Boat: Fluid Bazooka
Size Tested: Medium
Type: Whitewater / Creek Boat
Weight: 45 lbs.
Suggested Paddler Weight: 140-240 lbs.
Reviewer Vitals: 5’10’’, 170 lbs, 29-inch inseam
Days Tested: 1
Test Location: Gore Canyon, Colorado
Earlier this month, I paddled the Fluid Bazooka creek boat on one of Colorado’s classic late season creek runs. Although I definitely can’t give you a complete picture of the boat’s performance after just one day, we took our time down the run and did most of the major rapids multiple times so I could get a feel for the boat.
So keeping in mind that this isn’t a full review, here are my first impressions of the boat. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to update this write-up in the spring once I’ve had some more days in the Bazooka.
The Bazooka has an atypical design compared to most other creek boats. In fact, many things about it make it feel more like a river runner than a creek boat. It has a relatively long waterline given its length and low rocker, and it also has pretty defined edges.
The most noticeable thing about the Bazooka is that it’s deep—the sidewall of the boat comes higher on my torso than what I’m used to. I should also note that the Bazooka feels relatively heavy for such a short creek boat.
Fit and Outfitting
Although there were a few things I really liked about the inside of this boat, I feel like this is the area that could use some refining in order to make the Bazooka a first-class creeking machine.
I loved that Fluid’s front center pillar doubles as an excellent carrying handle for those times when you’re shouldering a boat. I hiked several laps on the Gore and Tunnel rapids, and I really appreciated this feature when I was scrambling over large boulders with my boat on my shoulder. Although this is a feature that’s becoming more common, Fluid’s carrying handle was placed in a more comfortable position than others I’ve used on either Jackson, Wavesport, or Dagger kayaks.
The bulkhead is pretty standard for a creekboat and easily adjustable—no issues there. The hip pads were also easy to adjust, although they didn’t seem to use standard closed cell foam. Instead, I believe they needed Fluid’s particular hip shims. I would need to look closer to see if those could be replaced by closed cell foam inserts.
I found the backband to be rather uncomfortable. It’s very wide, it comes up high on my back, and it’s made of very stiff material. This wasn’t very comfortable and it caused me to constantly lean forward slightly on Gore’s ~4 mile flatwater paddle-in. But once in the rapids, I hardly noticed the backband, which, to be clear, is a good thing.
The thigh hooks are my main gripe. I have fairly short legs, and even I couldn’t get the thigh hooks on the medium Bazooka far enough forward for me to sit comfortably. I think this boat would benefit from having a wider adjustment range on these thigh hooks in order to accommodate paddlers with longer legs who will end up in a medium boat.
(As a caveat, this might have been improved if I’d moved the seat back a notch or two, but that would change how the boat paddles. I will experiment with these changes next time I get in the boat in the spring.)
I was able to have all clean lines through Gore Canyon in the boat on day one. No, I didn’t feel quite as confident as I do in my Nomad 8.5, but they’re very different boats and the fact that I felt comfortable and had good lines right out of the gate is a definite point in favor of the Bazooka.
The boat’s relatively long waterline given its length first made me think that it would be tricky to boof. Much to my surprise, I found that it boofed well and even had a great flat landing off of Tunnel Falls, the biggest, trickiest boof on the run. At the same time, the boat tracked and moved faster much better than I’d anticipated. When running the “meat line” in Gore rapid through a series of pushy holes, I never got knocked sideways.
I would sometimes catch an edge in the slackwater after landing a boof, causing me to turn slightly off track and requiring some quick correction. Until I paddle the boat more, I can’t say for sure if this is a characteristic of the boat or if it’s due to the fact that I’m used to paddling the Nomad, which doesn’t have any edge to speak of.
At first I was concerned about rolling this boat. As I mentioned before, it’s fairly deep and wide around the cockpit, and the boat’s sidewalls come relatively high up on my torso. Although this gives the boat pretty good secondary stability on edge, it could make it more difficult to roll.
After practicing a few rolls, however, I found that this wasn’t an issue for me. I was able to sweep roll on both sides, backdeck roll, and even hit some hand rolls both regular and backdeck without ever feeling like I was forcing it. That said, I didn’t practice a roll in the whitewater, and so I can’t say how the boat will do in that situation.
Bottom Line (For Now)
I think I very well may come to love the Bazooka. The fact that I could have all clean lines on Gore Canyon on day one is a very promising sign, and evidence that this hull has what it takes to fire it up. It’s also worth noting that Fluid sells boats direct to consumers, so the products tend to be quite a bit cheaper than what you’d find in a retail store. At $770 (as of October 11, 2013), the Bazooka is a great value.