Old Town Next | Canoe Vibes | Canoeing and Kayaking Hybrid Boat Review

The Space Between A & B: Old Town NEXT Review

In society today, we’re dealing with a problem of epic proportions.

Well, not really. I’ve just always wanted to say that because of the irony involved in epic proportions being a huge problem in society. You see, when you read that the first time, you probably thought I was going to announce the proportionally enormous problem in the next sentence when instead I went and slipped in the back door with the normal-sized problem related to actual proportions.

Poor syntax comedy aside, I’ll scale back the enormity of the giant cheeseburger of an issue in question and get to the real beef I’ve got with society.

Beef: Why does everything have to be so damn mutually exclusive?

As I get older, wiser-ish, and continually more out of shape, I’ve started to realize that as society flushes me through life like a load of laundry on the super cycle, everything I do and every decision I make labels me into one of society’s mutually exclusive categories. It’s simple and seemingly well defined; you’re either A or you’re B. Once you’ve been labeled A or B, we will go from there and see if you’re either X or Y. However, there’s no AB combo and definitely no switching to Y once you sign on with X.

This labeling-people-into-mutually-exclusive-classifications thing as a way to identify people doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Why can’t I be in the middle of the clearly defined A and B labels?

Socially, you may catch me (A) swimming in neon lights and closing down the bar like the lead singer of my own Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque band on Saturday night and then (B) reading Malcolm Gladwell books on Sunday morning. Financially, I (A) listen to Dave Ramsey’s conservative debt free finance podcasts five times a week then I’ll (B) go and put $250 worth of accessories on my $400 cooler. Politically, I (A) believe that free markets and individual achievement are the primary factors behind economic prosperity. However, you better believe I’ll (B) vote against an open carry gun proponent and move to Canada when downtown Houston turns into the OK Corral.

My life is full of hybrid classifications where I am neither A nor B. I’m somewhere in between.

It’s not uncommon for me to finish a three-mile evening run with some pushups and a six pack of PBR. I believe in the designated hitter having a role in professional baseball, but deep down I prefer to watch National League games. I think the concept of war as a means of conflict resolution is something the population of the world will look back on in 2,000 more years as a primitive and counterproductive aspect of past humanity. However, if you mess with me or my friends enough, I will dust off an old right handed uppercut that hasn’t been used since 8th grade.

The icing on this series-of-hybrid-classification-cake is that I like the history, storage capacity, and single blade handling of a canoe but I also like the accessory-packed, practical, and modernized features of new fishing kayaks.

Breaking the Mutual Exclusivity Mold

Old Town Canoes – now a subsidiary of the Johnson Outdoors mega company – has been making canoes since 1898 and then got into the kayak game in 1940. Even as an OG – that means Original Gangsta for those who haven’t seen the Straight Outta Compton movie yet – in the paddlesports manufacturing industry, Old Town and everyone else made canoes for canoeists and kayaks for kayakers. It was A or it was B.

Well, it’s not A or B anymore. The new NEXT canoe-kayak hybrid boat is a compact canoe shaped hull that is freakishly light for a solo-rec boat, handles easily like a kayak, maintains the freedom and heritage of a canoe, while rocking some new age kayak fishing accessories like the lawn chair styled seat and the sliding kayak foot braces.

Simply put, the 100-year-old classic dull-green canoe by Old Town had a baby with the new 2015 bright camo Old Town Predator fishing kayak of the year and their offspring – the NEXT – popped out with all the good characteristics of both, a marketing budget that was through the roof, and – like any celebrity baby – the don’t care attitude toward pissing people off.

From day one, this North Kardashian West of the paddlesport world was too bright, flashy, and modern for traditional canoeists. Likewise, the NEXT was too unstable, difficult to track, and, quite frankly, boring for thrill seeking kayak anglers – proudly segregating canoes as old school boats from their parent’s generation. Both parties are right. It’s not a canoe. It’s not a kayak. It’s not A. It’s not B. Instead, it’s this weird uninhabitable space in between that everyone has been too locked up by the exclusivity of their interests to venture into.

Call me crazy for calling this one how I see it; the thing is pretty cool.

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Hopefully My Review is Better Than Lame Product Listings

Canoe Features

  • There is obviously a single blade canoe paddling option for the minority of single blade paddlers still out there. However, you have to BYO single blade to this party.
  • The seat is positioned so the paddler sits above the waterline; with a position between a low kayak and high canoe, it’s seating placement is engineered so you are getting the best of both worlds while still benefitting from the leverage of a seated canoe position. *Note – The slightly lower seat means you need less paddle length.
  • The NEXT rocks the classic canoe shape and provides the basic canoe storage features with a lower than usual sheer line and gunnel line. While still a descendent of the canoe family, the low lines give a small initial hint at kayak styled design.
  • The hull layout and construction is tried and true to Old Town. The three-layer low profile hull construction with pronounced tumblehome and subtle rocker are canoe traits trickled down from the last 120 years of canoe production by the dudes in Maine. It’s called a rocker and it’s a classic canoe component, it’s not instability. C’mon – ask Santa for some balance next Christmas, kayak anglers.

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Kayak Features

  • A kayak paddle option is not only available, but it is also included. Most retailers include a matching color 40 ounce 220-260 cm paddle with the purchase. While that just gave me something to put on Craig’s List after my purchase, some people might enjoy the complementary paddle and the cute color scheme.
  • Well, what kind of seat does it come with?” I can’t tell you how many times I answer this question in conversations with potential customers of any kayak or canoe I am selling, promoting, or just talking about at a demo day. People like seats! It’s like going to a car dealership and highly prioritizing cars based on the stereo. Every car has a stereo. All the stereos are pretty close in quality. Some look different, some are shaped different, and some have flashy bells and whistles on them, but they are all stereos. With the NEXT, Old Town gave the people what they wanted: a heck of a stereo. The Element Seat is native to the Predator fishing kayak that rocked the industry in 2014 quickly becoming a top three fishing kayak and, well, it looks hella comfortable to the recreational paddler. While seats don’t get my juices flowing, I can see how this one could send some people’s juices through the roof.
  • Kayaks are trending now because they are new, flashy, and more adrenaline-packed than their canoe counterparts. Nature-toned canoes just aren’t exciting to most people. The NEXT comes in four bright kayak colors – none of which are the ancient forest green or barn red that Old Town usually leans on for canoe coloring. These colors are the colors you find in an RGIII Under Armor commercial. These are the colors that should be on a surfboard carried by a blonde hair, blue-eyed Cali boy drinking a Monster in his board shorts. Frankly, these colors work for marketing the boat to larger and much trendier markets. *Tips cap to Old Town marketing department*
  • Most importantly, one person can easily grab it and go! It is 13 feet long and only weighs 48 pounds. While the 48 pounds is spread out over 13 feet of awkward weight to lift overhead without a yoke, it is pretty simple for me to get it up and down from the rooftop of my car and across the parking lot to the put in. After all, finding time to get out on the water is hard enough without having to rely on someone else to paddle with – a classic tandem canoe problem.

The critics are right. It’s not long enough to be a canoe, and it’s nowhere near shaped like a kayak. It’s not (A) a classic style canoe and it’s also not (B) a flashy new fishing kayak. It’s somewhere between A and B. If you’re looking to blindly support A or B, it’s not the boat for you. However, I bet that after you paddle one you’ll figure out that you’re not exclusively A and you’re not exclusively B; you’re with me, somewhere in between.


canoeing, editorial, gear review, kayaking, tips

Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.

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