Old school back in session?

Northman and Coffee have been conspiring on a classII-III river running camp trip in the U.P. for this summer and I’ve been included. It’s got me to thinking about the older, longer whitewater yaks. The trend for some time now has been for shorter planing hulls and away from longer displacement hulls. I can appreciate the reasoning behind this (play), but how can you carry any gear in those? Dagger’s got like two dozen variations of these clones on their roster but even their whitewater canoes are on the endangered species list! Pyranha still makes a couple of beefier hulls like the H3 and M3 that you might be able to camp out of, but very minimally. I have, however, noticed a few models come to the foreground: Dagger’s Crossover, the new Perception Enduro (clone), and the Prijon Yukon Expedition. I should also mention the Dimension R5 eventhough it has been around for a while. Is there a growing trend for river runners that can be self sufficient or are these boats more likely made for rec boaters that want to gravitate towards the more adventurous? I’m not trying to bash any models here. I’m just noticing a trend that I like and just trying to get the gist of the mainsteam intention for the trend. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.


some manufacturers see the need for boats that cross-over (no pun intended) from the different genres, be it rec to touring to whitewater to seaboat.

The Prijon Yukon is a perfect example, and it’s been out for years. G2G in big water class IV and any sea venues as well. I have used the pitch selling this boat that if I was allowed ONLY 1 boat for a year vacation I would choose a Yukon. Just give me the YEAR vacation!!!

Granted it’s no speed/ glide demon and tight ww eddies it ain’t gunna make but can it ‘do all’ and carry gear? Me thinks so.

And the Yukon isn’t the only boat in this genre.


Unless you’re priority is the
little ballet moves, you can’t beat the oldschool boats for getting you downstream and running the big stuff. I go with a custom made Kevlar boat of good length, but a friend of mine accumulates Pirouettes and Outbursts he picks up for next to nothing.

not really
creek boats have gotten much shorter, although there are still some good, larger river runners like pyranha’s H3 for example. not really long, but big enough to pack gear in. You could also check out the Riot Big Gun with the stern bulkhead and hatch.

what river are you gonna do in the UP? is it creeky, or more open?

Yup, forgot to mention the Riots.
Big gun and Sniper seem to be well equipped for what I’m talking about too. I had suggested the Fence and Michigamme rivers, but Coffee and Northman are “camp-coordinators” on this one and seem to want it to be some surprise. Knowing them as I do though, I expect it to be skinny classII with some shallow, rocky classIII and some falls to portage. They’ve been talking about rappelling gear lately. :o

love our oldschool boats
we have a couple of old phoenix ww boats. they are about 13 1/2’ long, lots of volume, very versatile, comfortable and light. i wonder if oldschool boats will make a comeback the way longboards have in surfing.

Old Schooler
I learned to yak in “old school” boats back in the late 70’s. First runs on the New in WV were with a Phoenix Appalachian and Cascade, then migrated to plastic boats like the Perception Mirage. I just can’t seem to switch to the newer yaks. I’ve got a Perception Stikine I keep around for WW and it’ll hold enough gear for a night or two.

However, I’ve really been surprised with some of the rec yaks in the 10-11 ft range. My local boat shop owner spent a year or two trying to get me to demo one, but I didn’t feel they could handle what I wanted to do. I finally tried a Sierra for a day of float fishing and came back wound up like an 18 year old on speed. That was 3 years ago and now I own 3 rec yaks. They handle so similar to “old school” WW yaks that I feel right at home - kinda like putting on an old pair of hiking boots. The Dagger Blackwater series, OT Jolts, several of the Perception yaks can easily handle class III runs while holding a lot of camping gear.

Good to know recs can take it.
I suspect there will be an evolution of rec boats that will gain ways to lock yourself in, like thigh hooks and straps, and become more like the old school yaks. If they are to make a come-back, I figure this will be the form that they take. That’s really my biggest gripe about my current boats; I feel very loose in the seat. I think there will always be true econo-entry yaks like the Sparky and Otters though.

Old School Displacement Hulls

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that I've seen weren't to the beams of modern rec boats. They are easier to pad out and made contact with. Maybe the OT Jolt is different in being narrower.

Also, the older displacement hulls seem to have rounder hulls making them easier to handle rough water and more importantly able to roll back up on. I not sure the same can be said of the wider, flatter hulls on modern rec boats. Also, the rec boats don't have the same amount of rocker of the older displacement ww hulls. Makes turing fast in rapids harder.


i finished a 3+ day trip last weekend
and have just realized the need for a larger volume boat. I paddle my Big EZ which is 7feet long and while i had no problem on the run and would certainly do it again i now have a better appreciation of larger volume kayaks.

Old school boats
even higher volume old school whitewater kayaks are not designed to be loaded with camping gear. Overloaded they tend to handle like crap and won’t respond very fast in a dicey situation. That is why a support raft is used on ww camping trips. Even though class III is not that bad and on a river with long pools and short drops it could make a fun camping trip, a continuious class III with a steady gradiant is a much different matter. I would suggest taking one canoe to carry the important camping and support gear. Small Rec kayaks that are overloaded tend to submarine in holes and drops and if the skirt comes off it’s swim and go rescue the gear time.

My questions on this trip would be…what river, how many miles, what is the gradiant, what is the water level and the nature of the river, any strainers? Do you know anyone who has run the river that you can talk to? Is it listed in any stream guides or the AW web site.

Maybe a sub-tender is in order.

Answerin your questions…
The Pine & Black Rivers… Not the Pine & Black in the lower penninsula, but rather the Pine & Black in the U.P.

As far as distance judging by map- about 20 miles. The gradiant is right around 14.5 (give or take) for both options. We did the Pidgeon last year & that has a gradiant of 12.7. The water level is medium to medium high this time of year, but we won’t be going till “late spring” or “mid-summer”, so the level would be considerably lower.

Anyone we know paddled it… No, not personally, but afew here on p.net have talked about when they have done it before/currently. I have been up there in that area alot in the past few years & quite often for the most part of my life.

Strainers- I would imagine afew, but nothing too bad.

It is listed in books, guides & on the internet. We also have afew copies of the book “Canoeing Michigan’s Rivers”, which is JAM-PACKED of info on ALL the rivers in Michigan.

There are afew waterfalls of in the height area of about 90 feet, which leads to the rappelling that Longshadow brought up. We have all done it before- He, in the service, Me in the service & a job I had years back I rappelled on a daily basis & Northman has done some belaying & climbing of a “lighter sort” in his past years. So that is not a problem.

What “I” feel longshadow is more worried about, though, is “will his boat put up with the run?”. My answer is (from seeing it in the “past” and photos), YES- if there is a spot on the river that looks “uncompfortable” take the weaker shole or just portage around it.

His other questions, I think p.netters can answer for him. With the amount of equipment we will be taking… Doesn’t equal alot of weight, especially if we do it “Ranger Style”.

Paddle easy,


my question was if the whitewater boaters were seeing a resurgence of interest in the longer whitewater boats of old. Some people did anwser that. I really like the idea of the Yukon. For group paddles of course, sea yaks would out pace you and play boats would out maneuver you in their respective forte. I see the Yukon and boats like them much as Flatpick seems to: Go just about anywhere you want to go and do it at your own pace…kind of a loaner statement, but I like it.

NT made a good point about overloading boats in WW and how they will act differently or down right poorly. The idea of a canoe in the group should stand some consideration. We could always rotate through the canoe, so everybody gets some time in their own boats too. Sing also made a good point about width and outfitting rec boats to fit the niche, but I am seeing a trend to make certain rec boats skinnier in successive generations.

As for the trip that started me thinking, I’ll use the boats that are at my disposal. If I happen across an old school WW boat at the right price before then, beautiful. If not, that’s fine too. I’ll rely on my gut to tell me when to get out and carry. It’s served me well so far. I’ll give rapelling a go. It sounds like a hoot, but it’ll be a whole new experience for me. Contrary to what others believe, I cannot recall having done it in the military and something tells me I’d remember such an event. :wink:


I Actually Think
an old style, longer, higher volume ww displacement hulls would be great for a river trip. Certainly would carry more and go faster than the newer playboats on the slow stretches. Plus, you can these for anywhere from $100-300. I would do it if were into overnight float trips on class I/II rivers. :slight_smile:


You didn’t do any…

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Belaying on the tower in boot camp? Sorry, basic (go army ;) lol)?. I thought all you guys did "The Tower"? Not even in "A"-School? That was like a "general thing" in boot......

Well, I'll show ya afew "descending knots" & the basic "belaying loop". I'll show ya "fast roping" too (although, that we will not be doin'). Bring a good pair of gloves. I'll bring out my rappelling harness & ropes for the "March Trip"..... I may have a new one here in afew weeks too.....

Paddle easy,


With all respect…
something like a Riot Big Gun will do better in almost all regards than any high volume old school boat. Granted you will spend more money. But the handling differences are dramatic. Load carrying is better in the Riot, which is designed for it (get the expedition model). It is easier to deal with potential pins, easier to eddy out, and easier to ferry in a Big Gun. It is more stable. It is also generally safer. Kayak manufacturers have actually learned something about boat constuction over the last few years and the idea that they are just building boats for the playboating crowd is wrong. Sorry if I seem critical. I don’t mean it that way. This is just a button issue for me.

Dr. D.

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I agree with you too. Can't I have it both ways? :D

What I'm getting at is that if I see an old school boat for real cheap, for me - say under $200, I would go for it. If I were to go for the newer higher volume ww boats, I would expect to paid at least $400 and up for a used boat. At that point, I not sure I would want to do that as there are other things higher up on my priority list. Does that make sense?

Also, when I thinking river tripping, I have in mind, something like the Androscoggin in ME/NH with class I-II (very short stretches of II). Not very technical water. I rather have the longer hulls to make time on flatter stretches. So, the rivers one is going to run/trip on makes a difference too. Folks above mentioned/referenced possibly class III (not the original question of the thread), rappelling and other stuff which suggest more technical water. Hey, I am not on that trip but my guess is that I wouldn't want to run anything over class II with a loaded boat, at least not with my skills or lack of.


dagger outburst
the first boat I could roll. still use it in winter pool sessions and will likely keep it forever. I want to make a strap on skeg for it so my 12 year old can practice paddling skills in it. great boat.

Both ways?
“I agree with you too. Can’t I have it both ways? :D”

That’s allowed. :slight_smile:


the same Black river?
i guess i’m not familiar with the upper portions, but the last section is GREAT whitewater. Big class V drops. mmm…rainbow falls…slurp