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To Machno or to 9R? Tough Choices Creek Boat Review

While neither the 9R nor the Machno are new to the creek boating and river running scene, it wasn’t until just recently that I was able to use each of them extensively on various styles of whitewater. Overall, I would happily take either on any style of river run. They do have some fundamental differences and compliment each other exceptionally well.  But, I realize that most of us can’t afford, nor do we really want a quiver of creek boats.  So, here are my thoughts on the primary differences between these kayaks if you’re trying to decide which might better suit your needs.  (For the record this comes from the bias of a medium-smallish paddler.  I’m 5’7”, about 135 and realize that while I choose to paddle the 9R and Small Machno, this insight might not be as relevant to someone differently sized who might be choosing between a 9R and Machno)

Tracey Young and the 9r Steezing Cherry Bomb (Photo Sam Swanson)

SPEED- The 9R is known for its’ speed.   Coming in at 8’6” instead of the 9R’s 8’11”, the Small Machno is not as fast as its’ sibling kayak.  But, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not a slug and was actually quite quick compared to other creek boats.    The 9R likes to handle everything with speed.    If you’re not paddling aggressively, or are slowly approaching features trying to discern the line, the 9R will not perform as well. Conversely, while the Machno obviously performs better when paddled aggressively and with speed, it also handles unbelievably well when paddled casually, momentum has been lost, or when peeling out of an eddy directly into a boof.  Both kayaks love rapidly skipping out after holes and boofs.

Anna Wagner Driving the 9r through Big Water on the Malad (Photo – Dan Hoffman)

STABILITY – The desired and output speeds of the 9R and Machno feeds directly into their stability (which both are).  The 9R’ss stability comes from being driven.  The Machno, a bit wider and more comfortable with less speed, is naturally a bit more stable.

Jo Kemper Cruising her 9r amongst the rocks, holes, and siphons on the Ohanepecosh (Photo Nouria Newman)

EDGE – Both boats feature a non-aggressive edge, which is nice for holding a line and peeling in and out of eddies.  The 9R’s edge is a bit more prevalent than the Machno.  This edge combined with its’ narrowness and speed makes carving, eddy catching, and s-turns in the 9R super fun, even in chiller whitewater.   Although they have edges, they’re certainly not box-y and the hulls of both are rounded creating seamless edge to edge transitions and a bit of forgiveness with flat landings.   While carving around in the 9R is more enjoyable, the Machno is more fun sliding down or around rocky features.

Cat Hardman taking advantage of that 9r edge to get her lean on. (Photo Bryce Aaron)

TURNABILITY – The 9R and Machno both hold lines really well.  The Machno turns easier than the 9R.  Depending on the situation, you might be craving either.

Cat Hardman Showcasing some Machno Boof Steeze (Photo Hayley Stuart)

BOOFABILITY – Bottom line, they both boof exceptionally well.  They’re easy to boof, forgiving, and enjoy ripple skipping out of the bottom of drops.   While the 9R likes to take drops straight on, owing to its’ easy to turn nature, the Machno is super fun to sweep boof.  Approaching a drop not quite straight on, but being able to skip out straight from the bottom is both a fun and forgiving feature of the Machno.   Similarly, they both plug.  Tall waterfalls and steep creeks, my vote is for the Machno, (but the 9R also gets the job done remarkably well).

Tracy Young Boofing that Machno Strong on a classic Cali Overnighter (Photo Sam Swanson)

OVERNIGHTERS- While I’ve taking the 9R on many overnight trips and like it immensely, speed and stability come a bit more into play.  I notice that I really need to get it up to speed for it to perform well. For big water river running and creeking, I’ve been stoked.  On tighter creeks I’ve been a little less so.  The Machno loves overnighters.  For the shorter paddler, it’s a bit more pleasant to carry the Machno using a backpack portage system or while negotiating around rocks.

Small Girl, Big Boat. Jordan Slaughter Hiking into Bridge Creek.

Overall, like I said before, I am stoked to paddle either the 9R or Machno on all types of whitewater, whether it be big water river running or creeking, cruising down your backyard run, low volume steep creeking, or exploratory overnighters. The 9R is your Ferrari, the Machno is your Hummer.  (The analogy might not be perfect)  The decision is a matter of preference, your style, and what type of whitewater you find yourself mostly paddling.  I like the nimble playfulness and stability of the Machno on steep creeks, low volume whitewater, and overnighters.  I enjoy the speed and carvibility of  the 9R on river runs, higher volume creeking, and making easier whitewater dynamic and fun.

9r likes to go fast, but also handles quite well on taller drops. Jordan Slaughter laying some treats on Lower Lewis Falls.

Anna Wagner & her 9r styling some Cali steep creeking (Photo Sam Swanson)

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