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jcrick
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  Quote jcrick Replybullet Topic: Inflatable Investment
    Posted: 05 Jun 2009 at 10:44pm
Hi,

I'm just getting started river kayaking, and a buddy of mine recommended an inflatable kayak. Of course, he didn't know much about inflatables, so he suggested I get an account here on PP and ask around for inflatable kayak recommendations. So... anybody have a good recommendation for me for an inflatable kayak?

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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 05 Jun 2009 at 11:42pm
I am not an IK guy so my opinion is not all so valid but since it's late and I am the first to respond here you go.

Hyside - Great material durable and stable - not so agile
Stiletto - Awesome control & shape pretty much the best, but material and year can be an up keep issue, not to mention availabliity.
NRS Tom Cat - Nice entry boat, not the best shape or design or material

In fact as I write this I realize.. I don't even have the background to comment on this as well as others. Sorry can someone else step in and help joe out. My intentions are good I'm just not the right person for the subject.
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  Quote Scott_H Replybullet Posted: 06 Jun 2009 at 7:59am
I believe there are a few that post here that IK quite a bit and no doubt will chime in soon with good advice.  But, I am drinking my coffee and thought I'd throw in my two cents (one cent adjusted for depreciation).
 
I use a hardshell, but have a couple Air Tomcat's for friends and family that want to come out - and have used them myself.  You can buy the Tomcat for a couple hundred bucks (I bought one of them for $250 off craigslist).  So, the cost makes them attractive.  However, I would be more careful on what you are using teh Tomcat on as they seem to be hurting in manueverability.  This has been a bit of a challenge when I take people down in them and I try and keep the run III or III+ with some more careful leading.  Takes time or muscle to get them where they need to go.  I think they rate for III at the top end, but I have had a couple hit a IV move or two with some scouting.
 
I suspect most people go hardshell because that is more or less the status quo, but it has a higher bar to entry for proficiency that can discourage people during the first year.  That can be overcome by either taking a class or having a skilled friend willing to show you the initial ropes - and having willingness to put in the time.
 
If you envision going out once a month or so and maybe not much more for the time being, I'd say borrow or rent an IK just to see what it is all about.  If you like it, spend the $ and get something maneuverable.  Missing a line or wrapping a rock sucks.  If after having hit the river you are feeling the love and want to be on it lots more - I'd consider taking the initial thrashings and go hardshell.  As mentioned above, you can minimize the thrashings by having someone knowledgeable teach you a solid roll and how to run a river and then just spend a bunch of time hitting the beginner runs and working your way up the ladder.
 
This site is a great place to meet boaters and we are all generally more than willing to take out beginners.  Especially if beers are provided at the end.


Edited by Scott_H - 06 Jun 2009 at 8:03am
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 06 Jun 2009 at 9:14am
I have a Tomcat Aire II. It is a slug, but been a very bomber ducky. I wouldn't take it into class IV unless I have two very good paddlers at the wheel.

I have had an Aire Lynx and it was a great boat! I took it all over Colorado for 3 months in class IV and V. Had great times in it.



You can also throw down in them! I would always recommend Aire inflatables. They are bomb proof and easily repairable on the river if you ever have a problem. Some people may argue that they are heavy, but the trade off is quality and durability.

One more thing, going with an IK is just a fun as a hardshell, I have done both and each have their own appeal. I hardshelled for 5 years then bought a ducky and also continued to hardshell and still own a ducky today 20 years later. They are lots of fun and can do anything a hardshell can do, just ask Fish!



Edited by dave - 06 Jun 2009 at 9:19am
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  Quote franzhorner Replybullet Posted: 06 Jun 2009 at 4:12pm
There are lots of things to think about when buying a duckie:

Foam floor vs. Air floor

I prefer the rigidity of foam. The compactness of an air floor is nice when packing for a hike in or even just putting it in your car.


Brand:
Stiletto's are the best performing IK out there. Jim Sheflo or Steve Dumanis can repair them great and a patch job on a Stiletto isn't much harder than an Aire.

Aires are tougher than a Stiletto but are a bit sluggish. Their added weight can be an advantage too! Aires have a sweet warranty. I think I would prefer the shape of the Strike over the Lynx....

Sotar makes a very nice ducky as well...they are expensive but bomber and they have a nice shape.

Foam floored Thrillseekers from the Snyder brothers are pretty nice boats too and ARE the originals...

hysides are durable mostly made for commercial fleets I think but I have never paddled one. i love hyside rafts and they are very durable...no foam floor...



so much more could be said and I'm sure will follow
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  Quote Wiggins Replybullet Posted: 06 Jun 2009 at 5:51pm
About the closest thing I have found to a definative work on IK's can be found here:
 
 
Be sure to read everthing on IK's, rafts, accessories, and paddles.
 
I have a two man Tomcat (made by Tributary/AIRE, not NRS), and a AIRE Lynx. I bought the Tomcat before I knew much about IKs, but it has been a great boat. I have used it for everything from taking my parents down the Skagit, to class IV big water with a first time paddler on board, and the White Salmon from BZ Corner to NW Lake. I wouldn't hesitate to take it on any class IV river that you would feel comfortable taking a 13 foot long boat down. The Tomcat's air bladders are made from PVC which does not inflate as stiff as the urathane bladders on their higher quality boats (this is also due to a lower setting on a pressure relief valve in the floor bladder), and has a shorter usefull life. This means that a fully inflated Tomcat will taco (bend) more in bigger features than higher quality boats.
 
The thing that drove me to the Lynx over another brand of IK was the warranty. The USA made AIREs have a 10 year no fault warranty. You can slash the tubes from bow to stern with your river knife and they will still fix it for free.
 
The AIRE/Tributary boats are also completely modular. There is not a part on them that AIRE will not sell you, so you can rebuild your IK if it starts to wear out after the warranty has expired.
 
There is a huge downside to IK's that is worth mentioning; mainly that they are almost impossible to roll. Flipping a IK almost always means a swim. If you are worried about hitting a roll in a rapid, remember that in a IK you would have to flip the boat, climb back in, and get yourself secured in the boat.
 
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 06 Jun 2009 at 5:51pm
Foam floor is definitely the way to go for High performance. The Lynx in the picture with me doing a popup is a foam floor. The stiffer the better for surfing and throwing down.


Edited by dave - 06 Jun 2009 at 5:52pm
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  Quote Wiggins Replybullet Posted: 07 Jun 2009 at 10:00am
One other thing worth mentioning. If you plan to be at all serious about whitewater kayaking and the IK is going to be your boat of choice I would stay away from the Sevylor, Seaeagle (I have seen one of these boats literally come apart on the Green River), Airhead, ebay mystery brand kayak, and Advanced Elements boats.
 
It is not that these boats are bad per se, but they are designed for families and sportsmen who want a do anything kayak. Most of those boats suffer from some pretty severe design and performance issues as a result. It would be a lot like taking the rec kayaks they sell at Costco down Boulder Drop on the Skykomish. It could be done, but there are better boats for the job. That said, last weekend at the ball a lot of people had a good time paddling three of the boats mentioned down the Wenatchee. 
 
If these boats are all you can afford then I would recommend you search online for used boats. You can find a lot of used Tomcats and Hyside Padillacs online for $350-$500 if you aren't in a hurry to buy. Here is a good guide to buying used IK's:
 
 
One other brand that I would definately avoid for now is Zoik Inflatables. Their design looks interesting, but when I talked to the manufacturer about how they build their boats they said they are glued together. The problem with this over other methods such as welding or stitching is that the material used in inflatable boats off gasses a chemical which will break down the glue over time. A lot of manufacturers use glue, but some are better at it than others. Some Sevylor and Seaeagle boats have been known to come apart at the seams in three years, whereas the glued I-beam floors in Hyside Padillacs have a reputation for outlasting the rest of the boat. The problem with Zoik is that they are new to the market this year, and there is nobody out there who can tell you if their boats will hold up over time.
 
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  Quote jcrick Replybullet Posted: 07 Jun 2009 at 11:46am
Thanks for ALL of the responses. They were really helpful. I'm going to research several of the brands that were mentioned, including the Lynx and Tomcat. Again, I appreciate all of your experience and advice. This is a great place to start.

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  Quote Wiggins Replybullet Posted: 07 Jun 2009 at 6:08pm
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 07 Jun 2009 at 8:34pm
Some good advice on here already, but being one of the oldtimer IKer's I should throw in my 2¢

I have paddled AIRE Lynxes for 15 years now and love them. They have changed their design a few times over the years. I like the newer style but actually prefer the older style they made from 1995-2004. There's lots of those boats out there still in air floor and foam floor. If you look for used boats, there's a good chance you can find one, and a very good chance even if it's a 10 year old boat, that if it was taken care of will be in very good conditions. AIRE boats are made to last. I also concur that for performance a foam floor boat is the way to go. However, they take up alot more space, so if you need something you can roll up and throw in your trunk you'll want an air floor boat. AIRE boat with air floors roll up real nicely.

Also from AIRE: the "tributary" brand boats, the Tomcat and the Strike are both OK. The Tributary line is their cheaper boats, not made in USA but overseas. They are decent quality, but not up to the standards and warranty of their US made boats. The Tomcat is probably the best bet for combination of price and quality for someone wanting the cheapest way into a whitewater IK. You can get one new for about 500 bucks and cheaper used.... although I would go with a new one if you're only saving a hundred or so because then you have AIREs warranty coverage if something goes wrong. The Tomcat is not a great performer... its a bit long, slow and sluggish compared to many other IKs, but some people seem to really like them. More likely you'll like it at first and then if you really get the whitewater bug you'll be looking to upgrade in a while. The Strike is the next model up and is a much better performing boat than the Tomcat. It's shorter and quicker, and carves really well. It's a bit smaller and may feel tippy, especially for a larger person. It's sized real well for a smaller person.

AIRE also has the Force models which are very performance oriented. They are narrow and tippy, so not really recommended for someone wanting to learn. If you want a boat that tippy, just get a hardshell. They also have a new boat called the outfitter model, which has real big tubes for big paddlers or carrying gear. I haven't tried one, so I can't really comment on them, but I'd like to.

OK. that's about it for my AIRE speil... except keep in mind if you get a US made model (Lynx, Force, Outfitter) you get an unlimited 10 year warranty and their service is excellent.

The Stilleto is an excellent IK. If you can get your hand on one. Get it. There were a few hundred made back in the 90s and then they stopped making them. Jim Sheflo did a limited run of boats 2 years ago, and may do more in the future. They are great performing boats for all-around whitewater, play and creeking. NOT to be confused with the cheap knock-off "stilleto" made by Star. Don't get one of those. They suck.

Also, consider Sotar. They make a damn fine boat, but they are pretty damn pricey. I think they want $1800 for a new boat. Although if you check their website they sometimes have deals on demo boats.

That's all I can think of for now. I've IKed a long time, as have Fish and Slickhorn, so if they chime in I'd certainly listen to what they have to say. If you have specific questions shout out and I will try to help.
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  Quote franzhorner Replybullet Posted: 08 Jun 2009 at 8:45am
from NRS web



Stiletto IK
 (For Sale)  Post #: 13385
Category: Kayaks
 
  Excellent condition Stiletto inflatable kayak. No patches, cuts, or other repairs. Has a few extra d-rings. Red and yellow with a foam floor. This is a great high performance, high quality inflatable kayak!  
  Contact: Christopher   Email: riverdoctor at gmail dot com  
  Phone: 208.921.3935   Location: Boise  
  Posted: 6/1/2009   Price: $700 or best offer


Edited by franzhorner - 08 Jun 2009 at 8:46am
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  Quote slickhorn Replybullet Posted: 08 Jun 2009 at 9:47am
You've heard most of the major opinions by now, but I'll jump in also. 

I prefer the Stiletto IKs hands down over anything for whitewater boating.  For all the reasons mentioned above, they are the most responsive highest performance boats you'll find, and while nothing approximates how a hardshell will feel, you do get a little of the carving ability that is the toughest thing to get out of an IK. 

The AIRE Lynx and SOTAR boats are the two other boats I consider above average.  They are very different boats though.  The Sotars are heavy but bomber, closest thing to a Stiletto that is generally available. They tend to be spendy, and are good for steep stuff. 

The lynx rides a lot higher in the water which makes the boat feel a little less stable.  I really like the Lynx for its gear capacity when doing overnight trips. 

I actually have a Stiletto I'd let go for $600.  Not as great a shape as the one in Boise Franz listed above, but it's been recently serviced by Jim and is holding air and has lots of life left.  The foam could use a coat of sealant, but she's ready to go.  Drop me a PM if interested. 

Whichever way you go, take the time to get comfortable with self rescue -- re righting then re entering the boat.  If you can manage to hang on to your paddle and master this skill, you can recover from a flip nearly as fast as a hardsheller can roll. 
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  Quote franzhorner Replybullet Posted: 08 Jun 2009 at 11:01am
This post is making me want to get in my Stiletto real bad!!  After a rowing a fully loaded 14 foot gear boat for 8 of ten days I could use some time zipping around on a light craft!

Slickhorn is right about getting comfy with self rescue.  That is most important.  There is a major advantage to being able to get back in your boat midstream after swimming.  I have heard of folks rolling their hardshell 3 or 4 times coming through Boulder Drop for instance.  I have flipped my Stiletto in the entrance got back in for Ned's and flipped there, got back in before House Rocks and flipped on the ledge in the same run.   Once you swim in a hardboat you have a boat full of water and nothing to get back in until you get under control on shore.....but...if you have a bomber roll......
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 08 Jun 2009 at 11:23am
Originally posted by slickhorn



The lynx rides a lot higher in the water which makes the boat feel a little less stable.  I really like the Lynx for its gear capacity when doing overnight trips. 



This is partly true. The newer models Lynx have a higher seating position and feel less stable than the older models... although they carve a bit better than older models. The 1995-2004 models, especially the foam floor models are very stable boats.


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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 08 Jun 2009 at 12:15pm
I will also echo that learning self-rescue is very important. Here's a few specific techniques that will help you.

Learn a good high and low brace. You can can keep an IK from going over with a good brace. Learning good body english is important too, and this will vary by your body and boat size. With a narrow IK you can lean a boat just by pulling up on the thigh straps, similar to how you would put a hardshell on edge. With a wider IK, you want to throw your weight around more... more similar to "highsiding" a raft.

When you flip. And if you're doing it right.. you will! Try to stay with your boat and hold on to that paddle! As you go upside down, try not to get ejected from the boat immediately. Squeeze those thighstraps with your legs and when you're upside down, grab one of the straps with one hand and release from the boat by straightening your legs. If the boat does get away from you use the paddle to crawl stroke and swim back too it. You can really swim fast using your paddle.

Now to re-flip and re-enter your boat. You want to practice this on a lake or slow section of river. There are different techniques and different ones work for different folks and boats. If your boat has a flip line, just reach over and pull it over. Othewise, my favorite technique is the push/pull. Reach under the boat and grab the thigh strap on the far side. Once you have it, pull down on that strap while pushing up on the tube close to you. Done right this will not only pop up the boat quickly, but as a continuation, you can also pull yourself up on the boat in one fluid motion.

Other methods that may work are: 1- reaching over the boat and pulling it over by grabbing a drain hole. 2- Pushing down on the near tube to make the boat pop up... you will usually need to try and grab the far tube as it pops up to pull it the rest of the way over. 3- Climb up on the boat and grab the far tube and pull it over.

Once you get it over, to get back in you want to pull yourself up onto the boat by using your arms and kicking your feet. Once you get partway in, swing your legs in and get into a seated position.

Again, the best method for you and your boat will only be found through trial and error, so practice and have fun!... Although I will say, if you can learn the push/pull method, it is the fastest technique.
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  Quote outdoorjunkie Replybullet Posted: 26 Jun 2009 at 10:52am
There has been some good feedback here. Many of these boats and manufacturers are of high quality. Everyone has there two cents.... Make sure you do your own research and feel comfortable with your purchase.

Some of the manufacturers that have been listed here as to avoid are quality boat manufacturers and great companies with good reputations and service. All manufacturers will have a small percentage of boats that will fall into the "warranty" category. It is the nature of the beast.

Glueing and welding are steadfast methods of boat construction, each with there benefits and limitations. I own a Sea Eagle and it has been an excellent boat, and they have treated me very with with information and support.

I know some of the crew at Zoik Inflatables and while they are a new company they are a great group that I know will stand behind their 5 year warranty.

So, take all the comments with a grain of salt. Do some more homework and make your decision. Paddling inflatables is in my opinion the most fun way to get on the river.

Happy Paddling
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  Quote Fish Replybullet Posted: 26 Jun 2009 at 11:21am
Joe,
I will Echo Brians point,  that the Stiletto, is the best IK for whitewater boating.  I will also go as far to say,  that the Stiletto is best IK ever designed... hands down.  Franz Horner posted one for sale here from Boise,  and Brian also has one locally, for sale as well. 

I could go into all the reason why it is a better boat,  than others on the market,  but in the interest of time,  take my word for it.


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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 26 Jun 2009 at 11:24am
Fish, you going to be there tomorrow, for the ducky throw down at Boulder drop?
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  Quote Zoik Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2010 at 8:58am
Hey all,

If you have any questions about Zoik Inflatables and our boats don't hesitate to contact us.  We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.  We love our IK's and stand behind all of our products.

Thanks and Happy Paddling! 

Zoik
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