With the River Dart Rodeo fast approaching, I think the time has come to settle this once and for all! The ultimate battle of the tail-happy and spinnable! Half- versus Double-slice! Which one is better? And which one are we going to see coming out on top on Rodeo day?

Before I begin, a point of clarification. The terms double-slice and full-slice are often used interchangeably for any kayak with a low-volume bow and stern. My preferred term is double-slice, so that’s the one I will be using! Though, as a friend recently pointed out, if a half-slice has one low-volume end, surely a double-slice ought to have four…

Double-Slice: The Talking Points

Twice the slice, twice the fun! Leaning more heavily on full-on freestyle capacity, double-slices enable play on every feature of the river. Though they sacrifice some of the confidence-boosting river-running capacity of their half-slice brethren, low-volume boats can still take on most whitewater you throw them at!

Whereas half-slices focus on a smooth but playful downriver ride, the double-slice offers the ability to bring playboating moves into the downriver realm. Cartwheels, splats, mystery moves – it’s all possible in a double-slice.

Whether you are looking to spice up some familiar runs or move from the world of playboating into river-running, these are the boats for you. Playful, sometimes unforgiving, but always hilarious. Double-slice boats have always opened up the three-dimensionality of whitewater more than any other type of boat.

Not only that, but with modern designs like the Loki, Homeslice, Hellbender and Ozone, double-slicing does not have to come at the cost of comfort. Long gone are the days of unfurnished plastic outfitting and cramped toes. Technology now allows for the size-10s and above to happily enjoy staring skywards just like the rest of us!

Shredding the Bitches in my favourite double-slice. Photo by Beth Morgan.

Half-Slice: The Talking Points

Ably shredding the line between downriver cruising and gleeful verticality, double-slice boats are popular for good reason. Whether you choose a well-loved classic like the RPM or one from the plethora of modern variants, a half-slice will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go.

Pretty much every company on the market has a half-slice design nowadays. They occupy the workhorse slot in many paddler’s toolkits. Why? It’s simple. Not only do they enable smooth and dynamic river-running, they offer a pinch of playful spice!

Great for both learners and experts alike, half-slices are less forgiving than creekboats, which is in no way a bad thing. The learning curve may be steep, but the reward is profound. A persistent half-slice paddler is likely to find their technical ability will improve very quickly.

And with the wide range of choice on the market these days, there is a half-slice to suit every size and variety of paddler. At one end of the spectrum are the more play-orientated options like the Antix. Occupying the goldilocks zone in the centre are the more river-running-focused Ripper, Rexy and Rewind. At the far end, there are even some creek-capable options, like the Steeze. And that barely scratches the surface!

Jack throwing a freewheel in his Exo Party Rexy. Photo by Tom Clare.

Conclusion?

For any readers of my previous articles, my bias in terms of the boats I expect to podium at the Rodeo is probably well-known! But this article is about more than that.

So before we get to any discussion of the Rodeo, let’s look at a more general comparison. As stated above, the focus in these two boats, though similar, is not identical. Where half-slice boats are about slick , sometimes playful, passage downriver, double-slices use the downriver journey as an excuse for outright play! The half-slice uses features playfully in order to run the river. By contrast, the double-slice runs the river in order to play the features. Is that a facetious statement? Probably!

But whilst these boats are cut from a similar cloth, there is no question that their purpose differs. For most kayakers, the half-slice is a far more practical choice. Its ability to carry speed, to ride over obstacles and to play the river when desired is a huge plus.

Will the Rodeo podium be occupied by half-slice riders, however? I don’t believe so. Of course, someone in a Ripper or RPM could put down a smooth and stylish ride. But the ability to link ends whilst floating downstream, to capitalise on every small feature of the river, gives the double-slicers a distinct advantage.

Ultimately, it will all come down to who has eaten their Weetabix and impresses the judges most on the day! We will just have to wait for January the 16th to find out.