Nicole Mansfield comes on the show and fills us in on her recent multi-sport trip in the Frank Church Wilderness, Ben Kinsella shares a sincere letter about finding your stoke after tradgedy and of course rants and raves. As always thanks for listening.
Old School Boat Review
I know what you and most or the Hammer Factor audience are thinking…”Who/what the fuck is Hydra?” “They had a Dragonfly II?…Was there a Dragonfly I?”
Well, Hydra was a player in the 1980s-early 1990s plastic boat industry. (We had so many choices in plastic boats from Perception, Prijon, Noah, Hydra, and a few from Seda and Wavesport in 1988ish!) They were based in Tennessee and went through several different ownerships, before ceasing production. But a few things of note about Hydra:
-They were manufactured for a while by plastics manufacturers that molded all sorts of other plastic equipment/products. First, Plastics Industries in Athens TN, later Rotocast Plastics in Knoxville TN produced Hydra boats. They also made sea kayaks and rec boats, in addition to whitewater designs. 30+ years ago, it seems like kayak companies had the same challenges as companies today in regards to manufacturing costs/facilities and the viability of standalone kayak production.
-Hydra was one of the first kayak companies to use linear polyethylene (market as Tuf-lite), while most everyone else at the time used cross-link.
-They manufactured many of Tom Johnson’s (of Hollowform) designs, such as the Taurus, Swift, Centaur and Duet, as well as western designs such as the Mustang/Matador.
-Hydra made the only plastic whitewater C2, the Duet.
I remember seeing ads for Hydra in old AW Journal magazines and Canoe magazine. I even saw one or two on the river, when I was learning the sport on the Lower Yough. At the time, I thought that the name “Dragonfly” sounded way cooler than “Dancer” or “T-Slalom”. Lately, I’ve seen more Tauruses on Craigslist than Dragonflies. So, I don’t think that they sold too many.
The Dragonfly was one of their later designs (late 80s) and marketed at the time as a lower volume, high performance playboat.
(Above info gathered from memory and Sue Taft’s book The River Chasers.)
Length: 11’ 10’’
Volume: 75 gal
Weight: 35 lbs
*I’m not sure what changes/improvements from the original Dragonfly constituted the name change to the Dragonfly II. It was the 1980s. Sequels were “the new big thing” in 80’s culture.
I found a Hydra Dragonfly one day in Steamboat at a used outdoor/sporting equipment store. They were asking $40. I walked out the door with it in exchange for $20 of hard cold cash.
Looks like a cross between a Dagger Response and Crossfire, stretched out to 12’ in length. The plastic is really soft and pliable. Amazing that it doesn’t show any brittleness or cracks. (Yay for linear polyethylene!) It’s really lightweight for a long, high volume kayak. The original stickers/graphics have fallen off, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Dragonfly II, may be a I, but I think it’s a II. *It’s really hard to find any info or images of these boats online.
The seat is lightweight thermoformed plastic that needs to have foam hip pads glued in. The footbraces are sturdy sliding aluminum, with a trigger on the back for adjustment. The thigh hooks look funky. They are positioned closer to the center pillar than most other boats. But, once sitting in it, I realize that they are really comfortable with the ability to lock your knees out or relax them towards the center. There’s just an old foam sleeping pad block bungeed to the rear pillar for a backbrace. The ethafoam walls are a bid crushed/shrunken from age (and probably laden with spider eggs).
I’ve paddled it a couple of times on Gore Creek in Vail (class III-IV, 800-1000 cfs, extremely cold water) and the Eagle River below Dowd Chute (continuous class III+ at 2500 cfs).
On river performance:
Speedy! One of the faster 12’ boats that I have paddled. The length and flat deck shed water better than expected. The wide flat section under and behind the seat offer great stability. Carving into eddies is not terrible. It doesn’t spin on a dime, but it’s no battle ship either. A good balance between length/speed and maneuverability. You can get it to where you want in the river. If not, the length and pointy ends keep you from getting caught in holes. Also, it’s still a relatively dry boat, only a few sponges worth of water at the end of the day. It front surfs bigger flatter waves fairly well. Didn’t get a chance to try some enders, but I bet they are stratospheric in this thing. *A constant thought during my run was that some of the current designers of modern longboats should take a look at the hull of this and see what makes it work.
Fun boat! The Hydra Dragonfly is/was seriously underrated, as a fast stable 12’er. In class III-IV downriver races, I think it would be just as fast as a Green Boat, Stinger, or Karma UL, faster than a Dancer, Vortex, or Crossfire, and more stable than a Lazer, Excel, or Spirit. I would add 1 or 2 inches of foam to the pillars to increase its water shedding abilities. If you come across one for free to $60, It may make sense to add it to your quiver. But, it fits in a weird middle space. It’s long, too high volume to squirt, but not big enough for steeper stuff/self support. It’s impressive, but there are other old school boats out there that have better features/capabilities and are more plentiful. It currently sits at the bottom of my pile of boats…literally.