Recently several of us (Tony Johnson, Bill Vonnegut, Allen Shah, Sergey Yechikov, Tom Humphries) did an ocean WW boat comparison at our favorite stretch of coast, Goat Rock. We compared the Fusion, Greenboat, and Hammer in a ocean whitewater environment. These three boats seem to be the choice for serious rock garden play in our area.
Small: Length 9′ 8″, Width 25″
Medium: Length 10′ 3″, Width 26″
Weight 51 lbs
The Fusion is a crossover kayak. It’s the jack of all trades in the group. It’s the slowest kayak in the bunch when traveling between play areas. The connect 30 outfitting in the Fusion is the same outfitting found on
Pyranha’s WW boats. This kayak also has built in deck features, bungees and a rod holder if you decided to take up fishing. The Fusion has one rear bulkhead with a round or oval hatch cover depending on the size of the boat. Our testers were able to use both the sm. and med. size. You will need to add perimeter deck lines and front flotation on this boat to make it seaworthy for rough-water rescues.
Length 11′ 9″
Weight 53.5 lbs
The Greenboat is all business with structural supports from bow to stern. It is a medal winning WW long boat. At the Greenriver creek boat race it took four out of five top spots one year. This is the only boat in the test that does not have a skeg. This can be a REAL problem if winds kick up. It is also the only kayak lacking bulkheads, so you must add flotation not only in the bow like the Fusion but also in the stern. As with the Fusion you will need to add deck lines on this boat.
Length 13′ 8″
Weight 63 lbs
The Hammer is a new play boat from P&H. The Hammer has multiple bulkheads, four hatch covers and seaworthy deck rigging. It weighs the most in this group. It also has the highest price tag, almost twice as much as the Fusion. If this was a surfing comparison the hammer would win hands down. This is the only boat in this group to really surf, not just ride on a big waves. The Hammer has less-than-stellar surf abilities for small waves.
We traded off boats on a beach that faces a rockgardening play area. The area in which these boats were tested has a collection of exposed rocks. Swells and breaking waves entered from more than one direction, creating a dynamic and complicated environment complete with surfable waves, pourovers, holes/hydraulics, and narrow passages requiring tightly controlled maneuvering.
In the parking lot before paddling we went over the list of features that we felt were important for ocean WW play. We decided regardless if we owned more than one of the boats or paddled it a 100 times we would all trade and paddle each other’s kayaks for this comparison. We all tried to keep an open mind during this comparison while we did numerous trial runs in each boat.
The features we compared in the boats are:
* Maneuverability…how well does it maneuver in excited water.
* Responsiveness…how quickly does it accelerate and respond to your strokes.
* Assurance/Confidence…does this kayak make you feel like this is the boat I want to be in when shit happens?
* Overall Fun/playfulness…which boat makes you smile more in a rock garden environment?
Each of the five testers would give each kayak a five point rating on the above features. After testing the boats we discussed the rating and all information was collected on the beach immediately after our comparison.
We decided to rate the kayaks against each other, rather than a general good to bad. Here are the results from the five point ratings from all testers combined.
Fusion Greenboat Hammer
Overall fun/playful …………………..21…………24………………19
General commentary and call-outs:
* The Greenboat and Hammer were clearly better in resurfacing.
* Outfitting and Comfort, this is an area that’s really personal. We all thought the outfitting on all three kayaks were very good.
* Rollability, all tester agreed the Greenboat was the easiest to roll, with the Hammer second and the Fusion last.
* We also tested the plastic on each boat. Sharp ocean barnacled covered rocks really take a toll on the plastic. We used a sharp pointed scraper with a four pound weight on top and dragged it across the hull without adding any additional force on the blade. The winner was the Greenboat, it had the smallest shaving and groove.
Link to The plastic test
Comments from the testers:
The Fusion is a do it all play boat that came very close to the Greenboat in total scores. It’s the only kayak to have a perfect score in one area, maneuverability. This little boat inspires confidence. I would like the Fusion to have a little more volume in the stern area. I think this would improve the overall performance of the kayak.
The Hammer is confusing to me. I really wanted to like this kayak, however, it is full of compromises. It has too many bulkheads, hatch covers, combine this with its length makes it the heavy weight in this group. One can really feel the difference in weight on the water when comparing it to the others. When I got out of the Greenboat and paddled the Hammer it felt like I took off my running shoes and put on a pair of work boots. However, due to its design the Hammer can still run with the rest of the group. Its longer than the rest and this made it difficult for one tester in a tight area. I heard one tester say several times while in the Hammer that the hard chines felt grabby on a run. However, those same hard chines were praised by another tester who found himself on a big wave.
Recently while rockgardening in Mendocino CA I had the opportunity to try a friend’s Greenboat, Tom Humphries. Tom cut the skeg box out of my old Dagger Alchemy and plastic welded it to his Greenboat. The Greenboat felt like a souped up Fusion, faster, more responsive. Unlike the Fusion the Greenboat
likes staying on top of the water during drops. Within a couple weeks I bought myself a used Greenboat. I don’t have plans on adding a skeg, as of now I don’t seem to need one. The Greenboat is my pick in this comparison. It’s a serious ocean whitewater play boat.
Being a diehard Hammer and Fusion fan it took some persuasion on Tony’s part to get me to try the Greenboat. I have seen this boat blown sideways across the water on a windy day with no tracking, it did not look like something I would want to bother paddling (with exception to Tom’s modified skeg version). Then after arriving at our testing area it was my turn to try this boat. I paddled the short distance to our dedicated test area and it seemed to track fine for a short distance with no wind. When I arrived at our test
spot there was a large set rolling through. I drove into the piles of whitewater and the large hole and immediately found this boat to be very stable and responsive. I had a big wave roll in behind me and the boat was able to accelerate and punch my way over the wave backwards. In the same situation the Hammer would have not been able to accelerate fast enough to get over the wave because of its weight. But at the same time it would have held its own and not gotten pushed around as much because of the same reason, weight. The Fusion in the same situation is short enough that I could have whipped it around and at least meet the wave bow first. So my thoughts on these boats are, The Greenboat wins for big water and holes, the Fusion for tight rock gardens and shelf play, the Hammer as my coastal play boat that will hold its own in any conditions.
Guess I just need one of each!!
Guess I just need one of each!!
This is my personal take on these boats. No one is an absolute boat. I like my small Fusion for the responsiveness, I believe that the volume of the boat just right to my 170 lb. I feel united with the boat and she works as extension of my body. Other two are too bulky. It surfs with the skeg down on steep waves if you lean slightly back (a little bit better than the Greenboat, way worse than the Hammer). The Fusion tends to pitch pole in a hole because of the low stern volume, leaning forward helps a lot. It is slow. Does not carry momentum, you need to ride the surge. It is cheap, I do not mind go into the rocks on the boat. Greenboat I found it superior for going out of the holes, however due to longer hull and big volume I found it is hard to steer the boat in confused water. I feel it could be a safer boat for the big water than the Fusion, but overall less playful. Hammer is good in terms of outfitting out of the box. It performs decently in rock gardens and superior for surfing. If I wanted one and only one all around play boat I would probably pick Hammer because of versatility. Regardless of heavy weight and higher price. Frankly, the size of hatch covers used by P&H does not have any sense to me. They are too small for coast exploration boat (you need to load tent and other long stuff). Day play boat does not require 4!!! small hatches of different size.
The Fusion is a crossover boat that requires some additional outfitting to the decks for open coast
use. Interior outfitting is adequate, but most of us, including myself, have made changes there. The boat shines in tight, whitewater environments, with solid stability and the ability to turn on a dime to meet challenges quickly, but may benefit from some greater stern volume and possibly just a bit more length,
as it may catch in holes. Acceleration, responsiveness are good, but with speed maxing out
quickly. The Hammer is a handful in comparison owing to its greater weight, with limited acceleration and maneuverability for me, but once going keeps momentum and holds course through bigger water, while allowing good at speed maneuvering with its impressive chines. Outfitting of the Hammer is good, but a bit excessive for white water play. The Greenboat is a lighter boat than the Hammer, and predictably responded
better, and seems to have the length/weight/volume combination to perform well in all circumstances; adequate in tight quarters, good control at speed, and able to punch through bigger water than the Fusion. Outfitting with deck lines would be needed for ocean play, skeg would help. I like the Fusion for tight and narrow environments, giving me the most confidence, but overall I prefer the Greenboat, as it performs best for me in the gamut of features and conditions that I typically paddle in, and allows more room for growth with regard to paddling skills.
The Fusion reminds me of my high school buddy’s Austin Healey bug eyed Sprite, fun, quick, nimble, spirited and surefooted in it’s element. Its capable of big water in the hands of an expert, I’ve seen it firsthand. It
can also be a bit unforgiving and get overmatched, particularly when pushed into large dynamic features and it takes determined sustained effort to get anywhere in it. Be prepared to augment the deck rigging.
When I first demoed the Greenboat, I hated it in everything but the rough water. It surfed like a football and on flat water with a cross wind it tracked like one too. In the surge around the rocks though, there was
something special about it and I couldn’t seem to forget it. I got one, added a skeg and deck rigging to it and could not be much happier with it for a purposed coastal rock gardening boat. It’s built like a tank and begs
you to push the limit. It has a relatively good cruising speed without sucking the life or fun out of you, plenty of volume and stability, allows attainments, reverse runs, excels at stern first moves, boofs and bombs over
holes that a shorter boat could stick in. Without a skeg or some form of feel-line modification it is limited and it’d be best to not get caught out with a long paddle in worsening weather, so be prepared to do some work.
The Hammer is the most like a sea kayak, but it’s not limited like one. I was prepared to not care for it, but just couldn’t help but like it (a lot). It requires a bit more forethought and patience with set-ups and runs and it doesn’t accelerate as quick, but once it has some hull speed it really comes alive and outperforms expectations. It feels much more nimble than it looks, but beware of the length, it is what it is. I like that it comes equipped, even if a bit overdone.
We tried to get Olga to participate in this review, but she had already made up her mind to wait for a LV Hammer. She loves the way the Hammer surfs, but the boat is just too big for her.