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Submitted: 06-17-2004 by JD
For starters, this is NOT a flatwater boat, it is whitewater only, and I think that is made clear in most adds I've seen for it. I've paddled both inflatables and hardboats, and I've got to say, this boat handles and tracks as well as anything I've ever been in on whitewater. I've taken it on two runs so far, a class I-II run, and a class III+ run in a very tight, high volume river. It is very stable, very maneuverable, and rollable. I love the tight cockpit that makes you feel connected to the boat. It's extremely comfortable, and you are not constantly repositioning yourself as you are in most other IK's. I also own a Sea Eagle 340x, and there is just no comparison, the Stearns completely smokes it.
If you haven't run much whitewater, I would suggest starting out with class II or less, until you understand how to brace and eddy turn. It's not as forgiving as the tradition "ducky" design, and the potential to flip is greater. Still, it's much more stable than a hard boat, and you can do alot of the same play moves.
My only complaints are that the bottom material, which appears to be about 1100 denier pvc fabric, could be susceptible to wear over time, but that's speculation. It's overall a very tough little boat. Another key is to inflate it in the shade to avoid loss of air pressure when hitting the cold water. If you're in class III or above, you'll want as much rigidness as possible. That said, it's a quite rigid boat, kudos to Stearns for their design here.
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