ww newbie advice: rpm vs booster

Comments in Sing’s post below about a ww all rounder, along with my search of the archives have given me some answers, but it would be reassuring to have some feedback specific to my scenario. Plus, Sing is an already experienced paddler moving up, whereas I’m a rank amateur, so the two situations are not the same. I thank you in advance for reading my LONG post!

I started paddling a little over a year ago and have gone crazy with it. I started with a Dagger Blackwater, and now have bought a used Capella for lakes, a Mohawk Solo 14 for river tripping, and an RPM because I want to learn to roll (figure I’d learn to roll ww and then move to rolling the Capella), and because I want to run some whitewater – meaning up to class III as far as I would imagine.

I took a roll class, but it was 5 hours away and I didn’t hit a roll during the class so I’m still trying to master that on my own. I can roll pretty reliably now with a slightly inflated paddle float, and feel like I’m very close to getting the roll (a sweep roll) with just a tad more practice and perhaps if I can find someone to critique me. In the class they initially had me in an RPM Max but I didn’t have good contact with the boat and hip snaps were hard because I slid around. Perhaps just better outfitting would have solved this, but when I switched to the RPM that felt much better, even though it was a royal pain getting in and out. I was able to pick up a used RPM for just a couple hundred bucks, and figuring it would retain good resale value, I went for it. I hope to get a roll over the winter and then take a ww class in the spring.

The problem is that the very thing that made the RPM feel better for trying to roll (tight fit), makes me nervous in it out on a river. Although I’ve practiced wet exits in a pool and quiet river water, I worry that in fast water with a quickly approaching strainer or rock that if I flip it will be too hard/take too much time to get out. This has made me more tentative in the boat out on the river because I don’t want to flip, which I really don’t like. I don’t want to worry about flipping because I don’t think I will learn if I’m not being somewhat aggressive with the boat and testing limits.

I also realize there are strong opinions about how good or not good the RPM and the displacement hull are for learning and general pros and cons, but I seem more concerned about fit issues.

Anyhow, there is a used Booster 60 for sale near me that is within my budget, so I’m considering checking it out. I know that the obvious advice is to try the boat out, but I feel like I’m so new to ww boats that I wouldn’t even know how to form a good opinion of the boat other than to say how comfortable the fit is. I’ve been encouraged to try it on moving water before I buy, which certainly sounds great, but I’m not even sure though that that would help me make a decision. Here are my stats: 5’8”, size 8 shoe, 190lbs.

So, some of my questions are:

  1. will some boats feel easier to wet exit from in an emergency than others, or will any ww boat that is fit right necessarily be a bit tough to exit from? (am I chasing an illusion with the fit thing?)
  2. I’ve only paddled my RPM twice on moving water, once for a short time at a little ledge and once down a 6 mile river stretch. Nonetheless, will I have a hard time adjusting to a planning hull? Will I be flipping every time I cross a strong eddy line? On the other hand, I’m not too afraid of there being a learning curve to grow into a boat, as long as it won’t be TOO frustrating to adapt to it.
  3. Fit issues aside, would I be happier in the longer RPM for long flat sections because it will track better than a shorter boat like the Booster?
  4. I want something very similar to what Sing described below, but down one notch. I want to graduate to class III (not IV), and I’m interested in getting through the rapids and not so much the play (okay – maybe a teeny, tiny, little bit of play, but no tricks). Maybe the Booster is good for a more advanced paddler already with class III experience (like Sing) – but how would it be for a newbie to ww (like me)?
  5. Forgive my ignorance here, but can someone also explain the concerns that some (not all) express about the Booster and purling/pearling/perling (I’ve seen it spelled all 3 ways and not sure which is right). I take it this is something like having the nose dive too much, but I’m not really sure.

    Some of my questions might not even make sense, but thank you for indulging me in this long, rambling post. I really appreciate any input all you experienced ww paddlers will have.



Get The Booster

– Last Updated: Dec-06-04 6:51 PM EST –

Just learn to edge crossing the eddy line so you don't trip. I find I like the harder chines of the plaining hulls for carving turns rather than than the sliding out I experienced with the rounder hull. The comparison I am making is between my Acrobat, semi planing hull, vs my play boats. I also think the planing hull will let you surf better. If you want more margin of volume, than the Booster 60 is the way to go for your size. If you want some play potential, the Booster 55 with the lower volume will probably do squirts easier and ultimately even the cartwheel.

Just my take on it. BTW, this is somewhat different than my perspective about a year ago in a similar discussion for beginner whitewater folks. Dr. D. said to go planing all the way. I thought some of the semi planing would be okay. Having paddled my Acrobat a bit on class II, I find I have better control with the planing hulls and definitely more play potential with the latter. But that's also a function of volume.

BTW, I don't rolling with any boat any more difficult from one to the next, as long as the boat fits. The timing and feel is a bit different going from a touring (displacement) to a play boat (planing) but more to the surf boat with the very sharp rails right at the hull bottom.


no answers , but you sure do alot of typing.

Did The Best I Could
about edging across the eddy line and difference I feel between diplacement and planing hulls. Fit is fit. Then there is the “fit of volume” for what one wants to do. Rolling, I can only say that I don’t have and don’t think planing vs displacement is a significant issue. Proper technique is. Speed, yeah, the RPM will be slightly faster, but it’s not an issue in running white water. Relax in slow sections or work on various techniques like draws, prys, etc.

Anyway, I think Dr. D. will show with a more in depth and cogent answer. It beats telling someone to do a “search.”


Booster: 1; RPM 0
Yay - one vote for the Booster (I’m secretly rooting for the Booster, but don’t tell anyone). I’m thinking the majority of opinions will be toward the Booster based on inference from previous posts, but like I said, it’s always more reassuring to hear someone say it directly for my situation. Plus it helps to have people backing me up before I go spend money! I’m sure I can sell my RPM so it’s not really going to be a huge investment, but still.

Is part of your answer due to my concern about fit too? I.e. do you think I’ll find it easier to wet exit from a Booster vs. the RPM (although that actually IS one thing I can try on my own - I have mastered the wet exit). I realize down the line the goal is to not HAVE to come out of the boat, but I don’t really want to stop going out on rivers until I have a bombproof roll, as I don’t really know how long that will take…

Interestingly, the guy selling the Booster 60 started in it but has now moved down to the 55 because I think he wants more play now, so that matches exactly what you’re saying. I think I would prefer the more stability and security of the larger volume to start out (and perhaps always), but I could always have the option of moving down to a 55.

Thank you very much for your reply…PS - since it’s a 60 it’s WAY too big for you anyway, but I’ll let you know if I spot a 50! That would be WAY too small for me!

(And Northman - yeah, I sure did type a lot! It was longer after I posted it than I had realized. I’m not very good at being succint! But hey - everyone has been saying the board’s been slow lately, anyway, so I figure it’s my contribution!)

Any properly-fitting (or outfitted) whitewater boat is going to feel snug – you want zero slop for the best control. You should be able to hang upside-down without worrying about falling out. As for getting out when you want to, I found that was mostly remembering – and practicing – to to push myself back towards the stern instead of trying to go straight up and out.

One way to work on that fear is to put on a mask, and with a buddy standing by, flip in relatively shallow water. Don’t try to do anything – just hang out, look around, and enjoy the view. When you start to run out of air, tuck up & tap, take your buddy’s hands to get you to the surface, and then hipsnap up. Do this a few times-- the relaxed hanging will help you realize that you have a lot more time than you think under there.

The next exercise is to flip and let yourself hang with your arms hanging straight down. Then slowly arch up towards the surface as far as you can. Try to put your hands through the surface. Repeat a couple of times on each side, then tuck & tap, take hands, &snap up. This is a great exercise for finding a strong setup position without

the distraction of a paddle.

Do exercises like this until you’re really comfortable under there, and then try some wet exits. I’ll bet they’ll go a lot more smoothly.

wet exit practice
Thanks for these ideas. I’ll try to do more practices to see if that helps too. In calm settings I’m pretty calm when I’m upside down - and I’m not at all worried about getting out before I run out of air…I know in reality it probably only takes me 5 seconds - 10 max to exit. It’s more a fear that on a river I’ll run into an obstacle in those 5-10 seconds before I have exited.

I think the other thing I need to do is I’ve always practiced both with noseplugs and goggles (I wear contacts), but I don’t think I would always be wearing those on a river, so I need to practice without so that I get used to blowing out my nose and also to working with my eyes closed. Do people start practicing like in a pool or other calm settings without these extra “aids”?

Yes Heather,

– Last Updated: Dec-06-04 9:42 PM EST –

you gotta practice without the goggles and noseplugs. I never used goggles but got rid of the noseplugs during my first roll class (they fell off and sunk to the bottom). You have to get used to the water getting into your sinuses so that when it happens in real time, you won't panic thinking you're drowning. When you flip back upright, it will drain out. Scrunching your nostrils down and slowly blowing air out of your nose will help prevent sinuse flooding.

A lot to cover…
Several things to address. I dissagree in regards to the nose plugs…since you are just getting started, I feel you need to focus on your technique and not your sinuses. You can work on that later. Your right, you won’t get hurt on the RPM when you sell it. My personal opinion is that you should buy the Booster. The thigh straps on the Riot boats help a lot of newbies because they give when you wet exit, unlike conventional braces. In addition, if you are as ambitious as you sound, your going to want to play more than you realize right now, and the Booster is considerably better for that. I have several friends who learned in and eventually bought Boosters, and still have them years later…that particular boat is hard to beat. That is probably in evidence, as the seller bought another one. As a side note, I have found boosters to be quite easy to roll. Good luck, let us know what you decide.

my vote and some answers…
No surprise here as my vote would definitely go to the Booster. Here are my thoughts in regards to your questions.

  1. Any boat that is too easy to wet exit from (you fall out of the boat when flipped), is the wrong boat for you. I know it’s a frightening thought in terms of the tight fit and wet exiting, but with some practice, you’ll find out that any boat that you can get into, you get get out of much much easier. I have crammed myself into playboats that I was oversized for and never had a problem exiting them. Simply put your hands near your hips and push out and back when exiting. A good fit is a MUST for whitewater and equally so for success in rolling. As to your original boats in question, the thigh straps in Riot boats are flexible which helps in getting out but the cockpit is more narrow which means it is a slightly more snug fit than the RPM. Still, I say ease of exit is approximately the same.

  2. While I do believe that the RPM is a slightly more stable boat, as long as you sit upright and keep your boat edges in mind when crossing eddy lines, I would not be concerned about flipping too much more than the RPM. You may flip slightly more while learning on it, but in the long run you will greatly benefit from the experience and realize that you are in a fantastic river runner that will serve you well for years to come. The Booster was designed for beginners (as well as intermediate/advanced) paddlers so the learning curve is not more than you can handle on it.

  3. How long are your flat sections? The Booster is a surprisingly fast river runner and although the RPM is faster and tracks better, the Booster is one of the quicker planing hull boats out there. If you’re doing long flat sections, you can always take your Blackwater. If you’re doing whitewater with some flat sections, the Booster should be fine.

  4. The Booster is now THE boat that many people recommend for beginners learning whitewater (notable mentions to Dagger GT, Pyhranna Inazone, Necky Jive, and Wavesport EZ). For a class III/IV paddler it brings peace of mind and safety as it is a boat with enough volume to punch through sticky holes and forgiving enough not to randomly squirt when navigating tricky rapids. You may be surprised how quickly you can develop your skills with some practice. This past season was my first season of whitewater and toward the end of the year I was running class III with confidence and looking for some low class IV rapids to try out next summer. I also got bitten by the playboat bug (something I never thought I would do) and so I suggest you keep an open mind about whitewater as you never know! The Booster will get you through rapids just fine and will also leave the door open for some nice playing if you’re interested in the future (surfing a wave is always fun even if you’re not interested in throwing cartwheels, loops, and helix’s in the future.)

  5. I also don’t know the correct spelling but I’m gonna go with purling. Any displacement hull boat will tend to purl more than planing hull boats as the ends have a scoop in them which facilitates this. However, the Booster has plenty of volume so that this isn’t a huge issue. As long as you’re not launching this thing from waterfalls (which has been done by the way) or aggressively diving into sticky holes, purling shoulding be a factor.

    I personally paddle the Dagger GT (after seriously considering an RPM and getting some education from this forum), but if I had to start all over again, the Booster would be at the top of my list of boats. Sorry for the equally long reply. Hope this helps.

Fit and Practice. What He Said…
good (snug) fit is essential for the white water game. You want instant transmittal of directional changes and edging from mind to body to boat. A loose boat may seem reassuring at first but will be a hindrance to skills development.

With practice, you’ll find that coming out of a snug boat is easier than trying to get in one.


A Couple of Additional Points
The RPM is one of the easiest to roll boats out there. But that, surprisingly, is not a good thing. It is fine to use an RPM to learn your first roll. But over time it is very easy to develop bad habits that are difficult and frustrating to change. So, for example, you may find you can roll your RPM consistently but not your sea kayak (I know several people this happened to). Or you may decide to try a planing hulled WW boat and find you can’t roll it.

For river running the RPM has some advantages and some disadvantages. What those are depends some on how you go down the river. But with a little help from a knowledgable person you will find that with the Booster you have a larger set of options for negotiating features. You will also find that the river doesn’t push you around as much when you ferry and overall you are less likely to end up upside down.

Actually ferrying is a good example of the differences between the boats. With the RPM you have to be more precise with your ferry angle or you get turned and swept down stream. What happens next I have seen many times: as the boat starts to turn downstream the paddler leans upstream and whoops, upside down again. In contrast the Booster is “looser” and not as easily turned. You may also find that half way across the Booster is just sitting there, surfing happily on a small wave in the middle. That can be both useful and fun.

Finally, even though you could easily paddle the Booster 55 (which is what I have and I am 5’10", 190 lbs) you will find the 60 is easier to paddle for starting out and I recommend it.

Booster winning…
Thanks again for everyone’s responses - very helpful and great ideas. VERY helpful.

Well - I’m definitely driving over to check out the Booster in person this weekend, and who knows - it might come home with me. Probably similar to my RPM, I bet the Booster will maintain some resale value, so I don’t really have to worry about getting “stuck” with a boat.

It’s good to know that several mentioned that the boat will be easier to “get out of” than “to get into.” I really don’t have problems with my Capella, and it’s the same cockpit size, but for some reason I just feel so awkward and clumsy getting in and out (out that is not a wet exit) of that ww boat!

As far as practice, while I’m actually working on my roll or just practicing in general, I’ll probably stick with my “aids” (noseplugs and goggles), but I’m also going to start at least practicing my wet exits without them. As I become more confident, I’ll lose them for the roll too.

I don’t really know how far I’ll go in ww, but I know I want to try it and learn and go from there. There are lots of ww folk the next state over (in Arkansas - that’s where all the ww is too), and so I hope to hook up with the ACC there so I can learn first hand from more experienced paddlers. I think it’s clear that this is not a sport you really learn alone. Maybe you CAN, and there are things you can practice alone, but I definitely need to find myself a group of folks to hang out with and learn from. I already have a great group of paddlers that I’ve learned a lot from, but most are in canoes, so I need to find myself some ww 'yakers!

Thanks again for taking the time to give your thoughtful answers. If I’m the proud new owner of a Booster I’ll let you all know next week!



but I’ve never paddled the booster. The RPM is fairly easy to roll, I hand rolled one and I had not been in a kayak in 12 years. Plus, you already own it. reselling it, of course, is an option but as new designs come out almost weekly (it seems) it may not get you back what you have in it. Now if you just WANT a different boat…

There were two different models of Booster made. The original ones had less rocker in the bow, so they had a tendency to pearl (bury the nose underwater) when front surfing. RPMs tend to pearl, too. Hard not to, in a long boat…

RPMs and Boosters both have pretty decent resale value, so if you buy used, you probably won’t lose much if you decide to sell again.

One other note - Booster cockpits are smaller than ‘industry standard’ by an inch or so, so a skirt that works well on the RPM might be a bit loose on the Riot boat.

Paddling buddies…
are quite easy to find…you simply convince all of your current friends to get into it, and you have instant paddling buddies. Keep both boats, get some friends hooked, then you always have someone to paddle with.

proud new owner…
I picked up the Booster this weekend, I’m sure to no one’s surprise. I have to say, I’m VERY pleased with the boat. The outfitting is excellent and that ALONE makes up for the very small price difference between what I paid for it vs. what I can probably get back for the RPM. It is more comfortable and easier to get into than I had hoped, plus it’s lighter than the RPM so it’s easier to carry around (last creek I went down had 6 log jams to carry around, and this boat would’ve been a lot easier to portage). I really like the ratcheting seat back and thigh straps. As someone noted, my skirt is a tad loose, so I may need a second skirt, but that really is the only down side. I really feel like this is a boat I can learn in, whereas I just did NOT feel comfortable (and I don’t just mean physically) in the RPM. Thanks again for everyone’s input. I can’t wait to start pushing myself in this boat and trying new things!

Cheers to all,


As you’ll need a Riot sized skirt, you may just want to sell your current skirt with the RPM so that it is a more attractive package.

congradulations, best choice

Where’s My B50?
I am jealous… :frowning:

Seriously, Congrats! Get some pool practice in and you’ll be ready for spring.