Kayak Review: Pyranha 9R

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Whitewater races are won and lost between the big rapids. Unless you have an accidental freestyle session in a hole, it’s the class II and III sections that determine your time. Expert handling of choppy waves is what shaves seconds from your run, which is why the next time you’re sprinting to the take-out, there’s a good chance you’ll see the new Pyranha 9R nearby.

Pyranha 9R Specs
Length: 8’11”
Width: 25.2”
Volume: 72.4 gal
Weight: 43 lbs
Paddler: 130-210 lbs
Cockpit: 37.4” × 19.5”
MSRP:  $1,249

Lining up for the race

With the surge in popularity of whitewater races, manufacturers have started building more race-specific boats. While many have designed them at 11 feet or longer for the long boat category, the all-new 9R aims to dominate the short boat class. It comes in one size: eight feet, 11 inches, to measure just under the nine-foot cutoff of most short boat race divisions.

At six feet tall with a 32-inch inseam and 185 pounds, I felt like I was right in the sweet spot, though Pyranha’s Connect 30 outfitting means it can be easily adjusted to fit larger or smaller paddlers.

The Pyranha 9R is fast and nimble

The 9R’s high bow and continuous rocker ensure I ride up and over waves, through holes and stay on the surface of the water where I’m fastest and most efficient. It allows me to sit in an aggressive forward position so I can use my whole body for strokes, saving energy and maintaining speed.

Pyranha’s All-New 9R | Feature Photo: Kaydi Pyette

An asymmetric hull design—the widest part of the boat is just behind the cockpit—allows for more downriver speed by displacing water efficiently and minimizing drag. A narrow cockpit area makes it easy to get my paddle vertical in the water without reaching over the sides, a bonus for smaller-sized paddlers and racers.

The slim hull means less primary stability than wider, flat-hulled boats like Pyranha’s Burn, but it also means it’s easy to get on edge. Since those edges run from the midpoint of the boat to the stern, I can get them to bite by leaning slightly back. When I want to spin quickly, leaning forward keeps them clear of the waterline allowing a quick change of direction—a good balance between holding a line and maneuverability.

A racer with broad appeal

While the Pyranha 9R is undoubtedly a race machine, it will also appeal to everyday paddlers who aren’t trying to break speed records.

“It’s not just a race specific boat,” said designer Robert Peerson when we talked to him at the unveiling of the 9R in August. “It’s not as long so it’s not as intimidating for a lot of paddlers to get in and still have a boat that’s friendly and speedy.”

The Pyranha 9R is likely to find its way onto podiums in the blossoming whitewater race scene, but could just as easily become your go-to kayak for a local run, because a race to the take-out beer is just as important.


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This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Rapid magazine.

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