Paddling Media (Rapid included) often can’t resist referencing and drawing parallels—sometimes rather tenuously—to a watershed design like the Dagger RPM. In the case of the new Axiom, however, the line is clear.

Dagger Axiom Specs 6.9 / 8.0 / 8.5 / 9.0
Length: 6ft 9in / 8ft / 8ft 6in / 9ft
Width: 22.5in / 24.5in / 25.5in / 28in
Volume: 39 / 51 / 63 / 78 U.S. GAL
Weight: 25 / 34.5 / 42 / 45 LBS
Paddler: 65–120 / 90–150 / 130–210 / 180–265 LBS
MSRP: $795 US/CDN for 6.9, all other sizes $995 US/CDN

After more than 13 years, Dagger designers wanted to revive the classic river cruising style embodied by that now legendary boat with something equally popular, but unmistakably modern. Borrowing the RPM’s best traits and incorporating them into a modern planing hull package, Dagger designer Mark “Snowy” Robertson says he has created a “river cruiser” that sits between the river running Mamba series and the Agent playboat in the Dagger line-up.

The result is a boat that paddles like a river runner with the fat trimmed off and surfs like a playboat with nitrous in the trunk. The Axiom’s bow takes design cues from the Mamba and carries enough volume for a dry and roomy ride, but it’s noticeably slimmer than most river runners.

[ Read more: Buy a Kayak: How To Advice Part I ]

The greatest volume loss is in the stern, where the low profile permits easy back deck moves but is more susceptible to the vagaries of river currents than your average river runner.

The tapered stern also lends the Axiom much of its play potential, willingly slicing into eddylines, pour-overs and even green water for effortless stern squirts. Of the boat’s playability, Robertson says his focus was “on surfing and wave moves over more vertical end moves in holes.”

To this end, the long, fast planing hull and continuous rocker profile (which should look very familiar to RPM fans) make it easy to catch and surf even slow, shallow waves. You may find yourself, as we did, running entire rapids backwards just to catch a front surf on every riffle. Add in full-length rails that carve eagerly even when modest edging is applied, and the Axiom is ridiculously fun to surf. Working a wave in this boat is akin to shredding a super-cruisy blue run at your local ski hill—every bit as easy and no less enjoyable.

We did notice the considerable length the Axiom has over other river playboats—the medium-sized 8.5 is eight feet, six inches—makes flat spins and any moves in the wave pocket more of a challenge.

It’s just a fair bit more boat to swing around. Downriver, Dagger Kayak’s Axiom’s hull speed and carving capabilities make for very crisp eddy-hopping. Robertson says that it “paddles well in bigger water situations where turning from the stern and rapid acceleration around holes and surface features is important.” Combined with superior tracking and forgiving edges, the Axiom is a solid choice for extreme racers.

So who is Dagger targeting with this new river cruiser? While Robertson insists that he did not set out with the design intent of replacing the RPM, he concedes that it is RPM paddlers—past and current—that he hopes to attract with the Axiom. Robertson says, “We foresee a slightly older generation of paddler than the usual youth-oriented playboat market.”

With four sizes to suit both parents and children, Dagger is also hoping the Axiom gets more families on the water together.

The word Axiom describes a universal principle or self-evident truth. Fitting, since this new boat draws heavily on the best designs that have preceded it, and the Axiom’s roots are in an undisputed classic in the lineage of whitewater kayaks.

The Dagger Axiom kayak is much more fun when you’re smiling. Feature Photo: Stephanie Park

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