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WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Sun Apr 05, 2015 9:10 pm
by SingleBlade
I am a long time lurker of the forum and live outside of Conway. I bought a 16' Buffalo Canoe back 2009 and have enjoyed several overnight trips on the Buffalo. My wife and I have also paddled the Spring River, the Piney, the Mulberry, Eleven Point, and Current River. The last trip was on the Cossatot, and we ran/swam the esses. That trip put "the fear" in the wife along with just having a baby this winter has put the tandem paddling on hold for a while. I was thinking about buying a kayak or a smaller solo canoe to go on trips and try to progress to more difficult runs. I have been looking a lot on cboats and a few archives on this forum. I don't really see myself running any crazy creek stuff, but I would like to work up to where I could hang with some of the trips on the Cossatot, Richland Creek, and St. Francis in Missouri and not have to swim. If I go the canoe route, it would be cool to possibly go to ALF in the future and hit some of those rivers. I found a Mohawk Probe 11 for sale locally with the lap belt and airbags, and I thought that might be a good boat. I am 5' 10" and 180 lbs. It looks like the Blackfly Option and Octane are hot boats right now, and I noticed that few people here in Arkansas have them. They seem to have all positive reviews, but a few complaints on speed. It appears that the blackfly boat would not hold me back at all seeing what some of the nut jobs are running with them. I do wonder how paddeling them in the long pools between rapids would be compared to say the probe. You don't really see very many of them second hand, so it looks like you have to pay the full price of around $1600, but appears that if I don't like it that I could recover a lot of the money back since they seem to be hot right now. The mohawk probe doesn't seem to get a lot of love on the forums. It seems like everyone mainly talks about the viper 12. The way they describe the viper, it sounds like I might be swimming a lot compared to the softer chine probe. The Phiend sounds cool, but I doubt that it ever gets built. My main question is how do the short boats do running the Arkansas rivers? How does Mohawk belt/seat design work compared to Blackfly Bulkhead?

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 7:35 am
by Prairie Tater
If I were you, I'd buy that Probe 11 if the price is fair. If you eventually want something more advanced, the resale value should remain high on that boat. I would, however, get rid of the lap belt and install a pair of three-point (double) thigh straps. I've tried the Mohawk lap belt, and it doesn't hold you in when attempting a roll. You'll also need some toe blocks if the canoe doesn't have them already. :twocents:

Terry P.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:06 am
by CSH
Throw this thread on Arkansas Open Boaters on Facebook, and we can get a conversation going.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:13 am
by kru1
I would recommend getting whatever boat is used and gets you on the river the quickest. I would only buy a new canoe when I know it is exactly what I want, but you need to try out different boats and different outfitting first. Furthermore, setting up the outfitting in various locations in the hull can have a different affect. Experiment until you know what you like.

I do not like lap belts at all for the exact same reason Terry mentioned. I am not a fan of bulkheads, but I have never had one sized for me. I have always demoed others and they have not worked, but I have never had an issue rolling them up. Perception saddles have always been too big for my skinny legs.

In my experience it has only been kayakers (and maybe a rare open boater) that worry about the length of a pool. I use them as an opportunity to work on my strokes or leans, have a conversation, get a drink, etc.

As you mentioned re-sale value for a canoe is great, so experiment and sell it if you don't like it.


Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:16 pm
by cole m
I have a esquif nitro if your interested.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:54 pm
by magicmike
Get a Kayak. Nobody paddles a canoe anymore. -M- :whistle: :grin:

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:15 pm
by canoe
I would be inclined to start with the Mohawk, not that I have ever owned one, but have surfed a few, and found them to responsive and not too unstable. Agree that I would swap out the lap belt for a 3(or even better, a 4 point) double strap system and toe blocks, as well as a pump/battery system. Those upgrades will probably add about$250-300 to your purchase , so that may figure into your thinking. Also, remember, if you aren't swimming, you aren't paddling hard enough, or hard enough stuff. dale :canoe: :myday"

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 6:33 am
by SingleBlade
Thank you for all the great advise. I still have a lot to learn, and I have to do some more research before I make the plunge.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 9:17 am
by okieboater
My college degree is in Engineering. Meaning, I understand a person's need to get the facts and do the home work.

Having been a boater and ACA instructor for many decades, I have seen posts and situations like you have many many times.

You have received really good advice on this thread. The boaters posting are ones I have known for a long time and admire their boating skill sets especially open boat.

The local spring WW boating season is closing out, warm weather and low water float time is starting. Locally when the trees leaf out, WW water conditions do not happen as often or stay good as long.

Meaning now is the time to get out and improve skill sets in relatively comfortable conditions.

My advice is do what ever you feel comfortable doing, but understand the best WW boating time in our area is winding down, time to get out, groove new skills and be ready for next year's "big WW" time.

Last thing, buying boats is expensive these days even used ones, however, most of us are still looking for that "perfect" boat. The next canoe you buy will not be your last I bet. :myday"

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:02 am
by Deuce
Here's something to further confuse you. Everyone who's posted in this thread is an exponentially better boater than I (I'm better looking though :poke2:), but you might consider an Esquif Vertige. Esquif is no mas sadly, but OOO has a brand new freight damaged Vertige for $1500 completely outfitted. It's a comparatively big boat for a WW solo canoe, but it's the kind of boat that will give you confidence to run anything you want, and when you're ready for a hotter boat they'll have to pry that one out of your cold dead hands because it's an outstanding solo tripper in addition to being a pleasure to paddle. The only reason it didn't go on my rack last Saturday is Mrs. Deuce. :NoNo: You're welcome to try mine out some time.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 12:11 pm
by magicmike
Single blade- since you are in Conway, I'd say get to Rockport as often as possible and talk to any openboater you see. Ask to test ride as many boats as possible. Once you get a boat , go as much as you can. Get as many hours in your boat as you can. When you get frustrated, get back in and keep going . And don't expect to be jumping on Richland or the Tot, or the st. Francis, any time soon.-M- :twocents: :grin:

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 12:24 am
by Eric Esche
My 2 cents worth from a long winded old fart. I am NOT known around here as a whitewater canoe paddler, but I have paddled open canoe on a fair number (40+) of streams and creeks when I was younger, and have run class IV-VI and drops to 47' for about 10 years in an open canoe, in addition to both decked C1's and C2's. Knee, shoulder, and disc problems in the last 10 years have limited my open boating. I still enjoy open canoes and own 4 Mad River canoes.

My recommendations/suggestions/opinions are similar to some previous mentioned here.

1. Buy whatever gets you on the water as a starter solo open canoe ASAP. This year, not next year. Life is too short to waste a year waiting for something this enjoyable.

2. Buy a used canoe to let you learn on. This way you get one you won't worry about putting a crease in it as much and you will be willing to take more chances of swimming with.

3. Buying a used boat will be cheaper initially, and let you see what you like and do not like as far as canoe design and outfitting. Expect to probably change your paddle as well, to something with a wider blade. You will want to be able to max out your power applied at times, like a gas pedal. It can also give you more surface area to brace with. Thinking ahead and optimizing placement of your canoe can help in many situations, but some places just need a burst of power to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

4. Try out as many different makes and models as you can without buying one. I do not know of any stores that will let you demo a canoe on a river or rent a whitewater solo canoe, and most folks will not want to loan you a boat to learn whitewater on, BUT many folks will let you try out their boat for a rapid or a mile or two to see how it compares to yours. Ask before the trip if you know they are going to be on the trip, ask at the put in, ask on the water, and offer cookies, food, or beer at the breaks, and offer to run shuttle with them. Nice people sometimes get things offered to them.

5. Outfitting can make a huge difference in how a canoe handles. While you might like a Perception saddle or a seat belt set up, wide padded straps for each leg, or double straps, and toe blocks seem to be the most preferred set up for folks that run bigger whitewater with finesse. Don't assume you "know" the boat until you have paddled it with the outfitting set up properly for YOU. Center of gravity can also make a huge difference in how a solo canoe paddles. Having it too far forwards or backwards can make a great boat paddle like a dog, pig, or whatever derogatory descriptor you wish to use.

6. Start out with a longer wider boat and work your way down to shorter narrower after working your way up in rapid class rating first. Seriously, jumping in a short narrow canoe might totally turn you off. Some folks can do it, but more stick with it who learn the basics first and work their way up in difficulty. I'm very old school and like a boat around 13'-14.5 foot long for all round versatility - agility vs speed on the flats and capacity for hauling, and big water capability, and the ability to "bridge" over some holes. MY preference is for shallow arch hulls with a hull width of 28" to 32" for a solo canoe. I ran a Mad River Courier on section IV of the Chattooga, Watauga, Ocoee, Wilson Creek, Upper and lower Nantahala, Locust Fork, Raven's Fork, Tellico, and on Overflow Creek and thought it was an ideal canoe. I still think so. Talk with some folks and they will tell you that a Courier has no business on these streams. I say it is the boat as I'm not THE paddler. Other boats I like that I think would be great canoes to learn on are the Whitesell canoes, Esquif Vertige, Esquif Pocket Canyon, Bell Wildfire, Bell Nexus, or Bell Prodigy X, and a Dagger Genesis, Caption, Impulse, or Encore. None of these are commonly found canoes here in Arkansas, and with the death of Royalex, they are not likely to be, but you never know what you will come across on the used market with so many folks moving here. Then, there is looking nation wide on sites like ( by zeroing out/blanking one or both of the GPS coordinates) and going to get it or having it shipped in. I've gotten canoes and sea kayaks from California and Massachusetts and it was not that bad. (you use a method called slip sheeting, 400 code - I used Southeastern Freightlines and Conway with good results in under 2 weeks or use and get an independent trucker back hauling - not as fast as the 2 truck lines I mentioned, but cheaper.) Never owned the Mohawk Probe II, but I have seen folks like Painter Bob look good in them. (I have never seen PB not look good in a canoe). There is a Blue Hole Sunburst II for sale on the board right now that I would buy if my wife would not beat me for buying another solo canoe. Looks to be in good shape and older Royalex is frequently BETTER Royalex. (there were a few years that had a higher incidence of bad Royalex which was more prone to cuts, peeling, delamination, and cold cracking after a change was made in the factory process to improve oven out gassing). I have a 1972 Royalex Mad River tandem canoe that is still in great shape for a 3rd owner canoe, but first two owners did not paddle it much. (Jim Henry sold it to an NOC guide who had dented it while on loan running Big Bend Falls on the upper Chattooga and then I bought it when he needed money the following winter in 1974. Blue Hole Sunburst II doesn't have the greatest initial stability, nor is it the driest, but I think it would make a good sturdy solo learner canoe for the money.

7. Don't be afraid to ask questions of folks who you know to be experienced whitewater canoeists. Invite them out to supper or beers if you want some quality time. BTW - Not all canoe instructors are experienced whitewater canoeists. Doesn't mean they can't teach, or that you can not learn things from them - just means that they may not have as much experience paddleing whitewater as others might.

8. Go back to square one and practice the basics of eddy turns, peel outs, ferries, and surfing as much as possible. Learn your braces and cross draws. Get comfortable kneeling and keeping a low center of gravity profile. I mean like practice every trip, and every eddy. Run stuff backwards. if you can, learn how to roll an open canoe, maybe by learning on a decked C1 first. Watch whitewater movies and slide shows to see how to read and run whitewater thinking about what it takes to put the canoe where they did, and start thinking farther ahead for river placement

9. Take classes on how to paddle whitewater from instructors, either in a school, or one on one.

10. Do not be afraid of rebuilding a canoe to get what you want. Gunnels and thwarts are easy to replace and kevlar Skid plates are easy to apply as well. But I would recommend you take a buying buddy with you to evaluate the condition of the canoe if you haven't done it much. Buying buddies are there to give you an objective opinion, not to talk you into buying a boat, but more to give you reasons to both buy or NOT buy a boat. Opinions that may or may not be followed.

11. If you do decide on a particular Make and Model as the one you really really want, but you can not find one, LET FOLKS KNOW. WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. Put in writing on boards like right here, and also on national boards. Post "wanted" ads in gear stores. Get someone like me who spends a fair amount of time surfing for sale sites to keep an eye out for you. I have found canoes and kayaks for over 40 folks in the last five years for no charge. Just had to write it down next to my computer to remind me to keep looking and then whom to call/email when I found it. Very frustrating to find what you are looking for and then not be able to find the phone number or email of the person who wanted it. Have looked for boats for as many as 6 people at the same time.

12. Books. You can't learn everything about whitewater solo open canoeing from a book, but the more you learn from a book, there is a chance that you will spend less time (learn quicker)on the water wiring it into your muscles and "your other brain" (think of a point of your anatomy below your belt and above your knees that both men and women have). Two books that I loan out are "Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Gary and Joan McGuffin and "Solo Canoeing" by John H. Foshee. Have many more books, but these are the ones that I keep having a hard time getting back. Come by the house and you can look to see what books I have.

Enough typing. If you want to talk, you can call me on my cell - 479-Seven two one - 91zero 1. hope this answers some questions. NO, you can NOT borrow my Courier, but if we meet up on a river, depending on circumstances, I will probably let you try it out for a bit, as long as your boat is not sinking and you stay within gunshot. And I usually carry two or three spare paddles, so trying out one of my sticks is much easier.

Eric Esche

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:11 am
by SingleBlade
Thanks again for the taking the time to give me so much quality advise. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for a good deal. I have found a few good videos to watch that gave me some tips. I wanted to post them here in case someone else hasn't seen them.

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I also bought a copy of the solo playboating by Kent Ford. I am looking forward to trying some of this stuff out even if it is in my buffalo canoe.

Re: WW Solo Canoe?

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:42 pm
by cole m
Good deal on a Mohawk viper 12 in the forsale forum.