I was lucky enough to try the 9R prototype back in August and ever since have been in love with the boat. I have had the opportunity to try it in a number of different situations – steep creeks to big volume, river running to racing to expeditions, and it just keeps surprising me by how well it performs.
My previous boat was very forgiving and a bit overkill for the sort of kayaking I was doing 90% of the time in the UK (Tees, Kent, Leven etc). I often get frustrated with people buying big creek boats too early in their kayaking careers and then relying on the boat to get them down things rather than being proactive and learning the skills themselves, even if it means risking swimming a bit more. I figured I should practice what I preach and find a less forgiving boat which would help me learn more skills and push my boating further. The narrow shape and edginess of the 9R means that it definitely fits this category.
The first thing to strike me about the 9R (apart from the speed) was its manoeuvrability and how quickly and easily it snapped into eddys. This was not just a race boat….. this was FUN. I could not wipe the smile off my face all day.
My next opportunity to paddle the boat was in Austria on the Wellerbrücke rapid. This was where the speed really came into its own. I have not really had much race experience and did no training (entering was a bit of a last minute thing after some friendly peer pressure!) so I was over the moon to be one of only 7 girls to get a sub-1.40 run in the qualification round and to finish 9th overall – something I definitely would not have managed without such a fast boat. I didn’t qualify to race the main section as only the top 5 girls go through but I still had the chance to paddle it. I had been pretty worried about the crux move but the 9R shot through before I had chance to think!
Over Christmas I took the boat to Indonesia. I was really interested to see how it handled on this trip because I would be loading with kit and paddling on bigger volume rivers – both of which you get little chance to do in the UK. Packed full of overnight kit I found the 9R paddled just as well, if not a bit better. Although a bit slower off the mark (as you’d expect with the extra weight), once it got going it seemed just as speedy and tracked incredibly well. I was equally impressed with the handling on big volume. In some other creek boats I have felt like I’m being pushed around on big volume but the 9R seemed unfazed and it was easy to drive the boat where I wanted it to go; flying off some of the big waves! It also keeps its nose up going over holes without any real effort, and I certainly dropped into some big holes in Indonesia which I am not sure I would have made it out of otherwise!
The 9R was what drove me to apply to be on Team Pyranha because I knew that this was the boat that I wanted to paddle. I look forward to developing my skills and seeing what the boat can do in a few more races and on multi-days in Meghalaya later this year.
Review by: Beth Morgan