A Brief History of the Modern Day Longboat

Special Events, Whitewater Kayaks
Pyranha 12R Green Race
Victoria Ohegyi

It’s the dead-smack middle of fall and longboats are soooo in right now. CKS Online kicked off longboat season with a self-support kayak trip through the Grand Canyon (featuring our coworkers JR and Nick), and last week we recapped the Russell Fork and Nick’s enviable 72nd place at the Lord of the Fork Race.

Did you know that the development of 12-foot boats has been driven by The Green Race? As a category, longboats were essentially invented for the sole purpose of winning this race. These boats have dominated the racing scene since Pat Keller’s 2006 Green Race win in his Dagger Green Boat. 

Which boat influenced it all? 

Prijon Tornado (Length: 11’ 9” / Width 24” / Volume: 90 gal) 

Prior to the arrival of the Dagger Green Boat, kayakers were not using racing specific designs to run the Green Race. Instead, they chose boats that offered a decent balance of speed and forgiveness and running them on the Narrows.

Because of its length, the Prijon Tornado was an early Green Race favorite. This boat gained a bit of a cult following, similar to the Dagger RPM in recent years. The Tornado won 8 races prior to the Green Boat hitting the market.

What boat defined the modern longboat class?

Dagger Green Boat (Length: 11′9” / Width: 24.25” / Volume: 95 gal)

By 2006, It was clear that there was a demand for a modern creek racer. Released in 2008, the Green Boat was a collaborative design between Pat Keller and Snowy Robertson, Dagger’s designer/engineer. The Green Boat was actually a part of Keller’s senior project in college and took over two years to fully come together. 

At 55 pounds, this boat is undoubtedly heavy. It’s also undoubtedly fast. It can carve and lean like a machine. Inspired by the Nomad, the Green Boat was designed with a displacement hull, with the shallow steep and narrow nature of the Green River in mind. 

The bow can punch straight through any holes a creek may throw it’s way. This boat is especially resistant to backenders because the hull speed and long shape keep weight over the hole.The Green Boat also strikes a balance between ease of paddling and hull speed.

It’s worth noting that as the first of its kind on the market, this is the boat that established the modern longboat class and elevated the entire sport of kayak racing.

Liquidlogic Remix Stinger (Prototype/Team Kayak)

The Remix Stinger began prototyping in 2008, around the same time as the Green Boat was being developed. The boat was nicknamed the “Hungee” from the 100+ gallons of volume and the common dam release of water on the Green which is 100% of 1 unit. Designed with the Green in mind, this boat was first tested on the Lord of the Fork by team athletes. This prototype was originally offered to team athletes exclusively and eventually developed into the current Stinger. 

What boats are people paddling in 2020?

Liquidlogic Stinger (Length: 12’6” / Width: 25” / Volume: 94 gal)

The first thing you’ll notice about the Stinger is that it is long. Like….really….long. Compared to the early Remix Stinger, the extra length was exclusively added to the stern, creating a significantly longer waterline with little length lost to the bow rocker.

How does this translate on the water? Speed. Lots of it. While this boat is comfortable for larger paddlers, some smaller paddlers can actually handle this kayak a bit better because the waterline stays higher. Regardless, the Stinger has a habit of punishing any paddler who strays off line. 

What it lacks in forgiveness, the Stinger makes up for in raw speed and acceleration. This is the boat for paddlers who live by the motto “go big or go home.”

Jackson Karma Unlimited (UL) ( Length: 11′10” / Width: 25” / Volume: 94 gal)

Jackson released the Karma UL shortly after the Green Boat. This brand is renowned for its outfitting and usability and the Karma is no different. It might not be the fastest boat in the creek but if you crash and burn, it is the fastest boat to recover with.

The Karma UL is unique in that it is the first long boat to feature a planing hull. This design helps with carving, surfing and holding an edge, yet it departs from the tradition of designing a hull to smash down the rocky slides on the Green.

Pyranha 12R (Length: 12′ / Width: 24.5” / Volume: 102 gal)

All long boats share a common theme: manufacturers know they are taking a risk releasing these designs. Whitewater racing is a niche market within a small sport, and molds are expensive to produce. Pyranha launched the 12R through a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 with plans to produce a limited run of 100 boats.

Pyranha 12R Green Race

Due to overwhelming popularity, the 12R was continued as a production boat in future years. The 2017 campaign helped solidify the need for longboats on the market and proved that new designs could be a valuable offering for manufacturers.

The 12R followed the legacy of the ever-popular 9R. The 9R popularized the motto “fast is fun” and the 12R followed in its footsteps. With the 12R, Pyranha didn’t only set out to win races, they also focused on building a boat that would be fun as a daily paddler to spice up the local run and add variety into a paddling routine.

Dagger Vanguard (Prototype/Team Kayak)

While we are mostly speculating and simply repeating rumors overheard at the Green Race, the Dagger Vanguard is the latest update to the 12 foot category. It has been around for a few years as a prototype only available to team paddlers. Team paddlers claim “they have found the longest and fastest boat possible to navigate hard whitewater with.” It has a more peaked bow and an elongated stern. Early prototypes have proved successful as the Vanguard has placed in the top 3 at the 2019 Green Race, and it’s definitely one of the top boats everyone is buzzing about at races across the country this year.  We expect a more official release in the near future. 

All of these boats have two things in common: they were all tested at the Green River Narrows (race or otherwise) for years before becoming production models, and they all started as “side projects” to fulfill a need that modern boats just weren’t providing. Chris Hipgrave wrote an incredible article outlining a comparative history of longboats

The same designs that win the Green Race often become popular expedition and Grand Canyon boats – like the Liquid Logic Stinger XP that our coworkers JR and Nick paddled for 6 days through the Grand Canyon. The high volume for gear storage combined with fast hull speed makes these invaluable for extended river trips where speed and storage equate to comfort.

Which boat do you think is best for winning The Green Race? Let us know in the comments.

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