When Pyranha released the original 9R in 2014, they rewrote the rulebook on creek boats. At the time, creeks were dominated by boats like the Dagger Nomad, Wavesport Recon and Liquidlogic Jefe. These creek boats were designed with a monster truck philosophy. They were made to be as buoyant, stable and as forgiving as possible to ride up, over and through anything in their path.
Pyranha 9R II
Length 8 ft 11 in
Width 25.5 in
Volume 82 gal
Weight 48 lbs
MSRP $1,339 USD
Some creek boats had a reputation for being faster than others, but none on the market were really designed with speed being the primary goal. Not until Pyranha released a boat destined to dominate the Adidas Sickline race. Instead of a monster truck, Pyranha made a rally car with plenty of off-road capability and a whole lot more speed. Although the boat was to be fast, the initial acceptance was slow, as many paddlers asked themselves, “I don’t race, why would I want a race boat?”
That line of thinking disappears once you’re in the driver’s seat.
Today there is a whole category of nine-foot race boats with each of the major manufacturers taking a stab at producing their own version of a rally car kayak. Boats like the Dagger Phantom and Jackson Nirvana now share the market niche and compete with the 9R. So, it was only a matter of time until Pyranha updated their design and released a sequel.
The new 9R
One of the reasons I enjoy paddling Pyranha designs is the amount of time and resources the brand puts into developing, designing and testing their boats. Before launch, I saw numerous posts on social media about the “final” 9R II prototype being spotted somewhere for testing, only to hear it had gone back to R&D to tweak the design further.
I was lucky enough to demo the 9R II on the Lower Moose at pumping high flows during Moosefest in upstate New York. I’ve been window shopping for a new creeker and owning a 9R made the 9R II an obvious contender for its replacement. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Paddling Magazine would ask me to review the 9R II only a few days after I returned from my trip.
Initially, I was a bit nervous about taking an unfamiliar boat on a flooded river I didn’t know very well, but after the first rapid I felt right at home. By the time I got to the take-out, I could tell the boat felt different from the original, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly was different about it.
Taking a peek at the stats on Pyranha’s website didn’t reveal substantial changes. The 9R II is just one centimeter longer, one centimeter wider, and has an extra 15 liters of volume compared to its older brother. Put the two boats side-by-side though and it’s apparent the 9R II has more rocker, softer edges and a fuller stern.
Once I got my hands on the loaner 9R II from Paddling Magazine, I set out for a bunch of back-to-back runs on my local river, the Petawawa, picking out the most challenging moves I could find. Switching back and forth between the 9R II and the original 9R, I wanted to dig into the differences between these two boats.
Pyranha 9R vs. 9R II
What I found is the 9R II is a bit easier to maneuver than the original. Sweep strokes are more effective at pivoting the boat and it is easier to switch from one edge to the other for changing direction mid-carve. This results in a boat that has less tendency to lock into a line or direction, making course corrections and fixing mistakes easier. Although, this comes at a small cost to the primary stability. There were a few occasions where I got tripped up by a cross-current and felt I was going to flip, only to be saved by the rock-solid secondary stability.
The 9R II is also quite a bit easier to boof than the original. Although I wasn’t able to get the boat out to run any waterfalls, I was better able to lift the bow up and over waves and holes, making for an overall drier ride. This is no surprise since the 9R II has more rocker, especially in the bow. The modifications to the so-called wave deflectors also help.
With the 9R II, Pyranha made the wave deflectors a bit smaller and softer. This works out fine as the ones on my original are pretty banged up from bouncing off rocks and I’d bet the newer style will stand up better to abuse.
Pyranha also added another feature on the bow, a small concave area following the bow profile further helps to deflect water and keep the bow dry. Surfing a wave confirmed these features really work. I was able to find a few waves I could surf in the 9R II, with water shooting out away from the bow, where the original would pearl and flush off the wave. The downside was on waves I could surf in either boat, where the 9R II felt twitchy, and I could feel a lot of pressure on the bow wanting to knock it side-to-side.
One of the few shortcomings of the original 9R I heard Pyranha was working on with the 9R II is the boat’s tendency to plane-out. This happens when you exceed the hull speed of a boat, usually resulting in a loss of control. Think of it like hitting a patch of black ice while driving down the freeway. This tends to happen when landing off a drop, skipping over a hole or eddying out of a fast-moving current. When the 9R planes out, the stern squats down into the water and takes away your edge control for a split second until it slows down. This is a tricky problem to solve, especially with increased rocker. The fix for this is the broader stern on the 9R II, which helps keep the stern from sinking, leaving the boat flatter and the paddler more in control.
The goal for the 9R II was to take what Pyranha has learned from the 9R, and produce something even faster, with more accessible performance, and greater control at top speed. They nailed it. The changes result in a kayak that is more forgiving to paddle, without losing any of the rally-car feel and the fast-is-fun soul of the original. I’ve been searching for my next boat and I think the 9R II may just be the ticket.
When the sequel is even better than the original. Like say, The Empire Strikes Back and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. | Photo: Jill McLellan