Thanks to local paddler Charles Mitchell for his words on the the New Lettmann Manta.
“Having paddled a Dagger Axiom 8.5 since September 2016, I decided that I ought to get a larger
volume boat. On reading that the Manta had a slalom pedigree I was very interested coming from a
I paddled a few boats at AS Watersports on the canal including the Manta. It looked narrower at
the front than I had expected and was the nicest to paddle on the flat water with a good snug fit
once sitting in it.
First run, the Dart on the Loop, was at a good level with the slab covered. For such a long boat it is
incredibly quick on the turn. If you catch a patch of slower moving water, while travelling down a
rapid, it wants to turn but as long as you are driving it forward it holds its line. Going into eddies it
likes to be driven with aggression and then turns very rapidly, as quick as the Axiom. Eddies with
lots of boil and standing waves are also taken in its stride without any problems. Ferry glides and
high crosses were carried out with speed and precision, again the important thing was to drive the
boat where you wanted to go.
Second run was on the Upper Dart, slab covered and, as it turned out, rising. I had not done the
Upper at this level before. My previous highest level was just lapping on the slab. This trip was
more full on with little or no breaks between rapids and much bigger holes and drops. Bearing in
mind it was my first day on white water in the Manta it inspired confidence, handling the conditions
well, and where I made mistakes the Manta’s design allowed for correction and recovery.
Summing up, the outfitting is simple but effective. Once in the boat, with the back rest pulled in,
you feel at one. Even upside down there is no tendency to fall out as you are firmly part of the boat.
It certainly put a smile on my face, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a boat for someone who likes to take
control and enjoys the challenge of big water.”
I was given
the opportunity to ‘test drive’ the Broadland 15 following a chance conversation with Liam at AS Watersports a few months ago. All they wanted in return was an honest review and a few photos. Well, I knew the Spey was on the cards again but not until September…
- Could I wait that long?
- Would it still be around?
- Was it worth sacrificing the comforts afforded from my Explorer 15 after years of tweaking?
I wasn’t sure
at first, but the answer was most definitely yes to all of the above. I should
say I’m no expert, whatever that maybe, but I have been mucking about in canoes
and kayaks for approximately thirty years with the last eight or so solely in a
is a personal opinion based on my experiences, with a bit of input from my
tripping companions Clive, Graham, Matt S, Matt R, Paul, Nick, Pauline and
Dave; between us a mixture of 3, 4, and 5 star paddlers. A big thank you for
their practical and photographic input, especially Matt Rea for his expert
stalking along the way, you’ll find his photographic work if you follow the
link here: http://www.stinkingdaisy.co.uk/
The first test for me has to be the carry and load test – how easy is it
to load on top of my Landy? Well
loading is easy, relatively speaking, it is no more difficult than loading
my Explorer. Carrying wise, like any boat it just needs a bit of
personalisation, some padding on the yolk for me is essential.
The second test is my wobble test, no matter how secure or far back I
place my Royalex Explorer on the roof bars the front end will shake about and
‘wobble’ anything above 30mph. The Broadland felt and looked rigid, even on the
motorway at the supersonic speeds my Landrover does! Well ok it got tested to
about 55 or 60 mph and gave me no reason for concern.
Finally the third and fourth pre
paddling tests included a visual inspection and comparison with other boats and its
packability. Well it’s a nice looking boat, this
one is blue; there’s a reason they choose blue for catering plasters! Amongst
the beautiful and slightly wild backdrop you get from the River Spey
surroundings, I did initially feel I stood out somewhat, not helped by the fact
that, unintentionally, everything I was wearing and carrying seemed also to be
blue!! It could have been worse of course, it could have been pink 😉 I
understand Silverbirch offer flexible colour options, (including pink) on this
occasion it was just what AS Watersports had available. I prefer to go for the
faster green boats!
It has simple lines with what seems like a prospector cut and I like the
groove line just under the gunnel, I’m not sure it does anything but it’s a
nice touch. It has a flat bottomed hull which seemed to have some very gentle
lateral ripples in, I’m not sure how much use this boat has had and in what
conditions, it will be interesting to know how this fares in the future. I am
being critical, as this is a review, but it was certainly no cause for concern.
The Duralite plastic is tough for its weight, it is a short 15 and on the
narrower side with a short freeboard. As for packability, well loaded with four
days worth of gear for a solo paddler, it was absolutely fine. I was carrying
all the usual stuff; camping gear, cooking gear, clothes, all the paraphernalia
we seem to collect as open boaters and it fitted fine and without upsetting
So how did it fare on the river? As an ‘off the shelf’ set up, (I think)
the seats seemed further in towards the centre of the boat than I’m used to,
AS Watersports kindly fitted a kneeling thwart which, to allow room for rear seat,
was set at approx 350mm from the yolk. Some of the larger guys in
the group found this a bit tight, it was perfect for me however, and with this
in mind with some personalised outfitting think
it’s certainly a great solo boat. As a tandem it works but with larger adults
just seemed a bit small. Smaller adults or youngsters might benefit from this
for day or weekend paddles, you’d need to pack diligently for tandem multi day
I had no difficulty keeping up with the Explorers,
Esquif Avalon, and new Voyager Prospector canoes. I’m not so sure how I would fare on longer slower rivers such as the
Thames, the Broadland 16 a likely better option here?
This is a manoeuverable boat whilst still feeling very stable and
forgiving. It will turn on a sixpence when edged enough and I had no trouble picking and following a chosen line down bigger water,
indeed picking a line and being maneuverable was essential if I wanted to
stay dry due to what seemed like quite a low
freeboard! Pushing directly through a wave train guaranteed a wetting, even
quartering and maneuvering smaller waves didn’t guarantee staying dry due to
the low cut; I wonder what adding just a inch all round would do? (disclaimer,
better paddlers might stay dry?)
In the rapids, (no more than grade two on this trip) the Broadland 15 wants to be playful, I was happily eddy hopping, crossing big waves and I even found a little bit of surf from one feature, not enough to really judge but what I caught was fun.
The Broadland immediately instilled me with confidence, as a smaller weedy, (I weigh at best eight and a half to nine stone) paddler this boat fitted me well and I would happily recommend to the slight paddler, (male or female) as well as perhaps making an excellent first boat for a younger paddler, (I have my eleven year old daughter in mind) I’m putting it on my wish list
Additional Review By Team Members Graham Thomas & Nick Davies
My usual open canoe of choice is a Royalex Mad River Legend which is narrower than most and flat bottomed which makes it slower as a tourer but great in moving water. So the first noticeable point which I liked in the Silverbirch Broadland 15 Duralite was how narrow it is. This makes it great for easy cross deck work and weight transfer for maneuvers. Its prospector style hull shape makes it track really well and has good cruising speed. The hull feels really stiff and rigid with no flex which is a tribute to the Duralite material.
It was difficult to really compare how well it manoeuvred compared to my Legend and the other canoes I paddled on the Spey partly because we were all carrying a weeks gear and the others all had fitted matting which gave more confidence for bigger edging and better boat contact. However once you are in a stable position it behaved well although I did feel the gunwales are a bit low for bouncier sections and it would take on a little water while quartering.
Level 4 WW Leader.
The boat tracked well, has a low gunnel, but ok for grade 2ish stuff a bit more rocker would help its manoeuvrability, (big word for me) but other-wise nice shape and paddle, oh and the seats are a bit tight if you want a kneeling thwart.
I have used Werner paddles for over 10 years now and they have never let me down.
My Favourite canoe paddle is the Nantahala, I use it for white water and open water canoe paddling.
It is really light but incredibly strong, I have bashed off many rocks and pushed myself along punting off the river bed with no problems at all.
The white blade is easy to see if you drop it in the water, as well as giving signals from a long way away.
The blade is symmetrical so it pulls and cuts though the water really easy with no change in direction.
The glass shaft is very strong; I use my gunwale to guide the paddle and to pry off, the paddle handles this with no problem.
The shaft is slightly oval so it makes it easier to get a good grip when transferring the power.
The shape of the blade gives instant power but with a slight flex in the shaft it’s very controllable with no flutter.
I use the Nantahala for white water and open water, I find touring with it no problem due to the lightness of the paddle, and it’s also really useful if it is bit windy just to get that extra power.
The T grip gives control and comfort; I glue and rivet mine into place once I have set it to the right size.
There are many different guides to sizing your paddle, but I think it is a lot to the type of paddling you do and your body size, I like a shorter paddle length which allows me to recover it quickly, but I gain power though my body and tactical paddling, if you go for a longer paddle then you gain on leverage but movement is a bit slower to recover.
I am quite a stocky paddler, my height is 175cm tall and my paddle is 143cm long which is about 7cm below my chin, I generally paddle with short stokes and keep my hand about 4cm above the gunwale as a norm.
The best thing to do is try different shaft lengths and see what suits, before you cut your paddle!
My best stroke for the Werner is Forwards power with a Stern Pry to get maximum power and control which in turn gets the canoe moving and gives you steerage.
This is a paddle which I would highly recommend and will last a lifetime.
As a 50 yr old boater I need a boat that will look after me, fear creeps in once you reach 40 no matter how much you fight against it.
I have paddled and loved my Medium Burn 3 for just over a year now but demo’d the 9R purely by chance on a Slab covered Loop swapping boats with Amy Elworthy. I was unsure at 1st as the nose sticks up so high and it sits on top of water high, at the time I had no intention of buying one but enjoyed how it glided over features and kept the speed up all the time.
It caught me out a couple times sat on the eddy line and had a couple rolls which was surprisingly easy.
It wasn’t until I got back in my Burn and started to get splashed in the face and sink a few times in features on the Upper Dart that I realised how good the 9R had been. I watched some vids, read some reviews and took the decision to get one from AS Watersports, 2 days later I was testing it on the East Lyn at a nice level from Brendon to Lynmouth, I was again unsure of it at 1st and after a mile I was wondering if I should’ve stuck with a boat I knew for a committing river, but after Triple Drop and a few boofs over holes I was getting used to it and starting to realise its potential.
The biggest thing I noticed is it’s fast! I twice boofed over the paddler in front so a bit of space is needed or stay in front.
It’s not as forgiving with the little rocks that catch you out as I found out once nearly getting turned over but once we reached the Gorge the 9R started to come into its own staying high and boofing every drop and hole with ease, I am fully aware it was more the boat than the paddler but if it helps me to paddle bigger water I’ll take it with open arms.
In summary the 9R is great for the adrenaline junkies but it also has a place for the lesser ability paddler like myself who needs every help he can get. Cant wait to get out again with it!