Bell Wildfire

I’ve owned the wildfire for about a year and really enjoy paddling for excercise. I’ve read several comments regarding its performance when paddled real hard: it pushes back;hits a wall. Ive found this to be true. No matter how much harder I paddle it just won’t go. Can anyone explain this?

You have hit the hull speed
Hull speed is as fast as you can go without planing the boat. You can’t generater enough energy to get the boat to plane so it is a speed wall.

What happens is as you paddle the boat creates a displacement wave that is defined by the waterline of the boat. As you go faster this displacement wave moves aft. At hull speed you can actually see the wave and its trough. In essence you are trying to paddle uphill. To go faster you must plane the boat–that means get the boat to go over this displacement wave. You can’t generate enough energy to do this. The shorter the boat the sooner you hit that wall.

Design trade-offs
Wildfire is super maneuverable considering she is more of a tripping than whitewater design. The trade-off is that she doesn’t glide as well as a less rockered hull. Wildfire’s strength is her versatility. My attitude is to push her at optimum effort/speed ratio and don’t worry, we’ll get there soon enough.

I think paddler size matters…
Don’t know your height and weight, but I’m a big mama. I like the Wildfire, but I decided I was too big for it. I have to sit, so I’m sure that adds to the mix. The boat sits too low in the water and I had to paddle harder to get a little glide from the boat. That’s not the experience of smaller paddlers who kneel. I do much better with my Odyssey.

The distance between waves (period, or wavelength) the height of the wave (amplitude) and the speed of the wave (frequency) are all related (in water that is deep enough.) The boat creates a trough defined by the ends. Once you reach the speed of that wave the boat will have to climb over the bow wave and plane. A single human could not get enough energy together to do this. Speed on water is a funtion of many things, power,drag etc. For instance a longer boat will have a longer wave and a theoretical faster top speed. Longer boats will usualy have more wetted surface area and are subject to increased friction. Good artical by John Waters on the web. Google it.

OOPs John Winters
here is the link

Would you consider a 6ft & 195lbs to be too big for the Wildfire?

Different strokes/different boats
Nope; 6 foot and l95 pounds is not too much for the Wildfire. I’m 6 foot 4 and 200 pounds, and my Wildfire works just fine!

I don’t think it will out run my Dagger Sojourn on a 5 mile straight-a-way, but I don’t think it was built to do so. On the other hand; I think the Wildfire will outrun the Sojourn on 5 miles of shallow, boulder dodging, twisting & turning, class 2+ river.

Don’t think either one will out maneuver a MR Outrage X on class 3+ water with 4 foot standing waves, 3 foot ledges, must make ferries, and one boat eddies. But I sure would like to watch “other” people try it.

Different strokes for different folks…

Different boats for different floats…


It’s not too fast…
but I’m in no hurry really.One of these days,in the future,I hope to get a little faster boat for lake tripping.But right now I don’t do a lot of flat water paddling.What time I have paddled around on the local lakes,I still enjoy the boat very much.It is faster than my Legend and a lot more fun to paddle.

I can’t answer your question about why it runs out of gas.I’ll leave that to the more educated.All I can say is,enjoy the boat.It’s a dandy little ride.For me anyway!!


I think the Wildfire has two fundamental shape factors working against it…the aspect ratio (length to width) and the fact that it’s symmetric (asymmetric boats are more efficient)…so speed isn’t the boat’s strength. But it sure turns on a dime, works great in fast river current or whitewater, and works great for freestyle. I found that mine cruised better with the weight of the dog (250 pounds plus) than with me just me (180 or so).

Simple. Harder to paddle up hill.
Get a longer boat and you can go faster before you again start paddling up hill. Get it or are you confused?

Happy Paddl’n!



I disagree
I disagree… I don’t think that the Wildfire is slow… not even close!!! It’s quite fast for a 14’ boat. What 14’ boat do you think will outrun it? I can’t think of many. A few old Blackhawks, Sawyers and Curtis canoes are about it. In addition, only the composite WF is symmetrical. The Royalex WF hull is asymmetrical. In addition, I know that the composite symmetrical WF is faster than the asymmetrical Royalex WF.


agree it’s not slow
I agree the Wildfire is not a slow boat Paul…especially for a 14 footer! My experience is that at some point one (at least me) simply runs out of rpm to keep the boat up on plane. I remember being told of a Flashfire that won a canoe/kayak race in Madison once, using a double-bladed paddle…I wouldn’t doubt that if one could maintain the high stroke rate the little bullet just planes and flies! My experience is that the Wildfire likes a (nice light carbon) bent shaft paddle for cruising - to help keep the revs up.

I also remember that one could drive a little Blackhawk Zephyr right past it’s hull speed and just keep going faster (to a point at least). But that’s a low volume boat compared to a Wildfire.

I also agree with Benjamin that at some point you just burn up energy and the Wildfire won’t go any faster, when a (longer) boat might have a little left…and might run into a “softer” wall.

Wildfire My Favorite
I have to agree with those who’ve said the Wildfire is fast AND with those who have hit its wall.

I purchased a 15’ Bell Merlin II so I can keep up with my buddy in his (my) 15’ Sawyer Autumn Mist. It has a faster hull speed than the WF.

HOWEVER, the Wildfire ACCELERATES beautifully, so it is easily as fast OUT of the HOLE. It has MUCH more personality - my FAVORITE canoe. What a GREAT hull design. Glenn

Are we talking about a Royalex Wildfire or a Kevlar one? I seem to remember that they performed differently according to Cliff Jacobson but I might be wrong there.


Cliff’s Wildfire comparison
Cliff Jacobson compares his composite Wildfire to the Royalex model here:

Sorry - Kevlar
I own a white gold. It is fine.

My merlin is black gold. I can’t tell a difference, but I’m not the expert.

They do …
The wildfire in composite and Royalex perform differently, especially in reverse. Bell had DY modify the Wildfire hull shape in the Roylex version, forever from this time forward to be known as the Yellowshone Solo to mimic the forward performance in the composite. This they did admirably. The royalex will give the composite a run for it’s money going forward. It has excellent secondary stability, even more than the composite version, as it takes far more effort to get it to roll up to the rail. But it’s stability is not as progressive, and it is less responsive in reverse. So it’s less desireable for playing on the pond, and the additional gurgle of it’s wider bow is a constant companion that the composite doesn’t have. That said in the river setting, the Yellowstone Solo is the best adaptation of a hull from composite to Royalex that I’ve ever paddled. Is it the same boat? No. Does it paddle as well as the Composite? Not in my mind. Would I buy a Yellowstone solo as opposed to a Wildfire in Composite? Probably not. Composite boats still offer more performance in all categories… and are more abrasion resistant, lighter, and have greater durability and repair capability especially compared with the Royelex produced these days. If I need to run into rocks, I’d buy royalex, if I can avoid nearly all of them. I’d buy the composite boat.