WW canoe advice

It is in the 50s here in Montana, and that always makes me think about the upcoming season. Once again, I am thinking about taking a step up to a WW canoe. I have both a MRC Guide and a Hemlock SRT that my son and I paddle quite a bit on rivers. But, they both take on water in bigger waves when we get into class II. I fished from a friend’s raft on the Stillwater river several times last year in class II & III, and I just don’t think my solos will work well for that level of water. While I love to fly fish, I often found myself wishing I was canoeing instead of fishing. I am not interested in paddling anything more than class III, the fear overtakes the fun at those levels for me and it is not fun any more. I guess I am getting old.

With that info, my question is: What WW canoes would those with more experience suggest I consider? I have been looking at the Bell Prodigy X, the Mohawk Probe 12 and Probe 12II. I like the lines of the Prodigy X, but just don’t know enough about the hydrodynamics to evaluate the differences between the two. I have talked to Eric Nyre at Canoe Colorado about the Prodigy X in the past, and even tested it at a whitewater park one day. One advantage to that boat would be that Eric will custom fit the Mike Yee outfitting for me if I make the trip down to Colorado, which would be fairly easy to do this spring. With Mohawk, I would just take the default installation. Are there other WW canoes that are comparable to these for what I intend to paddle?

I am 6’1", 195# give or take 10#, (usually give). Once again, I really don’t expect to do any class IV or above. I just feel that my SRT (the solo I paddle most) can handle the Stillwater which is so close to my home. It is the composite lay-up, and after Eric patched several places on the hull, he thought it was very thin. That, with the fact that in bigger waves I pull over to empty it frequently has me thinking about upgrading.

Thanks for any suggestions I receive. Larry


– Last Updated: Mar-05-07 9:37 AM EST –

I'm not going to comment on the canoe aspect, but will offer my suggestions for technique, basically what I've learned from others who seem to know what they're doing. One thing to try in the bigger waves is to slow down, backpaddling as required to get canoe to sit as opposed to bounce. I also quarter the waves usually to get the canoe more on the wave as opposed to going thru the wave. Third thing I do is go thru some rapids backwards, taught to me by that illustrious yakker "mintjulep". This allows greater paddling force than backpaddling offers, and helps me run rock to rock and utilize the eddies better. I paddle nearly year round, was dodging chunks of ice saturday with my son, and staying dry and warm is critical. Hope this helps.I assume you're airbagged.

Bell Prodigy X and Esquif Vertige
Hi Larry, I have the Mad River Guide and used to own an SRT and I agree they are excellent canoes, but wet in bigger water. I also have the Bell Prodigy X and it is a fine canoe for the water you’re talking about running. I’m on my second one, and am very pleased with it. Stable, comfortable, but slow. On some of the rivers I run there are long pools between rapids and the Bell PX can keep up, but I have to hustle it. So I bought the Esquif Vertige to use on those ledge drop long pool rivers and I’ve been very pleased with it, too. The Vertige is not quite as stable as the PX, but its a heckuva lot more stable and much dryer than the SRT for about half the price.

The Mike Yee outfitting is of course the best available, especially when factory installed like Eric does it.

However, unless you plan to run big really big water and roll frequently you can install a Mad River TKO pedastal that is higher and wider and more comfortable than the Mike Yee. I have both and I much prefer the Mad River TKO for comfort on all day trips. If you don’t plan to roll you don’t need thigh straps or toe pegs, but I do have knee straps for controlling the boat. I have my Mad River TKO velcroed to the bottom of my Vertige so I can take it out and put in the bench seat for multi day trips.


I find the toe pegs on a typical white water saddle to be awkward and painful, so I use Padz toe blocks positioned to support my ankles. This will not work if you plan to roll however, you need real toe pegs for that.

I have my MR Guide set up with the power rocker seat and for river tripping that seat is fantastic. As soon as I get around to it I’m equipping both my Prodigy X and my Vertige with the Power Rocker and not using a saddle at all. I give up a little control in the big stuff, but gain a boat load of comfort for multi day river trips.

Good luck


as I read
your post, you don’t intend to play a lot…

I would go with the Prodigy X and the custom outfit. But the class of water you’ll be running after one season will probably be up from what scares you now…keep that in mind with the outfit.

Happy paddling!


– Last Updated: Mar-05-07 10:31 AM EST –

Check my review on the Probe 12 posted on this site. It's a decent first solo WW boat, especially if you plan to stick to class 3+ and below. Not the driest ride, but it'll be loads drier than a general purpose solo like the Guide. Can't speak to the Bell boat from personal experience.

I absolutely love Mohawk's factory outfitting - it has the ease of entry/exit of a bulkhead with the adjustability of straps. I can jump in and out of my boat without having to do any tightening or loosening. This not only is useful for jumping out on a rock and then back in but also for sitting up on the thwart during flatwater stretches - something I do all the time because my leg nerves have never adjusted to being compressed for hours at a time. So I slip out and sit up whenever I can, then just slip back in before each drop. The system holds me well enough to roll but lets me right out if I blow a roll and decide to swim. I have yet to find a thigh-strap based system that was as easy to use. Even if I someday replace my Probe with a non-Mohawk boat, I'll still use their saddle system.

I've paddled various other WW boats, but most of them are no longer made. Supposedly Mad River is resurrecting the Caption. If so, that makes for a very stable but maneuverable big guy solo. I have both soloed and tandemed a Caption a few times. As a solo, it's dry, stable and surprisingly maneuverable, considering how long it is. As a tandem, it's more of a playboat. Of course, since it's 14 feet long and weighs 65 lbs or so, it takes a bit more oomph to get it moving when solo. I've also paddled an Outrage a few times. That's a nice, responsive solo. It'll feel really tippy when you first get in it after paddling a Guide, but it's got good secondary stability and is quite dry.

I don't have direct experience with it, but the Esquif Vertige is the same style boat as the other ones you're looking at. If you have access to an Esquif dealer, check one out. I hear it's a nice design, and Esquif is pretty much the only plastic boat manufacturer out there that continues to come out with new designs for the WW OC market instead of just rehashing old stuff. My next boat most likely will be a Vertige-X, so I can take my kids on easy stuff once they get a little older.

Outrage X
I go 190-200 lbs and paddle an Outrage. Friends paddle Outrage X’s. At my weight the X is dryer but otherwise they are quite comparable. The Outrage is relativly fast responsive and still pretty forgiving.

I can’t speak to the others mentioned but I’ll bet you would be happy in an X.


I second the Outrage/Outrage X
I have an Outrage; IMHO, it’s one of the best old-school (i.e., big) WW canoes out there- fast, dry, excellent secondary stability, and quite nimble compared to other long boats. But the MR factory outfitting sucks (at least it did when I bought mine), so I would recomend outfitting it yourself.

Just to make things more complicated ;), another boat to think about would be the Mohawk Shaman. I know several folks who love them.

Re outfitting, the Mike Yee system is very good, but I am partial to Mohawks system- I’ve got it in all my WW boats. The nice thing about the Mohawk system is that it has a single strap. You can jump in and out without having to readjust everything, and you can easily loosen the strap for comfort when paddling flat sections of the river.

And I would disagree with canoedancing about foot pegs and thigh straps. In WW, a secure connection to the boat makes all the difference in the world. You can always loosen them up when paddling flater water.

A little input…

– Last Updated: Mar-05-07 8:52 PM EST –

I paddled an Outrage X for about 5 years.
Good boat; especially for the big (over 200lbs) guys. Dry boat if you have good boat control. It can handle some monster wave trains & standing waves. Tracks a little better than an Outrage, and more forgiving than an Outrage. Not quite as manueverable as an Outrage.

Mohawk Probe 12 II; what I now paddle.
Not as dry as the Outrage X; not as forgiving either. But it will turn on a dime, and it is easier to do attainment moves in the Probe 12 II.
Probe 12 II seems to be similiar to the Outrage. May be my imagination, but the Probe 12 II seems to be susceptible to strong cross currents. I know I don't relax in it as much as I did in the Outrage X when the going gets rough.

You won't find any class III water that either of those boats can't handle.

I have factory outfitting in my Probe 12 II.
They did a fine job at a very reasonable price.
I had them leave out the knee pads, so I could put them where I wanted them. A Mohawk employee (while they were still in Florida), spent nearly an hour on the phone talking to me, while I made it crystal clear what I wanted, where I wanted it, and what I did not want. Very helpful!

Whether you plan on rolling your canoe or not; I suggest you get foot braces, and put in some ankle pads. Do "not" leave a gap between the bottom of your foot braces, and ankle pads. If you get the toe of your footgear in that gap you can "hung up". No fun at all; you'll have to trust me on that one!

I have been practicing rolling my canoe; Mohawk's single thigh strap holds me in just fine. Easier to "bail out" of it no matter how tight you cinch it down.

I'm 6'4/200lbs.
If you care to see the factory outfitting in my Mohawk, I'd be happy to email you some photos.

Others opinions may vary,

Note on Mad River boats
I would be leary of ordering any Mad River Boat these days. I’d want to see it before I put down any cash.

Things like out of spec thwart lengths and positions can make a big difference in performance. Things like IQ gunnels on whitewater playboats just make me wonder what they are thinking?

The Outrages are a great design as are many other Mad River (and these days Dagger) boats. Hopefully Mad River will remember how to build them!


If you will be doing much fishing,
consider a 14 or even 15 foot WW boat. I solo a MR Synergy, less twitchy than the OutrageX (which I have paddled) and has the ability to carry more stuff without losing too much freeboard or handling. I soloed two nights on the Dolores with normal tenting gear plus all the necessary water, and had capacity to spare. Obviously a longer boat will not be as agile, but this may not make any difference for downriver cruising through class 2-3.