Choosing the right boat is the key to unlocking the rest of the boating equipment. Without it, you can’t even be on the river in the first place. So which boat is your soul mate?
There are a couple things to keep in mind when choosing that perfect boat, the first being your personal fit. You should be able to fit comfortably in the boat without your hips or ankles aching within the first couple minutes. It should feel like an extension of your body, and nice and snug. You should have solid points of contact in your hips, butt, thighs, feet and back. If this is the only boat you’re planning on purchasing, don’t forget to think ahead seasonally. Make sure you have plenty of room to accommodate thicker, warmer gear that takes up more space.
The second thing to keep in mind is the hull design. Boats come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s key to try out ones that fit your weight and your experience level, along with what you intend to pursue in kayaking. On one end of the spectrum there are playboats; short, stubby, trick machines. They’re great for surfing and throwing ends, but aren’t going to offer a lot of stability. Playboats feature a well defined edge along the bottom that make them great for getting vertical, but not so forgiving when learning your peel outs, ferries, and eddy turns. If you’re looking to challenge yourself and take on a steep learning curve, or get into doing some tricks, a playboat might be a great option for you. Some boats in the playboat category would be the Jackson Kayak Rock Star, the Dagger Jitsu, or the Pyranha Jed.
From playboats, it transitions into river runners. These boats are a little bit longer, which offers more stability, and are great for learning. They’re popular with beginner and experienced boaters alike, and will allow for the most growth in your paddling ability. River runners will grow with you, so to speak. Zoar carries the Jackson Zen, the Dagger Mamba, and the Pyranha Burn, which all fit this profile.
If you are looking for something in between true playboats and river runners you may try the river play category. These boats are a hybrid of the two giving the paddler more hull speed and volume than the playboat and yet are more edgy than the river runner. Take a look at Jackson’s Fun series, the Dagger Axiom or Pyranha’s Loki.
On the other end of the spectrum are creek boats. Featuring longer lengths and round hulls, these boats go up and over river features like waves, holes, and rocks. They’re more stable when they’re on edge, and don’t carve through turns the way river runners do. However, they’ll get through nearly anything, and are the epitome of stability in a whitewater boat. Zoar carries the Jackson Karma, the Dagger Nomad, and the Pyranha 9R for our creekboat designs.
You be the judge! If you’re just starting out, picking a boat that offers you more stability and more forgiveness may be a good way to go. If you’re venturing into higher classes of whitewater, you might enjoy having the cushion of a larger boat that can take on bigger features. The good news is, there’s a right boat out there for everyone. And, all our Zoar shop staff are paddlers themselves who can share time tested reviews on all of our boats. So come on in and find that soulmate!
Stay tuned for the next installment Essential Gear, where we will feature PFDs!