Cataraft running Eye of the Needle.

2024 AIRE Wave Destroyer 13' Cataraft Review By Dana Kopf

Dana Kopf

I've been a big fan of small Catarafts for a long time, but I switched to rafts while the kids were growing up. Now, with the kids headed off on their own, it was time to return to cat boating.

After looking at several offerings from different manufacturers, I chose the AIRE Wave Destroyer 13 for its design, durability and value. The 13 is quite obviously 13 feet long with 22 inch diameter tubes and weighs 58 lbs. I called up Tony Miely from 4Corners Riversports to place my order in the Fall of 2023. I also ordered a set of three Cataract oars and blades, and a small Salamander drybox from 4Corners. The friendly staff can help you figure out the best setup for your needs. I wanted a lightweight, breakdown frame to go with my boat, so I ordered a Whitewater Machine Works frame out of Groveland, California. In both cases, it was important to allow plenty of lead time before I needed the boat.

First test - Salt River Arizona

The Salt was running at around 2,000 CFS, a perfect level for a 4-day float in the desert sun. I setup the boat "Idaho style", with the single rower up front, a bay with a drop-bag behind the rower for soft gear, and finally a small drybox in the back. This configuratIon allows for a balanced weight distribution.

Lunch stop at Canyon Creek
Lunch break at Canyon Creek, Salt River Arizona
Photo credit: Dana Kopf

Once on the water, the boat performed like a sports car, letting me move anywhere I desired. I did spend some time each night at camp adjusting the location of my oar towers, since that's never quite right on a new rig.

Next test - Piedra River Colorado

After the Salt I was ready to take the boat out on my home river, the Piedra. This remote river has some challenging rapids that are difficult to row due to the narrowness of the run. I did two runs over a couple different weekends at moderate flows. Once again, the boat performed flawlessly, even though two other boats flipped during our second run.

Cataraft running Eye of the Needle
Tucking the oars in Eye of the Needle rapid, Piedra River Colorado
Photo credit: Justin Merritt

Third test - Idaho

Idaho is possibly the best place in the United States for multi-day whitewater, and I've made the trip almost every year in the past decade. This round started on the Jarbidge river, known for its difficult portages and narrow, tight rapids. We went backpack style, but I am sure I could have brought less stuff to lighten the load. It helps to have friends along who are willing to pitch in.

Cataraft running Wally's Wallow
Wally's Wallow on the Jarbidge River Idaho
Photo credit: Justin Merritt

The Jarbidge feeds you into the Bruneau River, with towering cliffs, a very cool side hike, and heads-up class IV whitewater. After the Jarbidge/Bruneau, we headed up to the Lochsa River for a couple of day runs. The cat lived up to its name, destroying Lochsa Falls and other class IV rapids.

At the end of our 2nd day on the Lochsa, it began raining for over 24 hours straight. This heightened my anxiety for our next objective, the Selway River. Anything over 5 6. on the gage is considered high water, bringing with it bigger waves, holes and speed. Since the river was rising quickly, I waited until the morning of my launch to make the decision to go for it.

On launch day, the Paradise gage was reading 5.2 ft. (over 16,000 CFS at the takeout) and had dropped from the peak the night before. As it turned out, the reading remained over 5 ft throughout the duration of our trip, but again the Wave Destroyer delivered. I was able to navigate rapids such as Goat Creek and Ham without scouting or incident. We spent some time on day two scouting the bigger rapids planned for day three, including Double Drop through Ladle. Double Drop looked massive, with no way to avoid the first curling lateral wave. This wave was followed by a second house sized, crashing, monster of a wave. My plan was to use the first wave to deflect the boat left of the second, bigger wave. After a final night of sleep, we launched into the biggest water I've run to date in the boat. The plan worked, and the boat cruised through the rest of the rapids. I had to be careful to avoid some of the holes sprinkled throughout the run, as this could lead to an undesired surf session.

Scouting Wolf Creek rapid
Scouting Wolf Creek Rapid, Selway River Idaho
Photo credit: Dana Kopf

Final Thoughts

I am thoroughly impressed with the AIRE Wave Destroyer 13. It's ability to handle a wide variety of rapids and flow volumes make it an incredibly versatile one-person craft. I was able to easily carry enough food for a week, plus a firepan and groover for the group. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this setup to anyone looking for a boat that can handle up to class V rapids at all but the highest flows. Give 4 Corners Riversports a call to order your Wave Destroyer today.

Pros: lightweight, durable, maneuverable, capable, fun!

Cons: the 13 is a tad small for the biggest volume rivers and not suitable for taking passengers (which can be considered a pro).

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