Esquif L’Edge Review

The new paradigm shifting openboat Esquif L’edge has hit the market, and the buzz has been strong. Graham Preston and his crew took down a pair of L’edges to the Ottawa River for some big water fun on the Main Channel. Here is what he had to stay:

We rolled out of the driveway with fried egg sandwiches in our stomachs; pump up music pouring from the radio and two new Esquif L’Edges on the roof. The crew: a group of friends from the Ottawa Valley ranging from the casual playboater to canoe instructors to adrenaline seekers. Our destination: the big water of the Ottawa River with the goal of demoing Esquif’s highly anticipated new open boat design. Life was good.

The L’Edge was designed as an all around solid river runner that could handle anything from steep and challenging creeks to performing on a wave or in a hole. The idea was to rival high performance boats such as the Spanish Fly, but maintain the classic open boat design. Constructed of durable rotomolded plastic with bulkhead outfitting, the boat is available in both decked and fully open models. Since becoming available in stores this past summer, the L’Edge has caught the eye and praise of several of the world’s top open boaters. We decided to see what all the hype was about.

The first thing I noticed climbing into the L’Edge was the stability. The boat had excellent overall stability, with no compromise on either primary or secondary stability. I was able to confidently tilt the boat down to the gunnels, and the transitions over the edges were very smooth. In fast current and big waves I rarely felt caught off guard or had my edges unexpectedly grabbed by the water, and battling the pushy boiling water common below sets on the Ottawa was a breeze. With staying upright moved to the back of my mind, I was able to focus much more on the actual paddling.

Once you stop marveling at the fact that your new little boat hasn’t flipped you coming through that massive hole of death, you move on to praise a new god: the L’Edge’s dryness. The L’Edge was easily the driest boat I have paddled. The decks and bulkhead outfitting allowed us to plow through some huge waves with nothing to worry about but looking good for the camera. When we did manage to fill up, the boat still handled quite well. As a bonus, the L’Edge rolled up with a very manageable amount of water, so it was rare to be paddling it fully swamped.

Despite the incredible stability there is no trade off in performance. The L’Edge is comfortably predictable yet highly maneuverable. It responds to each stroke according to plan. Engaging the edges resulted in smooth carving through the current or eddy turns in the blink of an eye. Although not the fastest boat on the market, it was rare that its speed felt inadequate, even on a high volume river, and compensates with its impressive stability and dryness.

For those who like to play, the large planning hull and distinctive edges produced the best surfing any of us have experienced in an open boat. The L’Edge has unbelievable control on a wave. It was easy to maneuver across the wave without carving off as with many boats this happens more frequently, and maintaining control while in a flat spin was nearly effortless. With shouts of disbelief we were able to fluidly slide into side surfs, back surfs, fully around or back the way we came. Dare I say I even witnessed an ender?! And because of the decks, we were able to stay on the wave much longer than normal without swamping.

The L’Edge’s predictable maneuverability and stability combine to create a boat that is an easy and welcome transition from other boats. The bulkhead outfitting was both comfortable and enabled precision control of the boat. Whether coming from a Dagger Rival or an Esquif Detonator, we all felt at home in the L’Edge and it inspired us with confidence to push our paddling past our perceived limits. Surf on the mighty Garburator Wave? Why not! After a great day on the Ottawa River, I can’t wait until the spring creeks start running, and I have another chance to paddle to the Esquif L’Edge.