“No, I want to carry it,” insists 11-year-old Aleisha Greve when her dad offers to portage her boat upstream from the class I rapid they had been paddling to the bottom of a class II on Ontario’s Madawaska River.
Alan Greve grins, not just because he’s tired of carrying the canoes on family river days, but because the boat Aleisha begins to work her way under is one that Greve helped design.
The boat Aleisha—with a little help—eventually gets over her head is the 30-pound Splash, a new Kevlar hull from Composite Creations that is notching a first descent by dropping a solo canoe into the kids’ whitewater market.
The notion that kids could paddle whitewater as well as they play baseball or hockey if they only had a boat that fit them occurred to Greve last year on the ottawa River when he passed a kid in a Jackson Fun 1, a kayak designed for a 60-pound paddler.
A few months later at the Gull River open canoe Slalom, Greve sat down at a campfire with Andrew Phillips, owner of Composite Creations, which manufactures airline, automotive and marine parts in London, Ontario. Three days later, Greve showed up at Phillips’ shop with a canoe-sized chunk of foam and the two started shaping.
Phillips, who had already designed and manufactured a 10-foot Kevlar river runner called the Bulldog, admits his first designs were a little too aggressive. It was up to Greve, the father of a pair of pre-teen paddlers, to bring him back from the edge.
With a hull reminiscent of a scaled-down Dagger Phantom and Esquif Detonator, the Splash errs on the side of forgiveness. Pre-pubescent paddlers up to 110 pounds should be able to initiate surfs gradually thanks to a blunted bow waterline that will be slow to dig into a wave’s trough and send the boat spinning. Down below, the hull is flat enough to allow for slow surfs, but decidedly rounded chines should keep kids from getting edgy as they cross their first few dozen eddylines.
Still, as Phillips points out, if a boat is too wide for the sake of stability, kids won’t be able to properly reach over the gunwales to the water. And if you keep the rocker at a minimum for better tracking, kids won’t be able to spin the boat and go where they want to go. with a respectable three-inch rocker and 25-inch width, the Splash is no tool of adult condescension.
A new Mike Yee children’s saddle and strap outfitting set-up ensures kids’ knees will, in fact, be able to reach the hull, and the built-in bulkhead buoyancy tanks offer fuss-free floatation.
All of which is apparently okay with Aleisha, who sounds suddenly older thanks to the acoustics of the overturned canoe making her voice boom out from below the Splash on her way up the trail. She’s talking about slalom races she’s been in with her dad, in particular about crashing into a few gates she thinks he could have avoided. when the words “dead weight” slip out from below the canoe, a trailing Greve looks even prouder of his creation.
Price: $1600 + shipping
Weight: 30 pounds
Outfitting: Mike Yee children’s saddle and straps
This article first appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great boat reviews, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.