Recently I got to tryout Pyranha’s latest river-play half slice, the Firecracker.
The Firecracker has been hotly awaited since it was first announced at the Paddle Sports Show back in 2022. There were lots of questions about the boat and how it sat within Pyranha’s line up, not least how it stacked up against the Ripper and Ripper 2. It’s fair to say it split opinion between those who were struggling to see the point of it, and those who were really looking forward to it. I have to admit I was on the more sceptical end of things.
The Firecracker has now finally been released to the public, and I recently got to try one out. So, what is the Firecracker? It’s what Pyranha term a “half size half slice”. Currently it is only available in one size, the 242, which equates to a medium in normal parlance. A smaller size is on its way very soon, while a larger size will be available later in the summer.
The 242 size is 7’11” long (242cm), 26” wide (66cm), and has a volume of 259l (68 US gallons). This sort of specification brings with it some inevitable comparisons with the Jackson Antix 2.0, and indeed on first viewing they appear very similarly aimed boats. The Firecracker is around 2” shorter than the medium Antix 2.0 and has two gallons more volume. Recommended paddler weight for the Firecracker 242 is between 60-90kg (135-200lb). At 65kg I’m on the low end for the current size, although with sopping wet kit on I guess I’m closer to 67-68kg.
I have a lot of experience of the medium Ozone, another boat I’m technically on the low end for. I spend a lot of time in a freestyle boat, so my taille skills in longer boats is a bit hit and miss, so I’ll be making a few comparisons with that boat. I got into the Firecracker for a short session on a very low level Dee, so this won’t be a detailed review, rather a short first impression of the boat. I hope to get into a size small for a proper comparison very soon, hopefully on some chunkier water.
I have to admit that, given I’m on the low end of the weight scale, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Firecracker. However, from the first point I got into the boat I felt right at home. I was surprised to find that the 242 size felt absolutely right, a bit like putting on an old comfy jumper. I’ve always struggled with boats feeling either too big or too small, and from the outset the Firecracker felt pretty much smack on for me.
I did a few ferry glides to get a feel for it, and found that it was a very smooth boat to paddle and very easy to control. It isn’t the fastest boat, so it most definitely won’t be an attainment machine, but it just felt very composed and balanced. Edge to edge offered no surprises, and the secondary stability felt very good and solid.
I followed up by trying a few tailies. It took me a few goes to find the sweet spot, but once I did I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was to get the tail under than the medium Ozone. I became a lot better as the day went on, even managing to get two-three spins out of it on the outflow from bottom wave at Mile End Mill, something I’ve always been hopeless at, even in the Ozone. It felt controlled throughout, even when I messed up. I wasn’t able to try the Firecracker going through any serious features due to the low river levels, however the couple of small drops that were on offer showed that the boat was super easy to lift the nose up on for sweep style boofs. It’ll be interesting to see how it handles if you miss your stroke timing and plug. Likely in powerful features back looping may be an issue given the short stern compared to the Ripper, but then this isn’t a boat you’ll be using as your main creeking machine. The bottom wave/hole at the mill site was, as I say, very low. But, at this level it is actually a nice feature to play in, and a good place to play around in a boat for the first time. I found that on edge in the hole part of the feature the boat felt very composed and not grabby, even when early on when I was discovering where it felt best.
A far better boater than me will be able to comment on its spinning ability, but when attempting moves in the hole, even when I wasn’t successful, it felt very much like being in a playboat. The only giveaway being when I stalled out the spin and the tail hit rocks in an unintended back surf. I’d love to take it back there again at a higher level. On the green wave part of the feature, wow. Granted, the feature was only small, but if it surfs like this on the larger features as well, if you like soul surfing this boat is going to be a machine! There’s just enough edge to be nice and carvy without giving you any surprises, and that big volume nose never came even close to pearling. It feels like Pyranha have hit a good balance here, although trying the boat in bigger water will give a more detailed picture of its performance.
To conclude, although this was a very quick test in very low water, I was very impressed with the Firecracker. I need to test out the small when it becomes available, but I do suspect that it might be very spicy since I am likely to fall nearer the top end of its weight. The question for me is, do I go for the medium and have a boat that I’ll probably use 99% of the time, which is still easy to tailie but that can be taken on chunkier water if required, or get a small, which I suspect I’ll only use for low water days and general messing around? Decisions, decisions. Given that I tend to use a freestyle boat for the latter I feel that the Firecracker 242 is a good fit for me, but I need to try it in a wider set of conditions to be sure.
Words: Simon Wyndham