Freestyle Canoe ???

When reading reviews and people’s impressions of different hulls I often see “great freestyle boat” without much more description added.

What does this mean for non “freestyle” real world paddling?

I assume it means good secondary stability and easy turning.

Are there any implied disadvantages to such boats?

Any thoughts on how to interpret this descriptive phrase would be appreciated.

Secondary stability and turning
are the primary aspects of a “good (fun)” FreeStyle hull. Does not necessarily mean that if they are good FreeStyle boats, they cannot do other things well.

I use a Bell Wildfire as my FreeStyle boat and not much for anything else (just don’t need to trash two boats), as I use a Merlin II for the majority of my other types of paddling. However, I know many people that have a Wildfire and use it for everything. You will also find that for FreeStyle that the more desirable hulls are symmetrical and with equal amopunts of rocker fore and aft; which allows for in-boat reverses, etc. without having to learn an entire different set of muscle memory.

Dangerous Topic
Let’s start from the beginning. Flatwater freestyle is taught by the ACA as a collective group of maneuvers. There are tandem maneuvers and solo maneuvers, and they can be applied to any canoe. ie; you can do freestyle in a 17’ grumman tandem or a marathon canoe just as “well” as you can do them in a Loonworks Aria or in a Esquif Detonator. Obviously one will get more radii of turn in the Aria than the others, but that does not mean that the Aria is necessarily a better “freestyle” boat.

However, those who practice freestyle tend to paddle a canoe that will generally track well upright, but will turn well when heeled. As mentioned before these hulls are often symmetrical as maneuvers are performed both forward and reverse.


contextual clues
I think that context may be inportant as well. I Bell Yellostone Solo is down river solo tripping boat, it is also a plastic Wildfire. Being a good freestyle boat may not be as important to your purchase if you want something to fish from.

a good freestyle boat would handle well. If you have ever seen a competition it is wow amazing. It is also true that any boat could be handled in a similar fashion.

Okay I have been rambling, distracted by the television. A Lincon Town Car has great pickup, and a high top speed, but I don’t street race mine. It can do it, but it isn’t the best choice. I think that putting it in the description is more to help sell manuverablility. You can’t state a turn radius of a boat, but you can say that it is good for freestyle.


Doing freestyle well
Fortunately for Tom McKenzie, lots of people think that they need a Loonworks boat. If I could pick at Paul’s interesting post just a little, yes, you can do freestyle in any boat, including your Grampa’s Grumman, but certain boats (Wildfires, Nakomas, etc) perform freestyle maneuvers “better” (defined as more degrees of turn and rail closer to the water, sans bobble) and easier for the same amount of skill and effort.

Is that good? Only if that’s your goal. Generally, boats that are really good at spinning are less good at tracking, and vv. What do you want to do most of the time? I think Harry Roberts said that skill can make a straight boat turn, but it’s hard to make a rockered boat go fast.

Got my asymetrical
unequally rockered Swift Dumoine to do a flip the other day. Then I did the freestyle to the bank. Does that count?

Freestylin’ Dumoine
Let’s examine the criteria:

  1. At least 180 turn. Check, just in the wrong plane.
  2. Rail to the water. Check…until they went under the water.
  3. Graceful and elegant. Well, was it?
  4. No bobbles. Just the one big one, right?
  5. Good crack (crack is the angle of the keel line to the water, not the one showing when your shorts slipped while getting out of the water). Your call.

    Sounds like freestyle to me :wink:


I’ve used the phrase “Good for Freestyle” to indicate a boat that has good potential for play: i.e. it has rock solid secondary, spins easily when heeled, has a symmetric hull design with adequate rocker (but not TOO much), has quick acceleration from a dead stop and tracks well with minimal effort (but doesn’t track like it’s on rails).

While almost any canoe can be used for FS to a certain extent, some canoes are clearly better choices than others. I’ve attempted FS maneuvers in some very unlikely hulls like a Bell Magic & an Old Town Penobscot. Some FS maneuvers can be done in boats of that sort – after a fashion… In the end the closer a boat comes to the description above the better it is for FS (at least for me). A person does not have to run out and buy a high priced top of the line boat for playing around with FS, but after you’re into it for a while you’ll probably be at least tempted.

While FS as a nondestinational paddling pastime is fun and challenging I feel using some of the skills learned in FS in regular daily paddling (especially in moving water) to be the real icing on the cake. It called boat control.

That being said I feel taking FS capability to the “real world” requires some compromises in choices of boats. For instance my most frequently used down-river solo canoe is an older Bell Wildfire RX (now sold as the Yellowstone Solo). As most people who know that boat are aware it is not at all the same hull design as the composite Wildfire (and never was). The differential rocker of the RX version makes for a bit of a sticky stern and the blunt stems typical of Royalex canoes makes for sluggish accelerations coming out of a spin… But hey, it does other things well enough to make a pretty fair “compromise FS” boat AND it’s made of Royalex which gives it a place in the real world of jagged rocks and submerged stumps. It makes bashing around on small rivers and creeks more fun than having to baby a fine composite hull in the same conditions.

Wildfire and Merlin
I,too,have a Wildfire for rivers and Freestyle and a Merlin for flatwater.I use a Zaveral paddle for my Merlin and this cool Navarro straight paddle for freestyle play and practice.

Wish I had another lighter,stiffer straight paddle of spinning,christies,and posts !!! Can’t find any super special paddles on this website .