Somehow, creek boat designs continue to evolve. Paddling steep, difficult whitewater has never looked or felt smoother with moves like leaning boofs and skipping out of drops. We have these next-evolution creek boats to thank for styling the steeps. The question is, which of these boats is right for you? Simon Coward, owner of AQ Outdoors (AQ Outdoors is a paddling shop and school with locations in Calgary and Edmonton), is here to share his thoughts on three of the best creek boat designs on the water today. The following is a transcript of his video review.
3 Top Creekboats Go Head-To-Head
Simon from AQ Outdoors here and today we’re going to dive into a side-by-side comparison of the latest creek boat offerings from Jackson, Dagger and Pyranha.
If you’ve been looking for a new creek boat you’ve undoubtedly come across the Pyranha Scorch the Jackson Gnarvana and the Dagger Code. Before I get into our comparison of these top models I do want to note this isn’t a specs-driven analysis. I’ll be focusing primarily on personal experiences, suitability and on-water observations.
Today we’re using the medium-sized models with paddlers weighing between 135 and 175 pounds, standing at heights of 5’6” to about 5’ 10”.
Each boat brings its own unique flair to the highly rockered short waterline river running series. Pyranha opts for sharp edges and sleek lines. Jackson leans towards a rounded aesthetic. And Dagger opts for a sleek looking design and includes its industry-leading outfitting.
First up we have the Pyranha Scorch. To me, the Scorch feels like the best option for advanced paddlers who spend a bunch of time in their creek boat.
It tracks amazingly well, skips out of drops with ease, and accelerates quickly when you need it. With its ability for tracking and its speed, especially through boils and confused water, it would also be my top choice for big water paddling. However less experienced paddlers should note that turning can be challenging without advanced techniques and edge control.
It’s worth mentioning too that the Scorch carries that distinct Pyranha feel, characterized by unique edges and side walls. In our many years in education and retail we’ve learned that some people love that feeling and others really don’t.
Next up we have the Jackson Gnarvana. As a middle-aged paddler who spends more time teaching than personal paddling, finding a creek boat that matches my skill level while providing a safety net was crucial.
The Jackson Gnarvana strikes a perfect balance for me. Despite my initial skepticism towards Jackson creek boats, the Gnarvana fully won me over. It feels like an oversized half slice—boasting excellent control and effortless edging.
The bulbous, and to be honest, kind of funny looking bow makes boofing and keeping the nose up so simple. Making it a top choice for small creeks. In fact it’s my favorite creek boat to date in these environments, in big water. However the Gnarvana may get pushed around more easily compared to the Scorch and the Code. It is also wide around the hips. Which means without proper outfitting it can feel a little challenging to have the boat move with you. Once outfitted however, this is easily resolved.
Last up we have the Dagger Code. As a prominent choice in our teaching program, the Code has proven itself to be an almost unflippable companion for intermediate paddlers.
I’ve witnessed the Code plow through many a hole with the paddling student looking on as if in an out-of-body experience—wondering when they’re going to flip. And somehow, against the laws of physics, they don’t.
In the paddling we’ve done in the Code, it’s hard to put a finger on why it’s such a great boat. I think it’s a combination of outfitting, ease of paddling, and its versatility that keep us putting people in this boat.
On courses and for personal paddling, in my opinion, the Code’s predictability and reliability for all levels of paddler, in all whitewater environments, make it a go-to option that does exactly what you’d expect.
AQ Outdoors offers retail and kayak instruction in Calgary and Edmonton. Learn more about their school and stores at AQOutdoors.com.