So its popping up time after time what is the right playboat for you!?
Play boats are not a new thing years ago boats got smaller and slicier when it was one boat for all your paddling and if you hit something hard ankle injury was expected, Nowadays most people will get into a bigger boat to learn their craft, a safer option which isn’t usually as aggressive but for those people learning in what you think is an old boat a few years ago that was probably classed as a playboat!
Modern day freestyle kayaks are designed to open up the vertical realm, with lots of volume around the knees but still slicey enough, The hull of the boat is the money end this is what makes or breaks a boat is it too fast to slow, too wide too much rocker more on this later…
This question could be answered one of a thousand ways but I’m going to break it down into an easyish step by step guide which hopefully gives you all loads to think about.
What’s your aims?
So first things first, why are you buying a freestyle kayak?
Is it a fashion accessory is it because everyone has one?
Are you looking for a bit of fun to surf those local waves or a bit of fun on flat water or are you hoping to be the next freestyle master, Either way think about what you want to get out of the boat if your looking to be competitive you should definitely look for something more modern, boat designs have followed the trend of what the worlds best paddlers are able to perform (and also every freestyle paddler hates to be beaten by someone in an old design!) if your looking for fun and to try something new the second hand market becomes your oyster!
So how much are you looking to spend will usually dictate how new a boat you should be looking at. But don’t get bogged down theirs older designs out their which are still super competition and exceptionally fun to paddle.
When buying a boat its really important to try them first especially if you have no idea, most sellers are happy to give you a go in their boat, otherwise next time your in an eddy ask someone! most paddlers will give up their boat for you to have a go.
Any sponsored paddlers you spot definitely ask them! the reason they are sponsored is because they are good paddlers and love to show off their new shiny kit, most of them will give you a very honest review of their own boat and the others available on the market, especially if your in an older design many team paddlers love the opportunity to get back into something old and really throw it around again!
We talk about comfort in play boating terms as a whole range of things,
Play boats should never be comfy!……. LIES!
A modern freestyle boat is an extension of your body its designed to go where you do, Yes its a different seating position much wider and a different foot position which does take time to adjust to but if something is sooooo tight and uncomfortable you wont spend the time in the boat to learn anything you’ll always be thinking of getting out and that your feet hurt too much!
When you buy a freestyle boat theirs usually a big bag of padding this usually gets tossed aside and forgotten its important to hang onto this and use the padding to give yourself a customised fit, any good kayak shop will help you out with this, everyone is different so you need to spend some time turning your very standard kayak into a customised glove to fit you,
Here’s a video I made a while back on boat outfitting for some hints and tips
When your demoing a boat its always difficult to get a great fit some people spend more time outfitting than they do paddling but realistically when testing a boat try and get the right points of contact first to give you a good idea of what the boat is capable of,
Feet, Knees/Thighs, Bum, Hips and Backrest if you an get a reasonable fit by using extra foam you can fine tune the setup once its yours.
Look at the shapes of the boats many of the older slicier boats are not as good for people with big feet as the ends get very narrow very quick think about comfort and sit into a few boats, with the right outfitting even the smallest boats can be comfy.
Think about footwear generally your gorge boots and canyoneers are not designed to fit in a freestyle boat a thinner river shoe or neoprene sock is a better option giving you protection and leaving you space inside the kayak so not to be too tight.
so this goes hand in hand when outfitting the boat wear the footwear your likely to use as it WILL make a difference
All boats are released in different sizes and weights most of these can be found on the shops and manufacturers website, otherwise hit up Google for some stats,
The weigh ranges given are realistically a guide, take them with a pinch of salt many stats are put together pre-production and not really updated, if your looking at a boat you ideally want to be in the mid to upper end of the weight range, being too light for a boat will make it harder to initiate and throw around but make it better for river running, but being well over the weight range will mean the boat spends more time underwater, the rails will sit lower making it more unstable,
again take advice from people who have used the boats and try them out, weight sits hand in hand with trim of the boat, tall people often suffer with being tall and pushing the seat back making the boat react tail happy, look at different designs realistically its best to keep the seat as close to centre as possible as it allows the boat to spin around the central point in a well balanced way. most guys on a wave like to shift the seat back a little to keep the nose high and stop it from pearling (catching) this is great but remember when your in a hole and you cant initiate the nose because the weights too far back.
I’m relatively tall yet i always paddle the boat with the seat central before moving it to see how it reacts.
The weight range of a boat is something which is usually down to personal experience again deciding where your paddling will have a role to play.
The hull or underside of the boat dictates many things as this is the section of the boat mainly in the water its often the bit which gets neglected when buying a boat.
First off check for cracks, dents and other damage. a damaged hull is always difficult to repair so check for damage and large gouges.
Don’t get too precious, boats will get scratched its just a matter of time, they are designed to bounce!
So what does the hull do? this is your launch pad to the world this will dictate your speed your manoeuvrability and your stability, As a simple guide look at the rails and the sidewalls the sharper the rails the more aggressive the boat will be and the squarer the sidewalls the harder a boat will be to roll. Where as something with softer rails wont be as aggressive on a wave and round sidewalls will allow the boat to roll easier. A classic example is the Pyranha Jed this is a very aggressive boat absolutely insane on a wave as its sharp rails allow it to carve and accelerate really easy but try and paddle it on a river and you’ll spend most the time low bracing as the trippy rails are still their where as something like the Jitsu from Dagger is much more rounded making it less trippy but still super fun.
The hull design conversation could go on all day, best thing to do is talk to people at your local spot and ask them which boats work well as this is where you will do most of your paddling getting a boat to suit the feature will help,
Where are you Paddling
Ok I just touched on this but its important to buy a boat for what you actually are doing and not where you aspire to be theirs no point buying a full carbon boat if your just learning the double pump, likewise buy something you can paddle many boats are better suited to holes or waves this comes back to hull shape, look at what others are paddling and ask advice you’ll soon see what works in your local spot.
This is another aspect of weight ranges, take them with a pinch of salt the volume of a boat is simply how big is is inside and measured on either litres or gallons with the ever changing position of where they put the volume its not essential, your better to look at the weight range as it should give a truer identification of what weight that size paddles best for.
This is the number one feature of an boat! make sure you like the colour! no really pick something that matches your kit and your style if you like the boat you’ll enjoy paddling it!
Really though their is some truth in different colours shrink to different sizes but realistically this is down to MM here of their and nothing to worry about.
Try the boat in a fun safe environment don’t drop onto Gower for your first time in a brand new boat you have no idea about or take it sea surfing where you’ll end up getting beaten up, Take it to a nice feature with good eddy access and a pool to roll in or even better a swimming pool or lake (depending on the temperature) and just get used to how the boat reacts and moves, practice rolling and falling in make sure your happy with the boat before scaring yourself.
Boats to look at
So as a beginner to intermediate freestyle paddler with good kayaking proficiency looking to buy a freestyle kayak to have a bit of fun and a change from the rivers here’s a few models which are great with some of my own opinions next to them, some people agree some don’t but here’s boats I’ve tried,
|Fun Slicey boat cartwheels for days but old design without much pop
|One of the best Intro boats out their does everything a modern boat does at a fraction of the price.
|Jackson Star Series 07-09
|An excellent intro boat slicey and fun
|Jackson Star Series 10-12
|Probably the boat that moved the market these are coming up second hand snap them up a simply amazing boat paddled by world champions and friends all over the world
|Jackson Rockstar 2012
|This boat was built for the Plattling worlds in 2011 a really good boat in a hole, starting to come down in price but still a top boat
|Very narrow boat works well at Gower but a little unstable in a hole
|A very aggressive boat you will only get the best out of it if your an accomplished paddler
|another excellent boat to learn in and should be nice and cheap these days
|a playboat with a little extra volume still very playful and surfs well very cheap to pick up
|The slicey brother of the inazone, if cartwheeling is your thing this machine will spin you around
|The latest from Dagger still very easy to paddle but high priced
|A great boat with good credentials works well all over the world a great design and easy to paddle
|Wavesport Project X
|a great boat that just faltered in the market fun to paddle great to surf but a little aggressive at times
|The latest boat from the wavesport guys ultra competitive but big pricing
|Really open up the vertical world with the emphasis on technique but not great for in features
Ok its really important that the girls especially look to get something small and light enough they can firstly carry and move about but then throw around once on the water, think carefully and look to most of the small boats first, many of them are now prototyped and work out much better than getting into a padded out medium.
Where to buy
Ok heres the Bias bit always check out your local kayak stores theirs a great one in Dublin city Centre everyone should check out
Great Outdoors – www.greatoutdoors.ie
Trade in and 2nd hand boats on Great Outdoors Facebook Page
Otherwise I-Canoe also have a good selection.
Canoe and kayaks for sale in Ireland Facebook group is another great spot to pick up second hand boats.