Creeks by their nature are A. narrower B. steeper C. more technical D. shallower. The current will be fast because of more gradient, there will be little eddies to catch and break up the rapids, but not a lot of big pools to rest and recover - the term used is "continuous". In contrast, the Mulberry Fork, Locust Fork, Ocoee, Hiwassee, and Nantahala are all pool drop rivers - a pool of flatwater, then a rapid, then a pool again. Continuous runs don't have long pauses between the action. Sometimes it's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Wonka's Chocolate Factory, or Turtles All The Way Down, depending on your skill and attitude for the day.
Creekboats are built to run into and ramp over rocks, aka boofing; they are designed like tanks to take hits without compromising the hull integrity. They are heavier and sort of cigar shaped, with bows and sterns that are rockered and bulbous so they are less likely to catch or pin, bow decks often peaked in some fashion so they resurface quickly after going under water. They have plenty of leg room, and the hulls tend to be rounded and not have edges, because edges can catch against rocks instead of sliding over them. They have pillars (the foam or plastic between the paddler's legs) and seats made out of sturdier materials to prevent the boat from caving in and trapping the paddler. Rotomolded seats are an upgrade on some boats, for instance the 'creeker outfitting' on Dagger Mambas. Rotomolding parts like the seat results in stronger construction but adds weight. A plastic step-out pillar, meaning you can use the pillar as a step to get out of the boat in a pin, is a big safety advantage.
Leg room helps the boat be easier to escape in an emergency. Creeks are places with increased potential for dangerous scenarios like pins, and creek boats are designed for maximum safety.
Creekboats have steel bars, in many places on the deck of the hull, to use to attach carabiners and ropes to pull the boat out of a pin.
|LL Stomper, my creekboat|
Creekboats are designed to spin and turn quickly, which can make them more of a pain than an asset in big water, because they are harder to paddle in a straight line. They have lot of rocker (banana shape) to facilitate turning. They are also designed to be stable when they are upright, and to roll easily when they are upside down. Being upside down in a creek is not good.
Boat design history came to a crossroads with a distinction: planing hull vs. displacement hull. In the mid-90's, all hulls were displacement hulls. think round, like the back of a spoon. Then some designers came out with planing hulls on playboats. Flat on the bottom, think of the side of a butter knife. The planing hulls were a big innovation. Add edges on the sides (chines they are called) and the boats could do new tricks. The planing hulls and chines made the hulls easier to paddle in many ways. The chines cut into the water like edges on a ski.
There are soft chines and hard chines. The harder the chine is, the sharper the edge. Those boats can really cut hard on the water. eddylines etc.
The RPM was a very popular 90's era displacement hull playboat and it remains popular today. But it is sort of the pinnacle of the old school playboats. Planing hull boats like the Inazone, the Disco, and the EZ became the new playboat standards. It's funny to call designs that came out in the late 90's and early 2000's "new school" but it's still kinda true.
Creekboats use rocks to control momentum, and chines catch on the rocks. If a chine catches on a rock it can flip you or slow you down when you need that speed. Like walking and tripping on a sidewalk crack.
The confusing thing is some creekboats do have edges, it's kind of a new thing with the race creekboats. Like the 9r which the Ripper is based off of. Or the Nirvana. The edges help them go fast in a straight line. But they are designed to race steep creeks. On a tight, manky creek, they may go faster than you want to. Also these race boats are longer hulls, 9 feet or more, again to go fast. Some people love them. I tend to want to go slower and find my way.
Anyway, planing hulls are great for playboats. But not for creeking. Because of another thing - boofing.
Boofing is a technique used for getting your bow up, for instance charging up pour-over rocks to launch over. Instead of going between rocks in little chutes, which can be very chaotic places, creek boaters ramp up and over the rocks themselves, and clear any hole that may be on the downstream side. Also boofing feels like the best icecream you've ever had.
You can boof waves, holes, all kinds of things. Canoeists have to boof (get the bow up) a lot so the boat doesn't fill with water pouring in.
|Alien Boof on the Ocoee, 2012, in my Riot Magnum 72 creekboat|
Here's a concept a wise boater told me years ago that clicked with me: Boofing Is Creeking. So to learn to creek, boof everything.
Why isn't a planing hull ok for boofing? Well here are two reasons. One is the flat hull smears against the rock slowing you down. And two, most important, when you land flat, on a planing hull, it can really hurt your back. A planing hull is going to hit really flat and hard even on smaller drops. I have not tested this myself, and I have no intention of doing so, but I trust the experiences of skilled boaters who tell their stories.
Ironically, my Stomper creekboat was marketed as a "flat hull creeker". It might have a bit of flat hull under the seat, but it is still very much a displacement hull boat.
Boofing is an essential skill to learn, but it has hazards too. Boofing onto green water can break a back. Boofing a tall waterfall can do the same. I would not boof off of a height onto green water. Like landing flat off of something onto lake water could result in a trip to the ER, or worse.
Even a 12-13' waterfall, like Baby Falls or Graves Creek falls, can hurt if you boof too far out and land flat. Andy Lee tweaked his back boofing graves' falls the last time we were there.
Some people do a thing called Stomping the boof. It's what my boat the Stomper is named after. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQrc4eUl0X0
But these days I've heard of some people saying not to do the stomp anymore. I don't know if it's still considered a good technique or not. The thing the cool kids are doing now is an ear dip/edge to boof, aka. the lean boof, in a carving arc.
I have no intention. Ever. Of doing a lean boof. It seems like a way to set myself up to eat it.
Fortunately for me, my Stomper boofs itself. I can boof the #@% outta rocks in that boat. I really don't know what I'll replace it with. Eventually I'll have to, the hull will wear thin or it will crack, or both. I love my boat.
All of the above are the thoughts and opinions of the author, who is a gear head with a middle aged memory who paddles class III and occasional IV, and who loves the minutiae of boat design and history thereof, and this posted information may not be correct, or complete; or perhaps it is merely an amalgam of either, or neither. See you on the river.