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17
Apr

Pyranha Ripper | My Go-To Boat

I have had the chance to paddle the Pyranha Ripper for the past year, and I genuinely believe this is one of the greatest kayaks on the planet!

It has become my go-to boat for kayaking, from low volume creeks to high-volume rivers, the Ripper is for everything. If you are looking to spice up your local runs and a creek boat is a little boring, the Ripper is the boat for you! I am in between the medium and the small, but I choose to paddle a small to make things a little more playful. Who doesn’t like to add a little spice to their kayaking?

Baby Falls, Tellico River
📷: Tony Hardman

My favorite concept about this boat is the stern! I love how slicey and low volume it is. It makes many vertical tricks extremely easy; for example, I love how simple the stern is to sink when I go for stern stalls. I also am not the greatest at kickflipping creek boats, but the low volume stern has made it so much easier to learn.

Stern squirting the Ripper in Buena Vista, Co
📷: Tony Hardman

I really love the hull of this boat; coming from a freestyle kayaking background, the planing hull is amazing. It makes carving back and forth on waves the best thing in the world! From small waves to big waves, carving back and forth makes you feel like a boss in the Ripper.  The planing hull makes the boat easy to manoeuvre in big rapids; if I need to get from one side of the river to the other, the boat turns fast and feels like a bullet speeding across the river.

Paddling the East Fork of the Lewis in Washington State
📷: Jack Shanlin

The Ripper has a full volume bow which makes punching through large features the simplest thing in the world! It has enough volume for maximum comfort for foot room and gives the ultimate pop out though features. When running waterfalls, it allows the boat to skip out through the water at the bottom. This bow also has controlled edges too, which makes carving easy and paddling through rapids simple. It allows for quick manoeuvres through rapids and keeps the hull loose for flat spins on waves.

Boofing Baby Falls on the Tellico
📷: Tony Hardman

I seriously cannot get enough of this boat! The Ripper is perfect for everything from waterfalls, to big volume rivers, to low volume creeks; this is the best all-around the boat. I have flown around the world with it because it makes every river run 100 times better and so much more fun! I recommend this boat to everyone, it doesn’t matter if you are small or big, the Ripper is for you! You can get the Ripper in three sizes to suit you and your goals, so head out to your local Pyranha dealer and pick one up for yourself!

📷: Tony Hardman

12
Apr

The most popular river in the Northern Black Forest

The future of the Murg river, a true gem, is in danger.

Changing legal requirements (“Wasserrahmenrichtline”) and programs developing renewable energy resources currently lead to the reconstruction of all existing small hydropower plants (Wolfsheck, Breitwies, and Schlechtau) as well as the Fettweis plant in Forbach, the Schwarzenbach dam, and the dam in Kirschbaumwasen. The focus of these reconstructions are energy production and enabling fish migration. The interests of paddlers are not being taken into account, and whether the dams remain runnable or at least enabling portaging is not considered. In the worst case, the Murg can become unrunnable for most paddlers.

We need to act now:

Concerning the plant in Breitwies, the crest could be altered in a way that going over the ramp in kayaks is possible without any increased risk. The additional costs would amount to 10.000 – 20.000€, if these measures are taken during the new construction measures, using the present site infrastructure. Refitting the ramp later on would be much more expensive since it would represent a construction project of its own.

In the coming years, further construction projects will make paddling on all other sections of the Murg impossible, that’s why we developed a comprehensive concept for the Murg Valley.

DOWNLOAD: Gesamtkonzept “Kajakfahren im Murgtal”

The measures put forward here are just the first within a bigger action catalogue, necessary in order to preserve whitewater paddling in the Northern Black Forest.

We can obtain funding from different sources, but there will remain a co-payment that we need to finance through donations acquired from paddlers, clubs, or industry sponsors. The crowdfunding campaign is set up in order to top up the co-payment. Every bit received here can be multiplied by subsidies.

The Murg is a precedent case; if we don’t succeed in preserving the most popular river in the Northern Black Forest, is there anything we can achieve?

Every donation counts:

The donations to this campaign are managed by “KanuBW” (Baden-Württemberg canoe and kayak federation)
Kanu-Verband Baden-Württemberg e. V.

Max-Porzig-Straße 45, 78224 Singen

The KanuBW has also established a direct donation account where you can donate via bank transfer. Using this way, not only the crowdfunding fee can be spared but donation receipts for tax deductibility can be issued since the KanuBW is an organisation of public utility.

Campaign organisation team:
Christine Richter   from Kaiserslautern, canoe slalom referee at the Kanu-BW
Uwe Merkel from Karlsruhe, hydraulic engineer, voluntarily supporting the Kanu-BW
– Tobias Frodl from Elchesheim-Illingen, member of the Kanu-BW

09
Apr

Paddle to Protect

Join the Balkan River Defence team this April 15-20th for a wild week of whitewater and river defence on the rivers of Romania during BRT4!

A whitewater kayak can be a powerful tool. It can take you deep into inaccessible canyons, remote stretches of wild whitewater and rivers of astounding beauty and power. From the seat of a kayak you can experience incredible landscapes and amazing river experiences. A kayak can take you to the places that fuel you. It can also be a tool to protect the rivers and water systems that nourish you and nourish our earth. Right now, more than ever, those wild places need help. They need protection. They need paddle-wielding warriors. 

What is Balkan River Defence?

As kayakers, we are privileged to experience the wilderness that a boat and paddle take us to. But this access also means we are the first people to notice, discover, or identify the threats to our waterways, like dams, pollution or resource extraction. If you haven’t already heard of them, Balkan River Defence (BRD) is a kayaker-founded river conservation NGO, dedicated to defending the last wild rivers in Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. Founded on the simple premise that people who paddle the wild rivers of the world also have a responsibility to protect them, this crew of international kayakers are changing the way river conservation is approached, proving that river conservation doesn’t have to take place in offices, and can take place on rivers too.

Seeking a way to take action in defence of rivers, professional kayaker, ex-Olympic rower, and biologist, Rok Rozman turned a simple idea into the biggest river conservation movement in Europe. He had enough of listening to complaints about the funding, organization, and bureaucracy needed to stop 2.700 proposed dams being built on the last free-flowing rivers of Europe. He wanted to do something simple and effective that would give people an option to join in and get involved directly. So, he took his kayak and his friends (some cameras and beers too) and paddled as many of the threatened rivers of the Balkans as possible, naming it the Balkan Rivers Tour (BRT).

Over the course of one month in 2016, they paddled 23 rivers in 6 countries; through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania. BRT created an atmosphere where a fisherman and a farmer, a scientist and a kayaker, could join together to develop solutions to the threats their rivers face. What was created was a wave of momentum that prompted the involvement of Patagonia in what is now their biggest global environmental campaign of 2019; Save the Blue Heart of Europe. BRT also caused a huge surge in international media coverage, helping to spread the word about the wild rivers that still exist in Europe, the dangers they face from hydro development, and the locals fighting to protect them. From Germany to the US, Canada to Albania, word was getting out. The last wild rivers of Europe are in danger and paddlers are helping to protect them.

Balkan River Defence Today

Today, Balkan Rivers Tour has turned into an annual paddling action, and the river conservation movement has evolved into Balkan River Defence (BRD) – a registered NGO in Slovenia. It is a version of grassroots activism where science and river conservation blend with kayaking and adventure sports. Their mission: Reveal the remaining free-flowing rivers and intact ecosystems of Europe; Support a community and network of local river activists; Expose hydropower as an unsustainable and destructive form of energy production; Provide alternatives using science, education, creativity, and adventure sports.

Team Pyranha paddlers Rok Rozman and Carmen Kuntz lead the team of crazy artists, activists, paddlers, and partiers who make up Balkan River Defence. They spend fewer days on the river each year so that they can spend more time behind the computer, organizing events, protests, petitions, and paddling actions. They have created a formula that makes nature conservation inclusive, fun, and light. And effective. Together with a greater network of river conservation NGOs throughout the Balkans, they have helped stop 6 dams. 

They are currently touring with the feature-length documentary that BRD has created, telling the story of the rivers of the Balkans. The Undamaged takes viewers on the wild ride that is Balkan Rivers Tour and shows them the rivers and villages of the Balkans, from the seat of a whitewater kayak.  

What Can You Do?

That’s simple. Join us on tour! Book your holidays in accordance with one of the three weeks that will make up Balkan Rivers Tour 4 and paddle, protest, and party with us in Romania (April 15-20), Slovenia (July 7-13) or Bulgaria (Sept 24-29). Help us show local, regional, and national decision makers that there is more value in attracting paddling tourism to their wild rivers, than damming them. That tourism can be a sustainable source of income for their economy. But it requires respect and conservation of their rivers.

Or, you could start your own grassroots river conservation action. Imagine if everyone came together to protect their home river, home watershed, or lake? If everyone started their own river conservation movement, all the mini river defence actions would link up to create a big web of locally-enforced, river defences. There are no rules. There is no template. Show the world what makes your river special and tell decision makers that you won’t give it up to pollution, hydropower, or development. Not ready to dive in head first just yet? Then stand with us, support the work we are doing through donations and support.

Imagine…

Imagine if each little group of kayakers banded together to protect their local watershed? Imagine the web of river defenders that could connect across the world!

I imagine the rivers would say thanks and that each day spent out there on the water, would taste and feel sweeter. The rivers give us so much, it’s not hard to give a little back.

To learn more about BRD, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or check out the videos on Vimeo where the atmosphere and personalities of the Balkans are reflected.

Check out the dates and locations for Balkan Rivers Tour 4.

26
Mar

A Magical Night | Upano River, Ecuador

The Upano river is located in the south of Ecuador. It is a river that runs through a beautiful canyon with a thousand waterfalls called The Grand Canyon of the Upano. This is was one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever paddled, and during out stay in Ecuador, World Class Academy decided to have an overnighter on this majestic river. I was unbelievably stoked because there is a project to put a dam on the Upano and us paddling was like a protest against the dam.

We started paddling mid-day on Friday and paddled for about an hour or two before we stopped at our first sight, which was a rock beach on the side of the river. We were not sleeping here, but there were beautiful fossils in the rocks. They were all shells and it was awesome to see untouched fossils because I have never really seen untouched fossils before too! 

The group I was in on the river was in charge of shooting as much media as possible to show the world about this river, but our plans ran into a little bit of trouble. We were paddling down the river and we went to stop at a rapid to shoot media, but one of our team members missed the eddy and went downstream, which was fine. We got back in our boats and paddled down, but little did we know. The rapid we tried to get out at was right in front of where we were sleeping that night. Though we didn’t know and continued to paddle down the canyon and stopped at a cool boof, and we waited for what seemed like forever when we finally saw some of our friends come down. They stopped and told us we missed the camp. I looked back up stream and thought about having to hike my boat back up stream through some stout jungle.

There was a takeout about 30 minutes down stream that we went to and ordered taxis to take us back up to camp. Though they took us to the wrong spot and there was some miscommunication and we thought the river started to flood, so the rest of the group was going to hike up to where we were dropped off. Therefore, we started to set up camp and we built a fire. It got dark and I started to get a little scared because I was cold and didn’t have my dry clothes or my sleeping equipment because they were in someone else’s boat. After waiting for a while, we saw Abe, our guest coach, drive down the hill. He came to rescue us! We got in his SUV and headed to the camp site; we ate dinner and found out the river didn’t flood and finished off the day setting up out hammocks and went straight to bed.  

The next day, we arose from out luscious night in the jungle, ate some breakfast and put on the river. We paddled into the canyon and I was blown away by how gorgeous this canyon was. After paddling for paddling for a while, we stopped at a waterfall. It was very beautiful, and we were able to climb about half way up and jump into the drop and then get smashed by the flow into the pool down below. After swimming for a while, we hopped back in our boats and headed down stream. Rapid after rapid, waterfall after waterfall, we paddled downstream. The Upano has quality whitewater, with epic boofs and epic waves to surf.

After paddling for 5 hours we got to the last rapid. It was massive! It had a massive crashing wave in the middle and Kalob, our head coach, told us it was all good to go! Each student paddled hard into the massive wave, some were lucky and punch right through. Others not so much and they got crushed! After this rapid, we ended our overnighter with some snacks, which is always the number one priority after rivers.

See ya on the water,

Cat H.

26
Mar

Festival “San Pedro Libre”, Chile, región de Los Ríos, comuna de Los Lagos

On May 22nd, 1960, the biggest earthquake in the history of the human race occurred; this earthquake had enormous consequences, one of them being named “Riñihuazo”.

The “Riñihuazo” was the formation of three natural dams on the San Pedro River, which threatened the lives of those living nearby since everything upstream was little by little becoming flooded. Thanks to the efforts of workers who managed to make channels for the water to keep flowing, no major disaster occurred. The San Pedro River is also the habitat of a great diversity of fauna thanks to its favourable conditions.

Unfortunately, in 2009, Colbun introduced a project to build a dam. This project would end flora, fauna, tourism, and recreation (kayaking, fly fishing, ducking, rafting, and all kinds of recreational activity in the river).

As a result of this Colbun project, the first “San Pedro Libre” was held in 2009; a festival of white water, where we all meet to express our opposition to the dam since it has been shown that there are many other ways to use the waters of the river sustainably.

Starting at Riñihue Lake, the San Pedro River has everything from calm and crystal clear waters to strong rapids that will make you feel its power while you try to keep your kayak right side up. The first rapid you will find is called “Las Cabras”, and it is a beauty that will leave you breathless. World-class rapids follow, one of the most powerful being “Reloj”, a class III plus with big volume water that makes you feel like a little ant riding this white water power storm. You will also find the Toro and Última Nariz rapids before you get to “T.N.T.”, another one which will remind you that the river is the real and only boss!

Currently “San Pedro Libre” gathers a large number of Chilean and Argentinian participants, being the largest festival in Chile. Two hundred fifty people in rafts, 90 kayakers, and a smaller group in duckies, SUPs, hydrospeed, and other types of boats turning it into a festival that gathers a large number of family groups. This year will be done in two days, the first for those who do not want to face big rapids, this will be in a section with class II rapids and the second day will be in the upper part of the river. In the end, we will have a barbecue, the award ceremony, and the end party.

Join us to defend this river to keep it flowing free!

26
Mar

Norway – Why the Land of Giants is not just the Land of Pros

Norway, the Land of Giants; famous for its mountains, glaciers, fjords, and the midnight sun. Norway is also full of world-class whitewater, and yet, during the summer months many kayakers flock elsewhere in Europe and leave the mecca of Norway alone. Why?

As we approach the equinox, and my thoughts turn to summer sunshine, I am super excited to be returning to Norway this year for the first time since 2015. Norway holds a special place in my heart. While living in the UK, I would visit 4 or 5 times a year, flying in for a long weekend whenever the opportunity presented itself. In the past few years, I have travelled to some incredible places, but thoughts of Norway were always in the back of my mind. Again, I question why more kayakers do not make the trip to Norway. After talking with some friends, I have come across some common misconceptions within the kayaking community. I’ve decided to try to dispel these rumours and convince everyone to make a trip-of-a-lifetime to this epic destination.

Norway – Land of Giants, and home to countless stunning mountains, lakes, and fjords.

Rumour #1: Norway is all Super Gnarly

Norway is one of those places where you can push it as hard as you want to go. Stouts upon stouts upon stouts can be found in every corner of the country. However, there seems to be an assumption that Norway is only for the seasoned class 5 kayaker. This is not the case, and there is a plethora of high quality, clean grade 3/4. Particularly when coming from the UK, Norway is an optimal place to build your confidence on different styles of rivers – whether that is running your first slides, finding some larger volume rivers, or improving your stamina on more continuous whitewater. You can get so much out of a Norway trip, even if you are not the next Evan Garcia, so should seriously consider it for your next summer holiday.

Norway is the perfect place to run your first slides and drops, and dial in that technique before stepping it up.

Rumour #2: I Can’t Afford It

It’s true, Norway is expensive. However, there are ways to keep your trip cheap, particularly if you are driving out there from the UK or somewhere else in Europe. Here are some of my top tips for keeping your trip affordable:

  • Camp for free – in Norway you can wild camp wherever you want, provided you are not within 200m of the nearest house. Just make sure you are respectful by packing out trash and burying your waste.
  • Fill up your car on a Sunday – prices of fuel tend to change regularly in Norway. When I was there, it was always cheapest Sunday afternoon or first thing Monday morning. I was told this was to encourage people only to fill up once a week. Whatever the reason, it can make a significant difference to the cost of your tank!
  • Bring alcohol with you – beer is expensive, and the price of a bottle of rum is enough to make you cry. If you are driving in, try to bring enough booze with you to last your trip. Bringing some food is also not the worst idea.

If you are flying out from the other side of the Atlantic, that certainly is more of a problem in terms of cost. Renting a car in Norway is not cheap. Your best bet would be to try to make friends with some Europeans, or if you are going to rent, then maybe fly into Germany and drive from there (picking up some food and alcohol along your way).

Did I mention how beautiful wild camping is?! Not a bad view to wake up to.

Rumour #3: I’m Not Free Until August, Which is Too Late

If you’re hoping to focus on creeking or run the stouts of Telemark, then the Spring months of May and early June are the best to shoot for. However, there are rivers in Norway that hold their water all summer long. Bigger volume runs such as the Sjoa, Driva, and Raundal still have high-quality whitewater for weeks after the smaller rivers have dried up. Also, if you are looking for a more class 3/4 trip, August would be a prime time to get these runs at a more relaxed, lower level. That said, the stout runners are still able to challenge themselves on sections such as Train Station and Marine Canyon. Also, Norway can get some powerful rainstorms, especially later in the season. The first year I went to Norway we were caught in a rainstorm so heavy that we spent a full day just driving around Voss trying to find something low enough to run! For the next couple of days, levels were perfect for all the sections I had yet to tick off, and I did some of my best boating of the trip in the middle of August.

The bigger volume runs keep their water all summer long.

In summary, Norway has something for everyone throughout the summer and should be high on the hit list for any whitewater kayaker. From a week-long smash-and-grab to spending the full summer travelling, kayaking, hiking and taking in all that the country has to offer, you are sure not to be disappointed!

Shameless plug alert: if you’d like to experience all that Norway has to offer, but are unsure where to start, why not join me for a week of coaching and guiding at the start of August? I am particularly keen to encourage more ladies to come kayaking in Norway. I would love to coach some ladies looking to develop their skills, confidence and push their ability on the water. If you would be interested in this, find out more at paddle365.co.uk/norway or message me for further details.

From class 3 to class 5, and everything in between, Norway has something for everyone.
It’s hard to beat Amot laps in the sunshine with good friends.

20
Mar

Big Water Appreciation for the Machno!

I feel like the Machno is perhaps the most underrated kayak in my quiver. It isn’t as rewarding as the 9R, and it doesn’t feature the learning curve, everyday joy and surprises of the Ripper, but my goodness when the river is rowdy am I happy to be in my Machno!

I recently kayaked the South Yuba, Purdens, and 49 Bridgeport at enormous flows, and was reminded once again of just how good this kayak is on hard whitewater.

I started using the Machno in Norway in 2017 with the belief that when the margin for error is tiny, being in a kayak that widens that gap even slightly could only ever be a good thing. Since then I have spent a lot of days on the water with the Machno, and yes, it is very forgiving, but it also has some “oomph” to it as well. Like every kayak, the more time you spend using it, the better you get at learning how to use it. These are some of my favourite features of the Machno:

Turning Ease and Speed

I love that I can whip the nose around so quickly. I find this feature exceedingly useful on new rivers where I may have to make last-second adjustments of lines, for doing “sweeping” boofs over holes, for catching eddies, and for enabling me to correct things quickly when I make a mistake.

Stability

The Machno is crazy stable. On the big and rowdy days, this is a beautiful, bolstering, comforting factor, and there have been a few times that I have been at the bottom of a rapid and have wanted to hug my kayak and thank it profusely for staying upright. On the chiller sections of whitewater, I find this feature fun to play with. I can really (over) commit to my edging and enjoy being leaned over in my kayak as much as possible throughout the run. I hope to keep bringing this skill to harder and harder whitewater.

Speed

Unfortunately for the Machno, both the Ripper and 9R are blisteringly quick. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Machno is slow; it just means that comparatively when I switch back from those other kayaks, it feels it. However, speed is not everything, and I like the Machno’s pace. It is hugely useful on first descents when I want to be going slower in the first place. On wave trains, the 9R’s extra speed means it bridges the gap between waves and pierces into the one in front, subsequently requiring me to put in more effort to keep it under control, and not being able to see as far ahead because I am being splashed in the face. With the Machno, I can climb up the top of the wave, ride down the back, and up the next one, maintaining a much better line of sight. Admittedly all wave trains are different, but I do find that the Machno copes with a wide variety of them exceptionally well.

I like to imagine rapids as jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and having to match the shape, speed, and angle of the kayak to the gaps I see. (I know, I’m weird).

Seating Position and Deck Strength

Powerful whitewater can rip people out of kayaks and fold their kayaks into pieces. I feel like the Machno’s seating position is exceptional; I feel secured and locked into the kayak. The peaking, strengthening lines on the deck, and Pyranha’s plastic combine to make me feel confident that my kayak will stand up to everything the river can throw at it.

Boofing

Again, I was reminded of this while kayaking on the Yuba and had to make several last-minute boofs to avoid some monster holes; the Machno is easy to boof. This is great for beginner kayakers, intermediates, and experts in our combined efforts to not have to get wet, cold and remember how to swim.

At the moment, I am pleased that Pyranha’s designs continue to leave me smiling ear to ear every day on the water, and I am eagerly anticipating the release of the 9R II!

See you on the water!
Bren

15
Mar

Too Much Carnage?

Cast your mind back to last year’s KayakSession Carnage for All awards, and you may remember a pretty exceptional effort from Aberdeen University Canoe Club; all footage was from one particularly eventful run down the North Esk, and it created quite a stir!

Pyranha noticed this video, and made a very kind offer to fund a British Canoeing White Water Safety and Rescue course for the club.

“As a relatively new paddler, I found the course has given me a lot more confidence and understanding of how to be safe while having fun on the water”

“I feel it has helped me be a much more competent paddler; both in helping with rescues and in being saved.”

Tom Parker and I joined forces to deliver the course, which focused on avoiding the carnage and also how to deal with it if (when?) it does happen.

“Being allowed to experiment with the techniques taught and applying them in real life scenarios, really consolidated what was taught and made sure any questions that came up could be answered.”

The wetsuit warriors couldn’t have been more keen. Throwing lines, swimming rapids, chase boating and much, much more. The team really made the most of the weekend and are keen to share their new skills with the rest of the club.

The hope is that next year’s video entry is a little less ‘busy’ and that AUCC members have more safe and enjoyable experiences paddling awesome white water in the highlands and beyond.

Thanks to Tom Parker for helping run the course and Pyranha for helping more people have a safe and fun time on the water.

Jonny Hawkins, Highland Kayak School

07
Mar

Spring Tradition: Goshen Race 2019

On March 2nd, 2019 paddlers from four different states converged on the beautiful Maury River for a Virginia spring tradition: the 12th Annual Goshen Race.

A “Winter Storm Warning,” and uncertain water levels the night before did nothing to dampen the good vibes of this low-key gathering. The day was warming by the noon-time mass start; and sunlight flashing off of 45 furiously churning paddle blades signaled that it had become a gorgeous day. The beautiful weather came with an equally perfect water level as the river crested at 1330 c.f.s. during the race.

Everyone paddled a solid race and there was no awarding of the traditional “carnage panty” this year. It was a tight battle for the lead among the top three paddlers. Bobby Miller, from D.C., and Richmond’s Isaac Hull exchanged the lead multiple times throughout the race and the outcome was uncertain even as the dueling duo powered through the infamous “Corner” rapid. Ultimately Isaac Hull took the Overall and Wildwater Class win, with Bobby taking second. Maryland’s Geoff Calhoun was next, securing the Long Boat class win. Renee Powers took the women’s class victory, Phil Prince cinched Canoe class, and David Verde ruled the Rubber realm.

It was a primo day on the Maury River and now the spring season can commence. Think Rain!

The Goshen Race sends a huuuuge “Thanks” to Pyranha Kayaks for being a longtime supporter of this Virginia Whitewater Tradition! Thanks to Pyranha, and other generous supporters, everyone who raced walked away with a prize. 





05
Mar

Why Smashing 9R II’s Development Goals Isn’t Good Enough

A long-awaited, much-anticipated moment arrived a few weeks ago; the first 9R II left the mould.

At this point, you might be wondering why you haven’t seen photos all over Facebook, demos at your local dealer, or a listing on Pyranha.com telling you just how good the 2nd generation of a kayak that changed the market is; we’re here to explain why.

Since the 9R hit the scene in 2014, we’ve complimented it with the Machno, Ripper, and 12R to create the most formidable line-up of kayaks around; we’re incredibly proud of those models, and all the smiles we’ve seen on paddlers in them, but that reaction isn’t something that’s necessarily the result of a ‘perfect’ design.

We’ve been doing this long enough to know that the perfect design is a myth, and all paddlers want something subtly different from their kayak; even individual preferences change with time. A desire to enable a broader range of people to enjoy the river, alongside enthusiastic curiosity, is why we offer such a diverse range of kayaks in the first place.

Designed with the creative freedom of a blank canvas, the original 9R took its time to win over sceptical paddlers, but eventually developed into something that even as typically reserved British folk, we aren’t ashamed to call an ‘icon’. It brought about a change of pace to both the market and the sport, and the sense of fulfilment it instilled in paddlers who learnt to take advantage of the latter led to us coining the expression ‘fast is fun’.

Jordy Searle with his original 9R in Norway, by David Bain

The brief for 9R II was to take what we had learnt with 9R over the past 5 years, and produce something even faster, with easier access to that performance and greater control at top speed; make no mistake, what we initially arrived upon absolutely nailed that design brief, so much so that we went ahead and had the mould cast… as kayakers ourselves, however, the testing never truly ends, and when paddling some Class 5, we couldn’t shake the feeling that although the new boat was undeniably faster, its ‘fun-factor’ didn’t eclipse that of the original 9R.

Everything we might do to make the design more fun went in direct contradiction to what we’d done to meet our design goals; was this compromise, therefore, something we just had to accept?

A few swear words later, a spark of an idea ignited; rather than stubbornly ignore it and take the easy decision to forge ahead with a compromise, we took a deep breath, stoked the flames, and encouraged it to develop. It’s times like these that we’re grateful to be enthusiasts making kayaks for other enthusiasts, rather than to please investors, shareholders, or a board of directors.

Graham observes initial float testing of the latest 9R II shape, fresh from the workshop

We write this on the back of some extremely positive, not-so-undercover testing conducted at HPP amid the NSR weekend; we’ll follow that up this week with more testing on something a little steeper and anticipate finishing tweaks will be made following this. The final shape will then be sent for casting, and after engineering and programming are complete, we should see the production of 9R II M begin towards the end of March.

Testing on the consistent whitewater of HPP – thanks to Tom Clare for the photos!

We’re aware of and genuinely humbled by the fact that many of you have been patiently awaiting the release of 9R II for some time now, but that’s the very reason we took the decision to ensure we develop the project entirely, wear our kayaking enthusiast hearts on our sleeves, and leave nothing on the table. You might never have known that there could have been more, but we would have.

Thank you for bearing with us; if we can promise you one thing, it’s that the result will be worth the wait!

#FastIsFun, and 9R II is set to be both in equal measures.

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