The Booster series represents Riot's first attempt to specifically market a boat for river-running, beginners and intermediate paddlers. It is comparable to the Dominatrix with greater volume, a larger planing surface, higher edges, more rocker and several other differences designed to make it more stable. I had troubles arranging the review sample, so I didn't get nearly as much time as I would have liked to try out this boat before it was time to write the review.
HULL: The hull on the Booster is basically the same as the hull of the Dominatrix but differs in a few ways. First off, the planing surface is larger then the Dom which allows the boat to break free of the wave more easily. Instead of the beveled chine of most Riot boats, the Booster sports a stepped / double-bevel chine. I found the hull of the Booster to be looser then the Dominatrix, and a bit more inclined to bouncing.
DECK: The deck has several nice upgrades - a third grab loop just behind the cockpit makes throwing the boat on top of your car rack or into the garage a bit easier. And the addition of curved recesses fore and aft of the cockpit are designed for holding your paddle - the fore recess for resting the paddle when you need your hands for other business and the aft recess is designed to lay the paddle across and stabilize the boat during exit and entry on the shore. And, what Riot boat would be complete without the enigmatic, proprietary grooves and edges that only the designers seem to know the purpose of.
OUTFITTING: Our sample did not come with the new elastomer outfitting, but was still nicely finished with a D4 seat and Riot's new logos. Though I never outfitted this boat completely, it was still very comfortable for me at 6', 32" inseam, size 9 feet, 170#s.
One of the great appeals of the Riot Disco has always been it's ability to perform in freestyle moves as well as run rivers and creeks. The Booster is like the Dominatrix modified to have similar creeking and river running characteristics. It sacrifices some (but by no means all) flatwater capability in favor of stability and predictability in difficult rapids.
The hull speed of the Booster is considerably better then the Dom or Disco. It accelerates well and moves quickly and tracks a bit better. With the seat almost all the way forward, if I leaned, I could get the bow to start initiating, but not nearly so much as with the Dom. Flatwater moves are more difficult, it takes a little more effort to get the ends down. The stability of this boat on edge is remarkable. It has a definite angle that it doesn't like to go past. This is a great feature for beginners and creekers, and not a problem for playboating.
WAVE: I had a few rides in the Booster at the last wave standing in the Utah area - Winter Wave on the Alpine section of the Snake. But they were good enough. I did, however, stick my friend Brian in the Booster so I could get the necessary footage for this review and his experience was considerably more in depth. He said that he found the Booster to be easy to initiate, well balanced on end and a very nice balance between carvability and spinability. He also got the most vertical blunts ( video 390K ) he had all day in the Booster (without any foam outfitting either, I might add). His ultimate conclusion was about the same as mine - this boat performs as well or better then the Dominatrix.
HOLE: My experience here was very brief - I took the Booster to the hole at our local play park which didn't have much more then a pourover in it, and it behaved, again like a Dom with more retentiveness and a little harder to get down (easily compensated for by grabbing more of the green face).
RIVER-RUNNING: This is the major departure from the Dominatrix, and most dedicated playboats in general. The Booster handles itself quite well in difficult rapids, though it handles like a modern playboat, the stability and speed are definitely improved. The rails are high enough to keep the deck from loading in most situations, which is another factor in speed and predictability in rapids. This is an excellent choice for rivers with good play on them.
There aren't any real downsides per se to this boat, rather, performance trade-offs. This is a very refined boat, and represents the latest technology from the Riot camp, and in quite a few respects, this boat performs better then the Dominatrix. But it will be harder to perform flatwater moves (I couldn't even really get a stern squirt, but a season in the Dom will do that to your technique). But with some strength and technique, it is possible ( video 192K ).
Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend in kayaking these days which drives boaters to buy playboats which are designed for boaters who weigh less then themselves, just so they can become proficient in flatwater moves immediately, not understanding the performance drawbacks associated with over-weighing boats. Sadly, that means there are a lot of people who might really like this boat that will pass it over in favor of a Dom or Prozone or some other sliver of plastic that behaves more like a ridiculous squirtboat substitute then a playboat for them. And while this boat is billed as a beginner and intermediate boat, those are really just convenient ways for less knowledgeable consumers to make a better choice. The characteristics which make a boat stable, predictable and retentive for a beginner extend the same benefits to advanced boaters, and in the case of the Booster, there are very few drawbacks. I like to look at this boat as the Dominatrix redesigned to have the creeking capabilities of the Disco. I can highly recommend this boat for those in the market for a river-running playboat and anyone looking for a solid learning platform. There really is no limit to what this boat is capable of, so if you plan on buying one boat to last you for maybe even the rest of your kayaking career, demo the Booster. If you liked the Disco and thought the Dom, though forgiving, was too aggressive for class IV and higher whitewater, you would love this boat.