Before making my third boat purchase at Canoecopia 2015, I knew I wanted a crossover because I needed a smaller boat for the variety of paddling we do – from small creeks to narrow rivers, whitewater to flatwater. And a crossover allows you the best of both of those worlds.
What makes it a crossover is that they’re built with a whitewater body and a retractable skeg that allows you to track in a straight line – a feature that makes this a really attractive purchase for those of us who paddle streams that are part-whitewater, part-flatwater. (For example, it’s ideal for this historic and perfectly balanced and beautiful section of the Bois Brule River). Add to that, the added benefit of a storage hatch, and an overnight on the river is now in the cards.
My desire to purchase a creek-boat came as a result of a particularly difficult struggle on Morman Creek. At an absolutely nasty pile of deadfall, debris, garbage and a rotting carcass of God-knows-what, I literally couldn’t pull me or my boat up or even get near the mess due to the length of my 14′ kayak. And it was also too deep to get out. Timothy came to the rescue by pulling me and the boat over the jam with some rope in a MacGyver/John Wayne lasso-style rescue while standing precariously on the pile. (My hero!)
It was the final straw though. I said to myself, “We’re gonna need a smaller boat”.
After researching all of my crossover options – and I did a lot of research – ultimately, it came down to actually paddling them. I had my heart set on the Liquid Logic XP9. I loved the look, style and features of it. I figured it was a slam-dunk purchase. So I went and test-paddled four boats to prepare myself for a Canoecopia purchase (a great place to buy a boat due to the discount) and to prevent a Mormon Creek situation going forward.
After testing all four crossovers that were on the market at the time, I chose the Pyranha Fusion. It was easily the most comfortable and stable, yet still responsive. As much as I’d always wanted that Liquid Logic XP9, of the four, it ranked third on my test-paddle. (The XP does have a seat you could fall asleep in and the skeg “deployer” is more user-friendly. But the downside is its storage hatch is prone to water seeping in, as it’s more a plastic hatch than a rubber seal. The XP also sits a little lower than the Fusion, which means more water can lap up from the sides of the cockpit. The Fusion has higher sidewalls, if you will).
The Pyranha Fusion was hands-down my favorite, followed by the Jackson Rogue, then XP9 (both the Jackson and Liquid Logic are incredibly similar) and finally the Dagger which had the coolest colors but the worst cockpit unless you have tree trunks for thighs.
I know more people that own Fusions than any other boat (including my partner-in-crime, Timothy). They track well on flatwater and respond well in whitewater. After a year-plus of use, I’m very happy with the decision, but it’s a recommended purchase that does come with some considerations.
What We Like:
The Fusion is rock solid, agile, unbelievably stable, nimble, durable, versatile, all that jazz. The storage hatch in the back is tight and keeps everything bone-dry inside.
The Connect Seat system is comfortable and easy to adjust but there is less back support in general (the system is more of a back band versus a back rest. Though it’s comfortable on its own, there is understandably, less back height and therefore, not much support. So on longer journeys, some may find it uncomfortable. To remedy that, if you’re the sometimes-leisurely paddler, (of which we can tend to be from time-to-time) we recommend buying an add-on like the Seattle Sports EZ Kayak Seat (or something similar, as there are a lot on the market). We both have them and they add a bit of comfortable back support (without being too bulky) on paddles that have more flatwater stretches.
The Fusion comes with hip pads and thigh grips uninstalled so as to outfit to your liking, as well as heavy-duty foam for the front plate (there are no foot pedals/stirrups – again, this is also a whitewater boat and this is a feature of whitewater boats).
The weight of the boat is noticably light (and lighter than the other options available). It even feels lighter than Timothy’s “older” Fusion (but then again, he often picks up rocks he finds along the way, so I’ve never gotten a true weigh-in on his).
The grab handles are sturdy and convenient. It also comes with a plastic watertight case called the Deck Pod that sits in a molded depression directly in front of you. Don’t fall in love with it though, it’s the first thing people seem to lose when they capsize (or it flies out of the boat on a shuttle).
What We Don’t Like:
First, let me be clear, I love this boat. Second, we only review gear we use and recommend and while we highly recommend the Fusion, we do need be honest and highlight some first-hand issues – otherwise, we’d be doing you a disservice. And buying a new boat is a big decision, as it will become your second skin and you should feel comfortable in your own skin, right?
There are a few less-than-ideal aspects to the Fusion. First, the skeg itself, which ironically, is also its main selling point. The skeg pull-cord can be a bit stubborn to deploy sometimes, especially as it ages. And as anything with moving parts goes, the more parts there are to move, the more parts there are to break.
After only 12-months with my new boat (on a trip to the Grant River) the skeg cord busted, rendering my skeg always deployed in an oddly inverted manner. Luckily, it was our last paddle of the weekend.
I contacted customer service for some insight into how often this happens and of course, what they recommend to replace the cord. Pyranha responded, hardly sympathetic to the situation and simply told me what size cord to replace it with. There were no apologies and definitely no offer to send me some courtesy cord (worth 75 cents). It was from that point on that I carry extra cord incase it should happen again mid-stream. But lemme tell you, it’s not the easiest thing to fix.
Then of course, there’s Timothy’s Fusion. He’s had more than a few problems.
First, there was some loose, then lost, internal hardware that kept his right knee brace intact. Thankfully, Pyranha’s customer service remedied that situation and sent replacement hardware.
The biggest issue though, are the three cracks his boat has endured. Under the “key features” menu on the Fusion page, Pyranha touts the “Super Stable and Forgiving Hull”. While I’m sure that’s the intended promise, Timothy’s boat certainly begs to differ. It has suffered two cracks and then a crack that turned into a hole. Mind you, he does paddle more than the average bear but still, he only bought this boat in 2012. His repeat contact with customer service yielded little in the way of direct help on how to fix the issue, so he has had it serviced locally by a guy who once worked at the in-house service at Rutabaga. Unfortunately, that fix didn’t take, so now he has been trying to remedy it himself. (Some exhibits: a crack, a hole, and a fix?) Throughout all of this, he has gotten used to (and pretty good at) paddling (and bailing out) a leaky boat.
Oh, and he lost that Deck Pod (but it was on a class III some time ago – when I’m sure he had no business being on it in the first place).
Regardless, maybe he’s the exception? Maybe it’s just bad luck? I mean, he does have a sticker on the back that says “Uff-Dah”, so maybe he cursed the boat?
The Final Word:
Despite my own cord/skeg issue, I love this boat. It’s the perfect size for what we do – explore small streams throughout Wisconsin. And unless mine suffers the same fate as Timothy’s, I don’t see that changing (but if it does, I will certainly revisit this recommendation). Again, I do know many others who have had their Fusions for years without any issues at all, so my glass is all-full.
Soon after my purchase, we (finally) took a whitewater class at the Wausau Whitewater Park to learn a thing or two and experience the best of both worlds a boat like this offers. It was awesome, yet eye-opening. It was there we learned the difference between whitewater and the kind of whitewater we like to run – not so much playboating as much as barreling down rapids, come what may (that’s just our preference).
On wider bodies of water, I would still stick with a touring kayak (my still beloved Wilderness) but the Pyhrana Fusion is just a damn fun boat to paddle and it certainly makes creeks more accessible and creeking more fun.