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Hey everyone!  Here’s a list of all my favorite kayaking gear.  I’ve been paddling for more than 15 years, with lots of warm and cold days of river running, play boating, creeking, squirt boating, pool sessions, and instruction.  This represents, in my opinion, the best stuff available, and has kept me comfortable and safe for years!  Feel free to check the gear out by following the links I’ve provided.  I’m always happy to answer questions about any of this stuff 🙂

Boat choices:

Creek Boat: JK Karma Medium.  It’s comfortable, safe, strong, high performance, and easy to paddle.  It turns like a shorter boat, is really forgiving and stable, boofs like a dream, and planes-out like nothing I’ve ever paddled before on landings.  Coming from a Micro 230, then Creeker 225 & Embudo, to a Rocker, 2 generations of Heroes (which I loved), and Villain S, The Karma is the best of all of these former boats in 1.  Plus the Uni-shock (shock absorbing) bulkhead is the greatest creeking safety innovation in 10 years.

Playboat: JK All Star or Rockstar M.  The All Star for wave play and ease downriver.  The Rockstar for holes.  All Star is the fastest wave boat I’ve paddled since the Prijon Release, it takes off well, is ridiculously loose, carves really well, and is forgiving for landings.  The Rockstar M gives me tons of leverage over my ends for hole tricks.  Really easy to control my edges for mcnasties and phonixes, and gives me massive loops easily.

Squirt boat: Murky Water Slip (designed by Jim Snyder).  The Slip is the lowest-cut, most comfortable, driest, most fun squirt boat I’ve used (coming from a Fish, then Maestro, then KOR, with a few days in a Prize in there).  With the ability to go mega low on my chop (mine “floats” the highest points of the boat 4″ under the surface of the water–ends are probably 6″ down!), I can roam in tiny eddylines and don’t have to fight volume.  It still comes up quickly.  The Slip design also has really narrow, dense ends, so it’s incredibly easy to boss the boat around while spinning through turbulence or underwater eddy lines…the boat is an acrobat, submarine, sports car.  I love it!  Murky Water makes high-quality, durable, beautiful custom composite boats.  They flex less when deep than any other boat I’ve paddled, and the care about chops and performance.

AT2 SL 196, zero degree feather.  These have been the longest lasting, best feeling, all-around paddles I’ve ever used (and I’ve spent a good bit of time paddling most of the other major brands.  There’s just no other paddle that feels this good in the water.  I creek and play with the Super Light (though now I use a Super Duty for some creeking…mostly because I have one and feel like I should).  My first super light lasted me 550 river days, my 2nd one lasted 340 (then broke on a 50′ waterfall–big hit!, and my 3rd and current one has lasted me 500 so far.

I use a Shred Ready Shaggy for just about everything.  It’s a good mix of style, good coverage, and a strap system that keeps it in place.  I also have a Shred Ready standard full face that I’ll use for the mankiest of runs.

For play/general use, I use the NRS Ninja.  It’s simple, comfortable, has a pocket, stays in place, and has served me well for the past 2 years.  I have to tighten the side straps pretty tight once I’m sitting in my boat, but then it stays put, and floats fine when I need it.  For creeking I’ve been using the Astral Green Jacket.  The Green Jacket is comfortable, with every safety feature I could ever want.  It’s a great rescue PFD.

Dry gear:
-For creeking I use the new NRS Revolution top, which is the most bomber top I’ve ever seen.  It’s incredibly heavy duty material, and the seams are painted with a rubberized coating instead of seam tape.  It’s dry and durable.  I can’t imagine how long it’ll take to wear through this thing!  For super cold water, I’ll use the NRS Inversion drysuit, which is SUPER breathable and comfortable.  Great for warm-weather, cold water California creeking!

-For safer river running and play boating, I use a NRS Flux top mated to a Mountain surf dur o ring skirt.  The Flux is lighter weight, dry, stylish, and comfortable.  There is no skirt on the market that performs and lasts like a Mountain Surf.  My current skirt has lasted me 5 years, and has been used on 3 different drydecks.  I have no idea what I’ll do once this one wears out if John doesn’t start making them again.  The Drydeck that I currently have is literally DRY on my playboats.  I can do 2 hours of playboating and not even need to sponge out my boat at the end of the session…my legs will literally be dry.

-For squirt boating, I use a Skirtworks jimirim 2 skirt mated with an NRS Flux drydeck.  Once again, BONE DRY.  I can sink for 2 hours and have dry legs at the end.  Skirtworks is the only company that makes skirts for the JimiRim 2.

-For warm days in warm water, I’ll use the NRS Stampede Shorty, which is a lightweight short sleeve paddle jacket.

Under layers:
When it’s cold, I wear the NRS Men’s Wavelite Unionsuit Polartec.  This one layer has kept me warm on the coldest of days, and is still comfortable when it’s warmer.  I’ll wear this any day that it’s just a bit too cold to only have board shorts on my legs.  When it’s a little warmer, I’ll wear board shorts with the Wavelight Shirt, which is comfortable and warm.  Once it’s warm out, I’ll wear board shorts (usually patagonia or older NRS ones) with the NRS men’s Hydrosilk shirt (which is a rashguard)

-For playboating/general use, I’ve been using the NRS Shock Socks, which are really comfy and low profile, though I’ll most likely be switching to the Freestyle booties next.  They stay on my feet even while doing swimming drills with students, are warm, low-profile, and durable.

-For creeking, I use anything 5.10.  I often even just use 5.10 tennis shoes.  There are simply no other shoes that stick to rock like 5.10…it’s MUCH grippier than any other rubber.  To me that trumps everything else for portages, rescue situations, scouting, and everything else creeking-related.

-for river running and creeking, I like the NRS Mamba pogies.  They are comfortable and warm.  For playboating or squirt boating (where my hands are underwater a lot), the warmest things ever are the NRS Toaster Mitts.  No other glove or mitten is even close.  If I just need a little extra warmth (like colder water squirt boating), I’ll opt for the NRS Maverick gloves, which are thin, tight fitting, and really grippy.

For most cold water paddling, I use the NRS Storm Hood under my helmet, which works great.  For really-cold water squirt boating, I use a 3/5 mm neoprene diving hood ( )

Well, that oughta cover it!  I hope this helps people get an idea as to some great options for gear!  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll list my sponsors here.  I will say that I have bought gear from every company that now sponsors me, and that I have carefully chosen to work with each of these manufacturers.  I choose to use this gear because I paddle 250-300 days a year, and this is the gear that I want to use–not because of any sponsorship deal.  This gear has served me very well and I’m confident to recommend all of it to any friend and paddler 🙂
My sponsors are: Jackson Kayak, Murky Water, NRS, Maui Jim, AT Paddles, and Mountain Surf.

Live from Golden, CO,
Stephen Wright