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    Balcony Falls Paddle with Inflatables

    Balcony Falls Paddle with Inflatables

    Last Sunday we met some friends, currently from Roanoke, that we knew back in our WV days and hit the river. The Balcony Falls run was chosen for the meet up and paddle. This was our first river trip of the summer as a family. Our friends were bringing whitewater boats, so I decided to take some inflatables for me and the girls. Harriet, my wife, took a Jackson Antix 2.0 that she'd never paddled before. 

    The Balcony Falls run on the James River is often referred to as the Glasgow to Snowdon paddle. It is 4.8mi. with Class II+ (III) rapids. It's a great, fun run for beginner to intermediate paddlers and a fantastic run for family adventure. 

    I packed the Star Raven II tandem for our youngest (10 yrs.) and I to paddle together. The Star Viper XL was for our eldest ( 12 yrs.) to paddle solo. Arriving at the put-in, it took me all of 10 minutes to pump up both kayaks, and get them ready for the river. The Star kayaks from NRS come with backpacks, pumps, and repair kits. 

    Our eldest did great in the Viper XL.

    The Viper XL comes "with an aggressive rocker design and eight more inches of length, the STAR Viper XL Inflatable Kayak is built for bigger paddlers looking for an inflatable that can ride over waves, punch through holes, surf and ferry like a hard-shell." And we currently have it on sale for $896. 

    The Raven II tandem was equally as fun on this float. 

    The Raven II Inflatable Kayak is good to paddle "with a friend for whitewater thrills and lazy-floating fun. Or, load it with gear and paddle solo for multiday adventures. The tandem Raven II gives you unlimited possibilities for fun and adventure on the water." The Raven II is also on sale for $821.

    Harriet enjoyed the Antix so much she decided to hold on to it for the rest of the year to paddle it a few more times. We have 2023 Antix on sale.

    The whole day was a ton of fun, and it was such an easy load to carry to the river between the Antix and the two inflatables. The Viper XL even served as a great lunch table when we took a break. River lunches are a favorite in our family.

    Our eldest has now paddled Balcony solo twice. It feels like she is starting to come into that phase of life that brings the right amount of physical capabilities with her youthful drive for independence. But she's still smart enough to follow her mother's line. 

    And young enough to still love "jump rock."

    Our youngest on the other hand, has been in a kayak or canoe with me since she was 10 months old. This trip was the first where she starting asking about paddling her own craft. It won't be long, and these inflatables seem like the perfect transition kayak for that personal growth. 

    They are great for adults as well. Whether you don't want to worry about having a car rack for transportation, or you don't have space to store a rotomolded kayak, inflatables are a great option. Plus they are lighter!

    Whatever craft you choose, get out on the river this summer and soak in the beauty of our bounty! Here in Virginia, from mountains to the sea, we have the chance to paddle in splendor! 

    Our Top 5 Entry-Level Whitewater Kayaks

    Our Top 5 Entry-Level Whitewater Kayaks

    Thinking of making the transition from flatwater to whitewater? We’ve got a boat for that.

    At ARC, we love introducing beginning paddlers to the thrill of whitewater kayaking. It’s the perfect blend of skill, adrenaline and adventure. This is the second in our series of blog posts designed to help our customers — no matter their experience level — navigate the purchasing waters. (If you’re curious about our first post, you can check out our favorite entry-level rec kayaks here.)

    Once you’ve gotten some experience on the water and mastered basic paddling skills, starting your whitewater journey is surprisingly easy. Whether you’re just beginning yourself or initiating a new buddy, check out these tips and tricks for beginners:

    • Nail down the fundamentals. Don’t get out on the rapids until you’ve figured out basic paddling skills on flatwater. Make sure you’ve gotten in the practice of balancing, maneuvering and rolling on slow-to-medium moving rivers first — and practice your wet exits!
    • Get experience. Whether it’s a club, a class or a trip with experienced whitewater paddlers, make sure you learn from those with experience before trying it out yourself. A great place to get connected and figure out your options? Our store, where every member of our sales team is a paddler.
    • Gear up. In any paddling situation, proper equipment is a must. For whitewater this includes a helmet, personal floatation divide (PFD), protective clothing, paddle and a stable kayak.

    Ready to check out our top whitewater rigs? Remember: Whitewater kayaks are designed to keep you secure, stay straight and take a beating. With all that in mind, fit is the most important consideration when purchasing a whitewater boat. The boat should be snug but not too tight. Here’s our top selection for whitewater novices:

    1. For a Classic Paddle: Dagger Code (8.3, 8.8 or 9.1)
    Dagger kayaks launched right when whitewater kayaking’s popularity was taking off in the 90s. They’re built for whitewater, which is one of the reasons we love their boats. The Dagger Code is the “pillar of the line” and the perfect pick for a blend of whitewater performance and stability. We love the high-rise bow rocker, which will keep you up and over water features while helping you accelerate through. The Code’s semi-planing hull tracks well, cutting into eddies while still offering the perfect amount of stability for a beginning boater. Plus, this rig is forgiving and easy to roll!

    As mentioned, one of the most important features of a whitewater kayak is fit, and the Dagger Code has sizing dialed in with three options built to ensure comfort and snugness. The 8.3 (small) variation is designed for paddlers 100-160 lbs., the 8.8 (medium) for boaters 140-220 lbs., and the 9.1 (large) for those 180-260 lbs. Come check out this boat in store — we know you’ll love it!



    2. For a Top-of-the-Line Paddle: Pyranha Scorch (S, M or L)
    For a boat that’s been called the most forgiving whitewater kayak ever, this river runner is perfect for beginners. Though the Pyranha Scorch is pricier than some of the others on our list, it’s the whitewater trifecta of comfort, stability and performance. The Scorch offers the kind of speed that keeps your nose up and on top of the waves.

    Full-length rails mean you can hold the line, while a bow rocker with a wave deflector increases your maneuverability through anything the river might throw at you (while keeping your face dry). A stern kick rocker keeps your boat moving through drops. Grab the size that suits you, from small to large — with the bonus X variation, a longer boat than most whitewater rigs at 10 feet.



    3. For a Sporty Paddle: Jackson Flow
    Looking for a light, nimble boat? Confidence meets sportiness in the Jackson Flow. This creek boat’s shorter length makes it quick and easy to turn — a slim, modern whitewater design that forgoes weight and volume for maneuverability. Narrow width allows for better carving and a high level of control. A tapered stern and high-rocker design mean this boat is easier to boof and will help beginners learn how to skip out of drops as they run the river. Bonus?

    The Jackson Flow is one of the most comfortable kayaks on the market with plenty of legroom, an impact-absorbing uni-shock bulkhead system, and a thigh hook system to keep your legs locked in and ready to roll. Check out this rig in action.



    4. For a Stable Paddle: LiquidLogic RMX (76, 86 or 96)
    As a blend of some of LiquidLogic’s best designs, the RMX has been dubbed a “modern classic,” earning a reputation as the best LiquidLogic boat yet. Its stability delivers a healthy boost of confidence, enabling even whitewater beginners to power up and over anything the river throws their way. The RMX’s versatile hull shape makes the kayak fast to paddle and easy to turn, while the high-rise bow rocker paired with a scooped stern allows it to stay above water features and skip out of drops. Some reviewers have even said that it feels like a surfboard.

    The boat tracks well, giving beginners permission to play on smaller rapids and confidence to take on bigger ones. One thing to note: this boat offers sizes ranging from 8’11” to 9’6”. The 86 or medium size measures at 9’4”, longer than most medium-sized kayaks.



    5. For a Fast Paddle: LiquidLogic Stinger
    Have a need for speed? Born out of a race boat design, LiquidLogic’s Stinger has been tweaked and perfected to paddle fast. Yet, it’s surprisingly easy to control. The narrow hull lets you rip down rivers, while the length — a whopping 12’5”! — ensures stability. The bow rocker sails you up and over obstacles, while the pointed stern drops into the water to keep you on track.

    This is a boat that has longevity. While it’s stable and maneuverable for beginners, it’s also a top choice for professionals whose goal is speed: the perfect investment for a lifetime on the water!



    Ready for the rapids? We’re here to help you launch your whitewater adventure. Stop by our store or give us a call. We’ll get you in a boat that meets your needs, ensure the right fit, and gear you up for safety and comfort — all while offering the expert paddling advice we’ve been known for over the last 47 years.

    For the love of paddling, since 1977.

    Our 10 Favorite Entry-Level Rec Kayaks

    Our 10 Favorite Entry-Level Rec Kayaks

    New to the paddling scene or introducing someone to the joys of kayaking? Whatever your needs as a beginning kayaker, we’ve got a boat for that.

    The perfect starter vessel blends speed and agility with fun and safety. But with a (seemingly) endless selection of rigs out there, it can be hard to narrow in on the best boat for you. That’s why we’re rolling out a series of blog posts designed to help our customers — no matter their experience level — navigate the purchasing waters. With our first post, we’re easing into the gentle stream of beginner-friendly recreational kayaks. 

    First, a point of definition: A recreational kayak, or rec kayak, is for the casual paddler who paddles mainly on flatwater, from lakes to inshore saltwater to easy rivers and creeks. These kayaks aren’t designed to perform well in big whitewater, but they’re exceptional for a full day on the lake, gentle rivers or even the ocean due to their design, comfort and amenities.

    Ready to dip your paddle? Here’s our selection for novices: 


    1. Wilderness Systems Tarpon (105 or 120)

    Whether you’re floating a river, exploring a lake or navigating the ocean’s tides, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon boat series boasts versatility, comfort and stability all wrapped in a solid, sit-on-top design. Our picks? The 105 or the 120. These boats include an adjustable cool-touch seat, plenty of rear and front storage, plus a dry box and water bottle strap within easy reach. Accessory rails mean you can customize your kayak for fishing, photography or even filming. The 105 is a slightly shorter, lighter boat at 10’6” and 55 pounds, making it easy for a beginner to maneuver out of the water, while the 120 has a bit more speed — and heft — at 12’3” and 63 pounds. 




    2. Native Watercraft Falcon 11

    Super stability plus affordability? Enter the Native Watercraft Falcon 11, a sit-on-top kayak designed to give beginners confidence on the water. While this isn’t a speedy boat, it’s a solid entry-level pick — especially for those interested in fishing, as it’s designed to support a variety of fishing gear and tabbed by Native as “a fishing machine.” The Falcon’s sit-on-top design means it won’t fill with water if it tips. In fact, it's so stable you can even stand on top if you choose. Other features include high-low seat positioning, adjustable foot braces, front hatch access, center storage to house a fish-finder (with space for a battery and transducer scupper access), gear tracks and dual flush-mount rod holders. At 11” long with a fully rigged weight of 65 pounds, this is a great pick for those first-time kayak anglers — or anyone looking for a super stable boat. 



    3. Wilderness Systems Pungo 105 or 120

    Searching for a speedier, sit-inside boat? The Wilderness Systems Pungo rigs boast increased efficiency and agility compared to other entry-level boats — without sacrificing stability. Both the 105 and 120 are light and easy for beginners to maneuver. At 12’2” and only 49 pounds, the 120 is one of the longest and lightest in its class. Plus, features like storage and gear trays, a removable dry box, accessory rails, and mounting platforms add convenience. The 120 even has two cup holders and space for a Wilderness Systems battery, which can keep your phone charged up while you paddle. 



    4. Old Town Loon 106

    Searching for a solid, sit-inside entry-level boat with easy maneuverability? Old Town’s Loon series brings intentional design to recreational kayaks. The hull features straight tracking and smooth glide, and at only 10’6” and 53 pounds, this short, light boat offers handling comfort both in and out of the water. Better yet? The 106 boasts features like a plush adjustable seat, dry storage, a removable workdeck with USB charge port, thigh pads and a support track foot brace system. 



    5. LiquidLogic Kiawah 12

    With innovative design, the LiquidLogic Kiawah features a unique hull shape to lend superior tracking and stability — and it also has room for your dog! Its sit-on-top design with an “open floor plan” includes a roomy bow deck and rear well, leaving plenty of space for you to customize to your needs. At 12’2” and 65 pounds, it’s a longer kayak with some great features for beginners. Think: an elevated seat system, a tankwell with room for a cooler, water bottle rests, a gasketed storage spot in front of the seat, and gear tracks perfect for everything from cell phone to fish finder to fishing rod. 



    6. Star Paragon Inflatable

    Searching for an inflatable kayak that’s easy to transport? For a boat that handles like a classic, but offers the convenience and stowability of an inflatable kayak, look no further than the Star Paragon. This rig feels like a hardshell kayak, with a non-bailing drop-stitch floor insert and an adjustable seat with foot braces. Plus, there's plenty of room for gear under the bow and stern splash covers. At 10’11” and 40 pounds, it’s one of the lightest options out there and comes with a removable fin, pump, repair kit and three-year retail warranty. 



    7. Native Watercraft Stingray 11.5

    An affordable, sit-on-top kayak that rides high and dry, Native’s Watercraft Stingray is a great beginning rig for anglers. A flared bow makes it perfect for lake fishing. At 11’6” with a fully rigged weight of 65 pounds, it’s easy to get on and off the water. Features include a frame seat, storage hatches with a bow hatch cover, and a paddle holder. Plus, it’s the perfect kayak for a duo, since it’s stackable.



    8. Jackson Staxx

    A boat that’s specifically designed to draw in newbies (and anglers), Jackson’s Staxx kayak offers comfort and convenience, while also being an economical pick for those who are new to the sport. At 10’8” and 64 pounds, it’s a solid, stable sit-on-top kayak that still allows for easy handling and movement. Key features include stackability, a folding seat, storage in the bow and stern, and semi-dry storage in the center. Better yet, this boat can easily transform into a stellar fishing kayak with Jackson’s optional fishing kit.



    9. LiquidLogic Saluda 12

    The original LiquidLogic recreational kayak updated for modern comfort, the Saluda 12 is a top pick for novice paddlers. The perfect combination of fun and comfort, this 12’ sit-inside kayak weighs only 51 pounds. Paddlers will love Saluda’s design features, including a hand-sewn frame seat, adjustable foot braces, thigh padding, a variety of storage options (including dry storage), a gear track and water bottle holder. 



    10. Perception Tribe 9.5

    A solid and affordable pick, Perception Kayak’s Tribe 9.5 is a small, lightweight, stackable sit-on-top kayak. Our favorite aspect of this boat is its versatility. Stable in choppy surf and speedy on calm waters, this is a great vessel for those who are still figuring out their favorite places to paddle. At only 9’5”, the Tribe is a shorter boat, but it has plenty of room for all the bells and whistles, including a padded high-back seat, molded footrests, open storage and center hatch storage, and solo mount recess. 


    Honorable Mention: Ocean Kayak Malibu

    Love paddling the ocean waves? Ocean Kayak’s Malibu is a great place to start. This super stable boat offers easy paddling and straight tracking with a sit-on-top design. Pick from a shorter, more stable 9’5” rig or a longer, speedier 11’5” boat. No matter your pick, you’ll enjoy a molded seat with adjustable backrest, molded footwells and calf rests, a dry hatch, secure storage and no less than THREE cup holders. 



    Investing in a starter kayak marks the beginning of a lifelong adventure on the water — and part of our goal at Appomattox River Company is to help each customer find the best fit. So come into our store and try our products, or browse. Swing by or call to talk with some of our staff members (all of them are paddlers!). We’ll offer expert advice on the latest in paddling equipment, recommend quality gear, and help you find what works best for you. 

    For the love of paddling, since 1977.