Stout this, brown that, crush it, blah blah blah.
Review by: Kyle Smith
Specs: 5’ 9”
Paddling Career: The only career track I have ever had.
- Toyota Tercel a.k.a Starship Alpha
- Live Agape board shorts.
- Any friend that will let me sleep on their couch.
- Mom and Dad
Sure there are a lot of great paddlers out there pushing the limits in huge water and cascading off of falls. But what are they paddling and why? Sure I know the boat engages gravity just fine when it breaches the horizon line of Metlako Falls, a barrel can do that does just as well, but how much gear can I pack in it for self support missions, can it hold a line when I am most committed, does it stay on top of water that is so aerated that one could nearly breathe in it, and is there a beer coozy?
As a diehard Jefe fan, it was tough to convince me that the Stomper, or any boat for that matter, could live up to the tried and true Boss. However, I have put the Stomper 90 through the ringer all throughout Ecuadorian creeks, Peruvian self supports, Futalafeu safety kayak sessions, Pacific North West Little White laps, and then some. After returning back to the states, the stomper and I definitely had a relationship. And with any relationship, there are ups and downs.
This is a review of the newest Liquid Logic creek boat model, the Stomper 90. A number of creek boat seats have graced my behind throughout my padding career, most of which have been of the Liquid Logic BadAss family, beginning with the Jefe, moving to the Jefe Grande, then the Remix 69 and currently, the Stomper 90. I’ve paddled a few other creek boat lines but continue to return to LL.
The Stomper floats me high, so I can read big features way before a potential beat down graces me with its presence. When submerged, especially after accidentally plugging a drop or big wave, the stomper rockets skyward as if to say “don’t worry, I’ll clean up your mess.” This holds especially true when boofing. Take a decent boof stroke, and prepare for lift off. When flying off of drops, that extra volume in the stern gives paddlers the full disconnect, kicking out hard from the top. “My what large rocker you have Stomper!” “All the better to send it with my dear.” The rocker also helps to keep the bow above the foam pile in that last second approach to those tight sticky pour overs.
When the stomper drops into a hole under velocity, which I do regularly, it tends to exit just as quickly. Volume, it turns out, doesn’t enjoy being submerged and all that descent momentum, has to go somewhere. The shape of the boat engages that downstream vector and follows its lead by planing out. The boat just doesn’t seem to like staying under water. It’s science! Thanks Shane Benedict for using that engineering degree on something useful to dirtbag kayakers world wide.
LL turned the volume knob up and down in a few places; giving the stern a little more acceleration when you really need to make a move, but not sacrificing the storage space for those multidays. I was able to pack a 9 day self support trip into this boat on the Mupachu River, Peru, and still feel confident paddling class V that, as an Idaho boy, felt comparable to the Milner Mile or North Fork Payette a few of the days. The stern and bow consisted of 10 cans of sardines, 6 of tuna, 5 of mystery beans, 5 packets of dehydrated potatoes, 50 some candy bars, 20 cups of rice, 20 of quinoa, 40 cups of random maltomeal, 1 pound of protein powder, a metric sh#t ton of garlic, a bottle of spirits for the really scary mornings, spices to help suffering through 8 of the same dinners tolerable, 5 sticks of salami, 5 quarter rounds of cheese, a giant bar of sugary chocolate for flavor, 5 kilos of almonds, 5 of raisins, and a bag of coco for kicks, along with 4 sleeping pads, 4bags, 2tents, 1 toothbrush, first aids, oh Sh#t Kits, crazy creeks, and a mandatory Frisbee. All split amongst 4 dirt bags and their respective LL creek boats. On that note, I paddled the stomper with a Large deck sprayskirt securely, but upon ordering a new skirt, the boys and girls at snapdragon recommended an XL to reduce wear on the shockchord.
The chines are a new innovation that land somewhere amongst the Bliss-stick Mystic, the Liquid Logic Jefe, and Pyranha’s Burn. They have some nice smarp lines (smooth but sharp) that still hold a solid edge when zipping in and out of tight eddies, yet remain forgiving in those moments when a window shade seems inevitable. The soft edges allow for adjustment of angle while still contacting said boof objects; trees, rocks, bottom of friends boats, etc. More flat hulls tend to limit a kayakers choice when setting angle off of a drop. On big water, the soft edges allow paddlers to worry less about getting whiplash from unexpected cross currents, and more about how much more fun their having than there buddy who’s careening down the eddy line upside down.
Outfitting; it’s incredibly comfortable and easy to make hip pad adjustments with specialized Velcro shims. When wearing board shorts, pop in an extra shim. When paddling with a drysuit, pop one out. The renovated BadAss outfitting also allows for easy access to the back compartment, which was always a bit of a mission to pack in the past. The metal used for the adjustable bulkhead rails is burly. Yes, I’m sure it adds a little weight. After a friends rail snapped the other day in his Burn while creeking, leaving a paddle out with no bulk head, I’ll make the sacrifice, toughen up, and shoulder the extra few ounces. The ergonomics of the outfitting also set a paddler nice and upright with knees comfortably positioned for bracing. The new outfitting also has two carabiner attachment points molded into the seat plastic behind the backband which is great if you are looking to secure a throw bag, float bag, pin kit, etc. They are a little bit in the way when really cram packing the boat, but can be maneuvered around with a little know how and ingenuity.
There is indeed an extra option to add a spare accessory compartment to the center pillar that just happens to fit a 24oz beverage perfectly.
The stomper, like any loved one, comes with a few issues of it’s own.
While the edges are a bit sharper, a paddler needs to put a little more juice into it when popping into eddies. The soft chines, while forgiving and part of the saving grace of the LL creeking line, are not as committing and aggressive as many other pure planing hulls. A good paddler can make those tight eddies, but be wary of drifting out of the back door. Better throw in that extra stroke to be safe. Or, get the right size for you. The 90 seems appropriate for the 185 lbs paddler and up. But, at 165 and wanting one boat for creeking, big water, and self support, I sized up to the 90.
The new outfitting makes accessing the back compartment easier, but it also allows the back bands side bar to pop out of place and press almost directly on the hips. This is not really an issue for taller folks since they are not clicking the backband as tightly forward as shorter ones. When compared to the Nomad or Mystic, the Stomper does not fit as tightly on the thighs without doing a little customization. The flexibility and comfort of the outfitting, while versatile and convenient, leaves a little bit of wiggle room.
The stomper 80 is a more proper fit for my size (I hover on the edge of 80 & 90) and it definitely fits more tightly while not allowing the backband to pop. The gals also seem to love the 80 since they tend to have longer legs and shorter torsos than the boys. The 80 offering that snug fit right out of the gate. However, if you find yourself a vertically challenged person and lacking natural hip padding like myself and want a bigger boat for those overnighters or just want a little extra flotation, be ready to play with some foam. It’s easy enough to grab some adhesive/tape and a few sheets of foam to pad the 90 out in a tight and comfortable fashion. LL also has a patented seat riser pad to give the paddler just a little bit more loft. The difference between 80 and 90 is comparable to driving the high performance 87 Toyota Tercel and the 87 Subaru DL Wagon. Both amazing kayaking vehicles, one with slightly more room but still a high performance sports shuttle vehicle by any true kayakers standards. Personal paddling preference? I think so.
I wrapped a stomper up in a black bag and snuck it by antikayaker airport personnel by the skin of my teeth. So nervous that we weren’t going to get our boats on board, my compadre got a nosebleed in the PDX check in line. The crew Stomped about South America. We paddled steep Baeza creeks with beta from Darcy Gaetcher and crew. We ran scary flooded chocolate brown river multi-days in Peru. I drug the stomper fully loaded into 2 of the world’s deepest canyons, the Colca and Cotahuasi. Giant stratified folds of young crumbling canyons swathed us in the depths of their gorges while river otters playfully floated through rapids besides our campsites. I gringoed my way to Futalefeu, Chile. Safety kayaked big water for a couple of Futa companies. Casually sat in giant boily eddies in turbulent rapids. Fished from the cockpit on mellow water. Sold a beloved stomper that had seen some trials and tribulations in South America and picked up a new one the second my feet hit American soil. Vive Tour De Suenos!