Review Detail

 
Dope L
 
Dope L 2012-09-18 15:43:37 biegm
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Design 
 
5.0
Perfomance 
 
5.0
Quality 
 
4.0
Value / Money 
 
4.0
biegm Reviewed by biegm    September 18, 2012
Top 50 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

June 2012 Fluid Dope Review

Reviewer Info:
Years Paddling: 16
Sessions Paddling Per Year: 150+
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 210 LBS
Foot Size: US Men's 9
Inseam: 32”
Ratio Play Boat to Riverrunning/Creeking: 80%-20%
Paddling Props:
Fluid Ambassador, ACA WW Kayak Level IV Instructor Trainer, WW Raft IT, Coastal Kayak L IV Instructor, SWR L V Instructor, Director of San Juan College Academic Outdoor Leadership Program, President, Adobe WW Club of New Mexico. Compete in Local Rodeos. My passion is teaching not competing.
The last several playboats I have owned from newest to oldest: Fluid Dope L “Current”, Jackson Rockstar L, Pyrahna Molan L, 2007 Jackson Superstar, Dagger Agent L, Wave Sport Project L, Dagger Crazy 88 L, Dagger King Pin L. And I have paddled a Fluid Element M for the last several years.
Testing ground for this review:
Farmington NM Play Park, Durango CO Play Park, Pagosa Springs CO Play Park.

So I have been paddling my Large Fluid Dope pretty much daily since the beginning of April when it showed up in Durango. It was one of the first boats out of the North American mold so admittedly it was a bit of a miss-mold, but any issues with the miss-mold were not performance based so this review should be accurate as far as that goes. Also I am a Fluid Ambassador and paddle a Fluid Bazooka, Element and Dope, but will do my very best to be unbiased with this review. That being said I have been extremely impressed with my Dope for several reasons. The performance of the boat is unsurpassed, the outfitting is incredibly adjustable and the comfort is reminiscent of the way my Daggers used to fit which I loved, plus the new plastic is amazingly light, stiff and durable.

I pondered long and hard about how to write this review. And after paddling the boat a bunch and letting several other folks paddle it I came up with a baseline for what to build my review off of, The Dagger Kingpin. I owned a couple of Kingpins over the years and grew immensely as a paddler during that time. The Kingpin was released in 2003 nearly 10 years ago, and went through many updates and changes over the years. I believe Dagger only discontinued it back in 2010 as it could still hold its own to more modern play boats. Now it would be unfair to say that the Fluid Dope is just a updated version of the Kingpin because this is not true, but in many respects the Dope mirrors the Kingpin and since many of us out there paddled the Kingpin over the years this at least puts everyone on some familiar ground. So to start things I will say that the Dope is a much faster, sharper, bouncier, poppier, Kingpin with outfitting that is more comfy but still holds a similar balance and predictability that the Kingpin had. It is this predictability that makes the new Dope shine compared to all the new boats on the market.

Performance:
The thing that immediately stands out about the Dope is that it looks a lot different than any of the new boats out there. I hate to say it but the Super Stars, Rock Stars, Molans and Jedeyes and even the Project Xs along with others look very similar especially to the unfamiliar eye. They all have short sterns that are very bulbus, they all have a very rounded shape especially in the stern, and do not look very slicey for the most part (Something I think the New Jedeye has somewhat changed). The Dope however has extremely slicey ends which make it effortless to throw around and although the stern is slightly shorter than the bow and has a huge amount of volume it tapers rapidly towards the edges and tail. Actually the Tail is nearly scooped out just before the Volume explodes towards the cockpit which makes this boat extremely easy to initiate on the stern regardless if it is for back loops, cartwheels or a tricky woo.

Now one may think that the increase in sliceyness lessens foot room and the pop of the boat. This is not true. The boat still has an equivalent amount of volume centered around the cockpit. Whatever it loses in the slicey edges is transferred around the thighs and behind the seat. I have hands down obtained the biggest loops and space Godzilla's of my career in this boat. On top of this even with the slightly shorter stern the boats seems very balanced end to end making linked sequences in a hole or on flat water a breeze. Fluid has really been able to dial in the volume distribution with this boat even making it feel stable when in a bow or stern stall. A friend of mine who paddles a large Crazy 88 and has been working on bow stalls, hoped in my Dope yesterday and immediately settled into a bow stall longer than he was ever able to before, and the Dope has 18 Gallons more volume (48 for the C88 and 66 for the Dope). I personally use the old style IR over thruster on my Dope over the inflatable option. It is the one from my Agent and fits the boat perfectly. You can still order these from Dagger dealers if interested in that.

The distribution of volume and sliceyness makes the boat super predictable. It is easy to put the bow or stern right where you want it without feeling like you have to fight the volume or throw in some fancy stroke to get the boat there. The sharp ends also assist in surfing which is where this boat truly shines. I have no idea really how Fluid did it. My Element Surf Boat is super-fast, much faster than any play boat, and super loose but on the other hand it is pretty unfriendly to paddle and getting good bounce is really a big challenge on anything but the fastest/bigest of waves. The Dope is the fastest true play boat I have ever paddled, nearly as fast as the Element and nearly as loose but really friendly and easy to get in the air on even average sized waves. The edge on the boat is a double tucked design which I thought would slow the boat down because it narrowed the surface area, but alas it kept the hull fast and super loose, maybe because it is narrower. In addition to the tucked edge the slicey bow and stern edge are relatively low on the sidewall and create a planning surface all the way from the tip to the tail of the boat, so you have edge running the full length of the kayak to work with which lets the boat carve really hard and accelerate across the face of a wave .Flatten the boat and the edges release, weight one edge end while flat and the boat spins and bounces effortlessly. It seems to date the best combination of speed, bounce and friendliness I have ever experienced and regardless if back or front surfing and boat is very predictable and resists pearling.

Outfitting
So as many folks know Fluid completely redid their outfitting this year and I have to say for the first time in a long time a kayak company has come up with some pretty innovative ideas, so let’s start with the feet and move through the system. The System is called the Bionic outfitting and there is a creeker and play boat version which is in the Dope.

For the feet there is a typical foam foot block that can be staked and removed to adjust length, it really is no different than a Dagger or Jackson foot block so that is nothing new, but the Dope has a lot of foot room. I have sat in this boat for several hours at a time while teaching and have never had my feet feel cramped. A lot of this comes from the width of the bow; it allows for plenty of room to stretch but still keeps the boat slicey. I am lucky with only size 9 feet, but I have had a couple of friends paddle the boat with longer inseams plus size 12’s and they have had no issue with foot room. The other thing that makes the foot box comfy is that the double tucked edge is flattened out in the bow and stern. I have paddled boats where the edge tuck runs all the way to the bow and that indention created pressure points on my feet; the Dope does not have this issue.

The front pillar is a typical foam type and is bolted to the seat at the back bottom end and held into place on the top by indents in the shell, so nothing new there. The only addition to the front pillar is a handy thumb and finger cut out that allows you to grab the pillar while carrying. I added some glue to the top and bottom of my pillar just to make it even more solid and carrying the boat is a breeze.

The thigh braces are a bit different. As with all the padding in the Dope, the padding on the thigh braces ties in via bungee that is laced through the rubber padding and the plastic thigh brace, no glue needed to hold it in place. The rubber foam pad is similar to running shoe foam, like ABS or something. I thought this would feel sloppy when I first saw it but it actually is really solid and is easy to replace in the event the pad wears out, although you would have to order a new one from a Fluid Dealer. The rest of the thigh brace is really minimal which Fluid did to save weight and is held in place with 2 screws through the top of the cockpit coaming and one through the outside of the boat, a lot like a late model Dagger, Pyrahna or Wave Sport, so it adjusts easily. The braces are super positive and feel solid.

The seat shell is molded and has hundreds of holed through it, which saves weight and allows for several attachment options for hip pads and the seat itself. The seat is also connected to the Stiffening spine which runs from the front pillar, under the seat and attached to the back pillar. Under the stiffener is a foam cutout to match the shape of the spine and the seat moves forward an back with one removable hand screw, a lot like other brands, no tools needed to shift the seat bow to stern and has about 5 inches to travel. The front of the seat is attaches to the spine by 2 runners that slide through holes in the spine, it is easy to adjust things but I have to say the seat does float around a tiny bit when really throwing your hips into a move which takes a little getting used to.

The pad on the seat is the same type of rubber as the thigh pads and laces in exactly the same way. It is really solid and really comfy plus it dries immediately. The hip pads come with two straps that hold the pads on a plastic floating plate along the side stay for the seat. This took a bit of fidgeting to get right but once they were set with enough paddling they felt solid, and the floating plate allows the pad to mold to my hips so pressure points are gone. The other cool thing about the seat is that it can be raised up and down along the side stay to pretty much any limit, so raising the seat is not just shoving foam under the seat and hoping it works, instead it is a mechanical raising system. This does take some time and once set I would recommend putting additional foam under the spine to keep good contact with the hull of the boat.

The back band on the boat is made of the same rubbery foam as the pad on the Seat and thighs. It is super comfy and positive; it provides a ton of support. It is held in place by 4 Bungees that run through the cockpit coaming (A lot like the old Fluid Outfitting), a NRS type Strap that runs through the back band and up to ratchets on the thigh braces, so pretty standard as far as that goes. The rubber however conforms so nicely to the paddlers back and its width and float make it rotate nicely for back deck positions or anything else. It does take a little while to get the length figured out but once you do the ratchets can be cranked forward to get the pad set perfectly.

The back pillar in both the Play and Creek Outfitting also has a cool accessory. There are 2 large holes through the Pillar, these cut down on weight which is good but they serve another purpose. The holes are two sizes, one fits a Nalgene perfectly and the other fits a Kleen Canteen. So for me as an instructor I keep a first aid kit in a Nalgene in the larger hole and pull a pin kit through the other one. These items are super solid and don’t rattle around at all. The back of the seat has solid attachment points on each side but these holes keep the things you rarely need totally out of the way. If no one tells you about these holes they are super easy to overlook, especially if you have floatation in the stern.

There has been some concern about the durability of the outfitting. I have paddled my boat really hard and to date I have broken a couple of things in the outfitting. First I am on my 2nd NRS type strap that holds the back band. The first one tore through after about 45 sessions. I also had to add lock tight to all the screws that hold the thigh braces and ratchets because they would regularly come undone, and lastly I broke one side of the seat post that held the NRS strap behind the Hip Pad. This snapped during a loop but luckily did not affect the structure of the seat at all. Fortunately it was easy to remedy because of all those holes in the seat side stay. I just added some 5mm cord through some of the holed and the problem was fixed and may feel even better.

I honestly think the outfitting is extremely comfortable, good and light. It takes a bit to get it dialed but that is just you getting to know your boat better, and all the important parts are solid. I am also inclined to mention that the New Fluid Boats do not come with Owners Manuals/Directions, so working on the outfitting is a test in trial and error. Just make sure not to over tighten any screws and bolts, over tightening with make plastic fatigue and crack. Luckily for the most part the outfitting is self-explanatory so you all will be OK.

The New Plastic:
So I have heard some of my paddle buddies refer to the old Fluid plastic as crayon shaped into a Boat, I have also had other buddies say that Fluids are the only boats they have never seen break although a little heavier than others. It is true that the older plastic was more flexible (Softer) and as such took hits really well but left lots of plastic, and it did seem to be a bit heavier. I believe the new plastic has remedied both of these issues. When I first got my Dope, I was amazed at the finish; honestly I have seen composite boats that were not as shiny. The finish is beautiful and smooth. There are no bubbles in it at all which make the shine so vibrant and the material is impressively stiff. The bow and stern of my Dope have taken a beating and have no big gashes or dents in it anywhere. On fast surf waves I do not feel the hull flexing under the pressure of the water and after 60+ days of paddling the Dope there is absolutely no oil canning at all. In addition the new plastic and outfitting make the overall package very light. Certainly on the light end of any other play boat I have owned.

Conclusion:
The Dope is a welcome addition to the play boat scene for me. It is everything I have been waiting for. A predictable boat that has all the abilities to do anything any other boat can do and surf even better. I have already improved my skills as a paddler and I attest most of that to the perfect balance and predictability of the Dope. If you are in the market for a new play boat I highly recommend you check one out. I know that Fluid has just gotten the North American Factory up and running and as with all new projects it is taking some time to get these boats to dealers. But if you can wait I believe you will not be disappointed. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.






Review

Affiliated
Yes
About Me
Years Paddling: 16
Sessions Paddling Per Year: 150+
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 210 LBS
Foot Size: US Men's 9
Inseam: 32”
Ratio Play Boat to Riverrunning/Creeking: 80%-20%
Paddling Props:
Fluid Ambassador, ACA WW Kayak Level IV Instructor Trainer, WW Raft IT, Coastal Kayak L IV Instructor, SWR L V Instructor, Director of San Juan College Academic Outdoor Leadership Program, President, Adobe WW Club of New Mexico. Compete in Local Rodeos. My passion is teaching not competing.
The last several playboats I have owned from newest to oldest: Fluid Dope L “Current”, Jackson Rockstar L, Pyrahna Molan L, 2007 Jackson Superstar, Dagger Agent L, Wave Sport Project L, Dagger Crazy 88 L, Dagger King Pin L. And I have paddled a Fluid Element M for the last several years.
Testing ground for this review:
Farmington NM Play Park, Durango CO Play Park, Pagosa Springs CO Play Park.
Pros / The Good
See Review
Cons / The Bad
See Review
Recommend
Yes
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