Since the 2013 announcement that plastics giant PolyOne would cease the production of Royalex, Esquif International has been on a quest to become a manufacturer of an even better material for whitewater open boaters and river trippers. The three-year-long saga has been one of the industry’s most exciting news stories. The wait is finally over.
Esquif owner, Jacques Chassé, has finally produced sheets of the long-awaited material he’s been calling T-Formex. Just at the time this magazine went to press, Esquif had manufactured 20 boats in the new material. Once in full production, Chassé says Esquif will be able to produce 40 sheets of T-Formex per day.
We ignored an unseasonably late winter snowstorm warning to bring one of the first T-Formex canoes out of the mold—a playful Pocket Canyon—to the Canoeroots office and began putting this material to the test.
So what’s the difference between Royalex and T-Formex? To the naked eye, not much.
A T-Formex Pocket Canyon sitting beside a Royalex Pocket Canyon would look damn near the same. The only difference you’ll notice is that T-Formex looks better. It is glossier, smoother and slippier. Yes, we just made that word up. Royalex’s finish is dull by comparison.
“We wanted to create a replacement to a product that people knew and trusted, but an improved finish was important too,” says Chassé. T-Formex’s outer skin material feels faster in the water and slides over rocks more easily.
We drilled the rivets out of the deck plate to see what the sandwich construction of the new material looks like. Again, pretty much looks the same as it always did.
Working from the outside of a T-Formex hull in, first is Chassé’s new and proprietary outer skin. Then a layer of standard ABS, followed by a layer of foam that Chassé says is similar to what’s inside Royalex. Then, a second layer of ABS is added to the sandwich, and finally, another proprietary layer on the inside. Not a very high-tech explanation, but we’re not plastics experts, we’re paddlers. And for the record, after 40 years of production, we didn’t really know what Royalex was made of either.
It’s a good time of year to come out with a new tough material and send it off to a magazine. The rivers are in flood. The rocks are much below the surface. Water is running through the trees. Left with little choice, we used a selection of shiny camp tools to test the claims of T-Formex’s durability. In a side-by-side test with an older Royalex hull, we’re able to confirm T-Formex seems more abrasion resistant and less likely to peel.
As for how this boat paddles—well, it paddles like any other Pocket Canyon we’ve been in since we reviewed one in Canoeroots’ sister whitewater publication, Rapid (www.rapidmedia.com/0587), in 2008. The Pocket Canyon is a scaled-down version of Esquif ’s expedition-ready Canyon.
An ideal option for paddlers who like to blend a bit of tripping with a little play—think three-day whitewater weekends.
We know what you’re thinking, because we’re thinking it too. Will T-Formex stand up to years of abuse? Will it withstand many seasons in the sun? What happens to T-Formex when it wraps? Time will tell.
Wrapping our gorgeous new Pocket Canyon is part of Canoeroots’ testing plan, but doing so before a summer- long beatdown would be a waste of a perfectly good boat. Truly river testing the durability of a new whitewater and wilderness tripping material will take years.
So far, the T-Formex Pocket Canyon is as good as the Royalex one. Better, in fact. Why? Because you can buy a T-Formex Pocket Canyon. Chassé says that on May 15, Esquif will begin shipping to dealers popular models, including the Pocket Canyon, Canyon, Prospector and Vertige X. —Scott MacGregor
This article was originally published in Canoeroots, Volume 15 • Issue 2. Read this issue.