Monday, January 2, 2017

Nomad (Newmad) Review - First Impressions

The original Nomad was a successful boat for a inordinately long time. I think that the two big parts of what made it such a hit through several generations were: how easily it boofs, and how fast it was. You could lift that bow up over anything, and it was also reasonably fast for when it was introduced. As times changed, the standards for speed also changed, so it eventually fell behind.

Of course, this is all guesswork on my part, because the old large nomad is nowhere near large enough for me. I paddled one a couple times, but it was hilariously undersized, and I spent a lot of time chest deep in the water after boofs.

Well, enter the New Nomad (the Newmad). There are three sizes, and the large size is great for me. I'm 6'7", 220 lbs, 36 inch inseam and size 14 feet. I as able to hop into the large with my shoes on and make no special modifications to the outfitting. In fact, my footpegs aren't all the way forward, there is an extra notch available, and I was able to fit the little foam wedges in up there too. The seat is centered. There is plenty of space. It also floats me great.

The first time I paddled the Newmad was during the Little White Salmon Race, for the team race. The boat is very predicable. I was able to get in it and immediately feel ready for solid class V, with no period of getting used to the edges, the turning, or the boof. I liked it so much on that one day that I bought one a couple months later. I've paddled it for about two weeks since then, mostly on the Little White, but a little bit on the Green Truss and a couple other random creeks too. Here are my first impressions.
Having fun boofing on the LW

First off, my general impression is that it's a faster version of the old classic. It's got an incredible boof, and yet it also carries a good amount of speed. Even after a week of getting more used to it, I am still a little surprised sometimes when I am able to boof over something that I didn't think I'd be able to clear. I've also been working on gradually getting my weight more forward, since I don't have to lean back to keep the bow up. I'm also starting to better understand the speed. It can be incredibly fast sometimes.

Cruising towards a rapid on the Lower New River, CA.

The boat likes to go straight. I keep flip flopping over whether this is a benefit or a drawback. When paddling boats like the 9R large and the Cali, I tended to spin out sometimes. The Newmad feels like I can keep it going straight downstream more of the time, and devote more energy to forward strokes. I still spin out in the Newmad, but it's a little rarer. However, when I do spin out, or when I need to make an aggressive direction change, the Newmad can take a lot of muscle to get turned around to the new target. I'm still kind of getting a feel for how best to work the boat, so I'll have more comments on this if I do a longer term review.

Tied in with the tracking are the edges. The hull is not a sharp planing hull, it's pretty rounded. Planing hulls aren't a yes/no type thing, though, they're a continuum. There are some edges on the Newmad, and they do things, but they are not as sharp as the edges on more aggressive boats like the Axiom. This has benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is that edging isn't as crucial; you can get away with some mistakes. In something like the Axiom, if you try to boof with the wrong edge dropped, the boat will not behave the way you wanted it to. In the Newmad, you can be recovering from one move, slightly on the wrong edge, and crush into the next boof in the rapid a little off balance, but still keep your bow up and land more or less in control. On the flipside, for racers and super steezy paddlers, if you've got practice using a very edgy boat, you can use fine edge control in dicey situations to make the boat really zip around, turn, and cut sideways, all with just the edges and no paddle. Another benefit of the Newmad edges is that they behave mostly the same at almost any speed. With flatter hulls, edging at low speeds is different from edging while in the middle of skipping out after a big boof. The Newmad is more predictable. As I said, it's a continuum, so it's not like you can't make some no-paddle moves and carves in the Newmad, but it's more on the forgiving end of the spectrum than the carvey end.

Of course, the reason for the forgiving edges is that the hull is more rounded than the Axiom or 9R. This has effects in other areas too. Mostly, the speed is a different type of speed. In a more flat planing hull, you can often skip out after boofs, and carry lots of speed while up on plane after landing. The Newmad, with its rounder hull, does not carry much of a skip. You can hit a really satisfying boof, with your bow dry, but you've only got one or two strokes worth of wheelie after you land. With that said, this is still a fast boat. Its speed comes in the inbetween stuff: the approaches to boofs, the wavetrains in the middle of rapids, and the little half-boofs over and around the sides of small waves and holes.
"Portage" on the Lower New

For those of you familiar with the LW, I'm saying that I'm fast through a lot of Gettin Busy, Island, and the inbetween rapids, but don't get quite as much skip on ledges like sacriledge, backender, right side S turn, and Bowie's. Overall, I feel like this averages out, and the Newmad is still a plenty fast boat. And as with the edges, it's a continuum. I'm not saying that there's no skip, it's just farther along the specrtum away from the skip.
Finishing a ledge boof, bow up, but not skipping out like a planing hull.

It's not coming through clearly enough here how damn easy it is to boof the Newmad. You can lift that bow up over just about anything. I found it a little amusing that I can overdo the boof. When running Spirit the first few times in this boat, I reflexively pulled a moderate boof to try to hit that 45 degree touchdown. That quick easy little boof stroke sent me straight to flat, and I pancaked my first few landings. I've been slowly figuring out the new boof balance point for big drops. It takes a light touch to control that angle. I did a couple runs with no boof, where I came in too vertical, and have started to figure out how to hold tension without pulling up into a full boof. On normal sized rapids, I love keeping the bow dry through every single move.

Also, I was surprised to find that I'd dented in my stern after a couple LW runs. This seems like a much more common issue on the 9R and the Tuna. I had thought the Newmad had more stern rocker and this wouldn't be an issue. Boats with squared-off sterns tend to break when they stern-tap, but the Newmad seemed fine. I left mine untended for several days, hitting the same rock every day, then just last night heated up some water and poked the dent out. It popped right out and looks good as new now.