|Overview of both boats||Pop and Skip||
|David Weber||80 K|
|View of backband||Pop||
|David Weber||28 K|
|View of cockpit||Pop||
|David Weber||35 K|
|Ratchet thigh braces||Pop||
|David Weber||44 K|
|Me, in the hole||Pop||David Weber||Ken Driscoll||76 K|
|Video (turn down the volume)||Boat||Boater||Video credit||Size|
|Ken gets ~17 flatwater ends w/o paddle||Skip||Ken Driscoll||David Weber||408 K|
|Brian in the hole 1||Skip||Brian Reece||David Weber||500 K|
|Brian in the hole 2||Skip||Brian Reece||David Weber||650 K|
|Me, keepin' it real yo||Skip||David Weber||Ken Driscoll||580 K|
|More of the same||Skip||David Weber||Ken Driscoll||390 K|
There's no need for me to go into elaborate detail about how I came to have three new Liquid Logic kayaks to review for this Spring. Quite simply, we asked ( http://www.boatertalk.com/polls.php?pollid=27 ) and the overwhelming response was that BT should review the Skip and the Pop as soon as possible. Liquid Logic has been kind enough to lend us the Skip, Pop and as a bonus the Huck for analysis. My first thoughts on the Skip and Pop when I saw the prototypes at the OR show last August were that they were merely taking the next step for a new company trying to fill out its product line for retailers. And certainly there is some truth to that. But what has surprised me now that I have been in the production models is just how polished and fully realized their designs have turned out.
The Pop and Skip are primarily designed to follow the most recent direction taken by the sport toward aerial moves. To this end, it has a massive planing foot, a considerable amount of rocker in the bow and similar rocker in the stern. Everything necessary to get the explosive bounces necessary for aerial wave moves. I found that the feel, the performance and most of the looseness of the design came through intact for me at 170# in both boats. Of course, with the Skip I found that I could throw it around in the flats and in the hole with impunity, the decks loaded more readily, washed off of waves more easily and it got squirrelly in the eddy lines - everything you would expect from a boat designed for a upper weight range of 165#. So, for the most part I plan to write this review to cover both boats, assuming that the reader will understand the performance benefits and penalties associated with exceeding the manufacturer's recommended weight ranges, as I did in the Skip.
In a word, good. Nothing spectacular or setting a new industry standard, but efficient, functional and comfortable. They also included a generous amount of outfitting foam to go with the boat, so I was pleased. However, the boat lacks both a bottle holder and a drain plug. So, not only do I need to carry a sponge to the river with me, I have no secure and convenient place to store it in the boat. These are minor issues, they just caught me a little by surprise. There are some things I like about not having a drain plug... I never forget to close it before I get in the water. The thigh braces are just about as deep as I can handle them - for me they allow a good grip without getting too much in the way entering or exiting with my long legs. The integral ratchet system is good, I like having the ratchets where I can get some decent leverage on them. The back band is very comfortable. I have not tried to adjust the trim by moving the seat fore or aft, but I haven't found the need to move it yet, either. The steel bars which have taken the place of the grab loops are okay, but I'd hate to get my fingers caught in them if the boat should roll or twist while I have a hand in there. They are also highly unpleasant for extended carrying, like a long portage.
Well, this deserves some comment. A lot of boaters that I have talked to have expressed a concerns about the durability of the plastic used in LL boats. I found that in the time we had to try these boats, they wore very similarly to regular molded polyethylene hulls. We put some very hard hits on these boats, and they gouged perhaps a bit less deeply than a PE hull. But there were no cracks or unusual breakage, so from what I have seen, any concerns seem to be unfounded. I've also kept an eye on the BT main forum for reports of breakage or warrantee claims, and I haven't found much. So they are either very durable or have a very comprehensive warrantee (I did catch one second hand story that indicates that they are very good with warrantee claims). The plastic is decidedly stiffer, however, so the boats have more of a composite hull feel to them than a plastic feel, without the itchiness of fiberglass/Kevlar/Aramid/carbon/etc. Which is something that has a lot of appeal to me both in appearance and performance.
Okay, enough Forplay, time to get down to business :-) Though this boat was primarily designed to take advantage of waves and provide lots of bounce for aerial moves, the designers clearly took their time to make sure this boat works well in a hole. My usual short boat of choice is the Riot Disco (note: this is the old Disco, not the new Disco), so I will use that as my point of reference for comparison. First, the ends are very well balanced, and very smooth. Whereas the Disco tends to bounce around in a hole, and the bow can be a hassle to pull through or initiate with, the Pop moves smoothly and cleanly from end to end. Initiating is very easy in a short pourover type hole, but in "wave holes" or any hole with a U-shaped trough rather than a seam, it can take a little bit of technique modification to initiate without having the rocker ricochet the bow off the green face. That was a rather long sentence, so let me rephrase that. The massive rocker in the bow is designed to prevent pearling off of waves, so in a wave hole, it wants to prevent the bow from going down in an initiation. This isn't really a problem, you can modify your technique to accommodate fairly quickly. But several of of my paddling friends complained of difficulty initiating, and it didn't take much analyzing of the video clips to realize what was going on - there were a lot of initiations thwarted by not having enough edge. In the wave hole at the Ogden Whitewater Park, I switched to the Skip and put the boat more up on edge for initiations - problem solved, for me.
The vertical stability of the Skip/Pop is also quite good. Getting the Disco to behave in a bow or stern stall can be rather difficult. Not impossible, but harder than many other boats. The Pop was very stable in stalls, pirouettes and even just getting tossed around on the eddyline. Sometimes the Disco wants to take you past vertical, the Pop has a remarkable tendency to come back down unto its hull, and it moves nicely through a full range of angles from flat spin to fully vertical cartwheel. All in all, I would say this is an excellent small hole boat.
Now, if I may take a second to elaborate on rocker for the benefit of those of you who don't know what I have been referring to up to this point. "Rocker" in this case refers to the angle of the hull where it rises from the planing foot to the ends of the boat. A rather extreme example of a boat with less rocker is the 8th generation Tekno prototype, which has less rocker to help engage the forked bow on large, flat waves - shown here for illustrative purposes. Having lots of rocker in the bow helps prevent the boat from pearling. Pearling, for those new to the term, refers to the tendency of the bow to stab into the oncoming water current and load the deck. Having lots of rocker helps prevent this, though it is by no means the only factor to consider. With the Skip and Pop, it makes the boat considerably more forgiving in a short hole or on a wave.
So, with that said, the performance on a wave is very good for the waves that I tried this boat on. I wasn't able to get the Pop to any big, dynamic waves prior to writing up this review. The Skip/Pop is geared for spinning, and once it planes out, that's more or less what it wants to do. It still has a decent carve to it, but the rocker in the stern takes some of the carving ability away from the boat. The upside to this is that it replaces it with a stern that is very hard to catch or get tripped up by in the water. This really pays off when you go for a blunt or backsurf in a short hole, especially when there's a long line in the eddy and every surf is punctuated by a long wait for your next ride.
I had a chance to paddle this boat head to head against the Pyranha S:6 and found the performances to be remarkably similar. The advantage that the Pop/Skip had over the S:6 was mostly in terms of forgiveness on the wave. For intermediate and beginning boaters, the Liquid Logic design could be the better choice between the two. The S:6 has less rocker in the stern as a result of the swallowtail stern design, which gives a much stronger carve than the Pop/Skip. Certainly demo both if possible, the difference comes down to personal preference - there isn't a "wrong" choice between the the two.
The main strengths of this boat lie in its wave performance, especially in regards to the ability of the boat to avoid pearling and give the paddler some bounce to work with. This boat is designed (among other things) to flat spin and surf short waves without catching ends, and it excels at this. For aerial moves, I'd like to be able to comment on that further, but I haven't had a chance to get this boat on a dynamic, fast wave as of the writing of this review (stay tuned, there may be a second review coming up). Surfing performance is good. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this boat did in the hole as well. Outfitting was okay, but nothing remarkable. Great look and feel with the plastic hull. For beginners and intermediates, this is an excellent boat choice. If you have access to lots of short, steep waves and would like to start adding aerial moves to your playboating repertoire, again, this is a great boat. All in all, a very strong offering from the Liquid Logic camp. I am very much looking forward to their next design!