Riot Astro

For many, Riot kayaks are synonymous with expert-only paddlers. But Riot’s designs, as well as their “brash and youthful” image, have matured over the years. With the Astro 54 they’ve found a nice blend of performance, predictability, and forgiveness. Classified as a “River Play” boat, it has a little of everything in mind; so whether you’re into river running, playing in holes, or surfing big waves, the Astro is definitely a boat to check out. It’s 6’2” long, 25” wide, 13” deep, weighs 34 pounds, and would fall into what most of us call the “spud boat” category. At 54 gallons of volume, the Astro is recommended for paddlers weighing 120-210 pounds. Riot added a fair amount of “kick rocker” to this little guy, which creates a ton of pop off the wave (think of a skateboard profile with the “kicked up” nose and tail). I found that it almost leapt into the air at any given moment, so there is less set-up time and… well… more airtime! Combine that with more forgiving edges for cleaner landings and you’ll end up with longer rides and a case of the permagrins. The symmetrical shape and volume distribution mean the bow and the stern are similar in size and shape, making it more or less a “twin tip.” Using the “fewer parts is better” theory, Riot has come up with a winning combination of simplicity and functionality. The seat and backband are a single, combined unit that easily adjusts (tool-free) to fit any size paddler right off the shelf and on the river.

Longtime Riot paddler Matt Rusher has an increasingly full bag of expeditions and first descents to his credit, and has enjoyed stepping up his kayaking over the past couple years in his quest to graduate from regional ripper to globetrotting pro paddler.