I’ve come across a few ads recently for people selling what they referred to as “old school” whitewater boats. I’ve tried to research the models they listed but couldn’t find any pics or photos online. What is meant by “old school” and how do they differ from current models?
long displacement hull
"Old School" generally refers to whitewater kayaks designed before planing hulls became popular. By modern standards they are long and narrow, with rounded displacement hulls instead of flat-bottomed planing hulls. The Pirouette is a typical example:
They're fine for river-running. The length and hull shape make them much faster than most modern whitewater boats.
We just went thru this - pros and cons from our (extremely limited) time in WW. We each have/had an old school boat, the Pirouette and the Piedra, and just spent two days of our first concentrated training in class 2/2+ using Inazones - planing hull boats.
Old school boats climb up on standing waves and handle the flatter parts of the trip a bit better than planing hull boats due to faster hull speed. But the displacement hulls require more skill to keep there once you have the nose of the boat up on the rock because the water will be moving it around more. Planing hull boats just sit.
As the current and pushiness of the water increase, planing hull boats will catch an edge and flip in current more quickly than old school boats. Though we found that our Inazones were extremely forgiving in class 2 stuff. Edge control feels more sure and solid in planing hull boats.
Old school boats don't play for darn, planing hull boats have a better chance of playing as well.
Old school boats, if properly sized for the paddler, are often easier rollers than the planing hull boats. Though this is really boat/paddler dependent. The extreme case is the old Dagger Piedra, which is still used by many to start prople on a roll becasue it is sooo easy.
Arguments exist for both - either make great pool boats because you can slide them over ice and snow in winter.
as times goes on the ol’ schholers are getting just that…old. Plastic wears out and any boat over 6 years old is susspect to enviromental breakdown. many ol’ roto boats are destin to become landfill soon.
Some new, modern designs are leaning a bit more towards the ol’ school, river runner train of though. faster, easier to roll and quite controllable with proper skills.
But it should be cautioned that I wasn’t kidding about just beginning to figure this out.
The only reason I got my first successful real roll in current was I (duh!) dropped an edge big league getting off a rock in a fairly straightforward pour-over. Apparently it was a lovely roll - as I felt air I could hear some happy noises from the coaches who now did not have to retrieve me or my stuff. But I shouldn’t have needed to roll in the first place - that was an obvious edge set that I should have made before moving off.
(Can’t say enough about my old Inazone 220 tho’ - what a good little boat!)
I recently watched someone zooming around a river in a Perception Fox -- the plastic slalom boat that's still made and sold in the UK. That's an "old school" boat I might be tempted to buy...
I know the Prijon Athlete is similar, but demos are hard to find. The Prijon Chopper is another "old school"-style boat that's still being made.
Remember where planing works.
Planing hull boats don’t plane until they get onto a wave fast enough to get them to plane. Until then, their handling qualities have other explanations. There is one other area where a flattish bottom pays off… fast, dynamic ferrying.
All hulls are displacement hulls most of the time. What has changed things is the desire for shorter, harder chined, flatter bottomed boats with better handling “in the small.” Most of the benefits of shorter, flatter, harder chined boats can also be realized to some extent in longer boats. Examples include the Prijon Athlete, the new 10’ Eskimo Cerro, and of course all of the new 11.5’ slalom racing boats.
And that is a good answer G2!
It’s funny you should mention the Pirouette. It was an ad (not the one you linked) that I saw for a used one that got me wondering about the whole “old school” vs new.
Recent slalom kayaks, and even more
so the slalom c-1s, are all semi-planers. They have somewhat rounded cross section toward the bow, but by the time you get back under the center of gravity of the paddler, they are flattish, with fairly sharp chines and slabby sides. The flatness under the hull continues back to the stern.
When you lean forward, the pointy, round cross section bow cuts the water efficiently. When you need to ferry or cut out of an eddy, the flat center and stern allow you to sail up on a plane.
Slalom boats have actually gotten fairly durable, and the "real things" are so much better than the plastic Reflex, Fox, and Slasher that anyone who fits in these boats should consider trying one. Used prices are often in the $500-$800 range for boats that retailed for $1500.
A problem with old school design is
that very few old school ww cruising kayaks have been designed since the New School revolution. The Pirouette is/was a nice cruiser, better in most ways than, say, the Prijon Chopper (though you couldn’t store as much in the stern), but it would be easy to design a much better long cruiser today. The objective is to get really sharp handling in a longer boat that cruises and attains easily. The new Eskimo Cerro (which looks better in the flesh than it does on the Eskimo website) is a relatively conservative attempt at a long semi-planing cruiser. The Prijon Athlete is perhaps a bit too low volume and slalomish.
By the way, for discussion purposes, we are talking about boats in the 9-11 foot range. A lot of 8+ foot new school boats touted as cruisers are simply not fast enough to qualify.
“Slalom boats have actually gotten fairly durable, and the “real things” are so much better than the plastic Reflex, Fox, and Slasher that anyone who fits in these boats should consider trying one. Used prices are often in the $500-$800 range for boats that retailed for $1500.”
I see very few of these for sale. Where do you see them?
old oldschool boat
heres a shot of redhead in a 1970s ww slalom boat, phoenix cascade, 13'2" x 24.5" it weighs 27 lbs(!) and is a versatile fun and very responsive ride... note the added drop skeg which makes it track nicely [URL=http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2093784400053419764dtWyxH]
Looks almost like a Slipper, but not a
true slalom boat. Phoenix did know how to make light boats, though…pretty durable also.
my friend victor has a slipper
kinda weird that these boats turn up as they do. tough, light, and efficient. and outta style. interesting to me that fad has so much control over the market
i should add
cascades are still placing in downriver racing events, google phoenix cascade
Yeah, I was the Southeasterns boat
inspector for many years, and when the plastic boats were getting shorter and slower, guys were showing up with Cascades, Appalachians, whatever, to compete in the downriver cruising class. I have a Phoenix Seewun that is faster than the old Gyromax.
Used slalom boats appear most often
in communities where slalom boaters are training. For example, if I were looking for a used slalom boat, I would contact the Rhinos at Nantahala Outdoor Center, and let someone know what I was looking for. There are always a number of used slalom boats for sale at the NOC Guest Appreciation Festival at the end of October. As Angstrom noted, the Hearns at Maximum Whitewater Performance are good contacts in DC.
The Missouri whitewater folks hold a slalom race on the St. Francis in March. That would be another place to see if someone has a good used boat for sale.
It is a little chancey. I had been looking for a slalom c-1 big enough for me when I saw one across the Ocoee with a for sale sign on it. There was no way I could cross the river, as public bridges did not exist until the Olympics. But I made inquiries and learned it belonged to one of our Olympic competitors. I got in touch with him where he lived in Bryson City and later bought the boat.