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Critical Mass XL
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In this day and age, thats an ultra short boat with a long planing surface. A short boat with no reach or vertical stability, who’s ability to turn is restricted by the effort to make it fast. Designers have known for some time that boats are shorter than they should be, and thats why lengths have been creeping up each year.
The Critical Mass takes the leap thats necessary of extreme kayaking is to go to the next level. It has the length to punch through holes, bridge drops, and cary its speed over ramps and waves. But, the rocker shape of the Critical Mass is such that it turns more easilly than the vast majority of kayaks a foot shorter, meaning you can make last minute adjustments, correct yourself in the middle of a drop, and still have the reach to glide over anything that comes your way. The rocker and template of this versitile kayak are such that it’ll run steep creeks that you’d expect to see a kayak a foot shorter on.
Over the last few years, the common gripe of paddlers each seeking to push their own limits has been that they’re held back by the equipment: modern kayaks lack the ability to make those critical lines, and lack the mass to push through anything the river throws at you. Not any more!
(Weight and volume are Playak estimates, as Dragorossi doesn't publish those figures)
The Best Creeker out by FAR!!!
Well, This boat is still my favorite creeker, and I have tested a lot of boats.
I have had it out pretty much 1-3 times every week since I got it and I paddled a demo 4-5 times before my boat came in.
First, the whole process of ordering a boat from Italy scared me a little. From the time I ordered it til they shipping company called me in Portland saying that the boat was here was about 2 days shy of two weeks. Mind you, this was in the height of the holliday season too, not bad. Here's what I did to expedite it. I kept in contact with Eurotank (the DR factory), tracked my boat, when it got to Cali. I called the importing company and filled out the required paperwork, scanned the paperwork and emailed it back to them, they got it past customs and shipped it to me....voila! I have a boat from Italy.
OK enough logistics. I have paddled this boat approximately 10-15 times on class IV-V creeks/river ranging from big water to tight and technical. I hiked into Hagen Gorge with it which is about 1/2-3/4 of a mile hike, not too long but long enough to want to rig-up a backpack system for my boat. Carrying the boat (and I'm not talking about the weight) is the only thing I don't like about it. There is no comfortable way to shoulder the boat for long periods and carrying it on my head doesn't wrok because my shoulders are too broad and won't fit in the cockpit....oh well. I have a heli-skiing pack with a bladder that i rigged to make a perfect kayak pack, since I added webbing to it it also holds a surfboard, of course skiis, snowboard, and snowshoes, and even my bouldering pad.....problem solved, it's even a quick enough process to use it for very short distances, then I stowe it in the hatch.
The hatch: I have had no more than about 1-2 tablespoons of water in the hatch, I would consider that VERY dry. The webbing strap system is genius and the tiny skirt that covers it is easy to put on. I was doing it wrong in the beginning so it was a little hard....oops :)
The outfitting is BOMBER! The only thing I did was add a lock-nut in between the sidewall and the bow ring to keep the system watertight and not have to crank the bolt in the bow wall so tight that it puckers the sidewall and sticks into the cockpit, quick easy, watertight fix. Other than that, I added some expandable foam knee/thigh braces by using a product from Tapp plastics. I know a paddler that has done this in all of his boats for about 10 years, it's waterproof, and customizes the knee bumps, tunnels for a perfect fit, no need to glue on knee blocks, extra foam in the thigh braces etc, it fits like a glove, keeps my knees warm (provides a bit of insulation, which is good, it's winter here) and gives me A LOT of control on the boat angle fore to aft. If anyone's in Portland, I can show you how to do this :) This backband and racheting bulkhead are AWESOME and with the medium seat, I don't have problems with the adjusting screws. There is TONS of room in the hatch for gear and even room behind the seat and in front of the bulkhead for smaller drybags. The seat is ultra-comfy, stiff and I need nothing but a set of JK hip pads with no shims to make the fit perfect.
OK, you can read my previous posts on Boatertalk about how I love the characteristics of this boat.
I have now had it on the E.F. Lewis about 6 times at all different levels, Canyon Creek (WA), June Creek, The Washougal, the N. Fork of the Washougal, Hagen Gorge, and the Upper Wind at medium and low-ish water.
This boat out performs everything I have paddled over the last 10 years. This may be because the boat makes up for my short comings like boofs well off of chaotic lips, is fast (but I can switch directions very easily), resurfaces predictably no matter what angle the bost goes in at, makes choosing my entry angle off of drops pretty easy (although I would consider this a weakness of mine), punches holes or ramps over them on it's own (I think my timing is off on punching or ramping holes, the CM helps me with this), It's the most stable boat I have paddled, I have literally only rolled this boat once since I started paddling it.....and it rolls easy. The drop was a blind class IV seam in which I needed right to left angle but I went off the center whiched caused one side of the seam to flip me sideways, rather than bracing HARD, I rolled it with no loss in momentum, I ended up in the small eddy I needed to be above the next drop like I ran the seam perfectly.
I am noticing the scratches and gouges a lot on the CM but I have also been paddling the SH!% out of it......I'm not suspecting the plastic to not hold up but you'll hear about it if it doesn't :)
Oh, the cockpit, the reason I didn't get a Mafia when it came out was the cockpit was too small, I like to paddle Corran's designs with the seat forward (both my CM and Stinger seats are set one nothc from being all the way forward....it's perfect for both)
The CM cockpit is skinnier than most large creekboat cockpits out there but even with my seat almost all the way forward, I can get my knees out on the flats and pull them out to get out of my boat quickly.
Oh yeah....the weight.....contrary to popular belief, this boat is not much heavier than most of the larger boats out there, it's lighter than the JK Mega-rocker, about the same weight as the Rocker (2007), I tested this out at Alder Creek. My friend has a Nomad 8.5 which is only marginally lighter, he commented that they felt the same but I can tell the CM is a couple of pounds heavier, it feels a bit heavier than the L Burn and right on par with the Habitat 80.....so, unless you're runnning a marathon with your boat, the weight is the same on most of the popular big creekers out right now and only a couple of pounds heavier than a few. Whcih, if you think about it, a 9' creeker needs a good deal of plastic on it or we would all be pissed when we wear through our boats in a couple of months.
I am getting NOTHING from my opinion on this boat, I paid full retail for it and will again when I beat this CM into oblivion :) Although then, all I will have to buy is the shell as DR is selling their boats with a customizable amount of outfitting and I'm pretty happy with what I have
Weight: 86.2 kgs