Words by Shawn “The Professor” Fullmer
As usual, since I first started kayaking in 1983, I got a new creek boat for the 2017 season. However, what is unusual about this year is the outstanding quality of the the creek boat I purchased—the medium Pyranha Machno.
I had major shoulder surgery on my rotator cuff September 15, 2016, so I’ve been easing into creek boating this season. Four hours under the knife, eight incisions, 12 screws, and 100s of hours in the gym resulted in a serviceable shoulder. Never-the-less, even with the operation and the rehabilitation, I’ve been able to run some spectacular water this spring and summer in the Machno.
For this review, I’ll discuss the Machno’s performance on smaller creeks, such as 3rd gorge of Lime (a medium flow) and Vallecito (a dozen runs from 2.0 to 2.4 (about 400 to 500 cfs). I’ll also note its performance on larger volume rivers, such as the South Fork of the Salmon at 6.0-6.5 feet (about 10,000 cfs) (as Isaac Levinson noted at the take out, this is THE TEETH LEVEL), Marsh Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon at 6.0 and 8.0 feet (about 6,000 to 8,000 cfs), and the Murtaugh section of the Snake at 15,000 cfs.
As soon as I saw the lines of the medium Machno, I knew it would fit me well. I’m 5’10”, 170 pounds, and wear a size 10 boot. The medium Machno is listed on the Pyranha website as weighing 47.4 pounds, having a volume of 81.4 gallons, and measuring 8’8” feet in length. According to my measuring tape, the 8’8” is correct; however, my scale, which is accurate, shows my Machno weighing 55 pounds. But the contour of the thigh and hip pads, and the ergonomically designed phalanges and carpal shaped center pillar, make carrying the Machno feel lighter.
In terms of the volume, I thought the medium Machno felt larger on the river than 81.4 gallons. This observation is based on having paddled a Prijon Cali, listed at 90 gallons, last year, and a Wavesport Recon 93 a few years ago. In between these two boats I paddled a Liquid Logic Remix 79 and a medium Jackson Karma (86 gallons). The Machno moves, resurfaces, and paddles like a kayak with 88 to 90 gallons of volume. However, the larger feeling is a feature I definitely appreciate. Even with this larger feel, the Machno is agile on waves and in holes, and quick to turn and accelerate. I paddled a regular-sized 9R on the run out for Baker’s Box and thought the two kayaks were similar in speed.
On smaller creeks, such as Lime and Vallecito, the Machno is stable and forgiving. The banana-like bow rocker makes boofing pour overs and waterfalls as smooth as Cool-Whip. This rocker, combined with chines running from just behind the bow to the stern, provides good edge control when needed to snap into eddies or move across waves and currents. This became satisfyingly evident to me on Vallecito on the right to left move over the hole midway through Paddle B*tch. The Machno kept me on line and my hair dry 12 out of 12 times.
On higher volume water, the Machno was also stable and predictable. Even when loaded down with gear for a four-day self-support trip on Marsh Creek/the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Machno maintained its buoyancy, nimbleness, and speed. And in the last rapid of the South Fork of the Salmon, Falls Creek, which has numerous gigantic, stout holes, and many, many enormous 20-25 foot waves, the Machno rode over the waves gracefully, and punched through or surfed over the holes resolutely.
Living in Durango, I do a lot of hiking to go boating on the local runs, such as Baker’s Box, Vallecito, and the 3rd gorge of Lime. The Machno is comfortable to shoulder carry, and even more comfortable to carry on one’s head or in a backpack. I have a Salamander backpack, an NRS backpack, and a Pyranha backpack. I attached all three to the Machno, and each type fit the kayak well, with the Pyranha working the best. The step out pillar of the Machno invites snug compatibility with the top strap of the Pyranha backpack.
I found the Machno easy to pack for multi-day trips. I paddled it on a couple of two-day trips—one on Marsh Creek/the Middle Fork of the Salmon and another on the South Fork of the Salmon. I also took it on a four-day trip on Marsh Creek/the Middle Fork of the Salmon. On each of these trips I had plenty of room for food and gear.
The Machno’s bulkhead is held in place by four easy to remove plastic wing-nuts. In front of the bulkhead, I stored my cook kit, stove, water filter, camp chair, and some food. This provided a fine balance to the sleeping bag, NeoAir, bivy sack, clothes, and food stored in the stern. However, stuffing a Watershed Futa bag into the stern storage was onerous. Getting the Futa bag past the initial entrance to the stern took some wrestling, wrangling, and leg pressing, but once the buckles were past the first six inches of the stern, there was plenty of room.
Overall, the Machno is one of the best creek/river running boats I’ve paddled in my 34 years of kayaking. It’s comfortable, safe, stable, and maneuverable. If you are looking for a reliable and predictable kayak, then I highly recommend the Machno.
- Simple, comfortable outfitting.
- Easy to pack for overnighters.
- Tough plastic.
- Fast and agile on small creeks and big water.
- Rastafarian colors fit well with Coloradan life styling.
- The bulkhead could be stouter, particularly the metal rails.
- The ratchets for the backband often bind, neither moving forward nor releasing.