Select Page

Not long ago some friends were going out on the local class 3/4 run, and it was suggested that I take one of the company photographers out in the duo.  Having never paddled a duo, I didn’t really know what to expect.   But my boss at the raft company assured me that I would do great taking this young lady down the river despite her having very little whitewater experience.  I agreed to give it a try, at least through the easier rapids and would make the decision to continue downstream from there.

We made our way through the warm-up rapids and I felt that the length and speed of the boat helped us make the moves and punch through the features we needed to.  After the class 2 rapids I had no doubt that I wanted to continue downstream.   Shannon, my duo partner, sat up front and giggled and screamed as we paddled through a few class 3 rapids.  I had little doubt that I could paddle this section of river despite her inexperience with whitewater kayaking.  Above a class 4 rapid called “Staircase,” I asked her what she wanted to do.  I told her I was confident in our ability to paddle it, but wanted her to understand the potential of a swim, and make sure she was comfortable with any consequences.  She agreed.  We styled Staircase and one other rapid that was equally as challenging.  She loved it.

Ever since that day, I knew that tandem kayaking was something I wanted to do more of.  That is why when Jackson released the Dynamic Duo, my father decided to pre-order one.  Now the other tandem kayak was a ton of fun, but I immediately found the Dynamic Duo to be superior in nearly every way.   The outfitting was much more comfortable, the adjustability was simpler, and the performance of the boat was noticeably better.   The increased rocker made it more forgiving, and the hull design made it easier to roll.

Over the couple seasons that I’ve had the duo, I’ve continued to paddle it with paddlers of all skill levels.  I have found that I can comfortably paddle it with a medium size beginner down class 3.   With proper safety and education, I have paddled it down easy class 4 with aggressive beginners and intermediates.   And I’ve pushed it beyond that level with advanced paddlers as well.

I’ve done some “product testing” of the Dynamic Duo.   My little brother can roll me up from the front or the back if I stay tucked forward.  With the right technique, and perhaps a little bit of luck, one strong paddler can roll up the boat by themself.  I’ve shown people how to surf that have never had the sensation of riding a wave before.  I’ve blasted into and out of eddies with speed, demonstrated ferries, and generally been able to teach kayaking from the stern of the boat.   But more importantly, I’ve shown people how to have an insane amount of fun doing something that they might not be able to do otherwise.   It’s proven to be an extremely rewarding experience on more than one occasion.

And although I shouldn’t recommend it, I’ve taken this boat on more difficult whitewater.   My friend Brian Ward and I were the first to test this boat on the North Fork of the Payette.   I’ve also paddled the “warm-up” section of the North Fork with intermediate paddlers.   This spring Mark Cecchini and I took a couple laps down the flooded South Fork of the Payette, where we even nailed a crucial combat roll after punching a gigantic crashing wave.  And perhaps on one occasion, I pushed it just a bit beyond it’s limit.

This last summer after an awesome day at the raft company, I suggested to my friend Kevin that we take the Dynamic Duo down the lower five miles of the North Fork of the Payette.  It was early in the season, and the North Fork was still flexing it’s muscles at 3,000 cubic feet per second.  Now, perhaps this wasn’t a great decision.  Kevin is an intermediate kayaker, and a veteran raft guide, but he had never paddled on the North Fork before and certainly not at the juicy flows we had on that day.  In my defense, Kevin knows whitewater well, he got feedback from a couple of experts, and made the educated decision that he wanted to be a part of it.   But Kevin is not a class 5 paddler.

So we put-on with a group of paddlers that promised to keep a close eye on us.  Immediately peeling out of the eddy, we were in our first named rapid.  We continued downstream finding the best boofs and biggest hits in between rapids to test our limits.   Two more named rapids and we were feeling very confident.  We had one final rapid to paddle, and then we were on the home stretch to the take-out.   We entered the final rapid, navigated the crux moves, and had two large holes left.  Hitting the first one just a little sideways, we flipped.

I patiently set up to roll.  We tried several rolls.  I was doing my best to muscle us up, but it just wasn’t working.  After maybe five roll attempts I was losing air and was desperate for a breath.   I gave one last ditch effort and halfway up I knew I was going to be upright.  About the time I wanted to celebrate not swimming, my eyes focused on the front of the boat which was empty.  Kevin had swam, and I was alone in the boat, but upright.   For a second I thought I could paddle the boat towards shore, but a couple of waves and the boat was completely full, and I was sitting in the middle of the river helpless and unable to move the kayak.   I pulled my skirt and hopped out of the boat, still upright.

Kevin swam left, and I swam right.  Both of us ended up on different sides of the river safely, but we had just swam a significant piece of whitewater.   I was thankful that Kevin was well, but I was seriously concerned about the boat.   Without float bags, it made it’s way the remaining mile down to the take-out through congested sharp rocks.   I was certain the boat would be trashed.  Continuing the walk of shame to the take-out I had time to reflect on the run.  We were so close to success.   As my father is technically the owner of the Dynamic Duo, I was very nervous to see the damage.

As expected, the boat had some scratches and dents.  But John McConville met us at the take-out and was optimistic about the boat’s condition.   He was absolutely right.  After a few hours in the hot sun, and a quick adjustment to the outfitting, the boat was little worse for the wear.   It did suffer some scratches, but that’s normal when paddling any kayak.   The pitoned bow of the boat and dents returned to their original shape, and the boat was once again ready to paddle.   A couple of minor scars add to the personality of the kayak, and serve as a reminder of the experience.  After an epic swim, the resilient Dynamic Duo was alive and well, and ready to move beyond it’s past.   This is a TRUE testament to the durability of Jackson cross-link kayaks, and I absolutely cannot believe how well it faired.

In summary, the Dynamic Duo can be an excellent tool for instruction, a rewarding way to show beginners down the river, and offers a different way of challenging yourself on your local run.   Some people call it the “divorce” boat, but in my experience, the boat has only enhanced the relationship I have with my paddling partner.   If you have never paddled a duo, I strongly encourage you to do it.  I bet you’ll be surprised in how well it performs.   At the very least, I promise it will be very fun.

-Micah Kneidl