When I first sat in the boat (size medium), I thought to myself how I finally had found a boat that was made for someone my size. It fit perfectly with nothing added to it but a couple of thin pieces of foam for cushion in a spot or two, and the appropriately sized foot-foams (provided in a variety of sizes). I wore my creek shoes in it - no need to switch to the little rodeo-socks with that much room in the boat!
My Play Experience
As most folks who paddle with me know, I am not an expert playboater. I love to front surf on a wave, I can spin a bit, throw some wavewheels, and I can do a really sharp old-school shudder-rudder. You will never see me bust out a "tricky-donkey-helix", and the only paddling move I know that involves a monkey is a tight slot into a big nasty drop. I'm not against learning tricks like the loop, and improving my surfs and maybe trying a few blunts - but I'm not a rodeo star nor am I likely to become one. I simply like to run the river in style and have fun playing on the way down. I think I'm the kind of person that the Recoil is best suited to.
My first expiriment paddling the Recoil was on the Upper Gauley. I have taken a ton of different boats down the Gauley in the past, so this is a great place for me to compare boats. Mostly I would be comparing the play capabilities, but also how the boat handled on bigger water. The first thing I noticed as I headed off down the river was how well this thing handles. Length - It moves around the river faster and better than a short little spud boat due to a little added length. Volume - it also stays on top of the water better and is less squirrely than any of the mid-length playboats I've paddled due to the nicely distributed volume. It was a combination that allowed for me to have a really relaxing day out there. The increased speed allowed me to try out some old favorite waves that shorter/slower boats don't have much luck on, and the extra volume allowed me to relax in the bigger rapids - as well as to try to get some loops. In a spud boat, I often feel like I have to drop into the big rapids out there and take my beating - essentially paying my dues for the better play I get at the playspots. In the Recoil, I found that I had the speed and stability to run good lines, and enough play to do all of the tricks that I usually try anyway. Additionally, the Rocker seemed to be about perfect - it was easy to get the bow down when I wanted to, but it didn't perl on a wave or while running rapids.
The Recoil has an excellent hull on it, which planes VERY nicely on a wave. Front surfing is nearly effortless in this boat, and I was really happy with how easy it is to catch waves in it. The hull was loose enough to spin with ease on the wave, and had a good bit of bounce to build up to moves - especially while backwards.
The Edges of the Recoil are also worth mentioning. I found this to be one of the easiest boats to carve in - it swapped edge to edge in a really snappy and yet gentle manner. This gentleness on the edge allowed me to try play moves in a forgiving environment without the large number of flips or washes from the wave that I'm used to. There were a lot of times when I would flub the move - only to spend a second skipping down the wave face in stunned amazement that I was still on the wave and right-side-up at all. It made the boat an easy one for me to experiment in, and made it more fun for me to paddle at my level. I spent more time on the wave and less time waiting in line behind a bunch of rad-asses who can all surf longer than I can.
I feel like I need to at least mention the loopability of this boat. I will preface this by saying that I cannot loop. Most of my efforts have ended up with me plopping upside down into a hole on my head, and then rolling up in the backwash. I tried one in the Recoil, and was surprised to come MUCH closer than I ever have. The boat had plenty of upward pop, and I managed a not quite aligned loopish thing where I ended up on the wave again - which was a first for me. I can only assume that if I knew how to loop, it wouldn't be too hard to do in this boat. I might even have paddled up the eddy and tried again, but my party had headed off downstream - since they know I can't loop.
Being a river running playboat, I figured the Recoil was likely to be an only boat for a lot of the folks who consider it. I had already seen that for bigger water and for play boating it would suit the needs of most paddlers who are learning, or who simply are not bad-ass playboaters interested in learning to throw retarded-interstellar-squirrels. I wanted to see how it did on a little bit harder whitewater of the slightly creekier variety - since running rivers is likely to be a prime use for the Recoil.
My main frustration with river running in recent playboats has been the issue of getting over or through holes. Most of the modern playboats are pretty easy to throw around due to their short length, but there was a problem when you tried to throw the bow over a hole for a boof. The short length, slow speed, and low rocker would mean that the hull would hit the pile and the boat would stop - not allowing the boat to cleanly slide over the hole. This is partly due to the fact that the rocker is low enough that, in order to present some hull and not the tip of the bow to the hole, you have to hit the hole with your planing-surface first in these boats - you can't use bow rocker to get the tip of your boat on the pile at an angle where your planing surface will slide right over. If you went for the plug through the hole, you were greeted with the length problem again - specifically, not enough length to carry you through the hole, but plenty of volume for the hole to chew on.
The Recoil has enough length to carry you over the hole, but the nicely done bow and stern rocker allows you to still throw it around to boof it like one of the super short boats. The first rapid on the Upper Yough - Gap Falls - gave me a great chance to try out getting over a hole in the Recoil. I wound up, activated the stern rocker to get the bow up a bit, and then boofed out and laid the bow on the foam pile, where it slid right over. I watched some people get beat down pretty hard in National Falls the day before I ran the Recoil down, so was nervous to try the boof there. I gave it a whirl anyway, and the same principle applied. Here I am carrying some speed to the drop after not getting slowed down in the hole above. Note how I'm activating the stern rocker so that I can really throw that bow out and over the hole.
Next you can see the result - no hole beating for me!
The bottom line was that the Recoil was not as challenging as most playboats to run on the Yough. It boofed well, handled holes well, and generally ran the river like a much larger boat.
In summary, the Recoil is one of the better all-around boats I've tried. It's a solid river runner, providing a manageable ride up to the advanced-intermediate level. It's a great playboat for folks wanting to try some of the new tricks without giving up their ability to get down the river in a relaxed manner. If I had to choose a boat for all around paddling and play up to class IV+, this would be the boat I would pick.
*some of the names of freestyle tricks have been changed to protect nobody in particular. I think there are only about 20 people who can keep all of those tricks straight anyway, and I'm not one of them.