Calling a Spade a Spade: A Review of Spade’s New Bliss Kayak

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By Luke Spencer, Clackamas River Outfitters

Let’s talk about Spade Kayak’s ‘Bliss’. But first, let’s talk about Spade Kayaks.

A relatively young manufacturer and lesser known to many paddlers in the U.S., the Austrian/German kayak company was founded in 2014 by paddlers Hans Mayer, Olli Grau, Jans Haluszka, Matze Bruttsman, and Jens Klatt. The Ace of Spades was the first production kayak model to hit the market and was rarely seen in the U.S. Fast forward to 2022 and Spade has ramped up production with seven models, incluidng three creek boats and four half-slices. Distribution is very limited and at the time of writing this review (Jan. 3, 2023) C.R.O. is the first and only retailer in the U.S.

Back to the Bliss, currently the medium size of the half slices that Spade Kayaks makes (Joker, Barracudda and Starefire). The color combinations are vivid and catch your eye, while the mold is clean with smooth lines. In short, I love the look.

The boat….

Outfitting: Simple and effective is how I would describe the outfitting. The seat, thigh hooks, and backband all fit me well and were comfortable for paddling. Although I much prefer ratchets over the rope and cleat system the cleats in the Bliss work well. The molded-in thigh hooks are not adjustable but provide a secure fit for me and seem to fit a wide range of paddlers for the boat’s size. The seat felt stout, had a nice shape to it, and was a good fit for me. I enjoyed the leverage provided by the slightly higher seat. The backband is comfortable (although felt a bit low on my back) and adjusts with a robust cord and cleat-type system. The bulkhead is adjustable, very solid, and is nicely contoured for your feet. Behind the seat there are a couple gear loops for attaching necessities. Seat adjustment is accomplished by removing screws behind the hip pads on the seat towers as well as the front and back pillars.

Spade BlissBe careful when tightening the seat screws that go into the brass threads so you don’t cross thread them. I wasn’t a fan of the way Spade does the drain plug with it threading directly into the plastic of the mold and I believe there is room for improvement on the hip pads. The pads themselves are fine and the boat comes with two different sizes of shims for a custom fit. I like the way the hip pads unclip with small plastic buckles but because the webbing isn’t routed through any type of slot, they can slide down. The openings for the shims are located at the bottom of the pads, which means the shims can slide out the bottom. This puzzled me as it seems like it would have been just as easy to put the opening at the top to stop the shims from slipping down. Overall, most average-sized paddlers should find the Bliss comfortable, and be able to take this boat right to the river.

Playfullness: Admittedly, I’m not the best at squirting these longer half-slice style boats. I’m used to a true playboat (i.e., Rockstar or Jed), so my technique still needs some fine-tuning. I thought squirting the Bliss would be easier than other longer models like it, but the overall volume and the shorter tail requires a more aggressive eddyline than I had expected. The shortness of the tail makes initiating and controlling the stern squirt more difficult, requiring more technique and practice than expected. How does it surf? Surfing waves in this boat is extremely fun; it surfs like a dream. The planing hull is smooth and fast. Its shorter length and bow rocker keep it from pearling. You’ll find yourself shredding waves while your comrades inlesse craft watch from the eddy.

Spade BlissDownriver: This boat comes alive as a river runner. The Bliss’s speed, maneuverability and playfulness create an extremely fun paddling experience. Sharp yet friendly edges provide crisp maneuvering that help you ferry and carve in and out of eddies smoothly. On steeper sections, the Bliss boofs effortlessly. The generous amount of bow rocker keeps you skipping away from holes and hydraulics and holds a line nicely; especially for its shorter length. The planing hull with a shallow V in the bow and slightly less kick rocker in the stern allows for good downriver speed and tracking. Stern edges feel sporty without being overly grabby and the low volume tail is easy to manipulate while ripping down river.

The Bliss is a solid option for paddlers between 130-195 lbs. and handles just about everything.  If you desire a slightly narrower version of the Jackson Antix 2.0, this is it. I tell paddlers who have asked me about this boat that it is versatile enough for most paddling situations and if you had only one kayak this would be it. The Bliss will shred waves, squirt, rally a favorite run, or explore new creeks.

BLISS SPADE SPECS:

 length: 8′  width:25.5  volume 60 gal.

Paddler weight: 60-90kg = 130-200 lbs

Weight: 18kg = 39.6 lbs

Interested in comparing the shapes and dimensions of other boats? Keep reading!

Other Half Slice Specs:

Spade Joker

length: 8’9″  width: 25.5″  volume: 68 gal.

 

Dagger Rewind Medium

length: 8.9′  width: 26.5  volume: 85 gal.

Jackson Antix 2.0 Medium

length: 8′  width: 26.25″  volume: 66 gal.


Pyranha Ripper Medium 

length: 9′ width: 24.5″  volume: 62 gal.

Zet Chili 

length: 8″11″  width: 24.8″  volume: 62 gal.

Drago Rossi Kush 

length: 8’9″  width: 26.4″ volume: 76.5 gal.

Lettmann Machete 

length: 8’8″  width: 26″  volume: 71 gal.

Waka Goat 

length: 8’8″  width: 25.6″  volume: 67 gal.

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