Riot Thunder 76 Whitewater Kayak Specifications
|86 x 47cm
|https://peakuk.com/ or https://www.riotkayaks.com/
Over the last few years it’s become the norm for manufacturers to try and blend the safety features, volume, and predictable handling of a creekboat with the playability of flat hulled playboat.
This is presumably to create a river running ‘Jack of all Trades’ that can hold its own when things get steep, but still surf it up should you come across a good play wave, or hole, on your way down the river.
The Riot Thunder falls firmly in to this camp.
The 76 that we used for this review is the ‘big’ version of this boat and we’ve been giving it the long-termer treatment over the last couple of months.
On first inspection it’s a boat that caught the attention of our testers.
Riot have always gone the extra mile on the styling of their boats, but it goes a bit deeper with the Thunder, it just had the look of a boat that seemed right.
Shaped by veteran pro paddler and kayak designer, Arnd Shaeftlein, and with input by Steve Fischer, both the 76 and it’s smaller brother the 65 have a large dose of river running pedigree in their make-up.
It sports a fast, flat hull with just the right amount of edge combined with enough deck volume to keep you floating high, so you can carve into and out of eddies with ease or cruise across boiling eddy lines and zip down river surfing waves and curlers as you go.
On The Water
The 76 is a big boat, and with 288 litres of volume it can comfortably float the larger framed amongst us.
As with all big boats, it pays to spend a bit of extra time getting the padding just right, but get a good positive fit and the Thunder will repay you with very positive performance on the water.
The first thing that struck us was that it was fast for a boat of its kind, and our tester’s found it easy to control, quick on an edge and very easy to paddle.
Riot boats have a reputation for being fairly hard to handle if your not at the top of your game, but the Thunder shrugs off that label and provides a very stable, easy-going platform that’s easy to roll and inspires confidence in the paddler.
We had it out on a variety of rivers. Starting with the fast flowing alpine runs of the French Alps, through classic Welsh runs to the man-made concrete of the whitewater course at Nottingham.
The Thunder handled them all with excellent river manners.
It resurfaces well enough on steeper drops, although it clearly isn’t a full-on creeker.
If you’re addicted to the truly steep you’d be better off checking out a Riot Magnum, and to use an old boat review cliché auto-boofs when required.
It gets up to speed quickly, and has a lively, manoeuvrable feel, which we liked.
When things get a bit bigger it holds its lines well and responds well to a positive, driving style.
Punching holes was okay, but we did have a small issue with its tail.
Hit a hole under-speed, off-line or in a lazy-boy leaning back style and you’re sometimes going to find yourself looking at the bow and sky as you stern-squirt instead of punching through and heading downriver.
Get the power down and your weight forward though, and all will be well, as we said above this is an easy boat to paddle, but for hole punching duties it likes you to pay attention!
Find a good wave and the Thunder will put a smile on your face, it carves up a wave really well and you’ll be forgiven for forgetting you’re in such a big boat.
It does as it’s told and switches edges smoothly.
In the hole it’s steady and predictable and gives a good platform to set up for spins and even the odd loop if you’re feeling brave.
Fixtures & Outfitting
We’ve never been massive fans of Riots outfitting and although the Thunder, in our opinion, certainly has some big improvement on previous Riot versions, we still had a few niggles.
The seat was comfortable and we liked the solid feeling bulkhead style footrest.
The thigh grips where okay, but felt much better with a bit of extra padding.
The backrest is positive and provides good support, but it does make getting gear in the rear of the boat a pain.
We’d recommend cutting the strip of neoprene that joins the backrest to the seat. This then enables you to lay the backrest flat, which then means it’s easy and simple to access the stern.
The safety bar and grab loop positioning is great but we had an issue with the raised heads of the bolts securing the grab-loops.
On several occasions testers caught their knuckles/fingers on the exposed Phillips heads causing a scrape or cut. Not so good during a difficult portage or while trying to haul your mate out.
A few layers of gaffer tape would sort it, but we’d like to see Riot improve on this system for the future.
- A good all-rounder suitable for a range of waters, especially UK rivers.
- Suitable even for the larger framed paddler.
- Nice styling.
- Excellent river manners.
- Not the best option for those who truly love the steepest runs.
- Cuts and scrapes from the exposed Phillips heads on the grab loops.
- Extra padding added to the thigh grips a lot.
- Small tail issue, especially when punching holes.
The Thunder 76 is a fun boat to paddle and we certainly enjoyed our time in it.
It’s certainly suited to UK paddling and we can see it fitting in to a few different niches.
It really is a great all-around downriver boat for paddlers who want to stay on top of the water, but are also into playing their way down a run, and it’s a worthy creeker for the more advanced boater who likes to push it, run grade 4-5 and hit the odd play move (rock spin, grind, smear etc) on the way.
With its easy nature and ease to roll, it would also make a good platform for both instructor and whitewater improver.
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