The Hype is Real: A Review of the Waka Sneeze

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The Hype is Real: A Review of the Waka Sneeze

Post by CosmikDebris »

Old habits die hard, or they don’t die at all. They lurk in the primordial ooze of your basic brain, right there next to that drawer of old jeans you can’t seem to throw away. To imply C1ing is a habit may be unfair to habits as they tend to bask triumphantly in the glow of pleasure while C1ing often stares longingly from the corner, sipping whisky mumbling “I’m good sometimes, right?”

Sometime around 2008, under the influence of too many kayakers, I gave up on the ole’ C1. I was curious, I wanted to try kayaking. Perhaps I thought it was the more responsible thing to do, it was safer for my friends on the river when we were running increasingly harder stuff. Maybe it was for the sake of my knees, ankles, hades I don’t know. But I did it, and I’ve spent the following half of my paddling life on my butt, uncomfortable, unable to see, unable to breath, and pretending like it was better. It’s been fun, but dammit that gremlin in the corner is still there.

Last fall, while getting my tele skis waxed up in preparation for some heady turns, I saw a Waka Steeze for sale for an astronomical price for a used boat ($900!) in my town, White Salmon, WA. There’s a lot of hype around the Waka kayaks, a relatively new brand shaped in NZ, molded in Italy, and distributed in the US by 2 people I believe. They’re a truly global company I guess you could say, they get the best paddlers in their boats, and all the bros have them. I was skeptical at first, as anyone who is skeptical enough about trends to find themselves kneeling in whitewater would be, but I couldn’t help but notice their girth and flat, edgy hull. “That’d be a great C1” I thought, as I had about many other boats over the years. The truth is, only a few kayak conversions I’ve had really stuck with me. Liquid Logic Remix 79, Pyranha Everest, and Necky Blunt in the big boat categories. Along comes the Sneeze, I mean Steeze, I mean, that’s not even a real word so let’s stick with Sneeze so my autocorrect chills out. (What is it with these slices stern boats and names that aren’t real words? Braaaap? Steeze?)
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This baby is 9’ long, 26.5” wide, and lots of gallons of volume (does anyone consider that number anymore?) at 79. These specs are strikingly similar to the Remix 79, albeit with a rounder hull, much softer edges, and a drawn out, smoother rocker profile. The Sneeze has a slicey stern that many kayakers struggle to squirt but with the advantage of that leverage, you know what I’m talking about, verticality is well within the realm of the intrepid C1er.

I’ve had this boat since last fall and spent a fair amount of time in it now, enough to feel comfortable espousing my love for her publicly. I probably should have posted this to my Facebook profile. We’ve spent most of our time on Class III, and have just been delving into some Class IV creeking. First things first. This baby is so dam stable. It’s feels like riding a maneuverable dock down the river. She punches through holes and curlers straight and predictably, and she stays on top of things. All that bow rocker and the kick rocker on the stern with the little downturned tail (subtle, but it’s there) really help, I believe, to skip this puppy up and over whatever obstacle may be in your way. The biggest benefit to the stability? Higher pedestal. I’m running a dagger pedestal with 4” of foam on top of the plastic, so that’s got my butt right at 7”. I tried 5” at first but that was too low for the knees, and at 7” I can stay in the boat for an entire run without getting out! 6” is likely where I’ll land when I feel like outfitting again but I don’t feel like 7 has sacrificed stability for me at all so maybe I’ll stay there.

I feel like edges are really a friend to the C1er, having the leverage and ability to subtly use them arguably makes them more valuable to the kneelers than the neanderthals butt sitters. The ability to keep the boat flat or edge slightly engaged and pivot is paramount to what we do, and coming back to the flat bottom really helps that. The stern hasn’t provided me with any unsavory or undesired back enders yet either. There’s enough rocker to keep it high and dry except for when you need it, and while it’s “slicey” there’s still several basketballs worth of booty right behind your own so don’t think of this thing as a Mr. Clean.

So the boat stays on top, it’s super stable, it’s comfortable it punches features really well, it boofs, it squirts, but what about surfing? Oh yea, she surfs. She flat spins on green waves, she’s basically a 9’ playboat that if she had a slicey bow would be a blunting, cartwheeling machine. This is important because in the quest of the one boat quiver, you want something safe but also fun. I feel like the Sneeze really hits this nail on the head.
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Ya, but how is it to outfit? Glad you asked. The cockpit rim has one of those rolled over rims, and the seat attaches to some vertical tabs that are attached to the inside of the cockpit rim. This is a great place for thigh straps, and keeps less holes in your boat for water ingress. The thigh braces “can” work in the boat, but now that I’m committed to keeping her, I’m going to hack them out. They could be modified into some sort of bulkhead I believe but I’ve A) never been a fan of bulkheads in a creek boat and B) think I might wanna move forward another half inch. That’s a bit of a bother because this Sneeze will forever be a C1 but I can’t really see a reason to mover on down the line so what the hades. The plastic is flexible on these boats, and that is my greatest concern. I feel like I have my seat in there pretty well but something like Corran’s new saddle or some sort of homemade carbon or rail system might help. I still like to boat barefoot so…. that says something about my brain. Maybe that’s why my friends convinced me to kayak, so I’d wear shoes…
I’d say if you’re looking for a fun, capable, surfing, largely surface based river runner and your at 200lb or less, the Steeze should be at the top of your list in boats to consider. They’re hard to get, you’ll have to deal with the embarrassment of being on the trendy side of whitewater, and they’re pricey, but of all the boats I’ve paddled, I’m a believer in the new church of tons of bow rocker, kick rocker sterns, flat-as bottoms and good edges. I haven’t paddled one but I imagine the creeker version, the OG, would have similar friendly but responsive characteristics and would make an excellent creek boat. So that has it, I’ve had some of the more enjoyable days on the river of the last decade in the last few months just feeling young and sporty again. I’m not sorry I left, because as Paul Schriener told me once, don’t regret anything because you’d never be where you are if things had been different, but I’m sure glad to be back!
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Re: The Hype is Real: A Review of the Waka Sneeze

Post by Paddle Power »

At 26.5” wide that seems perfect for a C1.
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