2012 Dagger Mamba  Series(7.6, 8.1 and 8.6) Review With Andrew Holcombe and Mark "Snowy" Robertson

2012 Dagger Mamba Review with Andrew Holcombe, Snowy Robertson and Hobie

Even though the river in our backyard is almost too low to paddle, and boating season has all but come to an end here in Colorado, it's still an exciting time of year for us. This is when we get to see all of the exciting new products for 2012. The NEW 2012 Dagger Mamba series is one of the most heavily anticipated items that we will be receiving. The Mamba has traditionally been a great seller for us here at CKS, as well as a fun boat for staff members to paddle. It's user friendly, has nice outfitting, and can paddle in a variety of conditions very well. It's as comfortable being used as an instructional pool rolling boat, as it is for an after work high water Pine Creek / Numbers run. Dagger has had their world class wrecking crew and boat designers like Rush Sturges, Tyler Bradt, Andrew Holcombe, Ken "Hobie" Hoeve and Snowy Robertson working on a bigger and better version of this already great boat for about a year. They've finally released the 2012 design to the general public. Here is what we know so far:


Pros / Information:

  • I spoke to Dagger team manager Andrew Holcombe about the new 2012 Mamba. His first point that he noted was "this is a different boat"! This is not the same Mamba with new colors, or a thicker seat cushion. The whole boat has been redesigned.
  • The most noticeable change is the additional volume in the hull and the stern. The boat sits higher on the water, which makes it more capable in harder whitewater. By changing the volume distribution, there is also more room in the knee wells, and more comfort for the paddler overall.
  • Andrew also mentioned that there is a planing hull with a nice rail, but the stern was still rounded out. The end of the boats are freed up a bit, which means that you can surf, carve, and even spin. Because the stern of the boat still has a traditional displacement feel, it will not window shade beginning paddlers as much as other planing hull creekers and river river runners (The Burn).
  • Beginning and intermediate paddlers are going to progress quicker. Because the boat has more volume, they will feel more stable paddling down river. The planing hull is also very stable, compared to a displacement hull. The rounded stern is still EXTREMELY easy to roll, which will give confidence for beginners.
    Anna Levesque is using the new Mambas as her teaching / learning boat of choice.
  • Intermediate and advanced paddlers are going to REALLY be able to take advantage of the changes. The planing hull, edge, changed rocker profile (more on that below) and added volume launch the Mamba into the planing hull creeker class. Wicked!The Mamba will thrive on runs like Gore Canyon, Pine Creek and Numbers on The Arkansas at high water, Section IV of the Chatooga, The Upper Gauley, etc...Heck, you can send it down Gorilla on The Green if you've got the skills.
    Ken Hoeve (Hobie) took the Mamba 8.6 on Gore (Gore rapid sneak at 1,220cfs in October)I got in touch with him to ask about it - His response was "Dude, the boat absolutely rocks. Foolproof. I'm a major fan of it."
  • I spoke to Hobie yesterday, and he is totally stoked on this boat, to say the least. He said that he has not even sat in his Nomad 8.5 since he has had his Mamba 8.6. Hobie is a big guy, and is especially loving the fact that the large creeker version is 89 gallons, and is available with all of the same outfitting that his Nomad has. He said that the older model Mamba's were sometimes a little tough to turn quickly. This "is a nimble big boat", and has all of the volume that you need to run solid class IV+ and V (and V+ for the right paddler). "People like Rush and Tyler are going to run some crazy s#$t in this boat"...according to the big man. For all of you SUP'ers out there, the 2012 Mamba is comparable to the Surftech Universal 12'0". It does it all really well. Not every SUP can do it all well, but the Universal can.
  • Guys like Rush Sturges and Tyler Bradt are loving the Mamba for an all around boat. It's a creeker (89 gallons!!), big water boat and river runner all in one. The size and type of this boat is perfect for throwing down on really big, hard runs. The planing hull surfs and spins, but there is more volume than most free runners have, which means you will not get tossed around as much paddling down river. Check out the review that Tyler wrote; it's a recap from an epic trip on The Clarks Fork of The Yellowstone.
    3 days in a row of this in the new Mamba. Photo from Tyler's R and D trip down the Clarks Fork.
  • The Mamba would make a good travel boat for places like Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Africa. It's got enough volume to run class IV and V, but also is a blast on class III/IV play runs. Kick flips, wave wheels and surfing on big fluffy pillows will keep you busy.It's not too bulky hauling around the airport either. Maybe look at the play seat version (and not the creek seat) which will save you 2 lbs overall. Bring it to NORWAY and charge hard!
  • What boats does the Mamba compare to??? The Pyranha Burn has a similar hull, and speed. The Mamba however will be a little bit more forgiving. The Liquid Logic Remix is also a comparable boat. It's got similar volume, speed and comfort. If you are looking at, or paddling one of these boats now, check out the new Mamba.
  • I spoke with Snowy Robertson, Dagger's lead boat designer,about the changes that he made to the Mamba. Here's what he had to say: The boat is built on the same platform that the older Mamba was, but with tweaks and changes to make it more capable in creek situations, while very user friendly and fun for paddlers of all ability levels. The rocker is the same, but it is a smoother profile. There is no sudden transition, which makes the boat spinable, easy to turn on a dime, and user friendly. It is not edgy. Snowy said that Dagger took a detailed look at the rails of the boat, and changed them up a bit. They are there to carve and turn, but are softer in the stern. The rail is tucked under the bow, and there is not as much of a sidewall up front. This allows water to pass under the boat, rather than hit the sidewall and either turn it, or flip it over. In short, it will not get pushed around as much because it is a very forgiving shape.I asked Snowy about product testing, and where he drew his "real world" info from. He mentioned that the boat had been paddled on everything from the class II/III Nantahala, The Narrows of The Green, The Clarks Fork of The Yellowstone, epic huge water runs in Africa, and here in Colorado. Besides testing the boat The United States, Dagger also had quite a bit of R and D work done in Europe on rivers in the UK, Norway, Italy and Slovenia. In fact, for the first time ever Dagger Europe will be producing the Mamba’s over seas.
  • The 2012 Mamba comes in a regular model, as well as a creek version. The main difference between the 2 is The Creek Seat. The whole seat is a heavier duty system, that comes with a rotomolded center wall(step out pillar). Again, with the increase in volume, modified rocker and hull, and heavier duty outfitting, The Mamba has now become a solid advanced river running / creek boat.
The Mamba's home turf. Class III/IV river running in the South East.


  • The Mamba is all new for 2012. As with any new design, it will take a little for "real world" boat info to come out. So far, Team Dagger has been paddling the boat all over, and loving it. It will be good to get some feedback from real world paddlers too.
  • The Mamba is not a play boat. It has a planing hull and edges, but too much volume to get vertical (squirts, bow stalls, cartwheels, etc). It's super fun for kick flips, and even huge wave wheels, but you will not be throwing down in your local hole in a 2012 Mamba. Keep and eye out for Dagger's new 2012 playboat though!
Surfing in The Mamba. The planing hull is great for carving on a wave.

The Verdict:

We are very excited for the arrival of the 2012 Dagger Mamba. This new boat looks like the perfect choice for someone who needs one kayak that can do it all. Here in Colorado, you could take The Mamba on a solid class IV or V big water run, and then lend the boat to your friend who is learning to kayak. The same forgiving design and added volume, that allows you to nail your line in a challenging rapid is also what will help a beginner progress to an intermediate level very quickly. The Mamba's been around for quite a while, for good reason. With a new and improved version in the molds for 2012, it probably will be around for a long time to come. Thanks to Scott Martin for letting us use his photos!

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