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Firecracker goes to Turkey!

It takes me a while to warm up to new kayaks. The Firecracker had me excited from the beginning, but it still took me a while to understand what the design is capable of and what its limitations are. On a highwater, spontaneous Turkey trip, I found out exactly what I could do with it…

Before I start, I should say that I was expecting lower river levels and I took the Firecracker because it is new and shiny and sick and keeps me entertained even on small rivers. Myself and the crew landed in pouring rain and I could feel everyone wincing a little bit as we loaded the kayaks and the eyes lingered on by far the smallest kayak of the lot. Mine. 

My friends needn’t have worried though, I spent so much of my life in a freestyle kayak on the Nile; I feel pretty comfortable feeling small out on the water. But that’s just it, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was in a small kayak. The Firecracker has a good amount of business up front, and I launched over and dropped into rapid after rapid feeling confident. I think a lot of that comes from the width and bow rocker.

The softened edges undoubtedly help to keep things feeling steady. For comparison, my favourite kayak of all time, the Ripper 2 is a weapon, but it’s sharp and you need to be wielding it with speed and confidence when using it on hard rapids. When I’m tired and on a powerful river, I really feel my edges catching and the kayak not looking after me. In the Firecracker, I rarely felt that; the shorter tail stays out of the water better until you do want to get vertical, and the softer edges really do a good job of looking after you out on the water. 

On a high water Koprucuy River descent, I had the same amount of rolls as a kayaker in a full-size creekboat (Two). Obviously, this is a small, playful kayak, but I don’t want anyone to misunderstand how good it is downriver as well. 

It has almost a micro-creek-boat feel to it, which has been popularised by previous Pyranha Kayaks such as the Microbat, Ammo, and Nano designs. It stays on top of the surface really easily, continually has me laughing as it snaps into eddies faster than I would ever expect, and in general, deals better with rapids than perhaps any kayak this size has a right to. 

The Manavgat River is undoubtedly one of the best rivers in the world. An endless continuation of class four and some class five rapids take you through a beautiful, remote gorge. At high water, it feels quite pushy, and the consequences of a swim or lost equipment on this river can easily end up with a night spent shivering next to the river. Thankfully, the Firecracker dealt with everything I (or more importantly, the river!) threw at it, and I never felt pushed or intimated, even in this little kayak. 

As the river dropped, it became a paradise in the Firecracker; I felt confident on all of the lines, I surfed all the waves, got vertical a lot, and finished every lap tired and happy. I guess using a kayak like this, you have to accept that there will be times when you have to roll, times when you have to get yourself down from vertical, and to understand that it’s all part of being a better kayaker. I think the Firecracker is the best advancement for intermediate kayakers in years. You’re going to have a lot of fun in this kayak, and the by-product of that fun is you’re going to become a better kayaker. 

I can get the kayak vertical anywhere with a quick snap, whereas in the longer Ripper 2, I need to do more of a windup and slow edge drop to get vertical. Both are really satisfying techniques, but certainly different. I guess the differences continue with Pyranha’s two river-running, freeride designs. The shorter length and rocker of the Firecracker means that it sits very happily in the trough of a wave; the longer Ripper will often gain too much speed and purl if you’re not on it. The longer length and speed of the Ripper give me more confidence in hitting sticky moves, but don’t underestimate what the Firecracker is capable of downriver. I am happy dropping into most rapids with this thing!

The Ripper makes it easier to carry speed around the river, but the way the Firecracker skips and turns is pure joy, and a whole different way to experience the river.

I can’t choose between the Firecracker or Ripper, and thankfully, I am a lucky git and I don’t have to. I’m going to keep using them both. If you do have to choose, I’m going to say choose the Firecracker right now. It delivers on its design promise of opening up the world of freeride kayaking. The Ripper 2 is still sick, and I’ll be back in mine soon enough, but for now, I am fired up on the Firecracker!