Bliss-Stick / Waka Kayaks Tuna

Big Water

The Tuna really shines in big water, but has a substantially different style than many other river-running boats. As one would expect, the sharp stern edges and flat hull profile combine to make the boat track and ferry well. But there are plenty of boats out there with planing hulls that perform similarly in that regard.

What really differentiates the Tuna is the combination of the planing rear hull with a displacement bow which allows paddlers to paddle through big water features in a unique and valuable way. Essentially, it’s possible to boof upward on to the foam piles of crashing waves and holes, which allows the paddler to go over them instead of having to try to punch through them.

Nick Gottlieb reviews the Waka/Bliss-stick Tuna for Blister Gear Review
Nick demonstrating how the rocker profile of the Tuna resurfaces, literally flying out of the boil below this waterfall on the Mettawee River in NY. (photo: Alex Steinberg)

It’s possible to do this in other boats, but the progressive rocker profile of the Tuna makes it easier and more effective. In boats like the Liquidlogic Stomper (significant rocker across front and back), it’s easy to get the bow up onto a foam pile, but it’s much harder to keep the bow down once you’ve done that, and the boat has a tendency to just keep going up and over in a back-ender.

In longer, flatter boats like the Liquidlogic Remix, it is possible to pull your bow up onto a foam pile, but it’s much more difficult because of the pointy, low-rocker nature of the Remix’s bow (in the same way that many paddlers have trouble boofing the Remix).

The idea of going over big-water features rather than through them is not one that all boat designs have embraced, and it’s probably not one that all paddlers embrace. The Jackson Zen, for example, is great at paddling through features, but has a hard time going over them.

The flipside for the Tuna is that the same bow rocker that makes paddling over features so easy, makes paddling through them harder. Some waves and holes just have to be punched, and the Tuna’s bow rocker causes paddlers to lose momentum through the feature by pushing the bow of the boat upwards as it impacts the water.

Finally, the Tuna’s sharp stern edges, while very useful in some cases, can catch in big water the same way they catch creeking. I’ve nearly flipped a number of times because I’ve been unexpectedly surprised by a boil that grabbed my stern. That said, if you’re paddling hard and using your edges, you won’t catch them; it’s only if you’re sitting flat that it happens, or if you stall out in the middle of a big volume rapid.

And those same edges make the Tuna a surfing machine.

I’ve had more fun carving back and forth on big, glassy waves in this boat than I usually have in a playboat. You can really lay it over on its side and engage the sharp edges, carving back and forth in a way that makes other creekboats feel like you’re trying to ride a wet noodle.

At my size, it’s also pretty easy to maneuver in holes. When I’m surfing in a hole, I can reliably flat spin.

When unintentionally surfing, I’ve found that the boat allows me a decent amount of control—it’s small enough that I’m able to move it around the feature in an effort to get out, rather than just being tossed around and hanging on.


I’ve paddled nearly every modern creekboat on the market, and learned that “speed” is something of a relative term. Some boats are much faster in flatwater, while others are faster in whitewater.

In flat or moving water, the Tuna ranks in the upper half of the market for speed, but pales in comparison to boats like the Remix 79 or Zet Raptor.

In whitewater, though—particularly larger volume rivers where waves are crashing over your boat—it does quite well because it’s much easier to keep the bow up over the waves, which in turn prevents the waves from crashing into the paddler and slowing her down.


The vertical stern sidewalls of the Tuna make it harder to roll than many full-displacement hull boats. It ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack: not too hard, but not too easy.

That said, what makes it challenging to roll also makes it quite stable.

The flat surface under the seat and toward the back of the boat provides a high level of primary stability; if you’re sitting flat, it’ll take a lot to flip you over.

The vertical sidewalls are big enough to provide some secondary stability, but they are essentially at a 90 degree angle to the hull, so that “secondary stability” comes when you’re tilted almost all the way over.


At 5’10”, 160 lbs, I’ve found the Tuna to be nearly a perfect size for me. On easier whitewater, I’d prefer something slightly smaller, but on big-volume class V and for self-support trips, the Tuna is perfect.

Nick Gottlieb reviews the Waka/Bliss-stick Tuna for Blister Gear Review
Nick Gottlieb in the Bliss-Stick Tuna, Milton Falls, VT. (photo: Tom Neilson)

If you’re more in the 180-200 lb range, the boat will work, but I expect loading it for a self support would cause it to sit pretty low in the water and be more prone to backenders.

Smaller paddlers will also enjoy the Tuna—it definitely doesn’t paddle like a big boat (and by today’s standards, at 78 gallons, it isn’t a big boat).

With that in mind, I can’t endorse Waka or Bliss-Stick’s recommended weight ranges: the Tuna’s performance would suffer substantially under the weight of a 250 lb paddler.

If you’re trying to paddle high-volume class V rivers or multiday self-support trips, I would call the top of the weight range 200lbs.

If you’re looking to paddle easier whitewater, or aren’t ever camping out of your kayak, you can push it higher and enjoy the boat, but you still may want to consider something larger.

Of note: Waka has produced a new, smaller Tuna (called the Tutea) that they classify at 71 gallons, that smaller paddlers may also want to check out.


The Bliss-Stick Tuna’s outfitting was acceptable, but did not stand out. The bulkhead on Bliss-Stick boats, in particular, feels flimsy and does not fill the space where your feet go. It also doesn’t have a good shape for gluing foam to, so it’s hard to improve or soften it after market.

The grab loops on the Bliss-Stick Tuna are flat metal slabs wrapped in webbing. They’re strong, I’m sure, but they’re nearly impossible to use to carry or drag a boat.

The Waka Kayaks Tuna is better, with a bulkhead that comes with foam already on it and with more usable grab loops, but is generally similar and still fairly middle of the road as far as outfitting goes.

Bottom Line

The Tuna—Waka or Bliss-Stick—is a high performance creekboat that excels on all types of water, but requires a certain style to enjoy.

It’s sharp stern edges make letting your guard down costly when creeking and in big water, but when used aggressively, they make it one of the fastest and most fun boats on the market.

For paddlers up to 200 lbs, this is a great boat, though paddlers over 180 lbs may want to consider something larger for the hardest whitewater or for self-support trips.

The Tuna isn’t the most forgiving boat in the world, but it’s great for making all types of whitewater fun for advanced paddlers, and a good choice for beginning and intermediate paddlers that are looking to keep easier whitewater interesting as they progress.


1 comment on “Bliss-Stick / Waka Kayaks Tuna”

  1. Interesting mixed review. I live in NZ and so paddled the original Bliss-Stick Tuna and now have the Waka Tuna. Without a doubt the best boat out there! I have had a Mamba,Stomper, Mystic and Burn before but just ended up craving the carving ability of the Tuna. The outfitting is simple and the most comfortable i’ve been in. It performs on all the whitewater NZ has to offer. And the Waka kayaks are super strong and durable. In regards to the grabby rear rail you keep mentioning, it paddles better with the seat slightly forward (a comment resonated by Kenny Mutton who designed the boat). And if you are using them properly they dont grab at all, just carve around like good fun! It is a boat for a paddler with a bit of style and finesse rather than smashing down stuff like you can get away with in a stomper/nomad/jefe. If you nail the line from the start you will go through it with a bunch of steeze (check out the likes of Aniol, Evan, Sven and Sam. All the styliest paddlers out there). But, for sure, it is fast so if you come off line you need to react fast. That being said, if you sit it flat it spins super easy on the spot and then just engage the rail and hoon off again (it was based slightly off a playboat hull just btw). You can pull one stroke up onto a lateral and hold the rail until you want to turn then sit it flat, spin, transition and skim into your next line. Once you get used to it you will never settle for anything else.
    To sum it all up,
    SMOOTH, STEEZY, FAST, and feels like SEX

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