10 out of 10

I've been paddling a Pop for almost three weeks now all over the Potomac and Western Maryland. I'm 6'2" 170lbs, have been boating for eight years but didn't start to really figure out playboating until a year and a half ago. I've owned a big EZ, EZ, have quite a bit of time in a Disco, and have paddled the Full Tilt and G-Force, so I've got a decent basis for comparison.

The Pop's outfitting is simple and functional. The seat is simple to move--the nuts holding the seat in have little plastic handles that eliminate the need to try and squeeze a pair of pliers in behind the side of the seat. The seat is nothing special--I just don't notice it, which is a good thing. The racheting backband is extremely useful and appears pretty sturdy. At my size, I would be absolutely floating without stout hip pads and footblocks, so someone a lot bigger than me should fit. The thigh braces do dig into my knees a little, but I don't notice it much. All in all, I don't like it as well as the Fat or Elastomer outfitting, but it does the job fine.

As expected, this is the slowest boat I've ever paddled other than the G-Force. However, put it on an edge and it carves incredibly smoothly. Flatwater cartwheeling was difficult at first, as I was spoiled by the EZ, but now I can throw it around pretty well. The kick rocker in the stern makes the boat flatten out in the stern end if you don't throw the stern point agressively. It stalls well, surprisingly, and while it doesn't slice through as cleanly as the EZ, it doesn't bounce as much as the Disco while cartwheeling.

Wave Performance
I've had this boat in Maryland Chute at 3.7-3.9ft, a level at which it's a fast 2ft high wave/hole with a good blunt shoulder on surfer's left. There's a video of me at these levels at http://www.2paddle.com/gallery/ (sorry for the file size, and thanks to Drew for the video). The Pop's carving performance--while obviously not as speedy as a longer boat--is still excellent, and gives the paddler the ability to turn quickly and accelerate the other direction. While not a green wave, I was still able to get a sense of just how loose this thing is...looser than both the Disco and Zip, which I had assumed to be the pinnacle of looseness. Where this boat really shines, though, is when you start it bouncing. It bounces much better than any boat I've paddled, including the Disco. I was able to easily get the bow off the water, and while I don't think I was getting anything I'd call an aerial blunt in MD Chute, the possibility is definately there. The only downside to this boat's wave performance is (obvioulsly) forward speed on shallow waves. The kicker in the stern slows it dramatically as the wave flattens. I was unable to stay on some waves I can hold easily in my EZ.

Hole Performance
I've had the Pop in MD Chute at lower (3.2-3.5ft) levels, at which it's good for lefty's and some righty's, Center Chute Ledge (good mostly for righty's) and Virginia Chute, which at 3.1-ish is actually really retentive for righty's. It took me a while to get used to this boat in a hole. Slightly slicy ends and central volume combine to make it cartwheel very fast, and I found myself getting behind it often. I've got it a little more figured out now, and linked 12 ends in VA chute yesterday. It seems more retentive than the EZ, but less so than the Disco--in fact, it paddles almost like a cross between the two. As in flatwater, the ends have to be put down relatively high-angle and hard or they flatten out due to the kick rocker. I am not able to loop yet, so I can't comment on that, but it gets a lot more pop when I attempt than the EZ does.

River Running
I like to be able to run stuff in my playboat, which is why I was such a big fan of the EZ (in my opinion the best of river-running playboats). I like the way short boats carve, boof, and skip over holes. I was nervous about the Pop because of the harder edges, shorter length, and weird rocker profile. It is noticeably edgier than the EZ, and is by far more difficult to brace up if you catch an edge--the edge likes to stay underwater. I've taken the Pop down the Upper Yough, a class IV+/V- technical run at 2.0-2.25ft, medium to upper medium levels. It took some getting used to, but I like it a lot now. Like I said before, it carves extraordinarily well, and catching eddies is actually fun again. It boofs well, although feels a little wierd because of the rocker profile (three flat surfaces rather than continuous). It's not a great hole puncher, and tends to get tossed by little waves (like the one kicking off the right-side boof boulder at National Falls) if you aren't proactive in dealing with them. I've also run the Fishladder at Great Falls in it, and it does fine, although doesn't quite skip over holes like the EZ.

All in all, this is by far my favorite short boat (my rankings are Pop, EZ, Disco, Full Tilt, G-Force) of the ones I've paddled. It is one of the overall smoothest-paddling boats I've paddled, and plays really well to boot. I'd be interested in the S6 and Delirium, but those will have to wait.
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