In the very earliest years of this century Dagger abandoned its canoe business. And with that decision the mould for their Caption went to rest with the pigeons in a dusty storage warehouse. Open boaters with Caption dreams were left to sift and sort through the private market. Mad River Canoe changes all that with their release of the updated Mad River Caption canoe.

Mad River Caption Specs
Length: 14’
Width: 32”
Depth: 15.5”
Weight: 58 lbs
Gunwale System: IQ2 / ash
Capacity: 850 lbs
$1,200 USD or $1,299 CAD (with vinyl)
$1,350 USD or $1,449 (with ash)

Whitewater canoeing for you and ME

Back in 1993 when Dagger released this sporty, Steve Scarborough–designed tandem boat, paddlers embraced this versatile hull that did so many things so well. But it was not as if the design for the Caption fell from heaven onto Scarborough’s drafting table. Its precursor was the Millbrook Boat by John Berry known simply as the ME. The ME has the distinction of being the first mass-produced Royalex tandem boat that you could race in, and it was manufactured under license by Mad River.

All the cognoscenti paddled that now-ancient rockered tandem and the ME itself had its origins in a slew of composite slalom race boats. It could be argued now with the benefit of hindsight that the Caption was either a revolution or a giant evolutionary step in popularizing the growing sport of whitewater canoeing.

The Caption had a fine balance of stability, speed and manoeuvrability with its soft chines and aggressive rocker. And best of all, a Caption paddled by good boaters was dry, or at least a great measure drier than the old ME. It was a very competitive slalom tandem that was tough to beat, as well as a solo big-water boat for the larger and stronger paddlers, and a solo whitewater tripper that you could fill with gear.

Man and woman paddle through whitewater in a Mad River Caption canoe
Feature Photo: Robert Faubert

The Caption comes to Mad River

When Mad River Canoe announced a year ago that it was depriving the pigeons of their perch and resuming Caption production, the orders started rolling in.

Production problems with the quality of the Royalex sheets held up deliveries until late last summer. But the Mad River version of the Caption is now available, in brilliant cherry red, with vinyl or ash gunwales.

The reincarnation is several inches wider and more stable than the original Dagger version; you can shorten both thwarts to bring it back to the old Dagger specs if you wish.

IQ system is great but for weight

The vinyl trim option is Mad River’s IQ gunwale system, and to call it robust would be an understatement. The IQ system has a slot on the in-wale, which allows the attachment of accessories like spray covers, removable yoke, and gunwale bags.

Weighing in at 14 pounds, the IQ gunwales are often unscrewed and replaced with ash for a weight saving of eight pounds. If you do upgrade to wood, you’ll have to part with Mad River’s hilarious sliding plant pot cup holder—the most useless whitewater accessory imaginable. Someone at the Mad River factory in South Carolina has a great sense of humour.

An outfitted Mad River Caption canoe with wood trim only weighs 57 pounds and is effortlessly manoeuvrable when the seats are placed as far apart as the thwart positions will allow. For very aggressive paddling and racing, highly skilled paddlers can set the seats closer together for an even drier ride.

Get back into a Mad River Caption

It should be mentioned that the Caption’s tight-carving turns are hard to break out of (not to mention wildly addictive), but otherwise the Mad River Caption can be enjoyed by paddlers of almost any skill level. Don’t let its performance on the racecourse scare you: this is a really fun boat that is sure to take your paddling up a notch.

This article was first published in the Summer 2008 issue of Rapid Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


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