Sunday, July 24, 2011


Right here we go. After a nice long R & D period, Bliss Stick have got their new creek boat - the Tuna to almost production stage. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the first one out as a demo boat and have been paddling it for ten days or so now so I thought I'd share some thoughts on how she goes (for the overseas contingent)
Firstly - a few things to keep in mind: 1- I've only paddled it on the Kaituna - no steep creeks or big water yet but it still gives you a pretty good idea of how it performs. 2 - These are just the things I've noticed - obviously there are much better paddlers out there who are a lot fussier than me.

For anyone out there who isn't from lil'ol Nooo Zeeeland, Tuna isn't actually referring to the fish which lives in the ocean and is often eaten from a can. In this case there are a couple of different reasons for the name. Tuna is the Maori name for eel - and reflects posibly what Bliss Stick wanted from this boat, something that was sleek, fast and manouverable. Secondly, Tuna is the nickname for New Zealand's most famous and most used kayaking river (the Kaituna), and is where co-designer Kenny Mutton lives - you can find Kenny at the put in, every day, rain hail or shine, at 6:30am putting on for a race run (he even has a stopwatch taped to his paddle) These race runs are a big factor for why kiwis are dominating the extreme racing scene right now - almost every top kiwi racing paddler right now is based here.

Speed: This is the thing everyone has been asking for so I thought I'd start with that... I'm glad to say, comprehensively, that this boat is fast. Faster than any other creek boat I've paddled. The length and rocker on it are designed for speed and that's exactly what they do. The boat just lifts over everything and keeps driving in rapids, and on the flat water it sits nice and level and doesn't feel like you're bulldozing water. It will be sick to see it in the hands of the monsters who are actually fast at racing (unlike me) to see what they can do.

She's long - and fast

Hull: The hull on the Tuna is pretty interesting. Overall it has a flat bottom which carries right through to just behind the cockpit where it starts rounding off to the tail. It has a fair amount of rocker in the nose, and then goes dead flat under the seat. Finally, the tail kicks up with hardly any transition - almost like a playboat. It's pretty long - 256cm, but when I'm paddling it I don't actually feel like I'm in a long boat. Obviously being longer it's a bit harder to boof, but when you land it flies out of the drop without lifting the nose too high and losing all your speed.

The edges are a little bit sharper than a mystic but they are not super wide so the hull still edges easily - it doesn't feel like you're trying to tip a battleship over, and they are balanced really nicely - the boat is super predictable on the turn and very stable on edge. I like the kicked up tail rocker because when you flatten the boat off and jump on your draw in an eddy turn, the tail is clear of the water and the boat whips round on a dime. It's also up out of the way when you've got the boat flat in boily eddies (of which the Kaituna has an abundance of) and I haven't managed to catch a stupid edge in it yet. Lots of rocker in the nose means it jumps over holes - I haven't had the chance/misfortune to bury it underneath a decent hole yet but hopefully the rocker will make it resurface well and the big tail should stop her backlooping.

The tail on the Tuna is awesome. I'm only just starting to come out of my habit of expecting the tail to catch and bog when breaking out of strong eddies (like the chute). Instead, it just lifts and drives the boat across the current leaving you to concentrate on what is happening in front of you. It doesn't get caught in strong seams (like running trout pool direct) and gives you extra confidence to just keep on booking. It gives the boat a nice balance and keeps it driving over the top of boogie water instead of bogging down and losing speed.

Note the tail rocker - kicks up sharply just behind the cockpit.

The cockpit is the same, mean, comfy Bliss Stick one we're used to, the rim is a bit bigger than a Mystic so if your deck is tight on a mystic it will be even more so on a Tuna. I don't feel like I'm sitting in a big boat (even though it has a lot of volume). The other big boats I've paddled (Magnum 80, Habitat 80) feel a little bit like I'm in a bathtub, with the Tuna, the knee space feels quite low, as is the cockpit rim, giving you lots of room to reach/rotate. Even though the Tuna is designed for bigger paddlers, it will fit a huge size range due to the nice cockpit layout. My favourite part about the cockpit is how low it is at your hips - when I rotate for a sweep or go over on a brace I never catch my elbow on the boat - it feels a bit like I'm in an old school river runner.

There are some nice new design features which make the Tuna nicer to use etc. The grab handles are recessed into the deck of the boat so no more crushed fingers on the screw underneath when your lowering it on a sketchy portage. The bars behind your hips have also been done away with, this makes for the low point as mentioned above and also will hopefully make that part of the boat stronger. There's nothing to catch your thumbs on down the sides and the high point doesn't get in the way when you're on edge. Overall the Tuna is only a 1kg heavier than the mystic, although this may or may not change once they figure out the moulding.

Side on - pretty low profile

Mystic side view for comparison

The Tuna is quite low in the cockpit area - no big bulge in front of you

The only thing you might have to be careful of is flat landing big drops - the flatness of the hull underneath the seat might not be too forgiving. There is a pretty easy fix for this though... Get forward or don't boof so much! While it will fit a large size range, smaller paddlers will definitely have trouble boofing it simply because of the length - it is designed for bigger paddlers and will perform bettter for larger people.

My overall impression of it is that it does everything (so far) that I want a creekboat to do; It's ridiculously fast, stable both on edge and flat, and it turns well. I haven't found any weird habits and possibly the most important thing is that it's predictable. I jumped straight in it (admittedly from another flat-ish hull boat) and would be completely comfortable taking it straight into any run, grade five or other that I can think of. A good creekboat should make hard water easier and as far as I can tell, the Tuna will definitely do this. As much as I love the mystic, I think the Tuna will be my next creek boat for quite a while.

**If any of the cuzzies want to know any more details, chuck a comment on or facebook me. I've probably forgotten some key thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


What to do when you can't find anyone to go kayaking with in the middle of winter* - A photo essay**.

Unfrost vehicle. This is so you can perform basic operations such as open doors which have been frozen shut and see out of windows which are frozen over

Stop at splendid local cafe/store/beer garden. Try to get girlfriend to make coffee. Fail.

Intravenous caffeine not yet available. Settle for next best thing. Make own coffee.

Select music. Glitch not available - dubstep will suffice.

Try to avoid driving off road due to combination of aids fog, copious amounts of ice, texting, and trying to change music/fix Ipod all at once. Priorities people.

Too early? Never too early. Three creamy mayo cheese burgers thanks. Turangi love.

Faaarrrk. Start to question decision to go kayaking.

Stop questioning decision to go kayaking. Aha. Figured out where this was going have you?

First Tuna on the river. Ever.

Sneak peek. Full testing to commence tomorrow on the Kaituna. Because I was too scared to run the Rangitikei solo at 70cu. Bomb! Boom!

*Because someone who shall remain unnamed decided that mountains were more important. Cough. Bernard Oliver.
**For people who like photos. You know who you are Josh Neilson.