By Steve Augustine
Over the past three years my steep creek boat of choice has been the Habitat 80. From Colorado to Ecuador to the local Western North Carolina creeks the Habitat has proven itself time and time again. I had run it down the hardest of all of the whitewater I had ever paddled, and really loved it for many reasons. The size is right, the outfitting is reliable, functional, and safe, and the hull design is pretty great as well.
That being said, I did have some hang-ups with the boat. One was how big it really is. I have always liked the size in the bigger stuff, but the past two years have been drought years and most of the time if I was going to go paddling it was to the Green at low water and the size of the boat really made it hard to make all of the necessary turns required to run the river. Also, I had always felt that the length of the boat held it back especially when it came to shallow perpendicular ledge boofs. The stern always seemed to catch and I would pencil in at the bottom of the drop. Not a big deal when it came to shorter drops, but a big deal when it came to taller drops. I also had issues with how the boat would track when it was planing, like at the bottom of a drop after a boof or after hitting the pool below a slide. The boat would always want to spin out or turn and that really made running what was below that drop exciting. So for all the good and the little bad I still loved the boat and would take it to the hardest stuff without contention.
Then the other day I was perusing the new Wave Sport website, which is pretty snazzy by the way, and got into reading some of the post on their forum. Kelsey Thompson had an interesting point as to where the seat should be positioned to get the boat to peak performance. Counter intuitively he mentioned it should be moved the rear position. My mind had just been blown to say the least. Before the Habitat many of us here had paddled Y’s religiously. It did everything well–as long as the seat was positioned all the way forward. If the seat was in any other position it paddled poorly. Basically what it came down to is it looks like they had built the cockpit about an inch farther back than it should have been. In all of the other boats we have paddled we all always just pushed the seat as far forward as our toes would allow. So when I read that the seat in the Habitat should be moved backwards it was really foreign sounding. So I decided to try it myself. It really remedied all the issues I had with the boat. It boofed even better than before in all the different conditions and in the shallow perpendicular ledge situations the stern was no longer catching. Needless to say I was really excited. It was like I had just paddled the new hot boat on the market for the first time and it kicked butt. Move the seat back? Who knew? The seat position has made all of the difference in all of the creekers I have paddled and it is funny that one was totally to the front, and the latter is to the back. So what this means give the boat you are paddling a chance. Try the outfitting in different configurations. It may get better than you thought possible.