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Waka Gangsta Review

- Friday October 27, 2017
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Late 2016 Waka released the first prototypes of the “Gangsta.”  This was their second original design after the Tuna 2 and was intended to be the full racing version of this boat.  The hull shape of the Gangsta looks similar to that of the Tuna 2.  They both have rounded edges in the bow and hard rails form under the seat that continue all the way to the stern.  They feature long and aggressive bow rocker and long squared off “ejector” sterns.  These features make the boats easy to boof and fast upon landing. 

I have now paddled the Gangsta for a full summer season, May-October, and am enjoying the boat more and more as I get used to the design.  Before buying the Gangsta I was a steady fan of the original Tuna or Tuna 1. I paddled the Tuna 1 when it was still made by Bliss-Stick kayaks starting in 2012 and paddled it almost exclusively until this past April (2017). Check out my review of the Waka Tuna 1 here.  I first got to try the Gangsta while I was in New Zealand last November on the Kaituna.  I had been paddling laps on that river everyday and so, initially, I was a huge fan of the Gangsta’s speed and “boofability” on that river.  I decided then to order one for when I got back to the states. 

I got my new boat when I got back home to White Salmon and hopped right on the Little White to start training for the race the next week.  The river was a nice medium-high level at that point and I started to struggle to control the boat.  I spent a lot of time that week frustrated with the boat and my ability to paddle it.  It felt bigger than any boat I had paddled before and the more I tried to drive and stay in control of the boat the more I felt like I was turning and getting pushed around.  It just wasn’t the easy to paddle boat I was used to and my sloppy lines were slow.

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I decided to not let my initial disappointment turn me off of the design and I kept trying to figure out how to paddle it.  I decided right off the bat that I’d need more power to control the bigger boat so I headed into the Kayak Shed, Hood River’s kayak shop, and got  a brand new 200cm Powerhouse.  With the longer shaft and fresh blades I started to feel like I’d solved part of the problem.  As I continued to go for laps everyday I started to find that I could have smoother and faster lines if I spent more time steering the boat and less time driving in hard forward strokes.  The extra length was much easier to bring up to speed so, if I focused on keeping the boat straight and on line I didn’t have to worry about keeping the boat up to speed the way I had with the Tuna 1.

After a month in White Salmon I headed up to Canada feeling much more confident with my boat choice.  I went about a week after leaving the States before I got back in the water and when I did I started struggling with the boat again.  I reminded myself of my struggles and success before with this boat and decided instead of getting frustrated again I would try to focus on making all the eddy turns and ferries I could to dial my technique in the Gangsta back in.  The Gangsta makes easy smooth eddy turns I found but I struggled sometimes maintaining my ferry angle.  On several occasions I found that I just couldn’t keep the boat facing upstream as I left the eddy.  That being said, that quickly became my only complaint about the boat.  As I modified my technique for the bigger and faster boat I started to appreciate how easy it is to go fast in it and to boof it.  Also I found that it punches through holes even better than the Tuna 1 did.  The extra volume and speed make it feel like driving a tank into a hole even if your off line or off balance coming into the feature.

After several more months of paddling a multitude of rivers in this boat I’m quite confident and happy with my choice to buy one.  I’ve tried paddling some of the competitors boats as well and am always reminded of how easy it is to paddle a Waka boat.  I think this boat does exactly what it was designed to do and it does it exceptionally.  This boat is a racing boat first and forth most.  If your looking for a shit runner primarily and aren’t worried about dropping those two or three seconds off your race times the Tuna 2 is probably going to be a better bet for you.  That being said the Gangsta is a very versatile boat.  It can stick buttery lines in class V and make up for mistakes.  On top of all that it still takes super soft hits off waterfalls too, surprising because its over ninety gallons!

In conclusion I think this is an awesome boat and my top choice out of all the current options available. I had some struggles adjusting to being in a new boat after paddling the Tuna 1 for so long but I grew rather fond of the boat and am now a huge fan.  The only complaints I have with this boat is that it can be hard to hold a ferry angle sometimes when crossing eddy lines and sometimes I have trouble turning around in tight eddies because of the length.  I’m going to continue using this boat for the foreseeable future and recommend it for boaters who like to go fast or are on the larger side.


Length: Just under 9 feet at 107.48 inches

Width: 26.77 inches

Weight: 48.5 pounds

Paddler Weight: 154 - 264 lbs

Volume: 95 gallons

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Height: 5’10”

Weight: 155lbs

Shoe size: US 10

Medium legs, medium torso and super skinny hips

Categories: Review
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