Delta V 73 Review
*All photos courtesy of Stephen McGrady.
Back in April I got the chance to demo the new Delta V 73 with Pat Keller. The Delta V 88, the larger brother of the 73, was released the previous year. I had paddled the 88 several times, but with a weight range starting at 150 lbs, and me weighing in at a measly 125 lbs, it was far too big for me. Despite that, there were certain features of the boat that I thoroughly enjoyed, and so I eagerly anticipated the release of the Delta V 73. I finally got my chance to test out the 73 when Pat came through the PNW with some Liquidlogic demos. We ran the Farmlands of the White Salmon River, which is a gorgeous section of Class IV set in a hidden gorge, with rapids that can get pushy and develop some powerful hydraulics with some water, as well as a few ledge drops. The flow was at a healthy medium level, and I couldn’t have asked for a better venue to test out this new Liquidlogic Creeker. I will tell you right off the bat that I was so impressed with the design that I bought one soon after my initial demo, and have paddled it all summer and fall.
Now, I am a bit of a gear junkie, and I am always trying the latest in kayaks and paddles and whatnot. One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of the fancy new creekers coming out (9R, Nirvana, Phantom, Five, etc.) are not really sized well for someone of my stature. I am 5’4” and weigh 125 lbs, and most of the new creekers are huge on me. I felt swamped when I sat in them, and it was particularly hard for me to control them, especially when flows got high. The first thing I noticed after I spent some time outfitting the Delta V 73 is that it fit me extremely well; the combination of the size and the Badass Outfitting (which, in my opinion, has the best hip pad system of any whitewater outfitting) made for a very comfortable connection with the boat. I felt as though I was wearing a favorite pair of broken in boots, and I immediately had a smile plastered to my face.
Starting off, the Delta V felt somewhat unstable. Since I had been paddling a Jackson Nirvana for quite some time, the narrower width and rounder hull of the 73 made for less primary stability. However, it quickly proved to me that it was more than adequately stable both flat and on edge, and the ease of edge-to-edge transitions made flowing through rapids a joy. I also expected it to be pretty slow in accordance with its shorter length, but it actually maintained speed quite well through rapids. The soft chine makes it forgiving in rocky, low volume runs, and the displacement hull makes for soft landings off of drops. One of the trickiest things that I had to get used to paddling the Delta V was the kick rocker. Having paddled several of the race oriented kayaks available, mostly the Pyranha 9R and the Jackson Nirvana, I had gotten used to weighting back to engage the stern chines to steer my way out of the bottom of a rapid or drop. When I unconsciously tried to do this in the Delta V, I had a tendency to lose control of the kayak’s direction. After awhile, I realized it was because when the stern kick rocker is engaged, it greatly increases the maneuverability of the kayak. As such, I began to put together a recipe: stay forward to maintain waterline length and therefore tracking ability, and weight back to engage the kick rocker and either change or correct the kayak’s angle. With this in mind, I really started to get into the Delta V groove. In my opinion, the kick rocker is the coolest feature of the Delta V. Obviously this is not a new innovation, as it has been used in slalom and whitewater kayaks for quite some time; however, I’ve never paddled a creek boat with such well-implemented kick rocker. Being able to engage that rocker and increase the kayak’s maneuverability with a simple shifting of weight is a huge boon. It makes surfing waves a blast, and correcting your angle (for ferrying or otherwise) in the Delta V is easier than in any other creek boat I have paddled. All you have to do is engage that kick rocker, and voila, it’s as if the kayak has two different modes. The kick rocker also makes boofing a breeze, and feels akin to j-hopping a bike. I managed to boof big over Lava (a roughly 15 ft ledge with a rolling lip that requires a late stroke) with very little effort. This was a big change from the longer race creekers that I was used to paddling, which for the most part require pretty good boof technique due to their length.
Another cool feature of the Delta V is the Turbo Booster design molded into the stern deck. The concept of the Turbo Booster is simple and logical: as water piles onto the stern after a drop, the water will get forced up the stern and catch the Turbo Booster, which will help accelerate the kayak out of the hydraulic at the base of the drop. When I first heard about this, I thought it was a gimmick for sure. I even saw some promotional video that showed promise, but I remained skeptical. Having paddled the kayak many times now, I can confidently say that the Turbo Booster works. The feeling of it engaging is pretty interesting: you start by feeling the deceleration of landing, followed by a sudden acceleration as the falling water loads the Turbo Booster. The sudden acceleration really feels like getting kicked from behind and boy is it addictive. Every time it happens, I can’t help but grin from ear to ear. I’ve had the Booster engage in Beyond Limits on the Lower Wind, Double Drop on the Green Truss, Husum Falls on >the Middle White Salmon, and many other drops as well. Sometimes it engages when punching through a big wave that tries its best to slow you down and ender you. I really like the Turbo Booster because it is completely passive, and yet I feel it has helped me out of several ‘sticky’ situations.
All in all, I find the Delta V to be a very well-rounded creek boat with some progressive features that amp up the performance factor. It’s definitely easier for me to handle than a lot of the race horses currently on the market, which is something that I appreciate when I am pushing my limits in hard whitewater. Even so, it has its quirks; but once you figure out how to use those quirks to your advantage, the Delta V becomes an extremely forgiving and responsive design that will make a trusty companion for many years to come. I know I am enjoying mine a ton, and have every intention of continuing to do so. And don’t worry too much about the Turbo Booster; even if you don’t believe in it, it believes in you.