Fluid Spice (medium) Review

I’ve had my Fluid Spice for well over a year now but sadly never got to paddle it much. I don’t really know why but I would either tend to take my Nemesis for ease of flat water/shallow feature play or else I’d go creeking. The first time I used the boat was down the Palmiet River in a solid flood. It’s a fun river in the class 2 and 3 region and perhaps encroaching on the mildest of class 4 at high very high levels in some spots, although I hate classifying a river according to any form of scale except that of my own. The boat performed beautifully. Since then I have used it on big and small ocean waves on three different occasions and done a few other long stretches (Steelpoort twice – 70km), and also the Molenaars River on my own, twice in one day as it was just so much fun!

Although my experience in the Spice is relatively limited (compared to the Element, Solo or Nemesis) I believe I can now give a fair and accurate account of how I feel the boat performs. I wanted to review the boat long ago but didn’t think it was fair until I had paddled it several times in a variety of different river types and also on the ocean.


Boat stats according to Fluid:

Length    219 cm / 7'2"

 Width     63 cm / 24.75"

 Volume   200 litres / 53 gal

 Weight    15 kg / 33 lbs

 Paddler Weight   60 - 100 kg / 130 - 220 lbs


Manufacturer’s spin:


“The Spice is not the perfect boat to learn how to loop (although you can), it's also not the perfect boat to do a first descent on a class 5 creek somewhere in an isolated corner of the world (although you can), but if you want a boat that will take care of you on unfamiliar runs, enables you to surf waves on the run that other paddlers can't even catch, if you want a boat that gives you an exciting ride without being temperamental, you need to add some Spice to your life.


It has the proven Flirt hull, which means it is super loose on waves. The length of the boat combined with gradual kickrocker makes it fast, both on waves and downriver. The smooth rails will make you carve on a wave like you don't expect from a riverrunner, and also give you precise control when manoeuvring in rapids. Apart from being a forgiving yet performing riverrunner, the Spice is also great fun on ocean waves.


Most volume is distributed around the cockpit, where it is also slightly peaked to keep this boat on top of the water. The ends are not too slicy though, as the boat was designed to keep you in control on funny water.


Paddlers on the upper end of the weight range will find the Spice a nice playful riverrunner, while paddlers on the lower end of the weight range can expect a forgiving boat that will allow them to run complex rapids with ease. For beginners, this is the perfect boat to introduce them to the art of running rapids and surfing waves."


Various angle of the medium Spice.


Medium Nemesis (left) against the medium Spice (right).


Now for my spin…


Me: I’ve been paddling since April 2004 so not too long by most standards. I’ve paddled various rivers all across South Africa, Sweden and Norway and also in Swaziland and Zambia. I’m not much of a play boater (although I can) and prefer to run rivers, creeks, chill on overnight trips or hit some ocean waves in my Fluid Element! I’m 6’ tall and usually about 85kg without any clothes/gear etc.


Waterfall Rapid, Palmiet River.


+ Excellent outfitting and super comfortable, also easily adjustable and very simple to use. The outfitting is solid and won’t leave you in the lurch. Note: The new outfitting will reach you SOON. So the photo displayed here will be outdated. It is definitely better than the old outfitting and you will not be disappointed.


+ Back band is always in place, very soft (the material) yet firm and also quite large. It also is durable and my Spice, Solo, Nemesis and Element have all taken a lot of abuse and shows no sign of hard use. It has never pinched me once. Adjustability is via two ratchets that are attached to the seat, on the floor of the boat, at the moment.


+ Access to the stern of the boat is easy and the Pelican 1150 easily fits inside without any hassles. I haven’t yet done any overnight trips in this boat but for a single night out I’m sure I could fit in enough gear without any problems.


The Spice is easy to aerial with!!! Who would have thought?!


Cruising around at Derde Steen, Cape Town.


Blunt at Derde Steen. All these water shots are by Niell Taylor.


Fisher King, in a Spice. No problem :-)


+ The Spice comes standard with a healthy amount of foam under the seat to fill the gap that would otherwise be there. Most manufacturers do not do this. This reduces the already slim chance of your Fluid kayak oil canning. The seat itself is a large platform and helps to increases the overall stiffness of the hull too which is great for surfing.


+ At 6’ tall and weighing in at 85kg I have room to spare where my feet are. I’ve made a reasonably large foot block up front and have my seat in the centre position. You get a full kit of foam to help you customise your boat in the way you feel fit.


+ Die-forged aluminium grab handles are strong, durable, good looking and offer little resistance through the water during freestyle moves.


+ Very easy to roll.


A cold paddle alone down the Molenaars. What a beautiful day to be out on the river!


The retentive and dangerous hole at Hand Stands Up on the Palmiet River.


Another sticky hole, this time on the Steelpoort River.


An fun section on the Steelpoort.


Steelpoort River.


+ Evenly distributed volume in the bow and stern makes it relatively easy to throw this boat smoothly around in a hole although flat water moves require a lot of grunt.


+ A reasonable amount of pop (given the length and intended design) for loops either in a hole, or on the flats.


+ The hull has a lot of speed which is good for getting aerial on either river or ocean waves. On the ocean, this boat rips too and can bust some huge aerial moves. Faster than would be expected.


+ Loose on a medium to big wave and spins are really quick.


+ Available in a small, which is really small and suited for children, and also a large which will take even the big monsters above 100kg.


Bubble and Squeak on the Palmiet River.


Easy surfing....


Wave wheel at Derde Steen, Cape Town.


It must be noted that the Spice is intended as a river running play boat with emphasis on river running, not playing. This is where most people get the wrong idea. Strangely enough, many people automatically label the Spice as a beginner’s boat. To me, this is inaccurate. I don’t think there can be such thing as a beginner’s boat. A beginner should start out in a boat that fits his/her body size and match the rivers/conditions that he/she are paddling the most. But anyway, that’s another story. I believe the Spice is one of the most underrated boats around. Sort of the ugly duckling that everyone saw but never took any notice of because let’s face it; the boat doesn’t look quite as smooth as some boats but I can assure you it’s performance will blow you away.



Judgement Day, Palmiet Rapid.


The last bit of Judgement Day, in flood. No problem in the Spice.

Luckily that’s where the negatives end because the boat does in fact perform way better than what it looks. Down river it has good speed and holds a line nicely. Pulling in and out of eddies is really easy and commanding the edges is very easy due to the narrow width of the boat. The edges are also high enough not to trip you up in unpredictable water. I’ve heard people mention the boat is unstable because of its narrow width but I haven’t found this to be a problem and have personally seen many beginners excel in the Fluid Spice. The one thing the width does make a difference in is flat spins. While I’m no expert in boat design, let alone paddling, I found it needs a bigger, faster feature to allow the hull to loosen up. On a small ocean wave the boat feels fairly sluggish and slow to spin, but climb onto a bigger wave and the boat suddenly transforms and comes alive. I’m not talking big as in the type of waves people only dream of paddling but something a bit more decent – bigger than four foot measured on the front face. The Spice can go surprisingly large in aerial moves and I managed to get some decent air on smallish waves with Niell Taylor taking photos from the water with the waterproof housing I had made for my digital SLR. You can see the photos in this article and they came out beautifully!


Climbing over a wave at Derde Steen.


Landing a blunt on a small wave.


Wave wheels are super easy but cartwheels require a little more muscle, especially on flat water. Although the boat looks easy to cartwheel it definitely isn’t, on flat water at least. Stern squirts are even harder to achieve but then one needs to look at the purpose of the boat. It is designed to keep you upright and stroking on a river but still being able to surf and play along the way. Some of the freestyle tricks are going to be harder to do in this boat and one must realise that when you buy the boat. Want an easy to throw around boat? Get a Nemesis. Simple as that. So why get a Spice? Well, you’ll get a boat that will be friendlier to paddle than a full on play boat. You’ll be able to load more into the boat for a long day out and if the weather is warm and the river easy even load in a sleeping bag, mattress and food for one night. The boat will hold a line better and have more speed for moving about on the river, making ferries and punching holes, less edgy and easier to paddle in general, although of course, it won’t be as radical when playing. From a creeker boater’s point of view sometimes paddling very easy rivers, the Spice will be way more manoeuvrable and fun to paddle. You’ll be able to surf many waves along the way and enjoy the flat bottomed hull on big volume rivers.


Getting into it on the Steelpoort River.


I own a Solo, a Nemesis, a Spice and an Element and definitely enjoy paddling all four boats. Four different boats feeling all very different and all awesome in their own special way. Think about what you’re trying to achieve and don’t get caught up with what boats are cool to paddle, and what are not. Look specifically at the types of rivers you’re paddling and match your boat to the conditions you paddle. It’s cool to have fun on the river with great people in amazing locations, upright. It’s not cool to struggle in the wrong boat and swim…


A while back I wrote an article on choosing the right boat for you. This is what I wrote about ‘river-running play boats’:


“The rivers in your area are anything from low volume to big volume rivers. They are not too steep and mostly are pool drop, which means rapids are interspersed with pools, making life a lot easier. Some may be more continuous however they are still not too steep and therefore shouldn’t be too challenging. You want to run rivers and be comfortable the entire day. However, you’d also like to surf rivers waves as well as holes and don’t want to be restricted like you would in a creek boat. A river running play boat would probably suit you best.”


Adrian Tregoning at Derde Steen, Cape Town.


Try out a Fluid Spice, I think you’ll really love it.



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning (of the actual boat only), otherwise Rowan Walpole, Adrian Vroom, Lelani Boshoff and Niell Taylor. All the actions photos are featured elsewhere on the website with further descriptions etc. Thanks to all those that took a photo somewhere along the line, much appreciated!

Words by: Adrian Tregoning. 

Paddler: Adrian Tregoning.

Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Fluid and this review is based on my thoughts, experiences and most importantly, my own opinion. I do however believe it’s an accurate review on this boat and its performance. Use it, don’t use it.