Wave Sport Project 54Cx Whitewater kayak Review

The 2009 Wave Sport Project 54Cx has been getting plenty of attention recently, in fact it’s almost controversial. Does the sport of whitewater kayaking really need a $2500 composite freestyle boat? Will it help you to become a better paddler? For the right person, the answer is hell yes!

Composite boats are nothing new in paddlesports. Wave ski’s and surf kayaks have been using expensive lightweight materials for years,and slalom and squirt boats have been in the whitewater scene for as long as I can remember. In 2000 Riot introduced the ultra-light kayak series. These boats were in the mid 20 lb range instead of 35 lbs. This was very progressive and cutting edge for a time when the World Freestyle champ was cartwheeling his or her way to the podium. Throw in a split or 2 for some really big points. In this day and age, people like Jed Selby,Dustin Urban, Stephen Wright, Brian Kirk and Kelsey Thompson are almost pulling off double air screws, insanely high loops and other moves that weren’t even around in the year 2000. These are the paddlers that will take full advantage of this lean, mean freestyle machine. It will be interesting to see some really good paddlers in this boat at Skookumchuck, The White Nile, Bus Eater on the Ottawa and at the hole’s in Buena Vista and Salida during high water.

Specs:

  • Length:6’ 2”/188cm
  • Width:25”/64cm
  • Boat Weight:20 lbs/9kg
  • Cockpit:33”x19”/84x48cm
  • Volume:54 gal/205 L
  • Weight Range:120-200 lbs/54-91 kg
  • Deck Height:13.25”/34cm

Construction:

  • Vinylester Resin: Added impact resistance.
  • Kevlar Fabric: This lightweight performance oriented “toughness” fiber provides impact and puncture resistance.
  • Carbon Unidirectional Fabric: Brings added stiffness in one specific axis.
  • Carbon Fabric: Provides stiffness in multiple directions; optimizes transfer of energy.
  • Fiberglass Surface Layer: Provides abrasion resistance and protects the carbon and carbon/Kevlar fabrics from wear.
  • Clear Gel Coat: Seals and adds luster to the finish.

If Heidi Klum were a kayak.


Besides offering ultra high performance, the Cx will make you look like a better boater too. If you get one, you gotta live up to the rep.

Pros:

  • Carbon/Kevlar composite is light and stiff. The paddler’s power to weight ratio in this boat will be superb. This means that it will take less effort to pull of some tricks, and will be easier to invent new ones.
  • The $2500 pricetag is actually not that bad for the amount of features and technology that’s packed into this 20 pounder. The Project 54Cx costs about the same as a composite surf kayak. Think about bikes and snowboards…a custom/hand built, limited production bike frame cost as much as a complete high end mountain bike (just steel- carbon ones start at $3G’s). Volkl, F2 and Donek have been making alpine snowboards that cost twice (or more in some cases) as much as your typical all-mountain board for a long time. Hell, even a Burton Vapor costs $1000 just for the deck. They have a small market, but sell well in the US and Europe. If you are looking for a precision tool for a specific job….you get what you pay for.
  • The CX’s outfitting is above and beyond the standard Project’s.It has a carbon seat and leg lifters. This will add to the stiffness, and reduce weight.
  • The hull and boat design have been tweaked out too. The ends have been rockered even more for extra lift on aerial wave tricks with no loss of hull speed, and there is less volume in the ends and more in the center of the boat. This makes the boat slicier, better for loops and hole tricks, and allows larger paddlers to fit. The thigh braces are also larger too. You are not buying a composite standard Project.
  • The 54Cx has huge Bling factor. It will look great next to your 12,000 Scott Spark LTD carbon mountain bike. If you’ve got an Audi R8, the boat will match the carbon door panels too (at least it’s 4 wheel drive).

Cons:

  • The “twice the price” of a normal roto-mold kayak “issue” may not appeal to some people. With only 50 of these boats in production, that should not be big deal. The supply vs. demand will be evenly proportioned.
  • Durability (or lack of) may be an factor if the boat is used as a downriver playboat on a shallow run. Just like any high end specialty item, the Wave Sport Project 54Cx needs to be taken care of properly. This is not a good replacement boat for your old blow molded Prijon Fly.
  • The beginning / intermediate park and play boater may not get their money’s worth out of the Cx. It’s designed for advanced freestyle paddlers who are looking to push the limits of their sport. Jed Selby will get more out of this boat at The Glenwood Wave, then someone like me. I don’t think the Cx will do that much for my flat spin, or help me link my 4th end next summer.

Here are some comments from Robert Peerson, the designer of the WS Project 54Cx:

“The idea behind the Project 54 Cx was to create an innovative concept boat and push the boundaries of materials, hull design, and outfitting. We had a great response from everyone at the Outdoor Retailer Show for this boat and for all the concept boats shown this year by Confluence Watersports. With the molds already produced, there was a limited amount of work involved to start production. Whether we sell one or fifty, we are excited to see where it can take the sport of freestyle kayaking.

This boat is not for everyone, and only 50 will be available world wide. It has a higher price tag and will take a certain presence on the water to paddle it. The Project 54Cx is of the highest performance of boats for paddlers who like to push the limits of freestyle. It is a boat that feels very different from anything else out there. Surfing waves, air-flipping deep holes, or downriver free styling a river like the New River Gorge will never be the same.”

Brian Kirk also shares his experiences in the new Cx:

I just wanted to share my thoughts on the new carbon/kevlar freestyle boat from WS, being one of the few who has already paddled one.

I took the boat pictured below down the Upper Gauley this fall to test the design and durability. I had never paddled a composite boat before, other than my slalom boat, so I had no idea what to expect out of a carbon playboat.

The put-in wave train was the first spot. I went for a trick, a kickflip. I can honestly say it was the best kickflip I’ve ever thrown, and I landed flat on the hull to finish off the move. It was literally effortless, and I felt all I had to do was move my body and the ultra-light shell around my lower half would follow with no resistance. I suddenly understood all the enthusiasm in Europe about the French composite boats.

The run down the rest of the Gauley was a mixture of freestyle bliss combined with avoiding rocks and staying super alert. I could not believe the looseness on Insig wave.

The 54Cx is essentially a tweaked Project in a composite layup, and I can’t wait to see how high it’ll go on a big wave. The hull stiffness is unbelievable. It’s not an everyday boat for everyone. It’s going to be in my quiver of kayaks for days with good water and quality playspots. Those days will never be the same again.

-Bryan Kirk

Team Wave Sport

The Verdict:

No matter how you look at it, the composite Project 54Cx is exciting for freestyle kayaking. Besides helping great paddlers get even better, it will also push the rate of progression for kayaking as a whole. I remember when carbon bikes were thought of as breakable, finicky items that weren’t worth their high price. Now, you can get carbon-fiber downhill rims that are guaranteed to make through the punishment of and rigors of the DH world. Someone had to take the plunge and start building boats out of materials besides plastic. It will be interesting to see where this trend goes, and more importantly where it takes freestyle kayaking. For big water downriver freestyle, and deep holes and waves on the Nile, Zambezi, Ottawa, Skookumchuck, The New, Colorado and who knows where else…It seems like this boat will fit in perfectly.

Project 54cxWave sportWhitewater kayaks

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