Easy-to-use pedals and fishing features rise to the surface
Paddle, schmaddle. That’s the feeling of companies turning to hands-free propulsion systems to power paddlecraft. First there was Hobie, which pioneered hands-free paddling about two decades ago. Then came companies like Native Watercraft. Hopping on the trend this year are Wilderness Systems, debuting its new Helix MD Motor Drive and Helix PD Pedal drive; Jackson Kayaks, which is adding pedal-drive power to its Coosa fishing kayak; and Old Town Canoe, which is unveiling its Predator PDL pedal-drive fishing kayak. “Propulsion is the next frontier in kayak fishing,” says Confluence marketing director Evan Lyendecker. “More designs are emerging with these compatibilities as more fishing tournaments allow motorized or pedal-driven kayaks. The ability to propel a kayak without a paddle is driving the sport’s growth.” As for Jackson’s entry into the hands-free propulsion category, it’s expecting to turn far more heads than those of fish. “It will arguably be the biggest news in kayaking this year,” says Jackson’s James McBeath.
A boat Inspector Gadget would love
From outfitting that adjusts in three directions (seats that can move forward, backward and up and down) to customizable options for the fishing kayak market (fish-finder mount, anyone?), boat builders are charging forward with bells and whistles that let every type of paddler find the perfect vessel. Today’s craft are fully customizable, with everything from changeable storage capabilities to tracks for accommodating electronics and more. “People like to personalize their boat, depending on the type of fishing and paddling they do,” says Native Watercraft’s Woody Callaway. “We make it easy for them to mount what they want, where they want it.”
The family that boats together…
Paddlesports are among the most family-friendly activities out there, and to that end manufacturers are catering to the whole unit: paddlers young and old, large and small, solo and tandem. There are even models that let you cart along the family dog. “There’s a marked growth of family interest in rec kayaking,” says Confluence’s Lyendecker, basing his findings on recent company dealer panels. Family-friendly features include more stable hulls, additional cockpit wells for Fido and the kids, built-in coolers and drink holders. And it’s not just for touring the flats, with companies like Jackson Kayaks debuting a new kid-sized freestyle kayak at this year’s show.
Packability a plus
With more and more consumers living in urban areas without a surplus of storage, finding innovative ways to shelve kayaks when not in use is crucial. SUP companies capitalize on this via inflatables; kayak companies do so via innovative breakdown models designed to fit space constraints as well as pocketbooks. “We focus on solving the two major pain points of paddling—storage and transport—by using durable, lightweight materials and a patented folding pattern to create a boat that can be stored behind your couch, transported in your truck and assembled in minutes,” says Oru Kayak Director of Marketing Andy Cochrane.
Oru Kayak—whose boats fold, origami-style, from briefcase to kayak—launches three new models at this year’s show, including the CoastXT (pictured; MSRP $2,499), Bay ST (MSRP $1,599) and Beach LT (MSRP $1,299). Each comes with improved features making the boats easier to assemble, transport and store. A new locking zipper system makes sealing the boat a quick, singular motion; a new hull increases speed and legroom; and the addition of deck lines ups safety.
Innova Kayak debuts its new Solar 410 C inflatable kayak (MSRP $759), which packs down into a 21-by-16-by-10-inch footprint (store it under your bed or in your closet) and even converts to seat one, two or three passengers. It weighs 37 pounds, so you can carry it on a plane or toss it into the car trunk, and its width and seat adjustability mean you can use either a canoe or kayak paddle (other boats are typically either too wide or two low to allow this). You’ll also be doing your part for the planet; All Innova kayaks are made from recyclable rubber, and the company will recycle your boat when you’re ready to retire it.
The NativeWatercraft Ultimate FX Propel 13 is a 13-foot-long fishing machine (MSRP $2,949) that features the brand's updated Propel Pedal Drive System (designed to be faster and more efficient than previous versions). Other features include an easy-turn rudder system, anchor trolley, paddle and open-deck storage, built-in transducer mount, battery box for electronics, groove tracks for mounting various accessories, and adjustable thwart box for extra storage.
The Athena 100X (MSRP $399) is Pelican’snew women's sit-inside kayak. It's svelte, weighing just 35 pounds, and measures 9 feet, 8 inches long with a sleek, 27.5-inch beam. A 55-inch-long cockpit offers ample wiggle room, while fore and aft storage hammocks create plenty of space to stash gear. And it’s built to last with polyethylene construction, so there's no need to worry about dings. Other features include elastic bungee cords on the deck, adjustable footrests, knee pads, smartphone holder, bottle holder and the supportive, padded ErgoFit seating system.
After three years in development, Old Town Canoe gets into the pedal-drive game with its new Predator PDL (MSRP $2,800), offering hands-free kayak control with just 16 inches of draft for navigating shallow waters. Measuring 13 feet, 2 inches, the boat comes with a new pivot and docking system allowing users to go from parked to pedaling (or vice versa) in seconds, and to more easily avoid obstacles and beach the boat. The PDL drive system comes with forward and reverse modes, padded pedals for bare-footed use, and it weighs just 21 pounds, making the console easy to transport.
Jackson Kayak enters the pedal-drive game with the 12-foot, 4-inch Coosa FD ($MSRP TBD), a hands-free version of its Coosa HD fish kayak. Slightly longer and wider, with less rocker, the paddle-free craft tracks better than the original while still offering maneuverability. Complete with forward and reverse, it comes with a new Elite Seat frame, which lets you raise or lower the seat or move it forward or back to maximize your pedaling efficiency. YakAttack track systems allow you to customize the craft with a variety of accessories, such as rod holders and camera mounts.
This story first appeared in the Day 4 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.