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Review of Frequency and Play Bellyaks

- Monday October 8, 2012
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Kevin and I were wanting to paddle something diffrent as we rolled into the NOC last Friday during the GAF. We had been eyeing some stand on tops, but when we saw the Bellyak we knew that was it. Adam Masters, owner of Bellyak, was there and was all about us testing one out for a review. So he handed us a Frequency, a Play 45, told us the basics and sent us on our way! 

According to the Bellyak website, The Play 45 is the biggest of the Play series and "features a high performance planing hull that allows fast transitions on waves, through eddylines, and effortless spinning in a hole." The Frequency "is intended for a novice paddler to feel confident and comfortable, while still being fun. A flat hull with secondary chines provides a surface conducive to speed, stability and control." So basically the Frequency is more of a river runner and the Play is more for, well... playing. For more information on their different yaks, check out

Our adventure started at the lower Nantahala put in. Even though we had thought about a first decent down the cascades, we decided to warm up here. It was strange as I mounted my bellyak. It feels weird for a kayaker to get in the water, and not have a skirt on. Feels even stranger knowing you are about to go head first down a river. I decided to not let common sense get the best of me, and paddled out into the main current.

It was on...

As soon as we hit the water I was constantly using my hands to keep myself mounted on the Bellyak (Frequency). Adam had explained to us that grabbing the handles would cause us to loose our balance since your hands are constantly used to brace yourself in whitewater. Of course the big orange handles were too tempting for me to not grab, and as soon as I went through Patton's Run (first rapid) I reached up and grabbed them before hitting the next wave. I soon realized the importance of keeping a hand in the water. Your hand is like your paddle and you brace with it like you would do kayaking. I quickly found myself upside down, with the bellyak running away from me. Jackie who was paddling down in her kayak for safety was quick to turn around, and laugh so hard, she capsized as well. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to master the Bellyak roll (if that's even possible like it is in a kayak). After Jackie righted herself, she chased the Bellyak down for me and I remounted to continue the adventure.

Click to see the gallery

About 2 miles into the paddle/swim I was hating it. I felt like i was fighting for survival down the river. I had flipped a few more times, mainly when trying to go from the resting postion (sitting on the front of the Bellyak) to the ready postion (on your belly). I was spending way too much energy trying to hand paddle this thing and it was wearing me out. Then it clicked. I realized that I needed to relax more, and have fun, worst thing that was going to happen was getting wet. Then the fun began.

I started using the flow more and loosened up on the board. The problem I had been having on the Frequency was being too tense and using the foot holds on the back. I moved my feet out of the holds and just let the water take me into the rapids, using my hands just enough to keep me straight. Don't get me wrong it was still a lot of work, but I found myself swimming beside the Bellyak a lot less.

About halfway into the journey Kevin and I switched, and I got a turn with the Play 45. The Play was much better for the big guy. I weight about 240, so the Frequency was catching its edge a lot. The play didn't have that problem at all. The only problem the Play gave me was when I was trying to get into the resting postion. Where as I could get myself to it about half the time on the Frequency without flipping, every time I tried on the Play I found myself dismounted. Kevin didn't have as much problem getting to the rested position in the Play 45, but he agrees that it's is a lot easier on the Frequency. 

All in all I had a lot of fun on the Bellyak. Kevin even managed to surf both models a little bit and we are sure with some more practice, it would be relatively easy. Kinda like surfing a wave on a boogie board but more high-performance. One thing Adam and I talked about was a chest block, to help with your neck positioning. When looking up from a prone postion, your neck is quick to tire. Elevating your chest could help alleviate this stress. He said they were going to check into that. 

If you do decide to take one for a trip I've got some pointers. First off keep it easy on your first trip, I would say nothing over 2 miles, and remember to relax when your doing it. Getting tense will quickly transfer to your Bellyak, and cause you to dismount. Also, go with the flow. Don't fight it. I haven't hand paddled that much, but one thing I have noticed about hand paddlers, is they use the flow and plan ahead. Doing this will make your first trip very enjoyable.

Enjoy the short video. GoPro died before the more serious rapids (serious for the Nantahala) so sorry about that. Is it just me or does the person with the camera ALWAYS drop the ball? No memory card, battery low, etc lol.

Tags: Bellyak
Categories: Review
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