Bell Flashfire or Wildfire

Would be interested to hear opinions on which of these Bell boats people like better for freestyle paddling (I have other boats for more versatile stuff).

second hand
No first hand knowledge but I’ve looked into it and second hand it’s about 10-to-1 flashfire over wildfire for freestyle. Look at championship competitors who own one or the other, 10 to 1 flashfire.

try them both
hi Jerry—I think it’s you—:slight_smile:

Mark and I have paddled both at Paddle in the Park and the Flashfire is more tender and more responsive. I’ve noticed a significant difference in the several Wildfires that I’ve paddled. I paddled one of the first prototype boats (a lighter glass layup, not sure what it was) and it was easier to paddle than the glass boat at the pool class. The Royalex Wildfire is more like my Odyssey. I got down on one knee in all the boats and spent some time sitting in all of them. They aren’t sitting boats and I can’t get into freestyle position, but I did an apples-to-apples comparison and would guess that you would grow into the Flashfire pretty quickly. I remember that the freestyle demo at PIP was in the prototype Wildfire. Marge talked while Paul demoed. He prefered the Wildfire.

depends on your weight
They are both nice boats, but I think your choice would depend on your body weight. Probably best to try them both as others have suggested.

My weight is about 212 ( going down)
I have paddled the Wildfire; have not paddled the Flashfire. My freestyle skills are in the beginning stages and am looking for a boat to grow into for skill level improvements. Have a reasonable shot at obtaining the Bell boats at a great price-the Loonworks boat (possibly an Aria that I’m drooling over) might have to wait for awhile.

I weigh between 190 and 220 depending
on time of year and if I’m paying attention to what I eat or not. I’ll take my Flashfire everytime for free style type paddling. I’ll take my Wildfire for the two week, overpacked trip everytime. If you can trim your gear weight like some I know the Flashfire is the choice for both.

Happy Paddl’n!



I’ve been doing Freestyle for bout 5 years now, and I own a Flashfire, and have paddled both the Royalex and composite Wildfire. The Flashfire hands down is the better freestyle boat. I’m 6’4 and 175 pounds. Most paddlers my size opt for the Wildfire. But if you can paddle the Flash paddle it. It’s got a much higher rate of rotation, and it responds so much better to extreme heel and pitch.

I’ve removed my seat and both thwarts, and I widened my Flash by 1.5 inches at the rail. This helps when paddling transverse. The added width will allow me to crawl from the kneeling thwart all the way to the front deck. I love my Flashfire and short of paddling a Loonworks boat the only boat for anyone under 200# is the Flashfire if you are truly interested in freestyle.

But I strongly recommend you demo both and decide for yourself.


Flash or wildfire
They are both excellent boats for diddling with Freestyle play. I had to widen my Flash so I could move my long legs around in it better (I like to crawl around in my boat) and technically prefer it to my wildfire, but that said, whenever I get in my wildfire I remember why I liked it so much. Either boat will let you get proficient…anything you can do in one, the other is will do too…one caveat-if you were small the Wildfire is harder to rail to the water, but for a big person the Wildfire can seem more friendly to get the rail down comfortably. By the way, I’d pick an Aria over a Nakoma in the Loonworks too.


Will definite;y have to test
paddle a Flashfire. I am in the midwest; saw one at on the floor at Carl & John’s during Canoecopia. Looks like a trip to Madison for a paddle is in order. Thanks for the input.

pknoerr just said it all
and I can only agree

My weight is 77 kg (170 lb.) max. and with that

weight, the speed of the FlashFire is also better for me.

Can you explain
how you widened the boat at the rail, and yet have the seat and thwarts removed. Is there enough structural integrity remaining?


I noticed that too…
…and pending PK’s answer, I’ll point out that he does refer to a kneeling thwart, so presumably he took out the seat and 2 thwarts and replaced them with a single kneeling thwart near the middle. I don’t think structural integrity would be jeopardized when using it for freestyle as you’re not likely to run into something at speed like you might if running whitewater. It would make for a subtle change in the shape of the hull which is interesting, I guess it would become slightly more diamond shaped from banana-shaped. He says it helps paddling transverse, which I guess means ferrying sideways, and it makes sense that the diamond would do better than a banana at that. Not to mention, diamonds are a lady’s best friend while bananas are likely to attract only monkeys, which only goes to show you can carry any analogy too far :slight_smile:

Yep, it was a simple process.
I pulled the thwarts out of the canoe, and the seat. My boat is a heavy white gold according to the SN, and weighs in at 40#. I cut a kneeling thwart to fit between the rails and continued to trim until I could get it in. Then ran the seat screws through and bolted it tight. The thwarts didn’t fit so they too are tucked away.

My boat layup is very stiff and the sides never flex even doing high kneels up in the bilge where the thwart was. This is not consistent with the lighter laid boats…infact I’ve had problems with the lightweight boats bilges buckling when in a high kneel, including a new Lightning Tech Wildfire that I’ve tried with all the thwarts installed.

So I guess proceed with caution, but I could pull my kneeling thwart out and paddle it fine with no transverse supports at thge rail, but it is nice to sit down once in a while.

In addition, I’ve noticed very little decrease in speed, but there might be an increase in rocker. But with a good stroke you can run pretty quick even across ponds. I was able to easily outdistance a Swift Osprey in it, and I could easily run with a buddy in a Magic. Though only for a mile or so…



nobody has addressed legs much
The fit that Loon Works uses is to have the paddler kneel with knees in each bilge (one on the right and one on the left). Thats a stable tripod. If its not comfortable for you the boat is too wide for you.

BUT, now onto the “champions all use the Flashfire” bit. NONE of the womens champions weigh over 120 lbs and most are not more than four feet ten!

For them a Flashfire is a HUGE boat. That they can get its rail down is a testament to the boats final stability…sometimes they virtually STAND on the rail and part of that is it looks cool, they have the training, and hey thats a big boat and you need to force the rail down.

I am much bigger and less athletic than them and am more Wildfire size. I have a little trouble with getting my legs transverse in a Flash.

The rail will go down; with all Bell boats you have to force it because it will hang up on the shoulder.

Nice thing with Loon Works is that they are not made to your weight but if you have enough beef to sink that baby too much he can add more depth to the boat. Force one of those down to the rail and it sinks nice and straight!

Totally different boats than the Bell, my Nakoma and Duet are perfect for my rocking chair old age.

I wouldn’t say that
"All champions paddle Flashfires" I don’t believe that for a moment, nor is it really important. Very few people ever compete at freestyle, but dabbling behind the house with freestyle apeals to a fair number of paddlers. I too love the Loonworks boats. Tom is an artist at building canoes. But I use my Flashfire for all sorts of other uses too, like surfing waves, or stumping through swamps. So for about $1000 one can buy a white gold Flashfire and play to their hearts content onthe pond, and then drag it to the river and surf the face off waves until the little boat sinks to the bottom of the river… laughing hysterically at how much fun it was!!!



BTW ignore Rx Wildfire
To me it has no acceleration or spunk. The lines must be different with the Royalex Wildfire. But it makes a good dabble in the swamp with the dog solo.

Have you heard that there is a new FreeStyle form?Its called “Golden Retreiver Tandem FreeStyle for Three”. From the reports of the Bartoses in teaching their tandem class, the golden retreiver always went to the high side while Cindy did her bow extension over the water in the axle.

I wonder how I can train my dog to do that?

I wish I’d been there Kim
This darn work thing just keeps getting in my way of having fun. But it’s looking like a great year of paddling might be in store for Pauly… if the stars all line up… but they never seem to.


2 cents
I paddled both of them for a while last summer in a Karen Knight freestyle workshop I did. I am about 200# and I liked the flashfire a lot more.

Good info
By the way, wher did you attend the Karen Knight workshop?

Good thoughts on the layup
I hadn’t really given much consideration to the less flex aspect of the white gold layup-guess I am used to trying to find the lighter type layup for what I can afford, and the white gold certainly is more affordable. Now how often do find that “less is more” in this sport when it comes to dollars?

Well, the Flash is looking to be nearer purchase than I had expected. At least it will save some wear and tear on my Merlin II with another boat added to the mix.