Suggestions on WW boats?

First some history - I had an Eddyline Merlin LT that I used for flatwater for a couple of years. Recently traded it for a Nighthawk. I’ve been satisfied with both.

I have a Dagger Blackwater 11.5 that I have been using for rivers (Class I) and it’s just OK.

Now I want to either sell the Blackwater or maybe keep it and add a whitewater kayak. I will go to some of the demo days coming up soon, but would still like to get your thoughts on what kayaks might fit me (I’m 5’9" and 180 pounds) and be good for up to Class II/III and a little bit of playing. I don’t intend to do any advanced playmoves.


well i am about 5’ 9 and 180 lbs

– Last Updated: Apr-24-04 12:59 PM EST –

and i am mainly a down river paddler who likes to make a fool of himself trying to do some basic "tricks". My first year was in a Dagger Redline and now into a Wave Sport Big EZ. Other boats i look at for my size and interests are: Bliss Stick - Flip Stick, Necky Jive, Wavesport Z, Pyranha (which always confuse me because they use letters instead of full names), larger Riot Booster, larger Perception Blaze, Eskimo xeno, Dagger GT. There are a few thoughts for you. Some of these boats have better strengths than others. Like you said demo demo demo.. Have fun..

I have…
a Method Air by perception, and find that it’s a great little boat for what you’re talking about. It’ll do the moves if you want and know how, but it’s very forgiving as well while you learn. It’s quite stable and roomy, yet compact and comfortable. It’s surfs like a pro. I was very surprised at it’s stability. I was going through the rapids and approached what I thought was the top of a wave. It was a knife-edge rock with 6" of water over the top. On the right water was coming in toward the front of it. On the left it was eddying around and over the top it was spilling over in a mini waterfall. I couldn’t turn in time so I just paddled hard aiming at the top. When I hit the rock I spun sideways and plopped into the hole. Now with water pouring in from 3 directions (one from the top) the whole boat went into the water up to my chest…then just kind of gently fluttered to the top. While I was left with a bit of a dry mouth I couldn’t help but sit there briefly and think, “WOW, that was COOL!” One sweep stroke got me out of the hole and on my way.

Just Be Careful

– Last Updated: Apr-24-04 9:04 PM EST –

when thinking about "play" too early on. I got a "playboat" as my first whitewater boat and it was a handful to learn in. The playboats tend to be lower volume and a tad bit more slicey to bury the bow and stern. Jump on to a class III with that, you have better have some serious runs under the belt. Better to get one of the earlier planing hulls to learn in and to get river running in and then move up to "playboat" if that's where you want to go.

K gave some good suggestions. Try to demo, though it's harder to find older boats to demo. If you want to take a look at possible all around boats to consider, check at Punch in the search for an "all arounder" boat in the database. To be conservation put your weight in the mid point, or lower, of the suggested weight range for a boat. So, if the range says 100 - 200, that's going to be a tough boat for you learn in given your 180 lbs. Some thing more appropriate would be a range of 160-240 lbs. Generally, a relative higher volume boat will be a little more forgiving, without getting into other hull design factors.


BTW, not that I suggesting you buy it, you may want to take a look at the pictures of the new WS wavesport Diesel 60. The hull lines and volume distribution show a boat that is a bit middle of the road. Not slicey, no sharp rails to catch, not short (by modern standards) but not as long as the older boats which are 8' or greater and the bow and stern both have enough volume to not get buried. In other words, a good "all arounder".

The Diesel (on paper)
does look interesting.

I keep hearing about planing hulls vs. displacement hulls. What do these terms mean and what is their significance in choosing a good ww kayak for what I want?

Thanks for all the good info so far, I’m reading and researching and will demo as many as I can.


Your Merlin and other touring kayaks are displacement hulls. They are v or rounded shapes. As you sit in the boat, relatively significant amount of the hull goes below waterline. As you go, the hull pushes water aside, or in strong currents the water will go around it.

A full planing hull is flat. Most planing hull ww boats are also wider than most displacment hulls so when you sit in it, the hull may sink below waterline by several inches. However, combined with the rocker, when you move or the water moves around you, the water will go under the rocker hit the flat bottom and begin to force the flat hull to skim to the top – to “plane”. The faster you go, or the more you go against a strong current, the more the hull wants to plane to the surface. When the hull planes to the surface, it’s much easier to do spins and stuff. Also, the bow and stern of a “play boat” (planing hull) can be low volume and flatish. When you buried either end into the current, it’ll want to “plane” down into the depths, leading to squirts and cartwheels, blunts, etc.

A planing hull will tend to feel more stable when you just sitting on it. However, the hull transistion to the gunwales or chines tend to be sharp or abrupt. There is less secondary stability as with a displacement hull. So when you get on edge, it’s easier to surpass the secondary stability and you suddenly end up in a capsize. Also, if care is not taken to edge the hull up (upside is always facing the oncoming current) when peeling in and out of an eddy, the current can grab the upstream edge, force it to dive it down into the water and cause a capsize. A rounder displacement hull is more forgiving in allowing for the lack of edging by beginners.

For river running a displacement hull tends to be a bit faster (again, length comes into play). You can paddle and push the water aside (or cut through it). With a planing hull, you have to paddle harder to get enough speed to begin planing onto the surface. Generally when you playing into the current, the moving water is doing most of the work for you.

The semi planing hulls (or transition hulls from old style displacement to full planing) will have somewhat of a V shape on the gunwales leading to a narrower middle section of the hull bottom that is flat. It is the compromise/middle point of new and older boats. These boats will have a bit more speed than the newer boats but not as much as the fuller displacement boats. Playing into the current, the hull can plane up and you can do spins. However the rounder, fuller bows and sterns won’t dive (unless you pick a relatively lower volume boat) so you can’t do as easily the tricks that require either the bow or stern to dive below the surface.

FWIW, the displacement and semi planing hulls are easier for beginners to roll in than the full planing hulls. The transition from capsize to upright feels smooth, whereas with a planing hull there is a “hinge” effect or the feeling of hitting the “hump” when you get to the sharp chines/gunwales.


Pyranha I3 222 or h3 245
you need to try both these -

i3 is more playful -

h3 is more stable -

both are river running.

Have fun -

Differ somewhat.

– Last Updated: Apr-25-04 8:46 AM EST –

There are two things about displacement hulls that are problematic for beginning whitewater paddlers. The first is that they seem to track better but as soon as the boat begins to turn a bit it is much harder to correct than a planing hull. The second is that in ferries and peel outs from eddies a displacement hull is touchier. If you have the right angle and lean they ferry just fine. But if you don't they turn immediately down stream and it takes a quick and strong stern draw to correct. There is evidence from several schools with mixed fleets that beginning WW paddlers tip over more and have a harder time with displacement hulls. Our own group took some first timers down a river this weekend and those who had the most trouble were all in displacement boats. So I recommend a newer design river running playboat. My personal favorite is the Booster 55. I am 5'9.5", 185 and it fits me perfectly. The Booster 60 and the Big EZ would be too big for you. If you want an older used boat get a Wave Sport X.

Different Schools of Thought?
The NH-AMC ww school doesn’t use anything but older displacement or semi planing hulls for the first timers.

I just got a Pyranhna Acrobat 275 semi planing hull as a guest surf boat (along with a Godzilla). Think I’ll take the Acrobat down a river and see what the differences I can note. It’s a good foot longer than the Ultrafuge I normally paddle.


i have to disagree

– Last Updated: Apr-26-04 1:38 AM EST –

about the Big EZ being too large for a 180 lb paddler, maybe i am splitting hairs but it has a waterline parting line at 195lbs. At 185 lbs i find the Big EZ fits me like a glove. Now, the, the Super EZ on the other hand, might be too large.