New Pegasus Ama

Hi everybody,

I'm seeing a lot of new Pegasus and Polaris with a new type ama. It has more volume and a more gradual curve than the previous Bixler ama. Does anybody know the story behind this adaptation or any benefits to using it over the older design? I paddle in anything from dead flat to steep chop and would like to know if an "upgrade" would be beneficial.

Much Appreciated

Submitted by mishka on Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:32am

I'm sure the people who liked the Bixler will respond with their opinions, but I never liked it.

I didn't like that it stuck, what, a full three feet in the air? For lots of Pegasus paddlers, the nose of the ama was taller than they were. In an unfavorable wind, you just don't need that much ama sticking up in the air.

I didn't like the rounded entry. Look at every low-speed hull ever made. They all have a "fine entry:" there's a sharp edge at the front. Some hulls, like the Makia, have a vertical entry, and others, like the Hurricane have more overhang, but it's still an sharp edge. The Bixler enters the water in a big drag-inducing arc. The cross section is too round. On very flat water, you can see the wake it makes at the leading edge as it pushes and slaps (not slices) through the water. Depending on how the Bixler is rigged, it's also susceptible to digging in at the okole. If the nose is too high, the okole digs in and creates even more drag.

Finally, the reserve buoyancy on the Bixler is too much. If you're paddling in ama side swell, you're quickly going to become a master at ama-flying (or swimming). Any ama side swell lifts that Bixler straight up and the next thing you know your right elbow is in the water. A smaller ama can be submerged a little, which lessens the ama's tendancy to roll your canoe over.

In looking at the newer ama designs on canoes, some common traits appear to be: most aren't as tall as the Bixler, they're ALL sharp on the leading edge, and they don't seem to be as bulbous at the rear iako (smaller volume).

Racing OC1's are still relatively new things. As manufacturers continue to push their designs it's inevitable some ideas will prove to be evolutionary dead ends just as in other sports. In my totally amateur opinion, the Bixler ama will not be making a comeback.

#1 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 9:36am

I guess you can't get away from the laws of hydrodynamics. Narrow fine entry Amas will always cut through water better. It's finding the right balance between taper and height at the front of the Ama and volume/shape at the rear that is tricky. I personally own a Kaimana and I am very happy with that new Ama because it is not that fat and tapers well moving forward without being much higher than the front deck. It reacts well to the water - it gives me time to adjust to it moving off the water in a balanced unpanicked way. Similar to the Vantage Ama from what I can see.

I'd love to hear other people's opinions on current Ama designs and how they feel to them.



#2 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:46pm

Thanks for the input everybody!

The original Bixler ama was "interesting" getting used. However, after a few months I felt it was a considerable advantage over a Makia and a Hurricane. I could not find the right balance on either of those two when paddling in steep chop. The ama just kept sinking/digging into the crescent of the wave. However, with the larger volume of the Bixler ama the boat felt light and glided over the rough chop (if steered correctly).

The Hurricane ama was perfect for flatter water. Its "V" profile minimized the drag and was almost silent, as opposed to the Bixler....

#3 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:44pm

I don't have much time with the Pegasus - just a couple of test runs. But what I found interesting about the Bixler ama (but never really got a good chance to test) was the shorter waterline of the ama coupled with it being a bit wider. My hunch was that the smaller contact patch on the water's surface might make the canoe more manuverable in the surf. The wider stance would probably help it sit on the water rather than sink. The ama for the Hihimanu has a somewhat similar setup (minus the height). The Hihimanu's ama has a tendancy to skip or slap across the surface of the water. We get a lot of short trough swells in the Pacific NW, and I am looking for a canoe that will be quick to respond to steering inputs in surf conditions.

I'd be interested to hear from people who have paddled canoes having both amas with short waterlines, like the Bixler, and longer waterlines (like the Elua) comparing the resposiveness of these type of canoes. Does the ama have an effect on the responsiveness (quick, tight turns)?

#4 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 5:57pm

That's a pretty interesting question and one I've never really heard anyone ask. As it is, designers have to balance a canoe's manueverability with its ability to track. You obviously have to be able to turn to connect bumps, but if your canoe is too squirrely (if it doesn't track) you won't be able to run the line you want. I don't think the ama, unless it were something really exotic (as in, spectacularly bad), has much to do with a canoe's handling.

It might be interesting to test the theory. The Pegasus with its new ama versus the old Bixler could be a good test bed. Personally, I didn't notice a difference in manueverability with the new ama, but maybe someone would.

I don't think ama style is a big factor in canoe selection. As much as I disliked the Bixler, I still liked the Pegasus overall. I just thought it could be a better canoe with a better ama (which it now appears to have).
The design elements incorporated into the canoe itself are much more obvious factors to handling than the ama. Like, if the rudder's too far back, it won't even be in the water when you're dropping in and really need it. If it's too far forward, it won't have as much leverage and your canoe's handling could feel sluggish. If the rudder's too small, you won't be able to point the canoe where you want it. If the okole's too full, it'll feel too loose when surfing and not track ("spin out").

I don't envy canoe designers - bias your design too far in any one direction and your canoe could suck in some other aspect. A canoe is necessarily a set of compromises between conflicting purposes. But when you're on something YOU like in your favorite conditions, linking wave after wave, I bet your ama's waterline length and aspect ratio is the farthest thing from your mind.

#5 Sat, 01/28/2006 - 10:27am

I was wondering if anyone could post a photo of this ama and iako?
If someone already owned the Pegasus, is it as simple as upgrading the ama and iako or just the ama?

Kiwi in oz

#6 Sun, 01/29/2006 - 8:59pm

For some good shots of Kai's Wa'a's new ama, check out Keizo's killer photos from last years Solo Molo. One shot in particular, apart from being a really great photograph, is like a centerfold for the new ama:

I'm told the new ama is compatible with the old iakos, but I'd check with your regional Kai Wa'a rep to be sure.

#7 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 7:31am

hey mishka
i recently contacted a kai waa retailer in Hawaii. at first, i was asking about the older style polaris canoes that i was looking at on craigslist, when all of a sudden, he asked me "what kind of ama". i told him it was a bixer ama and he sighed. apparently, the bixer ama was "inadequately designed" and that i should stay away from it. he told me the bixer ama creates too much drag for the boat to handle and actually slows down the boat. then, he tried to sell me the new puffy ama. this one is suppose to be much better and adds the right amount of buoyancy needed to balance out the boat. i personally haven't tried it, but if kai waa's personal oahu retailer is telling me to stay away from the bixer ama, i would listen.

#8 Tue, 07/13/2010 - 12:51am

hope the op has figured this out over the last 4 years..haha

#9 Tue, 07/13/2010 - 7:04am

Many people love the Bikler Ama especialy in the surf. Aaron Napolean won the Oahu Champs a year ago on an old Polaris I think with the original ama or the Bixler. So try it and see for yourself. Most people won't notice the difference.

#10 Tue, 07/13/2010 - 8:19pm

YOU GUYS SOUND LIKE MY 2 YEAR OLD (who is extrememly cute)

#11 Wed, 07/14/2010 - 3:02pm

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