Height: 69 inches
Weight: waxes and wains with the moon cycle
Shoe size. 9.5ish
Sponsors: what’s that?
Cause of the month: Save the Futalefeu (www.futaleufuriverkeeper.org)
It’s cold, wet, dumping cats, dogs…caballos; You name it. All I can think is, the Futalefeu is on the rise. There is no way to convince me not to portage the slicker-than-snot rocks of Zeta. I’ll be lucky to not get my shoes sucked off if I get toasted inThrone Room. Luckily, I’ve been testing these kicks off of Astral’s press, the Rasslers. Here is a review of the latest water shoe to hit the paddling scene. I have been wearing them while safety kayaking, scouting, portaging scary rapids and rappelling down waterfalls in Futalefeu, Chile this Winter. It might not be the best thing since sliced bread, few things are, but it’s pretty dang good!
First and formost, let me just say that throughout my paddling “career” I have worn a plethora of footwear on the river. I have portaged more rapids than I like to admit. I have fallen, stumbled and all around “biffed it” more times than I can count. I have fractured the 5th metatarsal in my foot while playing in and around slippery didymo-infested waters. I have paddled in everything from 5.10 canyoneers and Teva’s Ions to Vibram 5 Fingers and Chuck Taylor’s(a personal favorite). I can appreciate a good pair of river shoes and the Astral Rasslers fall into that category with a few criticisms.
At first glance, Astral seems to have simply taken the Brewer, and beefed it up. It has all the great features of the Brewer and then some. The Rassler has kept the 7 drain holes in the forefront of the sole along with 2 on the side and the slotted heel. Which is just big enough to clear fine sand and booty beer.
The body of the shoe is made out of bomb proof cordura that will last long after the stitching blows. Astral has high topped the shoe by adding nearly 2 inches of the material up around the ankle. 4 extra eyelets give more ankle support, stability and allow you to lace up to prevent shoes from coming off when dropping backwards and upside down off of throne room into a pit of high water despair… getting your paddle ripped from your hands… and swimming deep… Yeah it happened… but my shoes were still on my feet! Astral keeps it simple. No buckles, no loops, no twisty tightening gimmicks, just old fashioned laces. The less moving parts, the better. With enough jungle slogging and big water foot bracing, the brewers tend to get some hot spots that melt down with blown stitching, primarily where the ball of the foot makes contact. Astral is fighting these hot spots with reinforced rubber strips running around the heel and toe. (When in doubt, always carry a speedy-stitch in the “Oh-Sh*t Kit” to make in-field repairs.) The sole curves upwards to compliment the natural “rocker” of the foot as well.
Need to do some 5.12 climbing with some heel hooks thrown in? No problem. Once upon a time, long ago, Adidas did not own 5.10 rubber. Adidas seems to dislike the idea of having a competitor using their ‘Stealth’ rubber and cleaning house on the “whitewater footwear” category. To combat this, Astral whipped up their own special sauce to pour on this new round of kicks. Usually I stick by the rule “if you know your shoes are extremely sub-par than you always anticipate the fall.” However, some shoes claim to be the stickiest…the next thing you know, your taking a header into the river rocks with a fully loaded boat on your shoulder. If you have this problem and refuse to give up the Chuck Taylor’s, refer to a review on the Sweet full face Rocker. Astral’s special sauce in right on par with the old Stealth Rubber.
Other pro’s: The Astral line is incredibly light and low profile for the durability and function that they offer. Other companies make solid shoes, but they weigh more than my pin kit and can be difficult to wear in a boat depending on the foot size of the paddler. You know what they say about big feet? Tough to fit into small plastic boats… Right? The Rasslers are the answer. These shoes are also offered in half sizes for you folks who can’t decide between a shoe that fits bare-feet and those dawned with socks and drysuit booties. Now you can do both!
Cons: Rubbery dreams of sticky proportions can only take you so far in the land of moss covered rocks and greasy Lincoln logs. The Rasslers are almost my dream shoes, but not quite. With that said, kayakers are hard to please and everyone is a critic.
Astral shot to make a bomber high top shoe with the flexibility and agility of a sporty tennie , while giving the reliability and traction of a canyoning boot. They just about nailed it down. The new hightop material rises 2 inches, wraps half way around the front of the ankle and slopes down towards the Achilles Tendon. This Protects the front of the ankle and prevents Cordura from rubbing against the back of the heel on long hikes. However, when wearing a drysuit, it exposes the material of the drysuit booty that covers the Achilles. This is the main issue if nothing is worn to protect the drysuit booty i.e. a thin neoprene sock. Also, I like the idea of having the high top wrap all the way around my ankle for added support and prevention of loss during a heinous out of boat experience. Astral has their design reasons, I just don’t know exactly what they are. Perhaps it’s to much to ask for shoes so securely attached to my feet that I can rappel from them. Maybe they have done an inhouse swim to suction test.
There’s nothing like watching your buddy slog through a mile of steep undergrowth wearing a low-top shoe on one foot and a shredded latex drysuit sock on the other to make you think twice about proper footwear in remote and committing canyons… Never did we find that other shoe. However, My rasslers stayed on my feet while knee high in the kind of muck that makes suction cup sounds…as if to laugh when they rip your shoes off.
The Rasslers come with a heel loop to assist with pulling these snug fitting kicks on, you just need fingers the size of a 3 year olds to use them. Using the rope-wrap from a broken oar, I tied extra loops through my heel loops to accommodate my sausage fingers. Not only is it SUPER-STYLISH, but functional as well! The rubber loop material seems to be holding up just fine with the retrofit.
Lastly, color options are limited, but I also know that Kokatat has got some mango colored Cordura laying around the factory in Arcata. When the kids at Astral make a pair of Rasslers out of that, I’ll be the first one on the shipping list. I haven’t tested them out at the dive bars yet. You know, the ones with the greasy floors. But, I’m sure they will perform just as well as the brewers.