Ten years ago it was one size fits all and one style fits all paddling disciplines. Your creek boat was your playboat and your river-running boat. Today there are more boat choices than most of us know what to do with. There are boats for river-running, playboating, creeking, expeditions, for beginners, intermediates and advanced paddlers and everything in between. Boat designs have come a long way in the past ten years making our adventures on the water much easier, more comfortable and exciting. With some many boats on the market these days it’s hard to know which boat is right for you. Once you have narrowed down the type of paddling you intend to do, the fun can begin.
Just as play spots have evolved tremendously over the years, creek boats are finally catching up. Many boat manufacturers have taken a proactive approach to designing safer and more durable boats for creeking. They’ve added features like security bars or rescue points that are located closer to the cockpit on the bow and stern of the boat like on the Burn, Karnali and Everest from Pyrahna. They allow rescuers more options to attach a rope in a pin or rescue situation. Other features like the grab loops, bow and stern pillars, safety cages, full plate bulkheads, seats and outfitting have all improved dramatically making the boats safer and better suited for creeking.
If you have never purchased a creek boat before, you will want to consider a few things. What type of creeks will you be paddling – high or low volume? Big drops or tighter more technical rapids? Are you more comfortable in a flat hull or a round hull? Do you like a hard chine or a soft chine? More rocker or less rocker? Are you looking for a creek boat that will also perform as an expedition boat? Do you carry a lot of extra gear? All of these factors are crucial in choosing the correct boat.
I spend about 60% of my time on the water in a flat hulled playboat with aggressive edges and a lot of rocker. For me to jump in a creek boat with a round hull, no edges and little rocker is difficult at best. I feel like a log floating downstream and find it hard to turn, catch eddies and track downstream. Therefore, I chose a creek boat with a flat hull, edges and good rocker.
In choosing a creek boat, many people make the mistake of buying one that’s a little small for them. Creek boats should float you well on top of the water. The last thing you want is to be subbing out of sitting really low in the water as this will negatively affect your lines through rapids and drops. I fit comfortably into the smallest H:3, the 235, but after paddling it on a local class IV-V run, I realized that it was not the best size for me. I was getting surfed in holes that I normally punched right through and felt like I was sitting low in the water and it was slowing me down. I chose to go with the next size up and now I feel much safer and happier on the water.
I highly recommend trying any boat before you purchase it, especially a creek boat where performance equates to safety. If you don’t have that option, make sure you ask your local dealer about the different characteristics of each creek boat and what would suit your needs. Most importantly – look for a boat that will float you well, resurface efficiently and is comfortable for you to paddle. Your creek boat should be the tool that makes “pushing the limit” both safe and fun!
-Dixie Marree Prickett, Pyranha