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Recreational rise: As more consumers flock to water, brands respond with user-friendly kayaks

Check out the top kayak products and trends for 2013 that we encountered at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. 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.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

While the heat and drought throughout much of the country — the Pacific Northwest excepted — might end up cooling overall kayak sales this summer, the category is still looking strong.

“People are discovering the fun of paddling on rivers again,” says Cheri McKenzie, marketing director for Confluence Watersports. “They want to get on the water and explore.” The company is seeing more couples and families taking to the water, fueling designs catering to that niche, with rec paddlers and anglers continuing to look for better customization options.

Showcasing more bells and whistles than any other sector within kayaking is the fishing market. Hobie calls its Pro Angler 12 (MSRP $2,549) its most versatile fishing craft yet, with a pedal propulsion system; fully adjustable vantage seating, with arm rest control and an integrated Boa System for lumbar support; and a Lowrance-Ready built-in transducer mount.

Hobie Pro Angler 12

Riding the strongest first quarter fishing sales of any manufacturer, according to Leisure Trends data, Jackson Kayaks unveils its new 12-foot, 6-inch Kilroy (MSRP $1,199), the industry’s first self-bailing, sit-inside fish kayak with an optional/ interchangeable front deck system, Tech Deck accessories line and even a deployable dog ramp. It’s also offering the new 12-foot, 5-inch Cuda 12 (MSRP $1,099) for smaller paddlers.

On the sit-on-top front, Fluid ups the performance ante with its 8-foot,10-inch Do It Now (MSRP $650), a cockpit-less kayak employing a whitewater hull based on its popular Bazooka and strap-assisted thigh molds for bracing and rolling. Ocean Kayak introduces the Banzai (MSRP N/A), a sit-on-top for smaller paddlers and kids with a low-profile deck for smaller arms. It comes with fun, kid-friendly colors, a molded-in seat back and Tag-Along Tow System allowing parents to tow. Pelican International’s Elie has two new 10-foot sit-upons, the Gulf 100 XE and 100XE Angler (MSRP N/A), each with an Ergoflex Seating System, bow and center quick-lock hatches, day hatch with dry bag, bungee system stern platform, two side open storage compartments and more.

Fluid Do It Now

The rec sector is sporting a wealth of new entries. Wave Sport enters the river trekking sector with the new Ethos (MSRP $999), available in 9- and 10-foot options with rocker profile for whitewater and a drop-down skeg for tracking. Cool feature: The built-in hip pads are hinged to fold up over the cockpit rim to provide a cushion for carrying the boat on your shoulder.

Wave Sport Ethos

Wilderness Systems adds to its rec offerings with the Aspire line (MSRP $699), his and hers kayaks available in two sizes (10 feet and 10 feet, 5 inches) catering to new and intermediate paddlers with a flatter, rockered hull for stability on moving water and a skeg for tracking on the flats. Advanced Elements hits the inflatable kayak sector with the new, self-bailing, 9-foot, 6-inch Attack (MSRP $640), made for whitewater with a tube diameter of 9.5 inches and 12 inches of rocker. Addressing price point is Perception’s new Prodigy XS (MSRP $399), a modest-sized, lightweight rec boat designed for lakes, ponds, bays and inlets. Built for comfort more than speed, it incorporates a back band, seat pad and kneepads.

Wilderness Systems Aspire

Advanced Elements Attack

Preception Prodigy

Also, on the rec side of things, we saw something completely new in the category. It’s not exactly a kayak, it’s not exactly a river board, it’s what founders are calling a Bellyak — a watercraft specifically designed to ride on one’s belly down rivers and creeks. (SNEWS brought you the first look at this new company back in April.) The boat’s design uses the body’s center of gravity to keep the rider anchored inside, along with handles up front and foot cups in the back. It’s different from riverboarding in that the rider’s whole body is out of the water — you’re not dragging your legs and feet. Adam Masters, son of Perception Kayaks founder Bill Masters, is behind Bellyak and made the company’s debut at Summer Market with two models — the Frequency (MSRP: $749) and the Play (MSRP: $699).

Bellyak Play

Sea kayaks also are seeing improvements. Necky’s new 14-foot, 6-inch Manitou 146 R (MSRP N/A) has a new hull design and an integral keel for stability, maneuvering and tracking, with quick-seal hatches, an angled cockpit rim for map viewing and an optional rudder. It unveils the Elias, based on the women’s-specific Eliza and available in polymer and composite with different skeg and hatch options.

R&D hasn’t been lost on the whitewater sector either, from renewed interest in playboats to all-around river runners and creek boats. Jackson Kayak revamps its popular, three-size (5-foot, 7-inch Star, 5-foot, 10.5-inch All Star, and 6-foot, 1.5-inch Super Star) series (MSRP $1,199) for 2013, with a longer and lighter hull and slicier ends, as well as its new Villain creek series. Dagger unleashes the loose-hulled Jitsu (MSRP $1,049), a three-size (49-, 57- and 63-gallon) playboat line with a double-step carving rail on the sidewall for grip and drive on waves face. Available in three sizes (73- 83- and 93-gallon), Wave Sport’s new Recon (MSRP $1,099) is a creeker and river runner with a full stern chines and sidewall flare for secondary stability and carving control, and seven rescue points. Pyranha gains ground with the Shiva (MSRP $1,199), a new creek boat available in three sizes (8 feet, 4 inches, 8 feet, 6 inches and 8 feet, 8 inches), with a forgiving, rounded hull for soft landings, smooth stern chines and a high-volume bow and stern for quick resurfacing.

Jackson Kayak All Star


Pyranha Shiva

–Eugene Buchanan

Accessorize watercraft sales

The surge in water activities is translating into a boost for accessory sales.

Bomber Gear makes a splash by meshing high-tech paddling- wear with trendy afterwear in its black Bombination shorts (MSRP $85), made from super-stretch 2mm neoprene with a zipper pocket and board short overlay.

Bomber Gear Bombination shorts

Bending Branches unveils a new line of kayak fishing-specific paddles in the Angler Scout, Classic, Pro and T-700 carbon shaft Ace (MSRP $300). Each comes with tape measures on the shaft and hook retrieval systems built into the blade.

Bending Branches Angler Pro

MTI introduces the Cordura Voyager (MSRPs $110-$120), a high-end recreational vest designed for baby boomers and seniors with enhanced mobility, reflectors and reduced weight. Also on the PFD front is Astral Buoyancy’s Greenjacket (MSRP $225), made from PVC-free GAIA foam that wraps around the ribs for protection and comes in separate upper and lower torso panels for mobility.

Measuring 32 by 26 feet, Harmony’s Pup Mat (MSRP $30) is a textured, no-slip pad that provides comfort and traction in any boat bottom for your pooch. The company also is debuting the aluminum-framed Stowaway Cart (MSRP $80-$110) that users can pack in their boats for easy transport later, with a variety of wheel options, from beach to all-terrain.

Harmony Pup Mat

Harmony Stoaway Cart


–Eugene Buchanan