Hero - JK's 7'4'' super-stable river runner is designed to be light, nimble, and confidence inspiring for new paddlers to get down runs for their first time and learn to read water along the way. For 2011 Hero is now shorter, even easier to drive, and even lighter than the previous version as requested by our customers.
Instead of making new paddlers struggle to keep a long, rounded boat straight and learn to anticipate every current differential before they feel in control, we've used what we learned from teaching new paddlers in playboats and added a high volume deck for safety and bow-stern stability. Why make your friends suffer long-boat control issues before they even know if they like whitewater? It's like making someone learn on skinny 200cm downhill skis before they try fat-skis or a snowboard. Lightweight planing hull boats speed learning: Burn and Mamba are industry standard from other makes, but I prefer shorter models like Ammo Mystic and our Hero for newer paddlers on the fast track.
In the Keener's kids program we let the kids borrow any boat they could for our 'race day' and most chose longer creek boats ... only to get passed on the challenging courses we set up due to spin-outs and blown eddy turns because they just couldn't control the extra speed and didn't have the water-reading ability to control a bow that's 4' in front of their hips. Hero's and Fun' s fared better.
Fun: Sure it's a playboat, but set someone at the lower end of the weight range and you've got an excellent really light weight beginner model that rolls as easy as it carries. Lots of new paddlers feel empowered simply by being able to empty, carry, and load their boat all by themselves. It gives them the sense of independence most guys and athletic gals take for granted but is essential to getting in and out when you want to. The short length, forgiving planing hull, and easy rollability are also big sellers the the 'new to paddling' crowd who won't be hitting the creeks for a year or so and don't need all the weight and durability of something designed for the Green. LL has a similar 'Freeride' in the works while WS has the Fuse and there are many 'river-running playboats' put on the market before that. Look for light weight, rounded or forgiving - high riding edges, and fuller-volume ends for comfort and water-shedding ability.
If you plan to paddle longer runs with flatwater and class 1 in the beginning, the longer boats certainly have some advantages, and a Remix is a really forgiving and easy to drive option there for sure. Just in my experience new paddlers don't paddle hard enough to go much faster than the current in moving water anyway so the extra 'speed' in whitewater just challenges them more anyway.