Supernova Solo vs. Mad River Freedom Sol

I need a quick response on this one. Looking for informed opinions on the pros and cons of getting a Supernova Solo vs. Mad River Freedom Solo (formerly Guide) in Royalex. This is a present from his wife and due to sales prices and Valentine’s day they will order the canoe this weekend. I know this is short notice, but they just told me about it after work today.

My friend is about five foot ten, weighs about 180, and is strong and energetic. He has been solo paddling a 17 foot Royalex Old Town Penobscot. This will be his first solo canoe. It will mostly be used for day trips on Iowa rivers (moving water, strainers, riffles, but no real rapids), and for annual three to five day down river trips on Ozark rivers (mostly the Current, Eleven Point, Jacks Fork, and Buffalo rivers with their occasional class I and class II rapids). These two boats are the only options.

Other considerations bearing on their decision include:

  1. The Supernova is about $500 cheaper.

  2. There is no opportunity to test paddle either boat, but they’re buying anyway; that is a given.

  3. Some of my other paddling buddies and I have Mad River Guides/Freedom Solos, so he is somewhat familiar with that boat. None of us have Supernovas.

  4. He has only seen the Supernova at the local paddle shop and he likes what he sees.

  5. The official specs on both boats are very similar.

  6. The local paddle shop is having problems with the Mad River distributor since Mad River has started supplying the newly opened Scheels (big box store) in our area. It seems Mad River is freezing him out to service Scheels.

  7. The local paddle shop just started carrying Nova Canoes this fall. There is no experience in our area regarding how well Nova Canoes services its customers or dealers.

    The printed specs on both canoes are similar so I am asking my P-Net friends for informed opinions that can help them choose between these two good canoes.

    I greatly appreciate your prompt assistance


– Last Updated: Feb-12-05 7:46 AM EST –

I have had a supernova for two years and have paddled a guide briefly. To me, the biggest difference in these boats is the rounded hull versus the guide's shallow v. If he runs a lot of shallow water, the guide is probably a little better since it draws less water.

I like my supernova a lot. It has decent speed and tracks fine with a j stroke. The lack of initial stability however can be disconcerting if you have to reenter the boat from mid stream instead of from the bank. However, the secondary stability is excellent. I've had a gunnel under water only to right again many times.

I dont't think he can go wrong with either boat. To me though, the $500 would make it a no brainer for the supernova.

Super Nova
Vic, Sloopsailor paddles a Supernova. You have seen it many a time at the Rendezvous. I know he likes it a lot. I have paddled it a couple of times at lunch stops. A nice boat.

p.s. I read your post to my wife and she says I am making it up about someone getting a boat for Valentines day.


Freedom Solo


I do not really know either of the boats personally.

I have always heard a lot of good things about the Guide (Freedom)…

Isn’t SloopSailor’s (He’s a BIG boy!) canoe a SuperNova?

I did paddle Sloop’s SuperNova a bit and found it too big for my 200 pounds. But you also know I like to paddle small responsive boats!

Just looked at the specs.

I would pick the Freedom Solo as it is large enough for your friend and his gear. Supernova is a BIG boat. Too wide for my taste. He will not need that extra 1-1/2" to 2" of width for his weight. From my experience in hulls that are similar but slightly different dimensioned is that he will really notice and appreciate the increase in performance!

Lucky Guy. Sounds like a great wife!

Happy Paddl’n!



My selection …

– Last Updated: Feb-11-05 10:52 PM EST –

#1 Mad River Guide

#2 Supernova

#3 Mad River Freedom


P.S. I don't understand where that 5 hundred dollars difference is coming from? Paddler 2005 buyer's guide lists retail on the Nova Craft Supernova, in Royalex, at $950.00. The Mad River Freedom Solo, without the IQ system, in Royalex, is listed at retail of $999.00.

P.S. #2 Anyone but me hear anything about poorly made gunwales in the Supernova?

Nova Craft
is generally known for good customer service from a dealers perspective up here, but we didn’t carry them in my retail days.

it’s interesting that so many Americans paddle solo ww tripping boats and there is quite a few to choose from. up here is is an extreme rarity to find these craft in any outlet. i know 4 people with NCs and almost everyone stocks them, yet i’ve never even seen a supernova. it’s kind of a drag. i’d like to see these Hemlock boats and this SRT i keep reading about. they look sweet.

I hit one too many 0’s on my original post. The price difference is $50 not $500. I should start proofreading more carefully.

Thanks for the responses so far. They have been helpful. I will continue to look for your advice

Nova gunwales
A couple in our club paddle a NC Prospector on class I/II and have noticed the gunwales are easiliy damaged. They seem to dent easily and since they are not coated, the aluminum will burr easily if rubbed on an errant rock. Great performing boat though.


Ok, take away the $500 price difference
and I would change my answer (I just assumed he could get a used Supernova and that’s where the $500 came in). My super is 31.5 inches at the gunnel. At 6’2" I don’t mind the width. However, your friend is a little shorter so the advertised 29" Freedom may fit him better.

The gunnels on my Kevlar cap Supernova are very solid aluminum construction. I don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

“New” Freedom Solo for sale in ads
here on Used, but never used ad says.


Got my “old” MR Guide, used, for $400
including a Mohawk saddle with single strap and a snap-on boat cover. Gloat, gloat, old goat.