. Nice video, looks like maybe a little left rudder would have had you on the steeper section. Quite the recirculating current there; like a ski lift :-).

For the 15 seconds of surfing I probably spent 30 minutes of missing that wave and waiting for my turn in the line-up.

The wave is kind of reforming so it requires corrections to stay on it. At these levels it is not very grabby and is angled a bit, so while it is an easy wave it requires attention. And I’m still slow to react.

Surfing vs. Play
I think I should have probably pointed out in my original post that I am really primarily interested in surfing vs. cartwheels and other play moves. That probably changes the dynamic a bit since I don’t need a boat with real slicey stern or low volume bow.

I weigh about 195 and plan to use the boat mostly on Class III water. Maybe III+.


as was said
you can bow surf or back surf in just about any whitewater kayak. Very short boats can get on small steep waves that longer ones can’t sit on, but long boats do better on some bigger waves.

If you don’t want to do bow stalls, stern squirts, cartwheels and the like, in which the bow or stern is intentionally submerged, you will probably welcome the buoyancy that a creek boat offers for river running.

A flat-bottomed boat does do flat spins more easily and often provides a carving dynamic to ferries and eddy turns that many paddlers like. A boat like the BigEz (which I own) is quite a bit of fun to play around in on familiar or easy rivers but it is miserably slow moving back upstream and it’s lower volume and sharper ends will make unintentional stern squirts on eddy lines, or unintentional back enders when running larger drops through holes, much more likely.