Buying a Whitewater Canoe
By Wayne Dickert
What should you look for in a whitewater canoe, besides yourself with a big smile on your face?
Does picking the right canoe seem like picking a politician you shop around and end up choosing the lesser of all the evils? Well it doesn't have to be that way. However, like most elections you'll want to start with the primary elections (selections). Be sure to pick a candidate that has proven to be a tough performer. All but the most expert of paddlers, who may use ultra-lightweight Kevlar composite lay-ups, will use ABS plastic boats, the industry standard for toughness.
Next pick a candidate that suits your style. If you spend most of your time on easy whitewater with long pools between the rapids, look for one that is built for the long haul. Since you will be spending most of your time moving downstream, look for a boat 15-16 feet long and only a little rocker in the hull. If you are going to be paddling through big waves, pick a boat that has good freeboard, not a free loader, to keep you dry when it counts. This type of boat will do well in up to class III non-technical whitewater. There are several tandem and solo boats on the market that fit this bill so bring a friend.
Are your valued weekends spent on technical whitewater stretches requiring considerable maneuvering and avoiding situations that will sink a candidate. Look for a one that has good rocker, providing a highly maneuverable platform in which to avoid those tough obstacles that pop up from time to time. Most whitewater specific boats are shorter in length allowing them to ride up and over waves providing a drier and more thrilling ride. A candidate with flair and fullness in their personality will also help avoid swamping your platform in tough conditions.
If you like an aggressive, hard-hitting candidate that will charge through the whitewater issues and features, a hard chined boat may be just your ticket. However, a softer, gentler chine may be needed if you are not absolutely sure which way you lean in every situation. And size does matter, especially when you are looking at the shorter, sportier whitewater specific boats. If you are a fuller figured voter, test different candidates that will support someone of your stature in the whitewater community. Most boat designs now have different sizes to maximize their performance at different weights.
Make sure that your boat fits comfortably and securely for maximum control. As with most political situations the use of air bags will help float your boat when the currents get rough. Proper outfitting is the key to success, but that's another story.
If possible, put your candidate to the test on the kind of water that you'll spend most of your time on. This will help make sure it will fit your needs. Once you've made your decision, its time to vote. Unlike the political system, you can cast your choice at anytime at your favorite retailer and immediately start to enjoy the benefits that your candidate brings.
Now pick a candidate and get out there and vote!
Wayne Dickert is the Instruction Manager at Nantahala Outdoor Center