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I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie!

Posted: 15.12.2014


I like big boats and I cannot lie...

Did you like that play on words? I thought it was cheeky and fun, but the truth is that I really have come to appreciate a large boat as a small paddler. This realization came totally by accident, though, as I screwed up my boat order for our trip to South America this winter. Note to self: Check and re-check any order you ever place. The responsibility falls on you as anyone and everyone, will make mistakes.

I was seriously worried about it when I realized I might be stuck with my 93 gallon “mistake” as I only weigh in at a meager 135 lbs. I wasn’t sure if it was even going to be paddle-able, let alone perform the way to which I have grown accustomed. Maybe it was an underestimation of where my skills are in a kayak in recent history, or maybe it was just pure uncertainty. Regardless, I was now stuck with this predicament proceeding into another season of teaching kayaking in the beautiful country of Chile, a region filled with some of the most diverse and challenging whitewater the world has seen. Could this one boat do it all for me, as I play and teach?

Disclaimer for the reader: I hate the term forgiveness and all that it implies as an educator. Forgiveness, to me, means to hide from what the river is telling you. From a learning perspective, this is easily the greatest disservice you can do for yourself. As someone who is learning, wouldn’t you rather have feedback than forgiveness? Now that all being said, forgiveness will be one of the factors I mention, but more on that in a moment.

What it does really well?

Forgiveness. There it is. Quick wasn’t it? There comes a point when pushing into unknown and unforgiving rapids that you need to count on your kayak in a predictable fashion. This means you need to learn your kayak as well, not just put on the training wheels! After all, part of forgiveness is having predictable performance qualities as well.

The boat resurfaces, or in this case stays on the surface better than I have experienced. This should be predictable though, as I only weigh 135lbs… but even the 83 stays on the surface for me better than any previous boat I have paddled, and Lydia feels the same way in her Recon 70. I just feel the 93 wants to live there while I am piloting the boat, and when it dives (both intentional and unintentional) it resurfaces like a champ.

It planes beautifully and is the fastest of all three sizes. Seriously. Coming off of steep drops, small drops, eddy lines; it picks up speed and holds it better than I experienced in the 83. Again, part of this is that I am light for the boat. A testament however to the boats speed is Bryan Kirk taking a podium spot in 2013 for the Homestake Creek Race.

It still performs. Those edges that I wanted so badly when the team was giving feedback, are still usable and apparent. It doesn’t feel quite the same as the 83, but I am going to use this boat as the drops are getting a lot meatier anyhow. I can still make micro adjustments going into and coming out of rapids with the boat as opposed to needing to over paddle.

In the first video in the playlist above you can see the acceleration the boat gets off of a few strokes as well as carries through drops on the double drop on the Upper Palguin. In the second video you can again see the acceleration, but also how well the boats volume helps me to place my boat more precisely through the soupier drop on the Lower Palguin.

What it doesn’t do really well?

Big water runs. Or generally any sort of river running with big wide open rapids that require more edge, less volume, and more speed. I am learning how to use it for this as it is my only boat here in South America, and going out and doing slalom practice has helped me learn how to use it in these conditions. However, it took some time to figure it out. It has a lot of volume that gets slapped around when you are trying to generate cross current momentum, and that extra rocker in the bow is not necessary when using the boat in this fashion. Therefore, it doesn’t hold a line in this kind of water like a Diesel. With creeking in general, your moves are quick and precise, and then on to the next one. On big water, your lines are sustained for a longer period of time and therefore, angles must be maintained. The ample rocker and volume allows the boat to be pushed out of line more often. Solution: Sit forward and don’t get in the back seat with this boat i.e. paddle like a slalom paddler would, from the front of the boat!

It’s wide, so making sure I can stay in control of the boat and having the leverage I need, I needed to raise the seat significantly (2 extra seat pads). Once I did so, strokes, like stern draws and bow sweeps became significantly easier as well as rolling. It’s easy to go too high with the seat pads as well, as I found out when I first started, and the enhanced performance of a raised seat degrades quickly when doing so. Solution: Get out and play around with this as much as possible on a familiar run. Take another boat, preferably your favorite river-runner/creeker, and compare the two and find out what it is that you like about it and what you need to do to enhance the Recon 93 from an outfitting perspective. Your outfitting is what translates power from your body into your boat, and it matters!!

Other things I really liked

The Recon 93 is a mule. If you got it, you can pack it. I carry a lot of equipment daily and have had room to spare. Just remember, if you pack it, you have to carry it.

It’s not a whole lot heavier than the 83. I always hear that the chief complaint about this boat is its weight. I have been in pretty good boating and hiking (with boat) shape, and I think the weight to safety ratio is worth it. By that I mean the step out pillar, a solid bulkhead, and a boat that absolutely won’t fold. When you actually get in to “creeking shape,” meaning lots of hiking, safety setting, portaging and yes running drops; the weight is negligible comparatively to the boats reassurance of safety. If you are concerned about weight instead of safety, stick to some safer rivers.

Boofing. There is really not much more to be said about that. It likes to do it and so do I.

In conclusion

This won’t be for everyone, and to reiterate on the first point above, don’t use it for forgiveness alone. No boat should be used for that alone. I was surprised by how great the boat performed for me in a totally different style than I was used to in the 83, and therefore it has enhanced and changed my style a bit.

I fully intend to hop back in the 83 when I return home to the States, but I most certainly will be picking up a 93 for the quiver as well.