Friday, October 18, 2013

The Development of the Liquidlogic Stinger

The development of the Liquidlogic Stinger started nearly 6 years ago.  Hard to believe.  I had both a lot less and a lot more hair.  I had fewer wrinkles and we had less technology going into the design of our boats.  The Remix 100 was the original name of the Stinger.  The name came from the 100+ gallons of volume and the common dam release of water on the Green which is 100% of 1 unit.  Woody liked to call the 100% release a "hungee", and so the first proto of what would become the Stinger was called the Hungee.

The original design was a complete side project.  I hammered away on the computer for a few days at home, printed out cross sections and applied them to foam to be cut and glued together to make the model.  It was a mix of modern and a little old school know how that I learned from Alan Stancel (designer of the Dancer) to get this boat together in a hurry for the upcoming Green Race in the fall of 2007.

We were still in our small shop just on the outskirts of Hendersonville, N.C. and only 6.582 minutes from the Put-In of the Green River.  In the design department it was just Allen and I hammering away on models.  In these photos you can see the entire shop.  When we would get busy there wasn't any room to move around.

Once I printed out the cross sections I then cut them all out and glued the entire thing together on a spine to hold it all straight and level.  Then its just a matter of cutting, grinding, and shaping down to the cross sections and you have a boat... sort of.  There are a few more steps in between but you get the idea.

This very first prototype of what would become the Stinger was 11'9" it had a fairly traditional long boat hull design with a little more bow rocker and a little bit of flatness under the seat.  After working our asses off to get this one ready we hammered out some prototypes just in time for the Lord of the Fork race on the Russell Fork river in Kentucky.  In fact I loaded the van and met Toby McDermott and John Grace late in the evening with, hot out of the oven protos, so they could drive through the night and race the next morning.  Toby won the race and we were pretty excited about that.

Van load.
Notice the frost on the boats.  Its race seaon!
The day after that I got a few folks together and paddled the Green for the first time in the Hungee.  The first float is always nerve racking but it came out great.  It was very predictable, stable, and far faster than anything we were paddling at the time.  The competition at the time was the Tornado, the first proto of the Green Boat, and a proto boat from Waves Sport called the Momentum.  We seemed to be in the realm with those guys but after that very first day I knew that there was more that could be done.  My actual thought was "this is too easy to paddle, surely we can go faster and hang it out on the edge more".

The next year i decided to really push it and see what would happen.  I added 8" in length, only on the stern of the boat.  Anything that I would have added to the bow wouldn't have been in the water so its affect on speed would have been minimal but that 8" in essence represents a boat 16" longer.  So in a way the Stinger has a water line of 13' 1" boat but by keeping the bow shorter my theory was that it would be easier to move around rocks and potentially help with resurfacing, and keep me from pitoning off Sunshine.

Once again paddling away from the beach that first time was a little nerve racking.  I just wasn't sure that a boat that asymmetric was going to turn quickly enough.  Some of the team paddlers thought I might be a little crazy.  The amazing part about that design change was the speed.  Adding that extra length made it into a rocket.  My favorite feeling was the first time skipping through the pools at the bottom of the slides in the race course.  The extra speed carried momentum easily.

In 2008 Adriene tied for her first win of the Green Race.  Obviously there were great paddlers paddling the boats but they were all moving up the ladder in placements of the race so it felt like the boat changes were making a difference.  To fund the first Stingers we sold some of our prototypes to the public and they were obviously a big hit.  We couldn't make enough of them and people lined up on a waiting list to buy the boats used by racers.  That first Stinger was fast but it was also a bear to control so over the next year I skeemed on what sort of changes I wanted to make.  The main thing I wanted to focus on was maintaining the speed but if I could also make it easier to paddle that would be awesome.  I made subtle tweaks to the hull making it slightly flatter and rolling the bow edges under the boat so that they wouldn't hit quite as hard.

In 2009 we had 4 boats out of the top 6 in mens.  Adriene won again with a record time breaking run and breaking the 5 minute barrier.  Keith Sprinkle took the hands paddles class.

In 2010 5 of the top 6 were in Stingers and Mike Dawson and Isaac were at the top.  Tad Dennis won the C-1 and Keith Sprinkle won hand paddle.

Each year I would do small changes.  After 2010 we did a small deck volume increase and flattened the hull a little more.

2011 Isaac won the race and Eric Deguil pulled into 3rd and Adriene won again.

2012  was a crazy year because of the high water.  The gage was reading 12 inches plus and that proved to be fast and wild.  Mike Dawson crushed the course record.  Isaac came in third and Eric finished up the top 5.  John Grace was 6th with his fastest time ever.  Adriene won and Jordan took C-1.  Just before this years race I did some more small changes to the design adding more flat hull and more deck volume to the ends of the boat for surfacing.  All the team folks agreed they didn't want me to change it any more.  With that in mind we sent the model off to the mold maker to finally make a production mold that racers across the country had been asking us to do for 6 years.  Automatic for the People!

Now everybody gets to go fast and do big enders!

Here is a few Stinger Videos.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Eternity Hole with Proto #4 of the LL Composite Playboat

Yonton trickin' it up.
Its been a bit since I put my butt in a playboat sunny skies and upper 50s temps had Yonton Mehler and I jumping into a car with Kerry Porche headed for Eternity hole on the Tuckasegee River.  Yonton started jumping back in a playboat a couple months ago and is starting to show signs of his skills that took him to the World Championships.  I however am way off the back end.  It was definitely a case of the old dog trying to learn new tricks.  Fortunately I don't think anyone was taking pictures while I was paddling but I did get a few of Yonton looking good in Big Orange!  The session was enough to get me stoked to get back in the shaping room with the playboat model.  A little more time and I may be able to hit that Phonix Monkey.  Proto #5 in time for team trials maybe!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Open Call for Art Proposals

Open Call for Art Proposals

As part of making Legacy Paddlesports the sweetest place to work on the planet, we plan to enrich our offices and factory inside and out with Art that evokes our love of  Water, Rivers, Kayaking and of course, Liquidlogic Kayaks and Native Watercraft. We want to surround ourselves with the work of others who draw on the paddling environment as a key source of inspiration.  We hope to create a workspace that will keep us fired up to imagine, design, and build the world’s greatest boats.  Hence: this Art Proposal.
We have built some fun and playful offices; our staff has optimized every part of our production floor, but our walls, though colorful, are bare.  Our front garden and grounds around the factory have begun to grow many natural wonders, but we still crave something distinctive. Like: your work.
We aspire to build the world’s premiere collection of paddling-based artwork and we want to offer you the opportunity to be a part of it. To start our collection, we hope to commission up to 20 separate pieces of art.

Our Committee will consider works:
  • in any medium
  • in any style
  • with content connected directly to paddling or evocative of its elements
  • in any scale.... do note that we have a large space and will certainly welcome large scale proposals

Complete applications must include the following information:
  • Contact Information
  • Work Samples in the form of jpgs, url, snail mail, or bring it here to the factory.
  • JPGs representing an existing work or works that you would like us to consider
  • Resume or Bio

Deadline for Submissions: May 1st.
Final Projects Deadline: July 15th;

Artists will be compensated with one Native Watercraft or Liquidlogic Kayak (not including the Pedal Drive boats).  The Legacy Paddlesports Gallery Committee may consider other compensation at their discretion.

Shane Benedict, Curator, Legacy Paddlesports Gallery of Fine Arts
℅ Legacy Paddlesports
210 Old Airport Rd.
Fletcher N.C. 28732

Monday, February 04, 2013

Section 00, 0, and 1 of the Chattooga in a day, along with other ramblings

I think Adriene is excited about the day.
Adriene said she wanted to paddle all the Upper Chattooga.  Who was I to argue?

For more than forty years it's been illegal to paddle the upper reaches of the Chattooga river (huge thanks AW!), and besides me, no one else in the group had ever paddled the upper sections before so it seemed like it would be irresponsible of me not to go along.  Especially given the perfect levels (about 700 cfs at Burrel's Ford).  As I was chatting with Adriene on the phone it became clear that she didn't really understand that paddling all 15 miles of the newly opened sections of river was going to be a challenge, not because of the hard rapids, but because of the miles, the portages, the hikes, and the rapids.  After I said, "ok its going to be a long day."  She said, "and if we get done quickly we can go do Overflow.  Oh and we want to get an early start so we can get back and cook a nice curry dinner!"

At that point I decided I better brush up on my memories of the run and trails along the river, just in case.  There are some good maps on the American Whitewater page that I started pouring over.

I packed extra water, Snickers bars, fleece, a headlamp, and a little vitamin i.  I knew we would be ok because there is trail along 80% of the run so we could get out no matter how badly we got delayed, but, still... I have done this trip twice before and each time we got off the river in the dark and now that it's legal having to hike in two miles and out nearly a mile to actually be legal makes it that much harder.  So I had a feeling we weren't going to be running Overflow or making a nice Curry for dinner.

Yes we went too far.  AW says if you see the handrail you've gone too far.  :) oops

It was a deceptively cold day.  It was KAVU as hell out there but when we stepped out of the car at the put-in there was ice all over the parking area and it was 28 degrees.  Fortunately we were going to be hiking for a bit to get warm.  The two mile hike in along the Chattooga River Trail is fairly easy but it is uphill the first half and then along the ridge and down to the river the second half.  We had a touch of confusion about exactly where to put-in and we didn't want to ruffle any private land owner feathers so we went a little further down than we had to.  I later read the American Whitewater page for the upper section a little more closely and its pretty clear.  I should have studied harder.  I guess I could say that about college too, but I was too busy sneaking off to go paddling rather than getting to class all the time.

First Falls, a nice little starter slide
The first time I did this section, let's just say it was a little while ago, our group rolled up to the Burrel's Ford take-out of section 0 in Beaz's land yacht of a car, loaded down with gear for 5, there sitting in the parking lot was a ranger.  He looked a little bored but perked up when he saw us drive in.  He knew exactly why we were there and I actually knew the guy because at the time I was guiding on the Chattooga a bunch and saw him at the river often.  

The conversation went like this: 

"What are you guys up to?" 
"Ummm going kayaking?"
"You know this section is illegal don't you?" 
"Ummm yes.  What happens if we get caught running it?" 
"Its a $500 fine."
"$500 dollars per person or could we pay it all together?" I was trying to decide if that would be worth the risk.  
The ranger smiled and said, "$500 a person",  and turned away to talk with some other folks.  We schemed in the car about what we were gonna do.  
The ranger walked back over to us and said with a very deliberate tone.  "If. I. catch. you. I am gonna fine you $500 dollars.  You guys have a good day", and he walked away.  
"THANKS", I said, trying to keep my excitement somewhat controlled.  He had given us the green light without having to say it.

Log Jam Portage
Slide in amongst the Log Jam
The Upper sections of the Chattooga have a bit of an ominous feel when you first get out there.  When we used to run them in the past it was unsettling because you were sneaking around and where we put in you paddled in on a tiny river/ creek, ducking through the rhodos all the way to the lip of the rapids.  From the new put-in, the first thing you run into is a huge log jam that you have to portage over, down, and through to a seal launch amongst the logs and rocks.  These sections just aren't  "normal" in the southeast.   We are used to our river runs being accesible, well manicured, even the portages on most of our runs are fairly easy but here on the upper you start with a fairly long hike into the Nantahala National Forest, portage through a log jam, the rapids have wood in them that is illegal to remove, and you know at any one time you might have to hike several miles to get to a road or phone.  It gives it the feel of a remote run anywhere in the world not the well lapped routes of the Southeast.

No Kayaks is a stupid name.  Can't we come up with something else?  How about Exit from Log Jam?
Dropping into the Alleyway.
After you get through the initial worries of the hiking and portaging the log jam and immediately get into a couple of cool drops you settle down a little.  The river is spectacularly beautiful.  It is classic southeast creeking.  If you are from the south you know it well: thick rhodo along the river, moss-covered boulders, and sweet, tight, whitewater.  But all the time, in the back of your mind, you feel just a little uneasy.  Logs, a few sieves, and the remoteness keep you on your toes.  Though the rapids aren't difficult, some of the consequences are, and the potential for a long walk out in the dark and cold of winter remind you to keep moving downstream.

The Waterfall in the Alleyway
When I was a kid I went to a camp in Highlands N.C. at the very top of the Chattooga watershed.  My brother and I worked for a decade there, at The Mountain.  We hiked along most of the upper reaches of the river along the upper Chattooga, Overflow, Holcombe, Big Creek and many others.  We paddled our first rapids on the West Fork and Section 2 and though I only lived at the river for a few years as a raft guide I still call this place home.  I love the fact that the first times I paddled most any of the upper Chattooga drainages I didn't realize that I was floating through places that during the hot summer months as a kid, I swam under those waterfalls, and through the potholes.  Now when I return to the Chattooga I get to touch Ellicott's rock,  jump off of Singley's, and slide down Big Bend falls in a different way.  It's good to be home again.

My brother at the put-in for section 2 of the Chattoga (1980), just a couple miles from our take-out the other day.
Oh damn, I got distracted from the story of the river the other day.  Sections 00, 0, and 1 of the Chattooga are very cool.  The character is similar to the sister tributary, Overflow, but the rapids are much more spread out.  There are long stretches of mellow water with easy rapids.  Along those mellow parts stretch miles and miles of trail and lots of folks camping and fishing along the river.  We had only positive interactions with anglers.  I have to admit I was prepared for the worst with all the verbal sparring in the different forums over the re-introduction of paddlers to the upper reaches of the river.  The day was long but we made it to the take-out just as the dark was getting thick enough that I needed to pull out my headlamp for the last couple hundred yards.  The trail put the finishing touches on our energy reserves and a happy exhausted crew posed for the obligatory team paddling photo which by chance was taken by one of the very folks that made this run possible the equally tired and happy Don Kinzer, thank you.

If you head over to do the Upper Chattooga:

1.  The AW page has good instructions on how to get to the Put-In and Take-Outs of all the sections. Read them more carefully than I did.
2.  The trails are not totally obvious, read the hiking directions on the AW pages.
3.  Pay attention to Don't Go Left.  You can go left but its stupid and a little sketchy.  Going right looks horrible with the wood that is there right now but it is fine; go straight over the hump on the right side.  You will probably spot the rapid if you look for a fairly innocuous drop maybe a half mile down from the Log Jam with fairly large wood coming in from the right that looks like it will make the right side scary to run.
4.  Trails run along most of the river.  Study them and you'll find your evac plans aren't too bad.
5.  If you aren't comfortable running on beta from others scouting don't try to do the whole thing.  
6.  Section 1 is really nice, mostly scenic but there are some good rapids and there is wood involved.  The last "Rock Gorge" is a really sweet section of whitewater.
7.  The easiest hike out trail is a couple hundred yards down from Lick Log Creek.  You can hike directly from the confluence of Lick Log Creek with the river but it's more difficult.
8.  On January 19th it got too dark to paddle without a headlamp at 6:19 pm.

Corey on the right side of Bull Pen Bridge rapid.
Yonton dropping into Super Corkscrew on Section 0
Snowy in Rock in the hole in the wall.
Adriene heading into one of the final drop, Harvey Wallbanger
6 hrs, 15 miles of paddling, 3 miles of hiking, an awesome day.
Here is a link to the rest of the photos from the day.  Click Here

Make sure to get out and do this somewhat unknown classic.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Development of the Native Watercraft Slayer Fishing Kayak


When we decided to make a new fishing boat for Native Watercraft it made me both nervous and excited.  Having designed 60+ kayaks of all kinds I wasn't too worried about dialing in the hull performance but, The Slayer would be my first fishing-focused design and when you couple that with the history of Native Watercraft in kayak fishing...  it all got just a little intimidating.  The UltimateManta Ray, and Mariner Propel kayaks are standards in the industry.  I knew that our design had to be great because some of the best guides, pros, and fishermen would be going over it with a fine-toothed comb, and fishermen are a bunch of picky bastards :).   What I mean is that each fisherman really knows what they want out of their equipment.  For a designer, it actually proves to be a fantastic asset to have the opinions of experts helping guide the process, but it also means you better do it right.  Plus  sometimes people want exactly opposite things done on the boat.  This diversity of opinions drove the base principles for the Slayer:  A deck layout simple enough that the purist would appreciate its clean lines, yet featuring enough attention to detail that any gear hound would get to dog heaven outfitting it, and below all that a hull that fit the performance needs of any fisherman.

(I apologize to all the bad ass fisher ladies out there for only saying fishermen in this article.  I guess I could say anglers more.  You know what I mean though... right?)

Outfitting discussions

The initial deck concept for the design uses the open floor plan of the Ultimate as a starting point and expands on that in a Sit On Top.  The open floor plan allows paddlers to place equipment where they would like rather than where the boat manufacturer dictates.  We achieved that by offering several flat open deck surfaces along with nearly 12 feet of groove track to allow any accessory to be mounted just about anywhere on the boat.  We also put in a simple access hatch for installing and mounting electronics.  Basically, we tried to make every surface available for personal configurations and leave the floor in front of the fisherman clean for fly casting, standing, or to just bring fish on board. There is a lot more to designing a fishing kayak than throwing a bunch of clutter on the deck and calling it "features".  Real thought needs to go into all the options and uses of the space.

If you really want to sit higher you always have this option.

The hull concept came from four basic tenants that our guides really wanted.  They wanted a boat stable enough to stand up in easily, that tracked well, was fairly quiet through the water, and had a shallow draft so that you could get into areas and fish where other craft couldn't.  In the end, the Slayer ended up drawing about 3 and 1/2 inches of water with a 200lb paddler and 30 pounds of gear in the boat.  With the extended width of the design, as you add weight the draft hardly changes.  A nice side effect of having a shallow draft is that it turns easily.  The Slayer is stable enough to stand on one side of the center line and not tip over.   As far as tracking goes, you can paddle straight ahead then coast and the boat will track straight until you lose all your momentum.  All these characteristics makes the Slayer a boat that can perform well in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The seat was also a big part of this design.  It is one of the things that Native boats are known for: all day comfort.  We worked hard on the proper bend in the seat frame to give good lumbar support and keep the frame from contacting your body which would create hard spots that could become irritating if you spend a lot of time out on the water, like most fishermen do.  The sewing department came up with an ingenius design to help the seat spring open and shut down in place when it is closed just with simple tension in the seat cover shape.   I love the fact that all our seats are sewn and stretched over our seat frames in our factory in North Carolina.    They do a great job.

Standing on one foot on the side of the boat!  Yes close to the dock just in case.

As you all know we got the word out there on the Native Facebook Page and Native Owners Group Forum where we did our regular Automatic For The People questionaire and you all nailed it.  We had hundreds of comments and suggestions on boats, ideas, accessories etc... and we tried to put as many of those concepts in place as we could while maintaining a simple open floor plan.  Some features that you all suggested that really made this boat awesome were the Hi/ Low seat, Easy Standing capabilities, more Groove Track than we have ever put on a boat, cooler seat, plano box storage, and a hard shell hatch cover for the front storage tank.  It was the combination of you all letting us know what you like, our guides offering their expertise, and the design team all working together to make this boat happen.   

The hardest part of a design is taking all that information from talking with folks, phone calls, questionaires, paddling trips, etc and boiling it down to a point where we can create sketches, computer models, and then a final 3D model that will become the form from which we will produce a mold to make plastic boats.  It takes us a several months to create the computer model from the ideas and sketches, and in that time we share the model and ideas with our guides and production crew to make sure it's a great boat for the fisherman that our production crew can build.

Design discussions with our pro staff.

Working out the details of the 3D model on the CNC machine.

Once we have the model of the boat we make a temporary mold so we can make prototype boats.  Those prototypes start off a really fun part of the R and D process.  With the first Slayers still warm out of the mold, we ran out the door and took the protos to a nearby lake to test the hull performance, seating, trim, and stability.  It performed above expectations, with just a few flaws that we knew we would want to address.  We were able to easily stand on one side of the boat.  It tracked very well even with a breeze going across the lake.  The only problems were a little hull slap in the chop that we had that day and some water was getting into the rear storage well.  But other than that it was an exciting first shot at this design.  We also got to check out a few ideas that we thought could be fun options including the cooler seat, removeable hard shell hatches, and tackle box bungee in front of the paddler.   

Nice day out on the water.

The next step was to get the boat in front of some of our guides and see what they thought, and test in real live fishing environments.  Unfortunately, that meant the R and D team had to go fishing with all of our guides. :)  Everyone seemed excited.  Not only did they give us a bunch of feedback but they put us on fish!  Their input lead to some great changes in the boats.  You will notice some of the Slayer prototype shots feature a hatch and rod lays between the legs and all the guides agreed they preferred that area clean.  As a designer, I loved watching how everyone really used their boats, where they naturally put their tools, rods, boxes, etc... and how they used everything. Of course it was also fun for me to get out there in the boat and figure out how I would address the different issues: how I would store gear, move around the boat, and use the different features.

Even I caught some fish!

After paddling with the staff, we had to go back to the model and make changes by hand to reflect what we learned during testing.  A little more free board in the stern storage compartment, less clutter, smoother entry line to eliminate hull slap, more groove track, hard handles, etc... it took us a month to make those changes to the model, then we made another prototype mold and then more testing!! :-)  We took off for Florida and spent a few days making sure the design was right.  I even caught some fish.  At that point we put the model on a truck and shipped it to the mold maker.  Our molds are sand casted Aluminum that are buffed to a mirror finish.  Now you know what makes our boats so shiny.  A shiny mold.  It takes 3 - 4 months to get the mold made.  Once we get the mold back the production team starts tuning it in to insure we distribute the proper thickness of plastic throughout the boat.  The assembly team gets up to speed on building the Slayer, and the sewing department puts the finishing touches on the seat itself.  It takes the whole company to put a new design into production, and we think the Slayer was worth the wait.

Making final changes to the model.

This is the production mold shiny shiny!
Many features make this boat a unique, precisely thought-out, and well-executed fishing craft.  Starting at the bow of the boat and following through to the stern, we crafted each element of the design to make it ideally suited to fishing.  Here is a list of a few:

  1. Padded hard carry handles as opposed to the soft floppy luggage handles that were the standard.
  2. Drained bow storage area with accessory hatch cover and accessory-fitted Medium Fish Bag.
  3. Nearly 12 feet of Groove Track, all over the boat, for attaching any accessory you want.
  4. Hull access for installing electronics.
  5. Tackle box storage-- rather than making you put things in the boat, just put your box in the boat.
  6. Padded rod and reel lays for quietness on the water.
  7. The most comfortable seat in the business. 
  8. Hi/ Lo seating
  9. Secure easy access plano box storage.
  10. Flats behind the seat for mounting any accessory if you don't want to use the groove track.
  11. Large rear storage well fitted for 5 gallon bucket, regular milk crate with rod mounts, large milk crate, and fitted Native storage bags.  The Fishing Buddy and Large Fish Bag.
  12. Large scupper holes for quick drainage and long lasting boat construction.
  13. Rudder compatible.
  14. It comes with the Tag-A-Long wheel for easy transport.
  15. A hull that tracks well, is super stable, easy to turn, and has a shallow draft.
  16. Enough hull rocker to get over waves but as low profile as possible to avoid windage.
  17. Nothing sharp and very few places to catch lines.

Thanks to these guides and fishermen for their help in creating the Native Watercraft Slayer and influencing all of our designs.

Philip Ruckart -
Dee Kaminski -
David Harper -
Neil Taylor -
Mark Patterson -
Rich Jones -
Mark and Kris Lozier -
Steve Gibson -
Nathan Raycroft -
Keith Hendrickson -

I hope we see you out there on the water soon!

Here is a link to an album of photos of the Development of the Slayer

Here is to the crew that makes Native Watercraft and Liquidlogic Kayaks happen!

Shaneslogic Comments