Gear-o’rama: Paddlesports Gear Roundup!

Gear-o’rama: Paddlesports Wrap-up

What does five days of hob-knobbing with the top players in paddlesports at the annual Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City get you? Red eyes, sore feet, a couple of Utah-beer, bloated-belly hang-overs and a rundown of products you’ll see on retailers’ shelves this coming season…

Current Designs Prana: This collaboration with Danish designer Jesper Kommen-Anderson was two years in the making, and "blends style and function, with great glide and great tracking," maintains Bill Kueper of Currents Designs. At 17 feet, this efficient, quick and highly maneuverable tourer has a modified hard chine hull and more rocker than any other boat in the company’s line, with a 21-inch beam that’s both stable and fast. It's also fully expedition capable, with stern and bow day hatches and three bulkheads, and is as home on waves and rock gardening. With a 21-inch-wide beam for nimbleness, it’s streamlined yet stable and comes with a hybrid hard chine hull and tracking-friendly rocker profile that’s perfect for all conditions. It’s available in fiberglass and Kevlar laminates. www.currentdesigns.com

AIRE Bakraft:

Pounds are paramount in the pack raft market, and AIRE addresses this with its new 7 lb., 2 oz. BAKRaft ($1,299), the lightest, “self-bailing” pack raft on the market complete with a self-bailing I-beam floor for cushioning and hull rigidity. The 7-foot-long, 39-inch-wide boat combines the storability and lightness of a pack raft with kayak aerodynamics for whitewater performance. With a load capacity of 350 lbs. and made from a two-layer, proprietary Dyneema/Sprectra shell (think space suits), the two-chamber craft comes with whitewater valves, 12.5” tube diameter, and 10-inch bow/stern rise. Thigh straps can be purchased as an add-on. www.aire.com

Jackson Kayak:

Jackson debuted the Karma Traverse for multi-day river trips, blending the best of the Rogue, RG and Karma. It features an elongated Karma hull and more rocker than the Rogue, offering great glide, river play and tracking on the flats. In whitewater, where high-end performance still reigns supreme, Jackson is hell-bent on winning the World Freestyle Championships again this fall on Canada’s Ottawa River, this time with its “best-ever generation” Rock Star ($1,199), designed by company owner and four-time World Freestyle Champion Eric “EJ” Jackson and partner David Knight. It carries a narrower, faster and looser hull, offering easy edge-to-edge transfers, smooth surfing and mammoth-sized airs. Available in three sizes (5’4 – 5’11”), it’s also available in a lighter Competition configuration ($1,399) with an Innegra/carbon hull. www.jacksonkayaks.com

Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Canoe:

The new 60-lb., 16-foot Sea Eagle TC16 ($2,499) is an inflatable tandem canoe with the same drop-stitch walls and floor you find on inflatable SUPs (inflate to 12 psi). With an optional third seat (all seats can be moved for trim), it carries as much as a conventional canoe, without the storage hassles. It’s also uber-stable, letting you stand to fish, scout rapids, and more. With buoyant walls, it's super hard to flip, and if you, easy to right. Best of all, it rolls up to the size of a duffel bag. Sea Eagle also showcased the RazorLite 473RL tandem ($1,499) and RazorLite 493RL single ($999), the first inflatable kayaks to use the drop-stitch construction of inflatable SUPs and self-bailing raft floors in its three air chambers. The result: A boat that can be inflated to 10 psi—more than double the pressure of most IKs. Combine this rock-hard inflation with the tandem’s 15’6” length, sleek 28” width, and rigid plastic bow and stern caps and you get one of the fastest, most-responsive IKs on the market. Bonus: At just 38 pounds and a roll size of 33"x 22"x10”, it’s easy to carry and store afterward. www.seaeagle.com

Dagger:

With Wave Sport kayaks no longer available in the U.S., Confluence is picking up the slack with Dagger. A top seller for 13 years, Dagger’s legendary creek boat, the Nomad, is redesigned for 2016. The do-all creeker will be available in three sizes for the first time, with notable hull improvements to make it even faster. Fresh color schemes also liven up the line. Dagger also unveils the 53-lb. Stratos ($1,199), a 14’6” foot sit-inside for sport touring. Beginners will love its stability and tracking, while experts will relish its performance. The do-it-all sea kayak is designed for surf, rock gardens, open water and estuary paddling and more, designed to blend tracking, maneuverability and forgiveness with stability for beginners and a fast, sporty hull for intermediates and experts. It comes with two hatches, bulkheads and deck bungees, and an adjustable drop-skeg for tracking. "Advancements in design have made cross-over kayaks incredibly versatile, allowing recreational paddlers to have one kayak that performs equally well on lakes, ocean shorelines and rivers,” says designer Mark Robertson. “With new people coming to the sport it made sense for us to provide models that would allow them to safely participate while they advance their skills." www.dagger.com

Old Town Canoe:

“Rec kayaks need to fit paddlers of all shapes and sizes,” says Old Town Canoe brand manager Dave Hadden. “Our rec customers are enthusiast paddlers who appreciate the experience much more than the entry-level/price customer.” To that end, 20 years after releasing its original, best-selling Loon sit-inside kayak series, Old Town Canoe debuts a new Loon series. Available in four lengths (100, 120, 126, 155T; msrps NA) and two angling versions (Angler 100, $999; Angler 126, $1,099), the new line includes an all-new, forgiving hull design, with extra width and volume for stability, and easily adjustable ACS2 seat, making it arguably the most comfortable kayak on the water. Billed as “the ultimate recreational kayak,” it also comes with a new “work deck” with USB ports and built-in storage for tech gadget outfitting. www.oldtowncanoe.com

Huricane AquaSports:

“The paddlesports’ demographic keeps aging,” says Steve Jordan, president of Hurricane Aquasport, which recently merged with Liquidlogic and Native. “Weight savings is becoming more important.” Practicing what it preaches, Hurricane unveils its new ABS/Thermo-formed Santee 120 S ($1,099-$1,149), featuring a new hull design and deck treatment. The 12-foot, 36-lb. boat has a 55” x 24” sport cockpit for easy entry and exit, new Airstream seat system offering more adjustability and better outfitting, and new 10” hinge stern hatch. www.hurricaneaquasports.com

Oru Kayaks:
Innovation comes to the folding boat market in the new Oru Coast ($1,945) and Coast+ ($2,495) from Oru Kayak. Employing the same briefcase-to-a-boat folding feature as its predecessors and made from skillfully folded 5-mm extruded polypropylene, both are 16-feet-long, and 25-inches wide, engineered for rough water and multi-day trips and offer great speed, tracking and stability. Both versions include large rear bulkhead and adjustable footrest, with the Coast offering half deck rigging for additional above hull storage and the Coast+ the addition of a small dry hatch, integrated rear hatch, full deck rigging. www.orukayaks.com

Point 65 Sweden:

Taking versatility and breakdownability to new heights, Point 65 Sweden debuts its new blow-molded Gemini ($549), whose proprietary break-apart modular system (each section weighs 22 lbs.) lets it be assembled as either a solo or multi-cockpit craft (Solo: 9’; Tandem: 14’2”). No matter the configuration, it features a straight-tracking hull, padded seat and backrest, tank well, ergo carrying handles, cockpit shoulder pads for carrying and Point 65's signature tapered deck design for performance. www.point65.com

Accessories

Add-on sales are the Holy Grail of retailers. Luckily, the paddlesports category is rife with them, to make every outing on the water as safe and enjoyable as possible. The range from such essentials as PFDs, paddles and sprayskirts to more extraneous items like apparel, footwear, coolers and dry storage. While design innovations differ for each, 21st Century R&D -- from eco-friendly construction to lightweight materials -- is ensuring they’re leaving the status quo in their wake.

Boreal Lagoons with Switch Vision
Want shades that will bring out everything from sunsets and shorebound ursus at low light to wave crests in blinding glare? Boreal’s Magnetic Interchange Lens System on its Switch series (we sampled the aptly named Boreal Lagoons) uses high-energy magnets embedded in the lens and frame letting you swap lenses quickly and easily as light conditions and activities change. Keep spare lenses in the included pod in your pocket, and swap out when your canoe or sea kayak trip goes from dark and cloudy to white-capped brilliancy. With the company calling it “the most innovative product in the sports sunglass market in over twenty years,” the shades are available in polarized and non-polarized options and come with one Magnetic Interchange Chassis, one pair of lenses, one pair of low-light Rose Amber lenses, a microfiber cleaning pouch and lens pod. Available lenses include Matte Black/True Color Grey Reflection Silver; Dark Tortoise/Contrast Amber Reflection Bronze; Lagoon/True Color Grey Reflection Silver; Cactus/Contrast Amber Reflection Bronze; and more – even those specific for such use as golf, skiing and, yes, paddling. What’s truly worth the extra greenbacks? Adding a prescription option, allowing you to discern the finer nuances of that upcoming drop on the horizon. $189.95, www.switchvision.com

MTI:

Addressing the SUP accessory market, MTI unveils its new SUP Safety Belt ( $109.95), an inflatable belt pack PFD powdered by a 3F inflator and bayonet mounting cylinder for easy rearming. It’s easy to fold and repack for multiple deployments, and comes with two moveable belt attachment clips for carrying hydration and an indicator window to check arming status. MTI also unveils its new Explorer Universal Rafting PFD ($129.95), with new Adult Universal fit (fits 30”-56” chest), extra strong headrest attachment system double-reinforced with flipside webbing. With a 500-Denier Cordura© shell, it comes with adjustable padded shoulders, wide lower bottom belt designed to reduce ride-up, four-way web crotch strap attachment points, three front clip closure, and reflective trim and piping. It’s also custom screen printable with a 25 unit minimum. www.mtiadventurewear.com

Kokatat:

Taking versatility to new levels, Kokatat expands its SwitchZip technology -- debuted last year in the Idol as a fully separating watertight waist zipper, allowing full dry suit or dry top application -- into its new touring-specific GORE-TEX® Radius Dry Suit, Surge Paddling Suit, and Passage Anorak, all of whose tops can be warn alone or mated with any other SwitchZip compatible pant. Kokatat also brings customization to its fishing PFD line with the Predator, made from Cordura to reduce hook snares and featuring articulated front panels, variable-thickness foam back for seatbacks, and a pocket that unzips to 90 degrees as a work surface shelf. www.kokatat.com

Sweet Protection:

Experimenting in materials in drysuits, Sweet Protection unveils its GORE-TEX® PRO Intergalactic Dry Suit ($1299.95) with Ocean Technology® membrane and textured Polyester laminate face for durability and anti body-cling. A diagonal zipper makes for easy self-supported entry and exit, a Hypalon Velcro waist ensures a tight and secure fit, and a handy, mesh-drain thigh pocket provides accessory access. Also look for its sweet new helmet line. www.sweetprotection.com

Chaco:

In footwear, Chaco rolls out its OutCross Evo collection in men's and women's ($100-$115) and children’s ($55) models, multi-function footwear with breathable mesh uppers, jacquard webbing, PU Luvseat midsole footbeds, and strobel-lasted, barefoot construction with EVA foam layer and nylon support shank. It also comes with an EcoTread™ outsole made from 25 percent recycled rubber with 3mm-deep lugs and a siped tread. www.chacos.com

Yeti:

Augmenting its hardshell, keep-ice-cream-frozen-until-Day-13 cooler line, Yeti goes full bore into the softshell cooler world for paddlers with the new Hopper 20 ($299), 30 and 40 (named for liter capacity). Perfect for rafts, canoes, IKs and more, the softies are made from PU-coated, DryHide, which is waterproof and mildew-resistant but, more importantly, carries the cooler properties of your freezer back home. Keep bevies and food cold all day long, and accessible via a zippered opening in the top. www.yeticoolers.com

Motionize Inc: Ever wanted to know how efficient your paddle stroke is? Whether you’re crossing the Molokai or Mulberry Inlet, now you can with the Motionize, designed by Guy Aharon. Clip the sensor to your paddle shaft and you get real-time feedback on how to improve your technique, thanks to it analyzing your power, cadence paddling motion. It also organizes your stats and records and tracks your progress via an app, as well as offering everything from top speed and distance per stroke to top stroke per minute. www.motionize-inc.com

Kialoa:Marking its first-ever entry into the kayak paddle market, SUP-paddle maker Kialoa debuts the Deschutes Carbon 2-piece ($389), a 23-oz. design marrying a featherlight and durable Carbon Fiberlite™ blade with a carbon shaft for impact resistance and paltry swing weight. It’s also strong on the enviro-front, utilizing post-manufacturing recycled material. www.kialoa.com

Stohlquist: A great, versatile-fitting rec PFD, Stohlquist’s new Thinback OSFA (One Size Fits All; $79.95 ) fits a 30”-52” chest range and comes with a cross-chest cinch harness to eliminate ride-up, thin back panel for seat backs and ample stash pockets. For kayak anglers, its new Spinner Fishing PFD ($69.95) employs a traditional three-buckle entry system and fit, but with greater mobility for paddling and ever-important casting. Bells and whistles include large front pockets to accommodate fly and bait boxes; a small Velcro rod holder and barless hook patch; and multiple attachment points for accessories. www.stohlquist.com

A Few Non-run-of-the-mill Picks

Enerplex Commandr XII Solar Charger: Never go powerless in the Great Outdoors with the Commandr XII ($299.99), which weighs just 1.6 lbs. while pumping out 20 watts of power to charge everything from phones to laptops. Flexible, lightweight and durable, it folds up super small when not it use and comes with a converter port for charging. www.goenerplex.com

Grillbots Grill-cleaning Robot:

Now this you gotta have: a robot that cleans your grill ($129.95). R2D2, eat your heart out. IT comes with three electric motors, replaceable brushes, built-in LCD alarm and timer, computer to regulate speed and direction, and rechargeable battery with AC adaptor. www.grillbots.com

Zyrodrone:

Watch out Mall Cop, your segway’s got nothing on the new Zyrodrone ($799), a handlebar-less mobility device whose built-in Gyroscope Sensor detects and reacts to body movements for effortless operation. IT travels up to 12 miles per charge, reaches speeds of 6 mph and can climb 15 degrees on inclination. www.zyrodroneusa.com

INTEX Mega Chill:

Tubers rejoice! The Mega Chill ($13.99) baby is the mega-schnizzle tow-behind for (non-alcoholic) libations on the Yampa. You have a tube, why shouldn’t your beverages? An inside cooler keeps drinks cold, while five outer cup holders put cold ones within easy grasp. Plus, you might get lucky and have others give you their drinks also. www.intexcorp.com





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