By Kyle Smith
“Liquidlogic Kayaks is dead” they say. “Liquidlogic kayaks has left the building” they say. “Man…I wish I could get my hands on one of those new Braaaps” they say. “Damn this is the funnest boat since sliced cheese” they say…whatever that means. Although the LL crew has been on hiatus from your local paddling shop, don’t be fooled my friends, Liquidlogic kayaks is on the scene still and crushing it behind doors as well as on the water.
Know that I have been paddling Liquidlogic kayaks for as long as I have been in a kayak. So, am I a little biased? Perhaps. But, I have paddled a ton of other boats and loved them as well and I never hold back when it comes to giving credit where credit is due. For some reason, I keep coming back to LL repeatedly. The designs are good. Are they better than the rest of amazing boats on the market? Some are and some aren’t? The Jed vs. the Freeride? Get real. I’m not good enough to throw the Freeride around like I can the Jed. That’s real talk. But something that keeps me coming back to the North Carolina based company is the soul.
Shane Benedict, Woody, an all-star crew of ‘original gangsters’ and now, Pat Keller, are and have been sharpening their blades since before Liquidlogic kayaks was even a glimmer in white water’s eyes. Most of the crew at LL were either World Champions kayakers with a deep understanding of whitewater or world champions of their trade in business, technology, industrial design, marketing, etc. These champions shared a common passion for rivers and dedicating life to the pursuit of living purely for sheer joy.
A little history:
In the late 90’s, Perception kayaks was at the top of their game. Leading edge designers, amazing paddling team, great administration…a tricked-out limousine-shuttle-rig. It didn’t get much better than that. Then the big-money got involved. The ‘Bank of Bahrain’ bought the company out for only god-knows-why. Needless to say, as often happens when large corporations get involved in an industry built on heart and pride, quality began to diminish. The soul crushing began and didn’t stop. It was Shane, Woody, the boat makers, and molders that had to talk to local paddlers every week about why the latest models sucked. It was too much for the crew to stomach. Late night meeting held in dark dingy pubs and shoddy living rooms in small cabins in the hills began to occur. Note pad scribbling, number crunching, brainstorming.
While cracking beers one day at the takeout, Boyce Greer, a down-to-earth paddling buddy on the Green, was listened to the asinine plan to start a paddling company. Boyce’s little girls handed snacks out of the window of a shoddy Winnebago to the paddlers like concession stand employees. As the paddlers chitchatted about their plans with tallboys in hand, they didn’t understand that when Boyce said “I’m in banking” he actually meant “I’m smart as hell and I oversee one of the largest investing firms in the world… I’m sort of the batman/Bruce Wayne of Kayaking.”
“He was totally unassuming! We thought he was a local branch manager of a bank or something.” said Shane laughing when I asked him about this story. Boyce was hooked from day one and, to their surprise, the team had all the pieces to make the puzzle work; marketing, design, investors, passion.
In 2001 Liquidlogic showed up on the scene at OR with over 100 years of combined experience backing it from day one.
As we all know,Liquidlogic kayaks has taken a short hiatus from our local shops. This has allowed them to work more directly with customers and receive feedback straight from paddlers. There aren’t many companies that you can call up and speak directly to one of the boat designers, but LL is. However, they acknowledge that disconnecting with local shops, while strengthening some parts of their customer service and quality control, has had its downsides. “Local shops have the finger on the pulse and know what local’s needs are.” says Shane. For example; although they love the West Coast, it’s hard to be as in touch when working solely out of the East Coast USA made production facility.
You get a sense that it feels good to know that local retailers still call Liquidlogic up and want to get their hands on new and classic LL boats alike. So what did they do? Mix it up! While LL is still working directly out of the East Coast shop, they are getting their boats back into your local shop to demo and buy.
These boats are built to use rapids and features instead of deadening them and making everything easier by smashing through each wave and hole.
I paddled the BRAAAP all summer and loved it. At a width of 24”, I think of this boat as a scalpel amongst Hatchets. It’s narrow in the stern which makes a sleeker water line that allows for fast acceleration and top end speed. Its’ got a slalom like ‘kick-rocker’ in the stern that makes it fast to pivot and turn, and even allows for some stern squirting if you put your mind to it. It’s still surprisingly stable, especially for smaller paddlers that struggle to take solid strokes in these wider boats. It kick-flips like a dream, accelerates out of boofs with plenty of nose rocker and practically eddies-out by telekinesis.
It’s not going to be your go-to over-nighter boat, but it is honestly my pick for anything other than that. Whether paddling tight Mexico rivers or big-water one day South Salmon laps, I love this boat.
The Mullet is for the big boys that want stability when aggressively paddling in the front seat over Gorilla , but want to stern squirt in the eddy lines below. At a width of 26.5,” Shane calls the sweet spot at 180-220 lbs, but big boys are pushing it up to 250+ and still loving it.
The Party Braaap is for the little guys like me that want to find the happy medium between the two boats. Same design, more play in the rear.
Hopes and dreams: As with every LL boat, I’m waiting for an “aggro-option” on the outfitting for those long hike-ins or for those picky paddlers that want to shave their boat to fit exactly while cutting any extra weight; More aggressive thigh hooks. Foam seat. Cut-to-fit foam bulk head w/ no holes in hull for foot pegs. Just a dream I have.
What brings me back? While there are plenty of reasons that I have taken a Liquidlogic to Ecuador, Peru, Chile x2, Nepal, India and Mexico, here are a few:
The fact that:
- Anyone can call up LL and talk with Shane, Pat or any of the other all-stars about the boats is an amazing experience that you just can’t get with anyone else.
- Liquidlogic is a company of paddlers building boats here in the USA for paddlers everywhere. They made this company because they had pride in their craftsmanship and weren’t satisfied with the mediocre.
- It doesn’t matter if they have some of the best paddlers in the business, you can catch any one of these guys or girls schlepping boats for orders to go out to the people.
- They are always racking their brains about how to make boats better, both in design and material. LL has their own plastic testing facility and works hand in hand with the plastic manufacturing company. Currently, they are trying to make a more bomber boat to keep you and me in the same craft and on the water more days in a row.
- Pat Keller once said “Mr. Benedict, I want to be a kayak instructor just like you.” Now Pat has gone off the Richter scale in the whitewater world. He’s moved on full time with Liquidlogic Kayaks and is in the design room with Shane and the crew…you know what comes next is probably going to be good. Stay tuned.