Swift Kipawa Tandem Canoe???

Would like to hear some opinions on this canoe from anyone out there who has experience with one.

I am a solo canoeist and just starting to do some tandem paddling and have limited experience in tandem boats.

Am looking for a boat for Class I and II rivers that will often have long flat sections so want somethign reasonably maneuverable and reasonably fast.

From paddling this boat a couple of times it seems to fit that niche fairly well but I am not the best judge of that. I have really only paddled this boat, a 16 foot Nova Craft Prospector, and an 18 foot kevlar Sundowner.

So far this boat feels like it fits right in the middle of the Prospector and Sundowner…no surprise there I guess given its specs. I suspect that the designer intended just that: a boat that is reasonably maneuverable and suitable for some mild whitewater, but that would be fast enough on lakes and flats as well.

Just curious to hear what others have to say about this boat, partially because I am a bit unsure of the niche for which it was intended given the fact that its specs seem pretty close to some of the other boats that Swift makes like the Dumoine which appears to have nearly identical specs but with only a half inch more rocker at the stern.

thanks for your help


There are three
Great short class tandems; Bell NorthStar designed by Yost, Mad River Malecite designed by Henry and the Swift Kipewa designed by Winters.

Ya gotta paddle all three to tell which you prefer.

Specs don’t tell the tale . . .
The Dumoine is nothing like the Kipawa, despite similar numbers. The Dumoine has considerable flare in the bow, which makes for a longer reach to get a good stroke (which is preferable to taking wave over wave in your lap if you happen to be in big whitewater or lake waves). The Dumoine also has a fuller entry and exit lines. I still get fooled by the length/width/rocker = problem, but I am getting better.

My most recent discovery - the Souris River Wilderness 18 is no faster than the Souris River Prospector 17.5. In fact, I think it is a bit slower. Doesn’t make sense on paper, but that’s what we found on trips.

wouldn’t call the Kip short and

– Last Updated: Jan-17-15 6:49 AM EST –

The Malecite isn't really comparable to the Kipawa or the NorthStar because it is considerably smaller -- more like the Swift Mattawa.
You can find my opinion about the Kipawa here:


– Last Updated: Oct-13-10 11:31 AM EST –

I had a Kipawa for a couple of seasons to replace an old locally designed, but highly rockered hull that was a bit much to paddle in flat water. I thought the Kipawa was quick for its' size and had a good blend of maneuverability and tracking with its' differential rocker. From my own perspective I wish it wasn't so flared at the center of the hull and had more tumblehome making for a more efficient paddle stroke pattern, but it does offer a dry ride because of its' flare. Outside of that, I thought it was a nice boat that had excellent glide, but could also be anchored in turbulent water (class I -easy II) to fly fish out of. I never have paddled the other two boats.

Kip and Dumoine

– Last Updated: Oct-13-10 12:30 PM EST –

First is more of a flatwater boat.Second is more of a river boat. That half inch of rocker is deceiving..side by side the hulls are different.

Dumoine with flared bow is a bit of a reach for a small bow paddler. Its slower on the flats than the Kipawa..will that matter to you..maybe with your liking for fast solos..

We used our Dumoine for mixed water flat and white on a journey down the Missinaibi. Wonderfully manueverable in tech class II but loses some on the flats. I only paddled the Kip on the flats and suspect that depending on the size of the waves you encounter on rivers it could be a wet ride

Of course Prospectors are very different more manueverable than any of the above. I have a Bell Prospector and probably the thing I dislike most is the high stern stem that catches tailwinds so quickly.

And yes the SR Wilderness 18 is not the fastest rabbit.However I can move an entire lumber camp in it it seems.

Make sure you get a kneeling thwart in whatever tandem you get..for sure sooner or later you will solo the thing.

Mattawa is nearly a foot shorter than the Malecite and the Northstar. All three Charlie mentioned are roughly the same in outer dimensions, except the Malecite has lower sheer. They may have different capacities and they may all paddle different, but I wouldn’t say the Malecite is smaller or that it’s similar to the Mattawa.

All three qualify for the ACA’s short class downriver whitewater canoe specs.

NorthStar is 16’6" X 34.5 max,31"wl, tumblehomed, rocker 2.2/1.2", designed by David Yost ~1995.

Kipewa is 16’6" X 36 max, 32.5 wl, flared, rocker 2.5/1", designed by John Winters ~ 1990

Malecite is 16’6" X 34 max, 32 wl, flared, rocker minimal, designed by Jim Henry ~1973

in terms of (performance) capacity the Malecite is more comparable to the Mattawa.

Malecite has gotten fuller over the years, I do not agree.

Pal has been left out of this so far. It really is a hell of a boat. I find it has some intangible charm that even the venerable Northstar and Malecite don’t match. But that is IMHO. You might try one and be pleasantly surprised. I like the low freeboard and symmetrical rocker. Pretty lines, feels very lively but not difficult at all on the water, even in high winds. The only tandem I have left (after a bunch!).

Addit for Dumoine
The Kip tracks better which makes it easier to paddle at cruising speeds and could be called faster then.

Assorted queries…
Several folk at Kringelfieber reported finding the Kipawa more “responsive” than the Northstar: I wasn’t sure if that was a reflection on the paddlers, the design, or possibly on experience of foam-core Kevlight (rather than black gold) Northstars - were they rather like the Merlin II in having a flatter bottom than DY intended?

Re: the Malecite - seems to be a new version available… but I’m not sure it’s very different!

Main query: how does Wenonah’s “performance touring” Escapade compare with the above? Superficially similar proportions to the Kipawa / Northstar (16’6" long, 30" at the waterline, with stacks of tumblehome bringing the rails in to 29.5"). Usual Wenonah lack of rocker (which I’ve never really understood), but a small-ish tandem I’d love to hear more about and try out.

Another small, modern (2007) tandem that intrigues me is the Hemlock Eaglet: a tad shorter at 15’ 7", but 30.5" at the waterline and rails (max 32.75") and symetrical, with 1.5" rocker. “Efficient” capacity is listed as 200-450lbs… and from what I’ve gleaned elsewhere, Hemlock’s laminations are excellent. Anyone know how it measure up in different conditions?

I love my Pal in flatwater-it doesn’t seem to be aware of it’s “outdate lo-tech” design,it just performs well. BUT-it’s moving water capiblity is limited.


Go to millbrookboats.com and look at
the AC/DC. Originally designed for combined slalom/downriver events by John Berry. Millbrook describes it as 16’ 5", 33" beam, minimum rocker, but the one shown in the website has more than minimum rocker. S-glass/Kevlar at a reasonable price.

The Eaglets
I have seen have all been setup for larger taller soloists.

Kipawa and Malecite
I rented a Kip for a couple of trips. It would be fine for Class II if not too heavily loaded, as would a bathtub or a plywood box. The question is whether you can avoid the rocks or whether you like to repair gelcoat.

I owned a Malecite for a few years, and I have to disagree with Charlie (which is a dangerous thing to do, since he knows a lot more about canoes than I do). I found the Kip could take considerably more gear than the Malecite could and still paddle well. This was a made-in-Vermont Mad River Malecite, Kevlar, bought in about 1993 from a dealer’s stock, hence probably made a couple of years before. Charlie may well be right that the shape has been made fuller over the years.

After I owned the Malecite a couple of years, I test-paddled a NorthStar. I decided it didn’t paddle enough better to warrant a trade.

One thing I noticed about the Kipawa that kind of surprised me: it was more fun to paddle solo than the Malecite was. I paddled the Malecite mainly solo, from a center seat. The Kip felt nicer. I suspect it was just because the flare all the way up the sides made it possible to heel comfortably, but maybe it was something more subtle than that.

Is this related to your racing thread? I doubt you will find any of the three an acceptable racer.

You know about the Penobscot?


We have been paddling hte Kip a bit and are starting to like it a lot better.

My girlfriend is turning out to be a really great paddler and I’ve been on a mission to coach her to become an even better paddler.

Now that she has become pretty proficient at the bow rudder and cross-bow rudder and at heeling the boat we can handle it much more effectively. Unlike the Prospector which I could ateer pretty easily from the stern with an inexperienced paddler in the bow, the Kip seems to require some input from the bow paddler and some heeling to get it to turn well.

It also seems to be pretty affected by the placement of the sliding bow seat.

We took the boat out yesterday in some really windy conditions. It was blowing a steady 20 mph and gusting to around 30 mph.

With good team work between the two of us we were able to turn the canoe in any direction and maintain any course. One section of the lake (the one which had the most fetch) had developed some decent waves and the boat was easy to handle with waves coming from any direction and was very dry.

It was a blast to paddle the Kip on a windy day and we both felt very comfortable in it.

Reference my racing post…I guess I woudl consider the Kip for downriver racing, depending on what the limitations are of the classes; however, my girlfriend’s dad has two kevlar Sundowners: an 18 foot and a 17 foot. I figure those would be better for racing.


glad you are liking the Kip
but don;t kid yourself…you will want something else for downriver racing…like a Millbrook AC/DC