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Comparison between the Small Gnarvana and the Medium Flow

I have been paddling for a long time, been in a lot of different boats of all shapes and sizes in those years, and it takes a lot to get me excited or impressed by any new boat.

Last year I surprisingly bonded with the Gnarvana and have not wanted to boat other boats for over a year. It saw me through the incredible high water season in California with only one swim, a trip to Idaho and the Selway, a trip to Oregon, and I really wasn’t looking for anything different to paddle, but enter the Flow.

I paddled the Flow the first day it came out and loved it instantly. My husband felt the same way and if anything, he is even more set in his ways when it comes to boating a boat and sticking with it than I am. We ordered them Sep 1 and due to the incredible response and popularity of the boat, we didn’t get them for two months.

While I was excited to boat the Flow, two months is a long time to remember all of the things that I liked about it but it took me all of 30 seconds to figure out that this is going to be my one and only boat for this year.

So, since I have boated the small Gnarvana all year and am now in the medium Flow, I thought it might be helpful to let you know what I feel are the similarities and differences between the two boats.

My stats: Female, 5’8”, 132 lbs, size 10 woman’s shoes with 31 inseam, and 72 years old.

Size-wise, the medium Flow and small Gnarvana are very similar. Almost identical in length and only 3 gallons more in the small Gnarvana than the Flow—and most of that in the back. The width on the Flow medium is 3/4 of an inch wider than the Gnarvana but it isn’t something that I notice when paddling. Both boats are easy to get on an edge and are very nimble.

The Flow for me is quicker than the Gnarvana moving around in a rapid. It feels silky smooth and really loose. The Gnar seems to hold a line better and is a bit faster, but the Flow is so quick that getting slightly off course is a non issue—it is so easy to correct. I feel like I boat the Flow more in the front than the Gnar because of this so maybe I am a little more active paddling the Flow than the Gnarvana, but it’s not anything that really stands out. Both boats are equally as stable in rough water and at my weight, the Flow flies over waves and launches easier than the Gnar . My small Gnar is about a pound lighter than the Flow so it isn’t a matter of just being a lighter weight boat. Maybe the slightly smaller more tapered nose profile lets the boat cut over bigger features better or the narrower tapered back with more rocker jets a bit more, who knows.

The Flow is snappier than the Gnar. Eddies, both entry and exit, are really crisp and the boat settles solidly once in the eddy. The Flow is easier than the Gnar for me to control entering and exiting eddys and the nose doesn’t get deflected off course. Both boats you can lean and carve but at my size and weight the Flow is easier to work the river features. S turns are effortless and I rarely lose my angle in a ferry in the Flow, something I have to think about a bit more in the Gnar.

One thing I absolutely love about these newer boats with the extreme rocker is that they don’t trip you up. You can stick the front into features more without grabbing so you have more of the river to use to help you get places. You don’t get sucked into things and can use holes or pour overs to ferry without getting overcome by them. You can exit eddys higher which feels Iike it gives you an added boost and more room to work with getting where you want to go.

The Gnar I feel is more sensitive to seat position while the Flow worked for me in the middle right off the bat. Both are easy to roll, slight advantage to the Flow with a slightly lower deck profile and a bit narrower width in the front and back. Both feel smooth while rolling with no hesitancy.

Both boats are pretty balanced to carry but for me the Gnar is easier to carry—but it’s a very slight difference.

I kind of feel the same way about the Flow as I felt about the Gnarvana last year. I can see myself not wanting to paddle any other boat this year now that I am in the Flow.

I loved the Gnar so much because it gave me back my confidence in a year with some tough conditions. I felt like I could trust it to get me through whatever river I was on and let me concentrate on my paddling vs trying to predict how my boat handles what I am paddling. I feel the same way boating the Flow. I really trust the boat and don’t feel like I need to think about my boat and how it is reacting to things and can relax more while paddling. I trust the boat which is a huge confidence booster.

I think the Flow will bring out all that I love about the Gnarvana and take it to the next level. It is more compact, quicker, and just plain fun to paddle. If I were doing true gnar expedition boating, of course I would want to be in the Gnarvana, but I don’t paddle really hard things anymore and also know that the Flow is completely capable in case I do want to jump back into harder stuff.

So, who should try this boat? Pretty much anyone. It has such a broad repertoire in terms of what it can do and where it can go that it would be a disservice to classify it as any one category of boat. It is a boat that will take care of you no matter what river you are paddling or what level of paddler you are.

If you want to simplify and only have one boat, this is a great boat to consider. I feel that JK has really upped it’s game with this guy. Props to the design team and to all of the boaters who contributed to the build. so give it a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with all that this boat can do!

Happy paddling,