Liquidlogic launched onto the paddling scene with the cart before the horse. It hit the freestyle and creek markets hard with the Sessions, the Skip and Pop, followed by last year’s Space Cadet and its stubby brothers, and the creekers, Gus and Huck.

Kayaker paddling Liquidlogics' Lil' Joe kayak down whitewater
Liquidlogics’ Lil’ Joe whitewater kayak is going to accommodate your surfing pals and your river running pals so you never have to choose. | Photo: Scott MacGregor
Specs (Lil’ Joe / Hoss)
Length: 7 ft 7 in / 7 ft 10 in
Width: 25 in / 26 in
Volume: 60 gal / 70 gal
Weight: 34 lbs / 36 lbs
MSRP: $1275 CAD, $995 USD

Whether it was a marketing strategy or the guys just building the boats they wanted (I suspect the latter), Liquidlogic succeeded in staking claim to real estate in a sparse whitewater frontier without the horse or better yet without the cash cow—a river running all-rounder that lasts a few seasons and leads in sales. Allow me to introduce a couple of thoroughbreds, Hoss and Lil’ Joe.

Liquidlogic’s comfortable kayak seats and accessories

Outfitting is the first thing anyone notices on boat test days and its what testers are bitching, or in this case raving, about on the ride home. Liquidlogic has nailed down a simple but highly effective system. The IR back-band is stiff, stays put vertically and is comfortable even when cranked super tight. The seat and hip pads were magically set in the right place for everyone who paddled it. The ergonomics are superb.

[ Read more: How To Choose The Best Kayak For You ]

We like the simple things like pillar retention ridges, molded in instead of using screws and more plastic. The five Black Diamond safety bars are more hand-friendly than the previous LL bars. Two are positioned on the back deck for swimmer rescue and the Bucket Hand Hold on the bow deck is designed for easy grip during T-rescues. Overall, there is an industrial fugliness (functional ugliness) to the boats, but only until you get them on the water.

I asked Liquidlogic’s marketing man, Woody Callaway, what they had in mind with the Lil’ Joe and Hoss: “We took the hull of our play boats, which surf waves like mad, and the volume of our creek boats, and married them together. The Hoss and Lil’ Joe are our [modern] version of the RPM.”

Liquidlogics’ Lil’ Joe is a playboater’s river running whitewater kayak

The Lil’ Joe is without a doubt a playboater’s river runner. Its a full-on planing hull with sharp rocker break that paddles like your favorite “spud” boat. You’ll notice the familiar feeling of planing up quickly on a ferry, and settling down just as quickly once into an eddy—great for sticking eddies, but you’ll have to work to cruise old-school S-turns.

Like on a playboat, you can activate different parts of the hull. Lean forward and the boat stays flat, holds a line and carves predictably into eddies; lean back and the nose rides over waves, raised eddy lines and reactionaries. Leaning back also allows/causes the boat to carve less and spin more. Surprisingly, given the volume, you can still engage the stern and pivot-turn, especially off the top of waves.

The Lil’ Joe we paddled is a nice surfing kayak. You can engage the playboat hull for either aggressively carving off the front edge or pulling the bow around, carving off the stern. Side surfing and spinning are as good as it gets in a longer boat—smooth so long as you keep flat and don’t let your ends trip you up.

At the roundup, here’s what our testers said about who should buy Liquidlogic’s Lil’ Joe and Hoss: Good choice for playboaters running more challenging lines… I’d say 160 pounds is about the max for the Lil’ Joe for anything steep… It fits between a proper creek boat and a proper playboat… Perfect beginner to intermediate boats that could be used on advanced rivers… Great instructional boats for both instructors and students… The Lil’ Joe is a river running boat that feels a lot like my playboat!

Liquidlogics’ Lil’ Joe whitewater kayak is going to accommodate your surfing pals and your river running pals so you never have to choose. Feature Photo: Scott MacGregor

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