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2007 inflatable kayak shootout

by mania

Welcome to the Whitewater Addiction 2007 duckie shootout! Our contenders include AIRE, Hyside, Incept, Maravia, NRS, SOTAR, Star and Vanguard. If you like the idea of kayaking but want a big forgiving boat and would rather swim than roll then read on my friend.

Considerations

Things to consider when buying an IK (inflatable kayak) include length, weight, material and price. You can opt for a single or double. Outfitters call the doubles divorce boats so I recommend two singles.

thumbnail of Fishpicture courtesy of Brian Vogt

Use

These days duckies have been seen on almost everything you would see a hard shell kayak on, from flatwater to class V creeks. I have personally witnessed people taking them over a 25 foot waterfall on the White Salmon. Although it may be possible to roll an IK, most of the time you can just flip it back over and climb in if you swim.

Another nice thing about these boats is you can easily deflate them for easy transport. They are possibly the most portable boats made.

I should also mention that some duckies are being used for what is called 'striding' which involves standing up while you paddle. I talked to Jeff Snyder at Gauley Fest this year and he showed me his custom AIRE force and really long paddle. I saw one of his disciples take one over Sweets Falls and he did swim but it sure looks like fun.

Length

Most ducks are between 9 and 14 feet long and can hold one or two people depending on length.

Weight

Weight can be an issue if you have to do much portaging or hiking with your boat. NRS has a model that weighs only 17 lbs while most others weigh twice that. Boats that weigh less are most likely going to be thinner than heavier boats so they might be more prone to puncture.

thumbnail of Jeff Snyder

Material

Similar to rafts the main materials are hypalon, polyurethane, nylon, or PVC. Hypalon is generally considered the longest lasting but will weigh more and not pump up as stiff as the other materials, which are lighter and stiffer but might not wear as well. A urethane coating can add to the durability but also weight and cost.

Price

There is a trend these days for manufacturers to offer a 'cheap' entry model and a top-of-the-line version. I have tried some of the cheaper models and am usually disappointed with durability. If you only go out 6 times a year then you're probably not going to put too much stress on your boat so you might go for cheapness, otherwise shuck out the bucks for a longer lasting model.

The Contenders

AIRE

thumbnail of AIRE logoAIRE Lynx and Force IKs have a PVC shell with zipper over an air-tight Urethane bladder. I've taken a Lynx through plenty of class IV and IV+ water with very few swims, they really do perform well (if you know how to paddle).

AIRE also designs/distributes the Tributary series discussed below.

Hyside

thumbnail of Hyside logoHyside makes the Padillac series with all the bells and whistles and the lower priced Rio Bravo series. Both models are made of hypalon and feature a 40 inch width for stability. The one man Padillac has an option for foot braces and thigh straps for more serious whitewater. The Rio Bravo 165 is 14 feet long so pack the cooler and bring the dog!

Incept

thumbnail of Incept logoIncept boats are Kiwi made of PVC and love. I don't think they have a one man model although you can always turn a two man boat into a one man by adjusting the seat.

Maravia

thumbnail of Maravia logoMaravia makes a one and two man kayak out of the same tough material that they use for their rafts (which is very impressive). Sadly at the time of writing this its almost impossible to find info about these kayaks on the Maravia.com website since it leads to AIRE boats when you click on kayaks. Someone seriously needs to take marketing 101.

NRS

thumbnail of NRS logoNRS has a premium model called the MaverIK made out of hypalon and a new budget model made of nylon they call the Bandit. The Bandit is obviously thinner but only weighs 17 lbs. This has me imagining long hikes into the San Juans for some duck packing. I have some on order so I'll keep you posted.

SOTAR

thumbnail of Sotar logoSOTAR kayaks are not cheap as you can see from the price list. I think you can get a tan version for slightly cheaper. The boats are made of Lexatron which is a polyurethane nylon. Sotar will also make you a custom boat for a fee.

Star

thumbnail of Star logoStar boats are made of PVC coated polyester and they offer four whitewater models. The boats are sold factory direct only and you can find specials on the website. The owners are super nice and travel a lot doing volunteer work.

Tributary

thumbnail of Tributary logoThe Strike boats are made of PVC with a urethane bladder and seem to be made for some whitewater but not full on like the Lynx.

The Tomcat boats are made of vinyl and have cheap valves. In my experience they do not hold up to any kind of use and I cannot recommend them for the serious paddler.

Vanguard

thumbnail of Vanguard logoVanguard is the 'new' kid on the block but the owners have been in the industry for a long time. The boats are made of a PVC coated Polyester base fabric and feature Leafield valves and two D-rings.

The Specs

I've put all the vital boat specs in one place so you can get a quick feel for the differences between models. There are also links to the manufactures web sites so you can get more detailed information and photographs once you narrow down your choices.

MFR BOAT LENGTH WIDTH DIAM WEIGHT MATERIAL CAPACITY PRICE
AIRE Force 9'6 32" 9.5" 26 lbs PVC/U 275 lbs (1) $1299
Force XL 10'3" 22.5" 10" 28 lbs PVC/U 300 lbs (1) $1399
Lynx I 10'3" 37" 11" 32 lbs PVC/U 350 lbs (1) $1150
Lynx II 12'6" 39" 11.5" 39 lbs PVC/U 475 lbs (2) $1265
Hyside Padillac 114 9'9" 40" 13" 34 lbs Hyp 1 $1157
Padillac 132 11'11" 40" 13" 48 lbs Hyp 2 $1550
Rio Bravo 105 9'9" 40" 13" 30 lbs Hyp 1 $885
Rio Bravo 145 12' 40" 13" 43 lbs Hyp 2 $1095
Rio Bravo 165 14' 40" 13" 50 lbs Hyp 2 $1195
Incept K37D 12'9" 41" 12.5" 42 lbs Poly/U 440 lbs (2) $1525
Maravia Breeze 1 9'6" 37" 11" 30 lbs PVC/U 1 $1080
Breeze 2 12' 37" 11" 40 lbs PVC/U 2 $1286
NRS MaverIK I 9'9" 35.5" 11" 31 lbs Hyp 1 $1225
MaverIK II 12'5" 35.5" 11" 45 lbs Hyp 2 $1335
Bandit I 9'7" 34" 11" 17 lbs Nylon/U 1 $745
Bandit II 12'5" 34" 11" 24 lbs Nylon/U 2 $845
SOTAR 1MKSST 10' 36" 11.5" 40 lbs Poly/U 1 $1558
1MKLST 11' 36" 11.5" 45 lbs Poly/U 1 $1662
2MKST 14' 36" 11.5" 55 lbs Poly/U 2 $1818
1MKLSP 11' 36" 11.5" 45 lbs Nylon/U 1 $1279
2MKSP 14' 36" 11.5" 55 lbs Nylon/U 2 $1399
Star Starlite 100 9'5" 39" 12" 38 lbs PVC/Poly 350 lbs (1) $849
Starlite 200 12'6" 39" 12" 45 lbs PVC/Poly 450 lbs (2) $995
Stiletto 12'5" 32" 9.5" 36 lbs PVC/Poly 250 lbs (1) $925
Yellow Jacket 10'7" 33" 10" 42 lbs PVC/Poly 300 lbs (1) $999
Tributary Strike 10'2" 37.5" 11" 36 lbs PVC/U 275 lbs (1) $799
Strike 2 12'6" 38.5" 10.5" 47 lbs PVC/U 450 lbs (2) $899
Tomcat Solo 10'3" 36" 11.5" 38 lbs PVC/Vinyl 325 lbs (1) $549
Tomcat Tandem 12'9" 38.5" 12" 48 lbs PVC/Vinyl 450 lbs (2) $649
Vanguard PK1 8'10" 39" 12" 36 lbs PVC 1 $1195
PK2 11'5" 40" 12" 49 lbs PVC 2 $1295

Conclusion

Duck ShootThere are a wide variety of inflatable kayaks to choose from these days and most will perform quite well in whitewater if paddled correctly. Try before you buy whenever possible to get a feel for how the boat handles. See if it looks like it will last through the summer. Definitely consider thigh straps and foot braces as inexpensive add-ons that will dramatically improve performance. Your paddle is another item that will directly affect performance but we will discuss that in a later article.

Remember to always wear a PFD and helmet when kayaking and dress warmer than you would on a raft. Practice swimming and recovery in a safe place so it won't be such a big deal when it happens unexpectedly. Finally if you are new to the sport you should preferably get instruction from an ACA certified instructor rather than your buddy bubba.

I hope you have enjoyed the shootout. Feedback is welcome and take a look around the rest of the site while you are here.