Super Nova vs. Freedom Solo / Guide???

Just curious if someone could comment on how these two boats compare. I have a Freedom Solo and like it. The specs on the Super Nova are not much different it seems, but I know that there are still some differences between these two.

Seems like they would fill a pretty similar niche.

I would like to paddle the Super Nova sometime but curious for feedback in the meantime.



I own a composite Super Nova and a Royalex Guide.

To set the stage a bit I should mention that the current offering from the Mad River brand is called the Freedom Solo. It is (apparently) drawn from the same mold as the older Guide, but the sides are cut down so the boat has less freeboard. The thwarts are a bit longer which decreases rocker a touch and also flattens the bottom some. The Royalex is also not as thick and therefore lighter in weight (and presumably less durable). These are all minor points and the newer FS is still a good boat, but they are differences none the less between the original Vermont built Guide and the current mega-corporation Freedom Solo. A friend and I laid a Guide next to a Freedom Solo to take those measurements. Other Freedom Solos and Guides may be different from what we observed, but I doubt it. Okay, that’s that.

As to the Super Nova, I have paddled my composite and a friend’s Royalex SN - they behave identically. He’s been in mine and declared it identical in behavior. The one exception – the composite seems a touch faster (sharper stems of course and the slickness of the composite hull versus the Royalex). I have not measured the two, but they seem very similar.

Now to compare the Super Nova to a Freedom Solo. Yes, they look very similar on paper. The SN is taller overall (taller than a Guide as well). It is fuller in the quarters which helps it ride over waves a bit better than the FS (or Guide). The rocker on a FS (or Guide) gradually decreases from the stems towards the mid-section and has an almost flat area at amidships as is typical of most canoes. The SN carries its rocker all the way to amidships and terminates right in the middle – a bit more than a banana. It has a definite bulge where the two ends come together in the middle – turn the boat over and you’ll see this right away, it’s hard to describe. I used to think this was an immature design, but I’ve (slowly) come to realize this bulge in the middle aids flat - and heeled - spinning.

The hull shape of the FS is a shallow vee – as mentioned a tad more pronounced in the Guide version. The hull shape of the SN is arched – almost round.

As to secondary stability (always more important than initial), the FS/Guide is noticeably firmer in a heel. With its round bottom hull shape you’ll need to learn more about where to stop with the SN. The FS/Guide has very good initial stability – I’ve stood up in mine - while the SN has no initial stability. I’ve mentioned this before and some know-it-all will probably snicker… but the fact is the SN is a tippy boat (yeah, I know the old blah-blah about tippy boats). Once in a kneeling position the tippiness is easy enough to control and the boat is a pleasure to play with, but getting in and out and remaining dry requires presence of mind… ;^)

Dropping into holes in Class II and + the SN is drier than the FS/Guide. The FS/Guide requires considerably less effort to keep running straight (it tracks better). Conversely the SN spins easier. Both are fun lively boats, the SN has a slight edge for agility.

Both boats are designed for either larger paddlers or average sized folks with lots of gear. The SN is marketed as a white water tripper – the FS/Guide can be used that way as well, but is not quite as large or voluminous. Neither boat is a true “pure” white water boat. As has been discussed at a previous thread recently the SN usually comes with its seat placed well behind where most solos have their seats set – to accommodate tripping gear. The exact placement of the seat on the SN has been at various places over the years depending on Nova Craft’s whims (I suppose)… put the seat where YOU want it rather than simply blindly following someone else’s formula like: “move it forward 6 inches” or “move it forward one set of holes” – move it where you need it – plain and simple. I moved my seat forward a few inches – but as stated that varies with the original placement – the hell with the holes in the rails BTW. The seat in the FS/Guide is placed a few inches back from amidships as is typical for American solo canoes.

I own one of each of these boats, but have been using the Guide a lot more lately than the SN. I use the Guide as my general mess around small river/creek canoe in mostly Class I – though it has been in some white water as well. With the Guide I don’t have to be on my guard as much… yeah, it’s more stable… and that suits me for general goofin’ around.

You asked so there you have it – my impressions of the MRC Freedom Solo versus the NC Super Nova. All the above are merely my impressions as a guy who owns one of each. Others may have different & more insightful views. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. -RK

Good stuff
I put many miles down rivers in a guide, and really liked it. I had wondered the same thing about the supernova. Thanks Arkay!

One question - you mentioned the freedom solo had longer thwarts and therefore less rocker? I thought that worked the other way - that longer thwarts increase rocker. Am I mistaken, is it a typo, or did you mean it has longer thwarts and less rocker (with the two things not being related to one another)? Just curious, as I thought the freedom solo and guide were identical.

Thanks again.

Beam at the gunnels?
Nice comparison Randall.

I paddled Clarion’s Supernova briefly and thought it felt like an old school whitewater boat, huge volume, soft edges and a bit beamy for cross forward strokes.

How would you say the Freedom/Guide compares beamwise?



That’s a Good Comparison
Thanks Arkay, I almost always learn something when you write about stuff like this.

Mr_Canoehead – you found a typo – or a brain fart on my part. Yep, I should have said more rocker rather than less rocker. The longer thwarts push the sides out which has the effect of slightly increasing rocker. Thanks for catching that – so that we have that stated correctly for this conversation. A+ for reading with comprehension! ;^)

Tommy – you and I have paddled the same Royalex Super – it now belongs to our mutual friend Pyker (used to be C2G’s before it was Clarion’s I think – these pointy boats get around). As to comparative max beam, I just went out to the boathouse and measured the two canoes – upside down on the rack so measurements are approximate. The Guide measures 30” and the Super is 32”. Both were measured at approximate center to the outside of the rails – max beam. Also note that since the Super is fuller in the quarters its width is wider all the way from stem to stem at all points.

Your comment that the Super seemed like an old school ww boat seems on the money to me – from what little I know about it – huge volume, soft edges for sure (almost fully round) and wide for cross strokes. But of course it is an older design – so it makes sense that it would seem old school. Mine was built in ’94 – I’m not sure when production began.

FWIW, as I understand it the Guide predates the Super by many years. I have heard, but don’t know this to be a fact that the Super was loosely based on some ideas drawn from the Guide. As I say I don’t know that for a fact. I have also heard, but don’t know it to be factual that Gary McGuffin either designed the Super and or hand a hand in its design. That may or may not be true – just something I heard somewhere… -RK

Note to guideboatguy: thanks – I pay attention to your posts as well, always worth reading – good to hear from you.

Excellent work Arkay
Great comparison. I haven’t “really” paddled a Guide or Freedom Solo except briefly. So I don’t feel qualified to comment at all on it.

As has been mentioned, I had a Supernova that now belongs to another pnetter. I loved that boat and may get another some day. I’ve had it in just about any conditions one could be expected to encounter, and some that many don’t expect to encounter. The boat always performed very well.

I personally did not find it at all “tippy” once I was in it. But I always either kneeled or sat using a foot brace. And, my knee pads were into the chines with a wide stance. In that position, the roundness of the hull was no impediment at all. I could simply drop 100% of my weight onto a knee and the boat would rotate till my knee was at the new bottom point. A round hull doesn’t really care which part of the radius is in the water.

But, like any boat you should try before you buy. In your case Bowler, I think the Super is probably to big for you to get the most out of it. I’m 6’2" and I think you have to be on the large size to appreciate this boat.

Maybe you should check out Millbrook Canoes and see what Kaz has in your size. Just a thought.

Hey Brian
Only tippy (for me) gettin’ in and out - otherwise while kneeling it’s fine. My reaction to its initial stability is that it basically has none. Of course I’m just an old gray haired beat up staggering hippie with bad knees… 8^)

Changing topics… Need anything from Cabela’s? I’m going right by their Wheeling store tomorrow at mid-day on my way to the solo canoe thing and will be stopping to shop. It wouldn’t be a problem to grab anything you might want. - lemme know via private e-mail. -Randall

Yea, I definately found it tippy getting
… in and out, especially when I first got it.

I’ve got your wing stake!

Thanks for the offer on Cabellas. I don’t think I need anything but I’ll let you know if I think of anything.

You’re bringing your Guide … right? It’s going to be fun on the Slip! I think Scott is going to come and bring his 10 yr old son on his first WW run.

The Slip
I’m actually planning on bringing just two boats - my Baboosic and my daughter April will be bringing her Flashfire. Assuming the Slip trip was to be on Saturday I decided to pass this time - there are things going on at the Solo Canoe Rendezvous during the day that I wanted to see/hear like Marc’s, Charlie’s and Dave’s presentations. Please let me know if I got my signals crossed on Saturday regarding the Slip though. Thanks