Starter freestyle boat

-- Last Updated: Oct-27-10 4:43 PM EST --

OK – This kayaker thinks he wants a canoe.
I’m looking for a solo canoe. Use will be almost exclusively on inland lakes – Hartwell & Jocasse in UpState SC. I want to try this freestyle stuff, but I’m not ready to fork out the several thousand dollars for the top end freestyle boats I see.

What should I be looking at? Boat weight is not a major factor. A couple of boats that are available are an old Dagger Reflection 16 and a MR Freedom Solo. Does the MR work as a starter boat for freestyle?

I don’t know that it matters to the canoe crowd, but since I’m a kayaker, the answers are: 5’ 8” / 185 lb / 60+ / 3 star (old).


FreeStyle technique can be learned and used in just about any boat. Some just happen to be a little more fun than others. If you are looking to use all standard FreeStyle manuevers which include cross strokes and the like, I think you will find the MR a little too wide for you. I have tried it and find it challenging and have a couple inches on your height. Secondary stability isn’t bad and the boat firms up nicely at the rail. If you just want use FS to substantially upgrade your boat control skills and have some fun doing some cool stuff, the MR will do just fine.

There are still some used Bell Flashes and Wildfires around (more Wild’s for sure)that might afford you the luxury of a better fit and allow you some more diversity on a broader range of technique. I have used Grummans to demo FS technique, but I have to admit they really are not my cup of tea.

Are you “now” ready
as your post says, or is it a typo for “not”?

For your size the best hull for FS I believe is a Flashfire from Bell if you’re “not” and Colden if you’re “now”.

Alternative would be a Nakoma from Loon Works.

They are the best, though as mentioned, the hulls you are looking at will work just fine. Unless your hull has no rocker at all, it’s more the technique than the boat.

When FS first got rolling there were no boats designed for it and many learned in general purpose touring hulls…Lotus Dandy had little if any rocker, Curtis Nomad,Vagabond, had some.

I did the ACA Freestyle sequence all the way to comp back in 2000. I started my freestyle education with only a Mad River Guide as a solo canoe I also had a ultrlight Malecite set up to paddle solo. Both worked fine. However, there are two things that the Guide taught me… 1) that on a flat pond, the Guide will spin pretty well without a heel unlike most of the preferred hulls for freestyle. Thus, you can do alot of freestyle maneuvers in a Guide without much heel. But, for me, I forced myself to learn balance with the rail of my Guide in the water. Since the Guide has 14.5" depth, and a bit of tumblehome, I developed alot of confidence with the serious canoe heel. When I finally bought a Flashfire, I found that I was alot more comfortable on a heel than some of the others in class, and this helped me to progress further.


caniest11 & stevet
Canoeist11 – You hit it. I “want use FS to substantially upgrade boat control skills and have some fun doing some cool stuff”.

Stevet – It was a typo – I’m NOT ready to fork over the big bucks. If I get hooked on FS I can always upgrade.

You are in the right place

– Last Updated: Oct-28-10 2:52 PM EST –

to get an idea of sizing for you go visit Tom in Anderson SC. He is Loon Works that makes those top end canoes.

I realize your budget precludes one of those ...but contacts are handy. He often learns of other boats that might be available such as used Flash and Wilds.He is not looking to "push" any of his boats so dont feel uncomfortable getting ahold of him.

He has all the FS boats of various sizes so you will know a little better about boat fit.

From a utilitarian viewpoint, Bell Yellowstone solos do work to start your education. Some Wenonahs do the Vagabond and Argosy when you are not heeling too much such as at first!

If you want Toms contact email me.

And come to Florida FreeStyle..ifn you dont have a boat we can get ahold of one.

Of course I forgot. Mohawk Solo 13. Since you are close to where they used to be and are currently made you may well find one for a nice price...about 300. Not a pretty boat but entirely functional and its a good learning freestyle boat.

Theres one of em too in Anderson for trial..not sale

Another option…
you might be able to come across a used Blackhawk Zephyr that could work for you, too.

From a so-so freestyle paddler wannaby. Yes, an expert can freestyle in almost any boat,but an amiture may become discouraged trying that while learning. I was fortunate enough to get a used Bell Flashfire reasonable when I had given up on freestyling my Osprey. It gave me more confidence. My advice-get a fairly capible boat (sized to you) to start so you don’t get discouraged. In other words- don’t even think of trying to learn in a totally unsoutable canoe. Your freestyle boat will also be a great all around boat for other paddles. I now use My Flashfire for most of my paddles.



Mohawk makes or used to make
a Solo 13 and Solo 14. These were both Royalex and quite reasonably priced. Both made good entry level FS boats. If you can find one, new or used it would suit you well until you decide whether or not you want to upgrade.

I’ll also take this opportunity to hijack this thread and put in a shameless pitch for the Florida Freestyle Symposium. If you’re interested in learning FS techniques and trying out boats, you couldn’t find a better place to do both. Instruction is available at all levels from beginner to advanced. There will be an amazing collection of boats on the beach and most participants are more than willing to let you test paddle. More information is available on another thread here on P Net and on the Freestyle Website,

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Canoe Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes

CG I emailed you twice
since you emailed me from work…LOL…my responses are probably in your spam filter… or banging against the company firewall.

Try again from another computer.

Look for a used Whitegold Wildfire
I only say the Whitegold for the price. Blackgold is great if you find one in your price range.

A Royalex Wildfire is actually a Yellowstone and not as good for Freestyle.

You can Freestyle in anything. But sooner or later you’ll discover that the Wild, Flash and Star really are all that.