Boat: Liquidlogic Stomper 90
Intended Use: Creeking
Hull Shape: Modified planing hull
Volume: 90 Gallons
Weight: 49 lbs.
Suggested Weight Range: 170-270 lbs.
Reviewer: 6’ 2”, 200 lbs.
Shoe Size: 11.5
Test Locations: Throughout Washington, Oregon, New England, New York, and Quebec; rivers ranging from extremely steep to very high volume
Days Tested: 50+
The Stomper 90 is Liquidlogic’s newest addition to its creeking lineup, and their first new creekboat design since the time-tested Jefe series. Yet Liquidlogic bills the Stomper as a complement to the Jefe, not a replacement. While the Jefe is a displacement hull boat, the Stomper is a more playful planing hull boat.
The Stomper 90 follows the general trend among manufacturers toward larger creekboats (commonly in the 90–100-gallon range for the large size), and incorporates a semi-planing hull for quick acceleration, soft edges for forgiveness in complex water, and continuous rocker for easier boofing and turning.
After spending 50+ days paddling the Stomper 90 on whitewater ranging from steep and low volume to big and pushy, I found the Stomper 90 performed well in a wide range of conditions, especially steeper and more technical rivers.
The first time I paddled the Stomper 90, in October 2011, I took it on my go-to, early fall creek run, the Green Truss section of the White Salmon in Washington. Instantly I noticed how easy it was to adjust to paddling this boat. There were no quirky turning characteristics or unpredictable habits that stood out. I had been paddling the Dagger Nomad 8.5 as my primary boat at the time, and I found the added volume (11 gallons more in the Stomper 90) provided a higher and drier ride. I am normally very hesitant about jumping on class V in a boat I have never paddled before, but the Stomper 90 instilled enough confidence in me after the first few rapids that I had no qualms about running any of the larger drops on the Truss.
Come June 2012, and my Nomad was finally starting to show its age, so I decided to spring for the Stomper 90 based on my one positive experience the past fall. How it handled on the first few days out, however, was far different than what I remembered. This was in large part because of the…
Before taking my new Stomper 90 out for the first time, I had set it up as I would set up my Nomad: seat a little behind center. This proved to be a serious miscalculation on the first run I paddled it on, the incredibly committing Salmon River Gorge in Oregon.
When I get into the back seat in the Stomper 90, two things happen: first, the tracking seriously suffers, which makes it difficult to control, and, second, water tends to pile up on the stern deck, which locks down the stern. This is due to the continuous rocker profile of the Stomper 90, which prefers to be weighted in the middle or slightly forward, and penalizes back-seat paddling. The relatively flat, wide stern deck does not shed water as easily as the domed rear-decks you see on many other boats, and makes the Stomper 90 even less manageable when you are not paddling from a centered or forward position.
The fix, I quickly learned, is as easy as shifting the seat forward a few inches. Once I figured out the forward, driving body position for the Stomper 90, I quickly started to appreciate how well this boat handles steep creeks and technical rivers.
So for those of you thinking of making the switch to a Stomper from a boat without continuous rocker (most boats other than the Liquidlogic Jefe and Stomper and the Wavesport Recon do not have continuous rocker), keep in mind that you may have to do a little fiddling with seat position to get the best performance.
Once I dialed in the seating position, several things became apparent to me while paddling the Stomper 90. The first and perhaps best trait that I noticed was how well this boat boofs. I have spent significant time in other creek boats from Dagger, Liquidlogic, Pyranha, and Wavesport, and I have never paddled a boat that boofs as well as the Stomper 90.
What I find really impressive, however, is that in addition to boofing well, the Stomper 90 does an excellent job of carrying speed away from the bottom of a drop after boofing. The bow of the Stomper 90 is heavily rockered, which allows you to land boofs with your bow down a little bit and effectively transfer your downward momentum into forward momentum to carry you away from the bottom of the drop. For me, this was the single best characteristic of the Stomper 90.
The second thing that stood out was the maneuverability—which ought to be expected on a boat with as much rocker as the Stomper 90. It is very easy to make minor or major adjustments to your line mid-rapid, which is essential when paddling tighter, steeper, or more technical whitewater.
High maneuverability, however, is usually achieved at the expense of overall speed and tracking, and this is certainly the case with the Stomper 90. On higher-volume or big and pushy whitewater, the Stomper 90 has a tendency to get knocked around. The considerable volume does float you up higher, but the reduced waterline (a casualty of the high-rocker hull) and lack of defined edges (more on that in a bit) keep the Stomper 90 from really being comfortable in big water.
If you paddle an equal mix of steep / technical rivers and big water, you might want to consider a boat more along the lines of the Dagger Nomad 8.5 (see David Spiegel’s review of the Nomad 8.5) or Liquidlogic Remix 79. Both of these boats are very capable all-around boats, but neither have quite the pure creeking performance of the Stomper 90.