Liquidlogic Party Braaap Review
by John Nestler (https://www.johnnestler.com)
Taking advantage of the low volume stern for a stern squirt. Credit: Rich Young (https://www.flickr.com/people/29847057@N03/)
As soon as I found out that I would be moving back to Richmond, VA for grad school I started to brainstorm what kayak I’d want to use on the James. I’ve paddled this river for over 12 years, but the James remains a strong training ground where no two laps are the same. These changes are often due to fluctuating water levels, so having a kayak that is both playful at low water and stable at higher flows is essential if you’ve trying to limit your kayak quiver to one boat. Additionally, I wanted a boat that was as comfortable as a creeker (aka no foot pain), but still had some of the qualities of a playboat. Ultimately, I decided that my criteria for a new boat included: playfulness, stability for bigger water or creeking, and comfort while paddling. These factors sealed the deal for the Liquidlogic Party Braaap.
After paddling the Party Braaap for a fall on the James and Gauley I can say that this boat fit my expectations, and is an absolute blast to paddle. Here’s how the boat stacked up to my criteria.
When I refer to play, I’m not talking about high-powered aerial playboating moves like a McNasty. Rather I’m talking about more old school downriver play like stern squirts, rock spins, enders, and maybe the occasional cartwheel. The Party Braaap excels at these tricks, and this is where the scooped stern comes into play. The lower stern volume allows for relatively easy initiation of stern squirts on eddy lines, and the volume up front lends itself to quite a bit of pop in holes. This boat isn’t quite as easy to initiate as a slicy, low-volume playboat, but that’s the price you pay for a boat that is stable in bigger water but can still play when it wants to.
The longer length also gives this boat considerable speed. This speed is crucial for both surfing and tactical moves on the river. Catching waves on the fly is exponentially easier in the Party Braaap compared to a stubby playboat, and it holds its own on glassy waves. The speed also allows you to zip in and out of eddies, and makes it easier to not lose ground during ferry moves. Combining dynamic river features with the hull speed of the Party Braaap can sometimes make it feel like you’re paddling a slingshot down the river. Also, if you’re into racing, this is the under 9’ boat for you.
Using the fast hull to enjoy a small wave. Credit: Rich Young (https://www.flickr.com/people/29847057@N03/)
Bigger Water & Creeking
I haven’t had the chance to go creeking in the Party Braaap yet, but the 67 gallons is distributed in a way that makes the boat handle well in bigger water. The bow has enough volume to keep you riding above the waves, and as long as you’re paddling in an aggressive stance the stern won’t engage unexpectedly. The boat’s speed also helps here in terms of making moves in bigger water and utilizing waves to ferry across the river. Finally, the lack of defined edges helps prevent you from catching edges in squirrely water. One thing to be aware of is that the Party Braaap is a full 3” narrower than a boat like the Dagger Mamba 8.6. This can make the boat feel a little tippy at first, so make sure to dial in your brace and balance before stepping it up in the Party Braaap.
Liquidlogic’s outfitting is widely considered to be some of the most comfortable outfitting on the market today, and it doesn’t disappoint in the Party Braaap. There’s quite a bit of cushioning on the seat & hip pads, but movements still transfer well to the boat. The customizable bulkhead and adjustable thigh braces also enable a custom fit.
Adjusting the outfitting is easy, and in 15 minutes you can have a solid fit. I would mention that the components for the bulkhead and thigh braces aren’t as burly as you’d want for a full-on creek boat, but those type of impacts aren’t what this boat was designed for anyway. Liquidlogic also supplies foam inserts for outfitting the hip pads, but you may need to cut more hip shims if you have a narrower waist (I have a 32” waist, and still felt a little loose in the boat even with all the provided foam).
Racing the Party Braaap in a local Richmond competition. Credit: Rich Young (https://www.flickr.com/people/29847057@N03/)
If you’re looking for a single boat that can perform well at just about everything I’d suggest taking a look at the Party Braaap. Sure it isn’t as sporty as a playboat or stable as a creeker, but it borrows attributes from these specialized designs to make a kayak that is just plain fun to paddle down the river. The Party Braaap has met all my expectations, and also forced me to hone in on my paddling technique to fully utilize the speed and agility of the boat. In summary, this is a boat that I look forward taking on the river each day knowing that it will perform well at whatever the river throws at it.