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Astral Bella and Pyranha Rev Review from Andria

My Stats

Height: 5'4"
Weight: 125 lbs.
Inseam: 28"
Feet: 9

Here is a quick small Rev review for those looking to playboat on the Gauley! The small size seems good for paddlers up to about 140 lbs. I tend to go lower than the company recommendations so that a boat can perform without the edges sinking under and becoming less playful. If you get a playboat too small, you will find it difficult to stay in play features.

I am actually a good reviewer because I am not much of a playboater. I have been learning over the years, but have had difficulties due to time, distance to play, and multiple injuries. So, I can give you an opinion of performance from someone who is learning, not someone who can loop anything.

Andria in the small Rev and new Astral Bella PFD. Boating makes me smile (usually!)

The first feature that I noticed about the Rev is that it is great downriver. Usually when I jump in a playboat for the first time in a while, I am scared and get flipped over everywhere going downriver. This is not the case with the small Rev. It's the best playboat for downriver that I have paddled yet. It is so stable! It's so wierd because its such a small boat. I think it's because of two reasons: 1. the boat has a very short stern, so there is no boat for the river to grab as you go by and flip you over unexpectedly. This is an awesome feature in say, "Second Drop" of Lost Paddle where you want to stay upright and keep your face. 2. The boat is small enough for me to handle. If I get a little unstable or offline, I can boss this boat around! I ran Lochsa Falls at 11,000 cfs without flipping! And I can run the pillow at Pillow without flipping too! I have also made it through Iron Ring and Sweets without flipping last weekend too. And I have very rarely ever run Sweets without flipping over!

Hanging at my local playspot, "Jaws" with Dave Fusilli.

The short and well balanced stern gets under the surface just enough to have fun but doesn't hang and lose control.

Next, the boat is easy to roll. I learned to roll back when short boats just were coming into fashion in 1999-2000. I was so frustrated because they made playboats so wide that it took me forever to learn to get my body around the boat and sometimes I couldn't. I am so glad that kayak manufacturers figured that out and stopped doing that! Anyway, the small Rev is super easy to reach around and roll up for those with shorter torsos.

Flipping is rarer in this boat because its easy to control, but when it does happen, its easy to roll!

Because the boat is narrow and has a short stern, its super easy to spin or cartwheel. I still can't really get the boat down in flatwater, but it doesn't take nearly as much current as the 420 needed. But, hey, are we flatwater paddlers or whitewater paddlers? Anyway, the boat is super easy for us shorter peeps to get the body rotated around.

Spinning is coming much easier in this boat for me than any other.

The small Rev is easy to carve from edge to edge too--its very stable and narrow at the same time.

Its a wave surfer for sure! God, I have fallen in love with wave surfing. And this boat is dreamy. I thought I would have trouble giving up surfing in my Recoil because it surfs so good, but dang if the Rev doesn't surf better! It has excellent rocker. You can really get down in the trough of a wave and not worry about pearling at all. In fact, if you want to loop, you are going to have to smash the bow in. Its awesome though, because it generates alot of energy as the boat glides down the face of the wave and if you then smash that bow in....wham--you are going to throw some nasty tricks. But if you are like me and you are learning to control the boat in front and back surfs for now, the ends won't catch and you can focus on surfing and not doing a bunch of stuff out of control. Its also really bouncy on the waves. I am getting way fun rides on the big waves on the Gauley. I am also surfing some of the tiniest little waves as well. Its cool because if I don't want to wait in line, I just paddle downstream and find some obscure wave, catch it on the fly (the boat is super good at that!), and surf my brains out. (Is that what happend to them?) I found that feature useful on the Ocoee too. I was surfing everywhere and having a great time on waves that would be too steep in a longer boat.

Great surfing rocker!

Fun, bouncy, in control surfs!

So, to reiterate, this is a super awesome playboat that is a river runner. Have you been in a playboat that kinda felt like not a real kayak once you got out on a river? I have and its an uneasy feeling. Well, the small Rev is a real kayak on the river. If don't feel like playing or having wild rides through the rapids, I don't have to--I can just run the river and have a great time. And for playing, its awesome to learn in and if you can throw down, it will certainly do that. I think that Pyranha got it right with this boat. I think they were going for high performance and easy to paddle all at once and they got it right on.

I have also been trying out the new Bella PFD from Astral. The first thing I noticed about this lifejacket is that its sexy! It has smooth lines and no bulk. So, for those who didn't like the pregnant belly with the Wonder Jacket, you will like that the Bella has the flotation spread out across the torso. I noticed two things from having the flotation spread out: 1. I can get forward better. I first noticed that running a small waterfall in Washington and now as I am playboating. 2. It takes some getting used to if you are coming from a Wonder Jacket. It feels wierd at first to have that flotation up on the chest again, so you are going to have to give the jacket a few wears before you are used to it.

The Bella--smooth lines and comfortable.

The Bella has the flotation more spread out so you can lean forward and paddle.

The Bella has a built in sports bra. You are going to have to wait for a bigger chested woman to do a review and see how that works. This jacket is not supposed to do the "divide and conquer" thing and I can see why it wouldn't. The sports bra is adjustable and there is support right underneath.

The next thing that I like is that you don't have to really wrench down on the straps to get the jacket to stay put. I was used to having to tighten my jacket a ton before, but the Bella can be a little looser and still stay in place while swimming, etc.

My favorite feature is that I don't notice that its there! Its super comfortable, so I don't notice the jacket until I need my snack out of the pocket or when I am swimming! The PFD also has padded straps for those of us who are lucky enough we get to paddle without a drytop.

Ahh, the Bella was very comfortable on bare skin. But those days are over until next year unless its warm in Mexico and we get to go so South America!

See you on the Gauley! I will try to get some more pics of the Rev and Bella there!