The annual international Paddle Expo -or Kanu Messe- held in Nuremberg is the place for the paddle sport industry to showcase their products to retailers for the 2015 season. This is the trade show for manufacturers and retailers to network and do deals. If you want to be seen this is the place to be.
I’ve split the what’s new in the world of sit inside and sit on top sea kayaks into two sections. However, given the range of entry level sea kayaks now appearing on the market with very large cockpits this distinction is becoming blurred.
New Sit on top sea kayaks
The bad news is that Ocean Kayaks classic the Scupper Pro is out of production following the closure of the New Zealand factory. Whether it will still be available via the USA is unclear. The good news is RPI Kayak are producing from the old Tunisian moulds a range of sit on top kayaks. According to staff the Shelba (retail Euro 449) is made from the old smooth Scupper Pro mould. The company also produce a range of sit on top kayaks. However, the website is not ready and I can only find a few shops selling in France.
RTM kayaks displayed a selection of kayaks both for recreational use and fishing. The Abaco range are very much built for kayak fishing and you can spend a fortune on accessories. The RTM Tempo mould was damaged this summer but was repaired and production has resumed.
British built Tootega kayaks were worth visiting. They are keen designers who want to produce some good quality sit on top kayaks and the build/prices look good. A big plus is that the designers recognise the importance of a range of designs with different hull shapes rather than opt for a one hull design suits all approach. Tootega are also producing in the UK and I hope to demo a kayak soon.
Venture kayaks have got the Islay sit on top kayak in pre production stage. The demo version clearly needs some work and was a surprise to see a mount on the hull for a dagger board for kayak sailing. The hull looks like it is going to be a very stable craft to paddle and the design does not seem to reflect the lines of its sister Islay sit inside kayak. However, pre production designs often undergo many changes and hopefully some on the water testing will take place before going into production.
For sit on top kayakers wanting a lively play boat, Pyranha have developed the Fusion sit on top. This kayak won the coolest kayak of the show award and is already getting good reviews.
Tahe Marine displayed the FIT series of sit on top kayaks. I hope to try some out as they look good with some nice lines and features as an alternative to our Ocean Kayak Prowlers.
Kayak fishing sit on tops
If you are after a sit on top for fishing the main problem is the increasing range of designs on the market. Many are huge and very stable with a plethora of bolt on accessories available. I suspect most are only going to be suitable for calm water angling. It was worrying to see some designs fitted out with anchor systems that do not appear to offer quick releases. Many designs are actively sold as enabling you to stand up and cast and some out rigger options are also available. A few come with electric motors which are a great idea so long as you remember to keep the batteries charged. Otherwise you will be faced with a long paddle home.
Some manufacturers firmly believe that you need a camouflaged kayak when fishing. On the sea this is just going to make you harder to see from passing boats.
Comfort is king and seating designs recognise the kayak angler needs a decent seat. Both Jackson kayaks and RTM have seats that can be adjusted in height to suit angling and paddling use.
Given the width of some sit on tops on show I’d seriously re-consider needing an outrigger. If you need one perhaps it is time to buy a boat. On the boat note it is worth mentioning that a few designs must weigh a lot and had they fitted some oars they might easily be sold as a small boat. I’ve no wish to try and transport some of these beasts.
Anyone based in the UK who has paddled in northern Europe will have noticed sea kayaks and equipment produced by Tahe Marine and their ever growing stable of companies. They are now Europe’s biggest producer of paddle sports equipment and the 240 page catalogue thuds onto the door mat. Until now, the product range was hard to access in the UK but this has changed following the appointment of Andrew Dron who will be supplying UK retailers. Both the Zegul and Tahe Marine roto-moulded and composite layup prices look very competitive while the Egalis paddles and Beluga clothing is also worth a look.
Rob Feloy’s Inuk sea kayaks may well set standards in terms of their speed and handling. The kayaks are built in Italy by CS Canoe. Features such as a bow paddle park and both rudder and skegs fitted to the kayak will get people talking. Rob’s latest design, the Inuk Ultra 20ft long sea kayak, was not on this stand as it is being produced by Seabird designs in Norway. For paddlers wanting a blast from the past, CS Canoe are producing Derek Hutchinson’s Baidarka sea kayak. For ‘younger’ readers this was a classic design in the 1980’s with an equal share of admirers and detractors. It may still be worth a test paddle, if you can locate a retailer.
Rainbow kayaks are also based in Italy and displayed a range of roto-moulded sea kayaks rarely seen in the UK. The retail price looks like they will be of interest to sea kayakers wanting a basic kayak (Euros 750).
Last year P&H launched the Hammer sea kayak targeting the shorter tripping/rock hopping and coastal paddling market. This year Robson Kayaks arrived with the Karma RG. This is a very well kitted out kayak which is already generating a lot of interest and is worth considering if you are looking for an ocean play boat.
P&H kayaks won the coolest kayak of the show award for their innovative Fusion sit on top white water/recreational kayak. The Venture kayak Islay design has undergone a few modifications and featured the improved “Skudder” a combined rudder/skeg system.
Skim Kayaks and Miks Kayaks are house brands of Charger Composites who produce light weight designs which are worth checking out. They also displayed a neat quick release system for holding down a paddle during a self rescue.
Some view accessories as those added bits manufacturers love to sell to add value. Anyone who is into sit on top kayak fishing was very much in their sights judging by the remarkable range of products on offer to help you catch more fish, or at least help relieve you of a few £’s in the hope of improving your catch rate. Personally I am not sure a shiny bait, rod or coffee cup holder or fish finder mount will help me catch more fish.
For me perhaps the most interesting accessories producer was Kajak Sport who produce deck fittings and hatches.
I liked a neat quick release paddle float/self rescue system and also a small clip on deck ball which can be used to help slide spare paddles on the deck. Their range of hatch covers is considerable and even the same size of hatch cover is available in a number of versions to suit polyethylene and composite constructions as well as weights. As a result you need to check their catalogue before replacing a hatch cover. Best of all Kajak Sport now produce the Valley round and oval hatch covers in a very long lasting plastic.
Nookie have tidied up the cut of their semi dry pants and salopettes to make them less baggy along with some modifications to their spray decks. Over at Palm a huge selection of brightly coloured PFD’s and clothing grab your attention. One change Palm announced is that the 2015 women’s kayak kit will be marketed under the same product name as the men’s range so you will need to look out for ladies or men’s sizing.
Kokatat’s stand continued to buzz with interest from northern European and Scandinavian retailers whose customers demand and expect the best from this top producer. Having kayaked in Finland and judging by the number of paddlers wearing Kokatat’s dry suits I’m sure the local distributor must be a very happy person.
Having kids is a major life changer. Pete Astles at Peak UK launched a range of kids PFD’s in Ladybird and Shark designs and I suspect a few parents will want an adult version!
Paddles looked very much as last year though more stands displayed Inuit style wooden paddles. Northern light paddles on the Reed Chillcheater stand have taken this further and now produce Greenland and Aleut carbon fibre designs which should become available in the UK in 2015.
Howard Jeffs Designs has expanded his range of kayak repair kits which are sold in handy sizes. Anyone attending a BCU 4 and 5 star assessment has no excuse to not have a suitable repair kit. Howard’s Beaufort Tulik jacket is also worth a look as a result of the blending an ancient design with the modern needs of a sea kayaker.
Coming away from the Canoe Expo one trend in kayak design which seems to have continued from last year was the increasing number of entry level style sea kayaks. Many, in my view, seem much of a muchness with price being the main determinate. Whether the demand for volume production will eventually lead to a narrowing of innovation and small scale production to meet interest groups is open to debate. Some designs of kayak also seem to have had limited on the water testing.
On a positive note there continues to be a healthy production of composite layup sea kayak designs though many seem to be targeting the northern European and Scandinavian market. Equally positive was the number of UK producers who are keeping production in the UK and Europe in order to maintain quality control and changes in customer demands.
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