Favorite kneeling solo

what’s your favorite kneeling solo, what types of water, paddles, etc. and why?

looking for input for a possible future purchase.

have paddled merlin II kneeling and a few tandems.

And yes, komminjerkwad, this is an open-ended question.

It’s not specific because I don’t want to limit the answers.

Do you still have your Rob Roy?
You knelt in that too, didn’t you?

What characteristics are you looking for that you don’t find in your Merlin II?

I prefer to sit more than kneel, but my canoes that benefit the most from kneeling in order to enhance stability and control are the royalex Bell Wildfire, Curtis Lady Bug and Blackhawk Zephyr. I don’t have very good kneeling outfitting in any of them.

I haven’t paddled any canoes that I prefer to kneel in, though I paddle some that I need to kneel in in order to stay upright in moving water.

I kneel in the Rob Roy
I’m thinking of getting another solo so the wife and I can paddle at the same time without being in the same boat. :slight_smile:

I sit plenty in my marathon canoe, so I’m thinking kneeling may change up the pace and lessen the wear-and-tear on my back.


Ok, with that info in mind and the
info that I’m 5’6" and 160 lbs, the above boats are all enjoyable for me to either poke around in the nooks and crannies of lakes or paddle moving water that doesn’t have waves big enough to swamp the boat. The Lady Bug and Zephyr are more playful than the royalex Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo. I haven’t spent much time in other kneeling solos. All three handle moderate winds pretty well, but the Zephyr gets scary in winds gusting over 20mph - I removed the seat and sat on the bottom.

Regarding paddles, in water that’s deep enough, I prefer my Camp (now Foxworx) beavertail with 27" long blade and also enjoy the Grey Owl Tripper, but I prefer the palm grip on the Camp / Foxworx paddles over the standard grip on the Grey Owl paddles. I also like the ZRE Medium straight shaft and Wenonah Black Jack bent shaft while kneeling or sitting in these boats. I need to shorten the ZRE straight shaft to fit better.

Loon Works Nakoma
then the Loon Works Aria. Wish I had a LW Allegro.

for tripping boats; its the Swift Heron

but lower the seat and it could be a sitting boat. With a load it can be a sitting boat too.

In my stable…the Peregrine comes in next.

Argosy third. When you get used to it it can be a sitting boat.

Merlin II is way down there

I think RapidFire is a fine candidate but mine is laid up for an on the bottom seat and not reinforced for kneeling.

I have paddled others that I simply didnt like (Souris River Tranquility Solo)…others I do like but dont need (LadyBug), FlashFire, WildFire (the LW boats are cousins of these boats)

I’m actually very fond of my dozen
year old Mad River Synergy, sort of an improved ME. It’s a 15’ whitewater tandem/solo, but I enjoy paddling it along lakeshores as long as the wind isn’t a problem. I haven’t paddled my MR Guide enough to have as much fondness for it, but for anyone who needs a boat for easy whitewater and also lake paddling, it’s still a contender. Thing about the Guide is that it’s kinda slow compared to, say, a composite Wildfire, but it’s better in whitewater. It’s not as agile as my Synergy, but it’s better on the flats. It’s really an outstanding compromise design that is often passed over because it is a compromise.

is the Merlin II down there along with the Tranquillity Solo? Can you comment on the Kestrel, Osprey, and Magic? Actually I’m looking for a tripping canoe. Maybe I should start another thread!


I am too big for the Kestrel
under my normal tripping load. Hence the Peregrine for me. Not for you either.

I have only paddled a Magic once.

Osprey was a fun boat but I was flipping coins as to whether it or Peregrine. I put about five hours in each to compare. Osprey was just feeling a tad big…perhaps its the flared bow. Upend the O and its got a nice quick shape but from above boat right side up its got quite a bit of side to side flare in the bow. Its also quite a bit looser and for tripping I have a yen for hard tracking boats that can be heeled to turn and lift the stems just enough…P is a bit sticky in stern winds…O might be friendlier.

For those two price was a factor…when P floated by in the bargain bin…

Merlin II just lacks that certain oomph. Probably paddling it in a Black Gold layup would be fine.

The bottom of my foam cored boat is pretty flat…Charlie Wilson and I compared it to other Merlin hulls at the same event. The layup process may have changed in recent years.

One of the problems with a question like this is some boats are rare, some are no longer made, some are evolutions of past models and no longer quite the same.

I have yet to find a paddler with a stable full of this years boats.

The cool thing about FreeStyle Symposia and AFS in particular is that a lot of “Kneeling boats” that have tripping for their aim show up.


– Last Updated: May-14-09 5:17 PM EST –

I have one tandem canoe; all my other canoes are solos(see profile).

I paddle all my solos from a kneeling position; I'd guesstimate about 85% of the time.
I prefer moving water; the high end of class 2 is my favorite. I like to play on the water; flat, non-moving water is boring to me.
About 95% of the time I'll have a straight shaft paddle in my hands; often a Werner Bandit,or a Bending Branches Expedition Plus, or some other Bending Branches, or Grey Owl.I have several decent bent shaft paddles, but I rarely use them. My newest favorite paddle is a custom made beavertail, made by a pnet paddle maker, paddler & friend.

4 of my favorite solo canoes to paddle are my Dagger Sojourn, Mad River Guide, Bell Flashfire, and Blackhawk Nighthawk.
The boat I most often use is a Bell Wildfire in royalex.


Width, length, rocker

– Last Updated: May-14-09 5:35 PM EST –

One best fits hull width to one's knee spread, length to burden and intended speed, and rocker to desired maneuverability.

That's why a 28.5" wide hull feels "right" and 30 incher wide - not surprising.

I've a carefully maintained spec sheet on all available composite pack and solo canoes that is available for the asking. No as much fun as serial "I like my boat" statements, but faster.

There are aberrations; 30 inches isn't always equal - the Curtis Dragonfly/Hemlock SRT fit "narrower" than the other few 28.5" hulls; Peregrine and Pb FlashFire because their bottoms are rounder.

At my width and length, I’m gonna need
a custom rocker. Found one at the Dogwood Festival that claims to be a Shaker design, but involves a lot of oak bending. Ah,retirement.

I like the 16’ souris river prospector. I think, if I only used it solo, and mostly on the flats, I would most like the bluewater peterborough or the esquif champlain.

My beat up old Dagger Encore,
a long stretch of class II/III rapids, and my Werner Bandit paddle. Why - because its heaven.


Swift Osprey
I am pretty much a %100 kneeler these days.

5’8", 30"inseam, 175 lbs.

I love my Osprey because it feels good in almost any conditions I’ve subjected it too.

It is fun to paddle empty.


It’s well behaved with a load.


It’s pretty manuverable. Quite happy to play in class II rapids. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to a freestyle boat. Not quite a Wildfire but OK.

It eats up the miles. Not a fast boat but it runs 3 to 4 mph pretty much effortlessly loaded or unloaded.

I also paddle dedicated whitewater boats, an Independence and recently a Voyager as well as my beloved/bedamned Explorer. I love them all as well in their niches but the Osprey has a wide range that makes it my most useful boat.



– Last Updated: May-14-09 9:18 PM EST –

I thought all canoes were for kneeling. Favorite solos?

I own a Merlin II and like it. Some other very fine boats I have paddled: Bell Magic, Bell Wildfire, Hemlock Peregrine, Placid Rapidfire, Wenonah Advantage, Wenonah Prism, Wenonah Voyageur, Swift Osprey, Blackhawk Ariel.

For paddling with a big load, a big dog, or downriver when big waves might be expected I would take my Mad River Traveler. It has its quirks, but it is seaworthy as hell.

Favorite whitewater designs: Dagger Encore, Dagger Ocoee, Mohawk Viper, Mohawk Shaman, Mad River Outrage, and I even have a soft spot in my heart for the Blue Hole Sunburst II, the Whitesell Piranha and the Whitesell Descender (I am definitely a retro kind of guy). For creeks: Dagger Prophet.

Some other very interesting boats I have paddled: Mad River Howler, Mad River Twister, Hemlock SRT.

I'm suprised nobody has mentioned the Prospector.

OT Pack
I really like my Old Town Pack, it’s the standard model with the ash/ web seat. I see allot of people have lowered the seat in theirs, but I dont ever plan too. I can kneel in my Pack with my feet under the seat and my butt leaning on the edge of the seat…it’s pretty comfy even without a pad. Plus, I can sit on the seat and sit with my legs “indian style”, or out stretched resting on the thwart. Mostly I kneel, but for me it helps to have several positions to switch too incase I needa change. They dont cost much and are super light…I cant say enough about mine!

spec sheet request
CE, I’d like to see that spec sheet you have. I’ll PM you my e-mail address.

kneeling options
If I were you, I’d get a composite flashfire unless you are absolutely too big for it, in which case I’d get a composite wildfire unless you can’t afford a composite, in which case I’d get a royalex bell wildfire/yellowstone.

If you’re only slightly too big for the flashfire, I’d still go with it, given that you intend to kneel most of the time. Kneeling gives you greater balance and much more flexibility than sitting.

You are correct that kneeling with help with back problems. Beware, however, of knee and leg problems, and take care from the beginning to pamper your knees and legs so as to postpone the development of problems there. Unfortunately, such problems will likely come with age.

It would be good to work out a single-motion move to switch from kneeling to sitting and back again, one that you can execute between paddle strokes.

You will have more power available from more of your body when kneeling versus sitting, so you may wish to consider a double-bladed paddle, or at least a longer single blade with a bigger face.