Sandbanks Style Optimal (similar to AirVolution)
Full drop-stitch inflatable kayaks main page
Advanced Elements AirFusion
US IK and iSUp brand Advance Elements have come up with a sleek and innovative new angle on full dropstitch kayaks (FDS IK): The AirVolutions feature a high-pressure two chamber ‘clamshell’ design where the upper DS panel is a demi-deck. With minimal stowage below the decks at each end, it resembles a Sit-On-Top, except (though not currently offered) you could fit a spray skirt round that coaming (cockpit rim) to be sealed right off.
‘Airvolutions do not have a ton of storage space below deck [and] are designed to be Recreational/Day Touring kayaks‘
There are Solo and Double/Solo models with dimensions below. The more I study these Full DS IKs, the more I think what you gain in rigidity you pay for in weight and especially bulk over similar non-FDS IKs, some with just a DS floor. Maybe PVC tough enough to handle the intended use and pressures is simply a bulky fabric. In its wheeled duffle the folded up AirVolution2 is a massive 4 feet high and 18″ wide. As with many US-branded IKs, the Airvolutions are on the wide side, but it’s claimed they can be stand-up paddled if you have good balance. That’s me out, then!
|Solo||13′ / 3.9m||33″ / 84cm||39lbs / 17.7kg||300lbs / 136kg|
|Double||14.5′ / 4.5m||37″ / 94cm||52lbs / 23.5kg||550lbs / 249kg|
Both models are rated at 10 psi / 0.7 bar (though they will work with less) and have another DS IK innovation: Pressure Relief Valves (PRVs) on both panels set to now purge at 14psi (2021 onwards). Why not 10psi so you can blithely inflate away till the PRVs hiss? Some pressure might be purged over a hot day from the top deck but not enough to matter.
A few iSUps have PRVS, but I’ve not seen them on FDS IKs before and many potential owners will be reassured, as it should aid the as-yet untested longevity of DS panels. PRVs limit potentially destructive over-pressurisation when inflatable boats are left in the sun.
Looks like AE listened: the 2021 models got 14psi PRVs, as well as an inflatable footrest (mentioned below), a better backrest, and other detailed tidying. And they chuck in a low pressure battery pump to get the bulk of the air in. You’ll still need a 2-stage barrel pump to get it up to 10-12psi.
AirKayaks™ IK in the US seem to be a favoured AE outlet right now and have detailed reviews of both boats with loads of photos and measurements, followed by a quick flatwater spin.
There you can read the double’s open hatch is over 7.5 feet (231cm) long) and, oddly, there are no footrests (until 2021 models). A stuffed bag would work, or it would be easy to glue on some D-rings to run a footrest strap and hard tube. On a raft-wide IK like the AirVo2, it may not be worth bothering with thigh straps. Both models run a huge 9-inch skeg which will ground easily in shallows and suggests tracking with the flat floor may need help. It’s easily be replaced with a cut-down spare.
The AirVolution2 looks like a great day kayak for two, but from the photo above, even tall solo users may be better off with the less huge AirVolution, unless you add a foot brace tube. With this design, either boat has less low-down storage space than a conventional fat sidetube IK like a Seawave. Storing gear under the deck bungies just adds windage and hampers steering and stability. For touring, what gear is less than 4-5 inches high could squeeze under the covered ends, and when used solo the double has about half a metre of room behind the seat and some in front.
It’s hard to be sure, but inside it does look like the two panels have been ‘wallpapered over’ leaving no crevices to trap water and much more potentially damaging grit. This is a big improvement over hitherto conventional boxy three-panelFull DS IKs where water and crud gets in all sorts of hard-to-clean places. Being smooth inside, you’d think the AirVolutions could easily be drained by tipping upside down, then wiped down to dry. Maybe, but they’ve added a big plugged drain in the middle of the floor (left) to make that easier (it won’t work for self-bailing unless you’re very light). Judged against some of AE’s other ‘busy’ graphics, the blue boats don’t look too bad.
Up to now AE used far less elegant solutions to the problem of rigidity in long IKs. The AirVolutions: a pair of iSUp boards wrapped up and glued in the blue skin, are an interesting idea with some compromises, mostly in storage. These are day boats, not tourers, but there are many, many more day-paddlers out there.
It would be a struggle carrying a 23-kilo boat too far so for your money you get a wheelie duffle but with tiny, pavement-only wheels and clearance. There’s also a repair kit and a high-pressure, two-way switchable barrel pump which may need some brawn to reach the full 10+psi. Because high-pressure IK pumps need to be tall and slim, they’re low volume so take a while. AirKayaks reported it needed 100-150 strokes to inflate each chamber. That is a whole lot of pumping for a DS boat, but a battery pump now comes with the 2021s.
Prices in the US for 2021 are now $1200/$1500; in the UK the boat works out a bit more in £s; not such a good deal with obscure-branded 3-panel FDS IKs going for half that price. Or indeed a similar Sandbanks Optimal.