For the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to paddle the Dagger Axiom quite a bit. I’ve been able to race in it, play in it, creek in it, and have the most fun I’ve had in a long while in it. One might say that there cannot be a boat capable of all this, but I would simply ask that person to open his or her horizons.
Before getting into the minutia of detail concerning the Axiom, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. For well over a decade the Dagger RPM was not only the most sold whitewater boat on the market, but the most popular. This can be seen by the renaissance that the whitewater community experienced with each ‘limited edition’ production runs the RPM was given. The RPM’s ease of use and playful nature put it back into the spotlight for those who bought the originals and those who came up in the sport after the RPM gave way to short play boats and bulbous creek boats. Imagine: a boat you can quite literally do anything in.
With all the hype associated with the RPM, there are some noticeable design features that need to be addressed. The significant lack of bow rocker limits the RPM to only certain types of waves and means the bow pearls (or drops below the water level) more often than not. The lack of chine or edge on the hull gives the boat a familiar feel to those who use fully displacement hulled boats, but also means there’s less precise control than that of a boat with edges. The RPM’s two sizes puts an abnormally-sized paddler (those with longer inseams and larger feet) into either a cramped or a too-large version of the RPM. But there was hope on the horizon. Something new was brewing at Dagger.
Undeniably, the Axiom has similar characteristics as the RPM. In fact, Dagger is quite open about the influence of the RPM on the Axiom. I would suggest that the Axiom is a modern improvement on the RPM for any paddler desiring a more all-around boat with more control and a more appropriately sized platform. Basically, they took something really good and made it better.
To begin this review, I’ll post up my specs so that the reader can gauge which is the more appropriate size. I am 6’ 3″, weigh 180 lbs, have a 34″ inseam and wear a size 13 shoe. I chose the 8.5 to spend the majority of time in because the 8.0 looked to be a little more uncomfortable and the 9.0 seemed to be simply too large. The 8.5, to me, is almost made for someone my size and shape. The boat has plenty of bow volume to keep my weight above the surface of the water, but the flat stern being maneuverable enough to engage it for vertical play. Basically, this boat is a blast no matter what kind of whitewater one might be paddling. One thing that I will note is the broad weight range and comfort level this boat has. While I chose the 8.5 for general use, I have actually paddled the 8.0 for an entire day. While not the most comfortable boat in the world, I actually own boats with more volume that are worlds less comfortable. I also have two friends around the 215 lbs range that both fully enjoy the Axiom 8.5. Basically, this boat can host a large variety of paddlers.
One thing I have noticed more and more about the Axiom is its ability to lock onto an edge and stay there through a ferry. It has been the one thing that makes me smile even more than the stern squirts that abound while paddling this boat. Why, might you ask? There’s just something about a boat that is even the smallest bit performance-minded that gets me excited. This boat catches eddys extremely well and the ability to dip the stern under the water allows for wonderful control of the boat in ferries, peel outs, and midstream adjustments. As one Axiom owner put, “I think it has a very reactive stern, which is great for pivot turns and engaging splats. The boat requires finesse. You have to learn how to get the most out of it. It really does support using good technique for things like boofing and sharp turns.” I have suggested this boat as a good introduction to slalom platform because the stern can be dipped very controllably and lends itself to staying shallow. This makes pivot turns a dream and it accelerates out of everything exceptionally well. The bow likes to stay above the water as the stern loads with water only enough to push the boat out of whatever feature one might go through which makes this boat very attractive to some of the smaller race events around the Southeast.
Every year in Columbia, SC a group of paddlers gather the first weekend of January for the Millrace Massacre and Iceman Challenge hosted on the Saluda River. One aspect of this race that makes the Axiom seem like an obvious choice is the 8’ 6″ boat length restriction. This race typically involves catching 2-3 eddys with a big ferry to begin with and a big ferry to end. The Axiom excels in races like this where maneuverability is crucial for a successful race. This past year (2016), the race was more of a downriver sprint that dealt with dodging holes and going back through an upstream slalom gate. Once again, the Axiom did well and many racers have caught on to this amazing boat simply for use in this particular race.
Getting pushed out of a wave train as the stern loads up with water and literally getting pushed and accelerating at the same time. One of the coolest feelings while on the river. This is also called a braaap.
The Axiom bow stays up while paddling which makes the boat accelerate and maintain its speed with control. Photo credits: Pixie Clicks Photography
Overall, the Axiom is a fantastic modern iteration of the tried and true RPM. The edges give it precise control and the dynamic stern allows for an old school feel in a modern boat. It surfs well, it ferrys well, it stern squirts well, and it paddles well. Try one of our demos out today and plan to smile the entire way down the river!
As Katie Dean has been saying for a while now, “The Dagger Axiom is my favorite kayak of all time. It has down river play coupled with the ability to run class 4 rapids in comfort and control. It is the best all-around kayak for learning basics, maintaining current skill sets and developing advance skill sets. If I could only have one boat, it would be the Axiom every day of the week, 365 days a year.”
Dagger Axiom Review by Ethan Talley