I started in an IK and I for one am very happy that is how I started. My dad has always been an IK'er or rafter and didn't have hardshells, so that was my ticket into the whitewater world. How this benefited me (besides being taught by a very safety conscious father), was I was able to learn to read the water and figure out what the water was doing on an intimate level, without having to worry about edge control as much. I think this is very important because it is critical in my opinion to have your water reading skills a couple notches above you staying upright ability. There are plenty of places where if you stay upright, you could still be in a very bad situation, yet, had you gone where you needed to go, and flipped, you would be rolling at the end of the pool, instead of swirling around a nasty pocket, or pinned. In some cases it is a necessity to stay upright, in this case if you read water well enough, you know not to run that one because you know what it will do to your boat.
You still learn edge control though, you feel when current is sucking a tube under, but you have time to recover.
On many of the small woody creeks in Oregon, these are the perfect vessels. David Saquety on Gordon Creek Oregon. Coming around a rocky, fast, blind corner, only to see a logjam across the current, no real eddies; this is the time to paddle to shore, leap to shore, and then if your lucky grab your boat. In a hardshell this would not work. I have a couple experiences like this where I was happy to be in the IK and my dad has quit a few more and this is his strongest argument for why he likes IK's. If the boat floats downstream, it is ok cause its not full of water so it is much easier to recover.
My dad with his Ik where Ik's belong. Also, I know some IK'ers who can boof, including myself, so I know that is possible and I have to say some of the boofs are smoother and it is more controllable I think. Its harder to land flat, but you can ride a stroke and keep the nose up for a long time without it dropping out from under you. I talked to one guy who landed flat off the second tier of Shipperds, anyone who has been there knows this is difficult. I have never done it (not counting the delayed boof), he boofed from the top and cleared the sloping drop to land flat.
During the shooting of "Two Kids and a Duck" I think I was upside down more often than Nick, granted I didn't swim that year and he probably had 3 or 4, but he more often than not self recovered and there were times I wish we would have traded boats.
If you have seen that film you have seen him clean some gnar. My favorite clip is him stomping Upper Falls on the Lewis like it was noones business. He planed away from the drop and had a perfect tuck without getting water in his boat... I broke my nose.
Nick tucks up at Twin falls. Which brings me to my next point, they are less painful, your not going to break your back as easily landing flat, you won't bonk your elbows on the sides, you won't crack your face on the rim of the cockpit, if you pin you are not as trapped.
And I for one can vouch for the fact you can brace IK's, first you highside, then you brace, this combo can work, watch Nick dropping Taitnapum falls at ~1:30 on this video, now that is some secondary stability. (you will notice this is one of those times he was upright and I was upside down).
The number one biggest reason I don't paddle IK's very often is they fill up with water. Running the Roaring River in the Clack Drainage felt like class five in an IK because you couldn't miss a single stroke because your boat was always full of water and wouldn't respond well. That said, it was one of my favorite trips of the year and the Ik's made the portages much easier. Throw and go's are way easier with Ik's too.
In this video we run the Lower Wind. As you can see Nick cleaned the Flume better than all the hardshellers.
In this next one you will see some real clean IK lines. Also, you will see two flips resulting in swims back to back on the second tier of Shipperds around 30 seconds in. Guess which boater reunited himself with his boat and was ready to drop over the third tier in 10 seconds, and guess which one took 15 minutes to get back in his boat and didn't run the third tier for another 10 minutes?
This next video has some recent clips of my dad doin some IK stuff that I talked about. First clip is an example of him running a class V-ish drop. Second is an example of a boof, not the biggest Iv'e seen but still got the nose up. Third is something I didn't mention which is Ik's are great for shallow drops cause they don't go deep. I hit bottom off that drop, in the summer it lands on rock, thats how shallow it is so its not very deep and he didn't hit bottom even though he pencilled because the volume brought his nose up so fast, before the tail was in the water even. Third is the Iguana move where there is not much of an eddy but he just hops out.
Now all that said, I still paddle a hardshell :) No doubt you can run bigger stuff, and I am a fan of the boof stomp. I will always run the biggest stuff I run in a hardshell. My point is there is nothing wrong with Ik's, you can go big in them and they are a great way to start. Check out Bryan Vogt's IK blog if you want to see them run some of the biggest stuff in the PNW which is under my links on the right side of this page. And check out all the stuff from '07 on my blog for Nick tearing some stuff up. Ok, thats all for now.