5 Whitewater Trends For 2017 | Rapid Magazine | Rapid Media
A whitewater kayaker in a red kayak descends a waterfall in Norway. Ciaran Heurteau

Industry insiders from pro paddler Sage Donnelly to carbon boat builder Ben Fraser weigh in on what's hot for 2017

Sage Donnelly, professional kayaker, Nevada 

“Something I have noticed recently when it comes to creeking is that everyone is now super into throwing cross-bows, ear dips and freestyle moves off of big boofs, and even off waterfalls. Even if it’s just class II rapids, people are looking for and finding little boofs to do these moves on. I just came from my localriverfestivalandsaw it happening a lot there, but you see it everywhere. It’s just something that is super fun and adds a whole different and exciting element to creeking.” 

Joe Pulliam, industry veteran, North Carolina

“I have seen a resurgence of late 1980s and early 1990s kayak designs, with the Braaap, Axiom and the new Antix. I think there was a backlashasboatsgotshorter and shorter and were aimed moreattheelitepaddler.The trend towards these playful river runners is perfect for paddlers who don’t want to competeandwantsomething funandplayful.Thebowsare designedwithmorevolume to make them better for paddling big rivers instead of just easy initiation, but in the hands of a skilled paddler can still be used for squirting and freestyle moves.” 

Zane Kindred, engineer at AIRE, Idaho 

“Something I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about and getting into is packrafting. I think it’s something that is definitely growing,especiallybecause it meshes the two worlds of backpacking and whitewater. The cool thing is that not everyone is into both, so groups of friends who have some people interested in backpacking and some interested in running whitewater are able to do cool trips together. I think some people maybe get bored of running the same rivers, but with packrafting your access doubles.” 

READ MORE: Six east coast whitewater festivals not to miss in 2017 

Ben Morton, instructor and guide, Virginia 

“I think that there is a population of retired adults throughout the country who are interested and engaged in learning to kayak. I think this demographiccomesfroma generation of paddlers who startedkayaking10or20years ago and have either returned to kayaking after retiring or have been kayaking for that long, but only a few times a year. Whileitdoesn’tseemlikethis generationofpaddlerisdrawn to the sport for any different reasons than any other paddler, I do think the kayak industry needs to brainstorm how to better accommodate them, like making lighter kayaks, maybe.” 

Ben Fraser, FeatherWeight Kayaks, Ontario 

“Ten years ago if someone paddled into an eddy in a carbon boat, people would be like, ‘What is that?’ Carbon had a sort of stigma, and people thought if you had one you were either rich or a pro. Now more and more people are using them, and it’s a lot of paddlers who are dedicated weekend warriors. These are people who paddle as much as they can on the weekends, but also hold down a regular job and responsibilities during the week. They are realizing that carbon kayaks aren’t just reserved for the elite level paddlers.” 

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