Throughout the past several years, I've found many sit on top surf boats while searching the web for used kayaks. The Perception 5-0, the Islander Big Stick, and the Pyranha Surf Jet 305 were all a part of my fleet at one time or another. These high performance surf kayaks have brought me many enjoyable days at the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.
However, one class of kayak that has always eluded me was a whitewater sit on top. The new models have always been more than I was looking to spend, and used models like the Perception Torrent were always few and far between.
So last January when I saw a Dagger Pegasus show up on Craigslist, I didn't hesitate to seal the deal and bring it home. And home is where it remained, until the last day in March, when I finally had the chance to put the Pegasus on some mild whitewater.
Falls of the Neuse in Raleigh was running at about 1100 cfs. This section of the Neuse River consists of a popular surfing wave created by the release of the Falls Dam, followed by about a quarter mile of rapids down river of the wave. A small island splits up the quarter mile section, where paddlers can take the river right channel for some creeky lines and small holes, or they can go river left and paddle through the wave trains on the wider section of river.
The river left channel has some fun
Both channels offer some surfing opportunities at different levels. This section is also the future site of the Falls Whitewater Park, which will provide the whitewater features at lower river levels, therefore creating significantly more paddling days throughout the year. The Neuse Greenway Trail runs right along the river, and on a warm weekend day it is a hotspot for runners and cyclists.
Fishermen cast from the banks for catfish, striped bass, white perch, bluegills, shad, and other species, while fly fishermen wade in the eddies and throw an assortment of flies.
Families picnic and watch the action that surrounds them, often intrigued by the kayakers that appear to be kayaking against the current as they surf the center wave. Falls of the Neuse is a small adventure hub for the Raleigh area, and a great place to try out a new boat on some fun rapids.
The Dagger Pegasus is a well-built kayak. Equipped with thigh straps and adjustable foot braces, the boat feels stable as it punches through wave trains on the open river. I plan on using my Pegasus for the Great Rappahannock race in Virginia in June, and I thought doing laps at the Falls of the Neuse would be an excellent way to get comfortable paddling the boat on moving water.
Right off the bat, I was very impressed with how well the Pegasus was able to ferry across the river. Peel outs and peel ins were just as easy as they are in my shorter closed deck whitewater boat.
On moving water, the Pegasus tracks straight like a touring kayak and maneuvers like a river runner. The 10'2" Pegasus is able to get decent speed on flat water sections, an attribute that will be important to me on the 5.5 mile Rappahannock course. At just over 50 pounds, the Dagger is a bit of a chore to carry, but feels relatively light on the water.
I finished my last lap feeling pretty good about using the Pegasus at the Great Rappahannock race, as it erased all the doubts I had about using a sit on top kayak for a downriver whitewater race. The boat took on very little water during each lap, and the drain holes in the hull kept a good amount of water off of the deck. However, training aside, there was one more area in which I wanted to test the Pegasus while on the river.
The put-in, just below the dam.
Sit on tops seem to make excellent surf boats in the ocean, but I've always been skeptical on how well they can perform on a river wave. On the river left channel, I was able to find a perfect little standing wave to test out the Pegasus' surfing ability.
Ferrying on to the wave required some hard paddling, but once on the wave I was able to enjoy what seemed like an endless surf session.
A sit-in kayaker plays on the center wave.
At times, I had to paddle hard and rudder the boat to carve up and down, while at other times I was able to lean back and effortlessly stay in the sweet spot of the wave.
When the bow would go under, I was able to make minor adjustments to bring it back up and maintain my position on the wave.
I left the river a firm believer in the surfing ability of a well-made sit on top. With Dagger's history in whitewater boats, it should come as no surprise to me that they knew exactly what they were doing when they designed the Pegasus.
While I don't have any other whitewater SOT's to compare it to, I can say with full certainty that the Dagger Pegasus is high performance kayak on the river.
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