Decked-out kayaks: Rec, angling markets reel in consumers

A wrap-up of new kayaks coming to market in 2014.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

As the kayak market evolves with a new generation of customers, manufacturers are responding with an ever-increasing array of boats for specific purposes. Leading the charge: angling and rec kayaks, which continue to dominate sales.

Most innovation in the segment centers around new ways to pack more features onto hulls to make the hunt easier. Old Town Canoe is reeling in pre-season orders with its Predator Fishing Kayak (MSRP $1,299), which comes with six removable mounting plates for tailor-placed rod holders, GPS units, fish finders, cameras and more. A three-stage seating system can be lowered for paddling, raised for fishing or flipped aside for stand-up mode. And a slip-resistant deck provides traction and drainage.

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Furthering the bells-and-whistles trend for 2014, Wilderness Systemsdebuts the RideX 115(MSRP $1,029) andRideX 115 Advance(MSRP $1,059),angling kayakswith such fish-specific features as an 8-inch SlideTrax under a removable console for customized accessory outfitting, as well as increased bulkhead width for even more accessory-mounting flexibility. Other features include scupper tubes for rigidity in the standing area, aluminum handles with foam comfort sleeves and an elevated seat providing four more inches of height for visibility.

Jackson Kayak goes for size with its debut of the 13-foot, 2-inch Big Rig (MSRP $1,399), a single sit-upon design for stability, standing and paddling. Gear tracks come standard, as does front and rear hatches, a stand-assist bar and mounts ready to accept the Raymarine Dragonfly fishfinder and Power-Pole Micro stake-out systems.

Shorter lengths and enhanced sportiness top trends in the playboat world. Jackson showcases its shortest playboat ever in the new 2014 Rock Star(MSRP $1,199), available in three sizes (5 feet, 4 inches, 48 gallons; 5 feet, 9 inches, 53 gallons; 5 feet, 11 inches, 65 gallons). It has more volume in the center for loops, a higher seating position and enhanced floor support for a stiffer hull. Wave Sportsolidifies its playboat presence with the Mobius (MSRP $1,149), a short, fast freestyle kayak designed to let beginners learn quickly and experts expand their skills. It has a wider stern and higher water line, as well as extra bow volume to maximize pop in vertical moves. It also comes with a new foam foot brace for ergonomic comfort. Daggerenters the crossover kayak realm with the Katana(MSRP $1,029), designed for up to Class III whitewater and multi-day trips. It comes with a customizable leg lifter, low-profile, removable bulkhead footbrace system, hatch-accessed stern storage and bow and stern deck bungees and gear loops for deck storage.

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The inflatable paddlesports market, especially when it comes to inflatable kayaks, is pumped with improvements. Advanced Elementsfocuses on weight savings with its PackLite Kayak,an inflatable, compact, 7-foot, 10-inch craft weighing just 4 pounds that packs down to an easy-to-carry package. It features Twistlok, military style valves for easy inflation, with its mesh carry bag doubling as an on-deck gear bag.

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NRSups its inflatable kayak presence with the 9-foot, 10-inchOutlaw I(MSRP $645; also available as a tandem), whoserigid floor, extra width and 18 inches of rocker create a stable, hole-punching whitewater craft for beginners and experts alike. Weighing 26 pounds with 10.5-inch diameter tubes, it’s made from abrasion-resistant PVC-coated polyester and comes with a PVC-coated drop-stitch floor insert that inflates rock hard.

Weight savings also continue to be a priority in touring boats, as illustrated by Delta Kayak’s Delta 12S (MSRP $1,395) for smaller- to medium-sized paddlers. The 12-foot kayak weighs just 38 pounds and includes fore and aft Press-Lock hatch covers, a lightweight, multi-position seat, and sealed day pod. Cobra Kayaks rides the trend with its Cobra Play, a 10-foot rec kayak whose weight was reduced by 30 percent to 27 pounds thanks to new technology featuring a rotomolded plastic bonded to a closed-cell foam. It’s also reduced the weight of its 600-pound capacity Tandem and Fish-n-Dive to 50 pounds. “For us, it’s largely been about weight savings this year,” said marketing manager Scott Walker.

There is also plenty of innovation to be found in nontraditional craft. Portability is the top priority with Oru’s new Oru Kayak (MSRP $1095), a 12-foot-long, 25-pound folding kayak that can be put together in five minutes. The key: creases permanently molded into its “origami” plastic skin, letting it unfold from case to full kayak with only one above-waterline seam that closes with a watertight rubber gasket.

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Bellyakexpands its unique take on paddlesports with the Play 35 (MSRP $599), a 7-foot, 7-inch, 35-galllon kayak that users ride on their stomachs. It features a high-performance planing hull, low volume stern and ample rocker for play in up to Class III whitewater.

--Eugene Buchanan

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