Right now it’s a great time to kayak the Thames through London. It’s only April but due to Covid, the Westminster tourist barge scene is dormant, making that brief but lively stage a bit less fretful. Down at water level we may be hyper vigilant, but can the bloke doing a U-turn in his heaving tourist catamaran see us fending off the standing waves and refracted wakes? As a barge-tourist in a Union Jack bowler hat asked me last time; ‘Is this allowed? Yes it is chum, but a kayak on this part of the Thames is still an incongruous sight. The congestion and the standing waves pushed up by some bridges at certain times can feel a bit like skateboarding in a gale on Runway 3 at Heathrow.
Downloading the PLA’s mammoth 130-pageTideway Code is enough to put anyone off, but I do believe this edition (dated October 2020) is less anti IK than a previous version I read. At the time I recall seeking clarification from the PLA’s media person, and got an arsey corporate riposte. Has last year’s IK consumer surge turned the tide on the PLA’s prejudice? It’s the old problem of misconflating a clueless beginner in £49.95 Aldi bin bag with an alert and well-equipped paddler in a decent high-pressure hybrid. The former far outnumber the latter. I say: pick your tide, keep right and be observant. For me the biggest peril was dodging the horizontal scythes of the Putney rowers who seem to go up and down across the whole width of the river as they please. They do need a lot of space.
All hands to the barrel pump! The day will be long, sunny and warm. High time to tick off ideas matured over the winter months of Lockdown. First on the list: the River Wey from Godalming to Weybridge in Surrey. Or should I say, the historic canal called the Wey Navigation which is paralleled in places by the old river. It’s one of England’s oldest navigations (commercial inland waterways) which once connected the Thames with the Navy base in Portsmouth. At the time a safe way of transporting stuff, including munitions produced near Godalming, without risking encounters with Napoleonic marauders in the Channel. For years I’ve been unsure whether the Wey was a dreary canal with more locks than the Tower of London, or a grubby, semi-urban river with weirs and other obstructions. Turns out it’s a bit of both but better than expected. All I had to do was RTFM!
Compared to the similarly popular Medway, which I’ve done loads of times in IKs and packrafts, summer and winter, the Wey Nav feels less agricultural, more scenic and has an interesting history if you slow down enough to look. But it lacks the Medway’s unique canoe passes which scoot you down the side of each lock (right), avoiding up to three laborious carry-rounds per mile. Parts of the original river survive in places to either side of the canal, which is what caused me confusion. I now realise the Navigation (managed by the National Trust) gets priority in terms of water levels and maintenance. As a result the occasionally nearby River Wey might be shallow or chocked up with fallen trees or rubbish. But you can combine both to make loops like this.
I fancied a full dawn-to-dusk recce: as much as I could fit in from Godalming (where most paddlers start) before my tank ran dry. I might even reach Richmond on the Thames, a section I enjoyed last December in the Arrowstream. That is actually quite a haul: 20 Weymiles plus another 15 on the Thames, including no less than 17 lock portages on the two rivers. But the great thing about ending a paddle in an urban area is I could air down when I got worn out and rail home. Thirty-five miles? Dream on, bro! I’ve only paddled two days since September so was far from paddle fit. Then again, the pre-dawn brain wasn’t on top form either: I set off in the right general direction, but on the wrong train.
Oh! Mister Porter, what shall I do? I want to go to Godalming And they’re taking me on to Hoo [k], Send me back to Woking as quickly as you can, Oh! Mister Porter, what a silly boy I am!
After backtracking, I decided to catch up with myself at Guildford, 5 miles downstream of Godalming and missing out 4 of the Wey’s 14 locks. I dare say I’d appreciate that later.
Just before the GPS packed up at Basingstoke canal junction, I was averaging 5.5kph on the move. Pretty good with no current to speak of. On the livelier Thames I estimate I was moving at up to 10kph before I withered. Same as in the FDS Shipwreck in December. My tall BIC backrest (left) initially felt great then collapsed on itself. Usual story: needs a stiffer insert. I was trying out my new footrest tube attachment points which worked great. Only when one heat-welded strap broke near Addlestone was I reminded how essential footrests are to comfort, efficiency and stamina. I jury-rigged something up between two D-rings which have been staring in the face all this time.
My 2021 Wey Survey of UK Paddling Trends
Hardshell canoes: 1
Hardshell kayaks: 1 (+ 2 K1 racers)
Hardshell SoT: 1
Vinyl IKs (cheapies): 5
PVC (bladder) IKs 3
iSUPs: 10+ (mostly women on iSuPs, too)
PFDs worn, almost none then again, mine’s more of a handy waistcoat)
FDS spotted: none (interesting as readers here are mad for that page)
Owning several Gumotex IKs with the rubbish footrest pillow (left), I came up with my footrest tube idea years ago. It’s since been copied (or maybe just implemented) by many manufacturers. In a kayak, a footrest isn’t something you rest your feet on while watching Netflix. You lightly brace against to stop you sliding down in the seat and to improve you’re connection with the boat. To that end it wants to be solid, not mushy. I was never really that happy with my Seawave’s drainpipe arrangement: an adjustable strap running forward from the seat and a counter-tensioning elastic pulling from the bow to keep the tube in position. Too many straps, with entrapment and aesthetic issues. All I really needed to do was glue on a couple of D-rings either side of the footrest, but I like the idea of reversible (non-permanent) modifications.
Then I remembered a clever idea someone passed on to me: straps threaded through a small piece of plastic pipe. You can buy them ready-made to jam into car doors to lash stuff down. As was suggested, these anchor straps could also jam into the cavity/channel (left) you find on most tubed and even FD-S IKswith removable floors, where the floor meets the sides to make repositionable/removable lashing points. Also, they are dead easy to make.
As footrest tube strap anchor points they work especially well because the tension on the strap is sideways (towards the bow) for better jamming, and they can be slid forward along the channel when paddling two-up and beyond the adjustability of the strap. And best of all, no tedious 2-part D-ring gluing required.
I got to try out the new system on the Wye and it worked great. The location is solid, so much so that one lazily heat-welded strap broke and I learned fast how essential a footrest is. In bodging something up to get me home, I noticed in fact that the D-rings you can see on the right, below, are more or less in the right position (for me) as long as the footrest tube strap is nearly taught. All the better: it’s one less thing to do on set up.
Though not totally convinced by the boat just because it was new, I planned to buy the new Gumotex Rush 2 in the early summer of 2020. I sold my old Seawave easily, but by the time I dithered over coughing up a grand, UK lockdown discounts had ended. Soon availability of Rushs dried right up, along with so many other IKs in 2020, which also saw prices shoot up.
Eventually it transpired the Rush wouldn’t be back before late spring 2021 (was there some flaw with the new design?). Needing a boat for the book cover, with help from a Czech chum as a go-between, I bought a second-grade Seawave direct from Gumotex, saving 15% on the CZ price (Gumo won’t sell these specials outside CZ). This was just before the price went up to nearly €1300. As predicted, Gumotex prices have risen across the board; the Rush will be €1500 for spring 2021!
“Defects … are only of a visual nature (abrasions, patches, larger amounts of glue, stamp imprint, etc.) and do not affect the driving characteristics and life of the boat.“
Rather unnervingly, the exact nature of each boat’s damage is not specified or identified by Gumotex. It’s the luck of the draw. On unpacking the new boat it took me a while to locate a barely visible patch on the side (left). It may not even be a hole (hard to believe how that could happen in the factory), more likely a scratch or a nick down to the scrim.
Anyway, I’m happy with my Seawave, one boat I don’t mind owning again until something better comes along. The only difference I can see between my old one are grommet/ports for the rudder kit on the stern deck. The factory fresh fabric also feels oddly tacky, like TPU, something I’m sure will go away.
The seats and footrests are the same old over-weight rubbish. Gumotex aren’t making any innovations here. Just as with my first Seawave, before the boat got wet the seats went onto eBay for fifty quid, bringing the price down a bit. I refitted my proven packraft seatbase/SoT backrest idea. More on seats here.
The useless footrest cushion got chopped down into spare Nitrilon patches and oral valves. For a useless, low-psi item, inside it looks amazingly well made. I plan to re-fit my footrest drainpipe system, and have a great new idea about how to fit and adjust it. More about that soon.
I took the chance to re-measure the Seawave. Yes, it really is just 30” / 76cmwide and yet looks huge in the corridor – the only place in our flat it can be inflated. And it weighs 19kg with everything in the supplied bag, Ditch the seats (965g x 2) and footrests (411g for both), add a single SoT/packraft seat and a mooring line, and the 4.5m Seawave is a genuine 16kg on the water. Pretty darn good for a 4.5-m boat. And it’s compact too. Now I’ve learned how to vacuum-shrink a boat (you need a bayonet nozzle with valve-opening pin) and have added an oral valve to shrink down my Ortleib RS140 roller bag too (above right), the boat takes up less room than ever.
An interesting thing was pointed out to me about the Seawave and other tubed Gumboats: they are effectively made from just two big sheets of Nitrilon (plus deck pieces): the red outer/lower and the grey inner/upper (above). They touch at the edges of the floor and join in a flat seam on top of the sidetubes. Simplicity, I like that.
You may have seen these bayonet/car tyre adapters on eBay in recent months (left). The bayonet end clamps into your IK’s raft valve (won’t work on Boston valves). The other end is a regular Schrader valve like on your car/bike wheel. Attach that to your 12-volt Halfords tyre compressor and you can inflate your IK from your car battery. No more of that effortful, back-breaking pumping!
Me, I’ve never seen the value of electric pumps for IKs. You can only use them near a power source, or the rechargeable battery will run out. And how hard is inflating an IK with a good barrel pump anyway? As IKs catch on with more mainstream recreational users (whose cheap boats may come with a rubbish pump), it seems some think manual pumping is too tiring. What is this world coming too?!
The difference between tyres and IKs: • a car tyre is a low volume running high pressure (~30 litres @ ~30psi) • an IK has high volume but runs low pressure (3 chambers of 50–160 litres @ ~3psi). Drop-stitch has less volume but runs much more.
That’s up to five times more volume in an IK but at a tenth of the pressure. I would guess the swept volume of my better-than-average car pump (left) is 3–5cc. My Bravo RED 4 barrel pump is 2 x 2000cc (it pumps on the up and the down stroke). Even if my 12-volt compressor whizzes along at 1001rpm, it will still take a long, long time to fill a 160-litre IK floor. But for a fiver, I thought I’d prove myself right.
The easiest way was to pump my Seawave’s floor to the point the PRV purged at about 3psi. The actual psi is immaterial but it’s consistant.
No surprise: it took less than a minute to pump up the 160-litre floor with the barrel. With my car tyre pump it took over 7 minutes. And if you want say 4psi in the sides, or a 10psi drop-stitch boat, the duration of the tyre pump (or effort with the barrel pump) rises exponentially. It will take forever with the car pump adapter and I think the tyre pump would auto shut-off or burn-out before it reached anywhere near 10psi.
I looked into rechargable or D-cell battery or mains/car electric pumps like above. They go on amazon from just £9.99, or even less for mains only or 4 x D-cell battery. These may be great for pool toys, air beds and other low-pressure items like slackrafts which just need a shape, not rigidity. The Pumteck (left; £15) claims an obscure pressure rating of 4.5 kPa which sounds impressive but translates to just 0.65 psi or 0.045 bar. That is slackraft pressure; there is no worthwhile IK that runs such a low psi.
All these pumps will do is save you the initial pumping which merely takes time (< 5 mins), not effort. The rechargeable ones will be spent in 10 minutes and then need hours of recharging. For a typical 3-psi IK you’ll still need some sort of manual pump to top off to full pressure; even more so a higher pressure DS IK. If your back can’t handle a barrel pump (taller pumps work better for taller folk), consider a Bravo foot pump, but with any drop stitch IK there is no getting round the need for a high-pressure barrel pump or a very expensive SUP electric pump.
Darn. I put my Seawave on eBay to ‘test the water’ and it went within hours. Still, it’s an excuse to show some of my favourite Seawave shots in five seasons of fantastic paddling. What a great boat that was. So great that, with nothing better available at the time, in October 2020 I bought another Seawave (left).
Gumotex are moving on up with hybrid dropstitch technology, originally showcased in 2019’s Thaya which is basically an old Solar 3 with a DS floor to make it more stiff. The new-for-2020 Rush 1 and 2 (left) is quite a more sophisticated advance on a DSF or hybrid IK.
The Rush models came out in April 2020, just as the pandemic hit and lockdowns, shutdowns and slowdowns spread across the world. It’s also said there was some kind of quality control calamity at the Gumotex factory which led to many completed boats getting shredded. As a result, stock of Gumotex IKs dried up at a time when post-first-lockdown IK demand went ballistic RTW. Other IKs gradually came back online, including other Gumotexs, but oddly, the all-new flagship Rush was put right to the back of the queue. I speculated this may have been a production issue and it seems I was right: I read in the PaddleVenture review comments: “There is actually a modification to the Gumotex Rush [for 2021]. The drop stitch area on the bow and stern elements is said to have been improved. Apparently there were more complaints here than usual, so that at the end of last summer no more Rush models were produced and this part of the boat was revised”. It’s not clear what the problems were, but it proves that making anything other than a flat DS plank is tricky and also a boat which can get round this (like the Itiwit X500) will be superior. The Rushs are due back in stock from May 2021 by which time all Gumotex IKs received a substantial price hike. The R2 will now cost over €1500. It’s also said the entire 2021 inventory has been allocated to pre-orders.
‘Hybrid’ is a cool word for a kayak which isn’t a Full DS like a Sea Eagle Razorlite and many others. These IKs are assembled from three flat dropstitch panels making boxy hulls which, according to the graphics on this page of the French Gumotex importer, can be sub-optimal in choppy waters. Me, I also think a totally flat, barge-like floor doesn’t help, but the Rushs get round this with raised side tubes which act more like stability pontoons, a bit like the Tributary Sawtooth. In addition you’ll se on the left the suggestion that tall, flat sides are more affected by waves and wind, which does seem plausible. Of course, if you only every intend to paddle flatwater on calm days, this doesn’t really matter.
Derived from iSuP boards, DS has become a blessing to IK floor design which hitherto had to use I-beams of parallel tubes (left) which complicates assembly and is prone to ruinous rupture if over-pressured, unless fitted with a PRV or the IK is exceptionally well made.
A Gumotex hybrid IK (below) retains the regular round side tubes of a classic IK for better secondary stability (afaiu) but features a DS floor for much-needed rigidity. However, unique to Gumo, DS end-panels are also used on the bow as well as shorter and less obvious panels at the stern.
A word about this fabric paraphrased from here: “Nitrilon-Dropstich is composed of a core of 1100 dtx polyester fabric made up of two sheets joined by a mass of threads exactly 10 cm long. Unlike regular PVC-based iSuPs and DS kayaks, the durable elastomer plastic coating is not glued to the fabric, but ‘pressure-impregnated’ which eliminates delamination risks more common with bonded PVC coatings. An additional layer of polyester-reinforced Nitrilon is vulcanised to the floor bottoms making them double thickness.”
The Rushs differ from the Thaya (1st gen Gumo DS) with the panels forming a more ‘hydroformed’ bow, another weak point with regular blunt-nosed tubed IKs. The Rush’s bow makes a water-slicing wedge sharp enough to cut ripe avocados. The semi DS side tubes are more complex than a DS floor attached to two round side tubes (like the Thaya and some Aquaglide IKs, for example) and explains the high price.
The vital stats on the tandem Rush 2 are said to be 4.2m long x 82cm wide. Compare that to my Seawave at 4.5 x 78; the Seawave has an 11% better length/width factor (LWF) of 5.77 vs 5.12 over the Rush 2, but those are my Seawave measurements. The side tubes are said to be 19/20cm on the Rush compared to 22 on my Seawave. This and the length may contribute to the load rating dropping to 195kg vs 250 on the longer Seawave. That’s still plenty, unless you’re hauling a moose carcass out of the Yukon. The official weight varies between 15.5 or 17kg, depending on where you look online. The higher figure is the same as my modified Seawave with packraft seat mod.
Pressures are another obvious difference with the Seawave. The 6cm DS floor runs at 0.5bar(7.2psi), actually a modest level for DS, but an IK doesn’t need to be as stiff as a iSuP board. The slimmer side tubes run 0.25 bar or 3.75psi (same as the Seawave). Well, that’s according to the table from the online manual shown below. Many outlets still list 0.2 sides and so did the Gumotex website until I corrected them.
0.25 is a bit higher than normal IK pressure but not quite as high as 0.3 in a Grabner, a Zelgear Spark or the 0.33 bar on my modified Seawave. When you combine that with the stiff DS floor, the 0.25 sides must make the Rush IKs Gumo’s stiffest IKs by far. The difference is, I added PRVs to my Seawave sides before running them at 50% higher pressure to automatically protect them. The Rushs don’t have any PRVs which explains the warning in the manual, above right. It’s odd but worth remembering that my super-stiff Grabner Amigo didn’t feature any PRVs either, not even in the floor. Quality of construction (gluing assembly) must have a lot to do with it.
When you add any colour you want as long as it’s black, you do wonder if no PRVs is a good idea, because in the sun black things get hotter, faster. Black may be great for Cockleshell saboteurs, not so good for visibility at sea and it kills photos stone dead. It’s true the Innova-branded Swings in North America have long had black hulls and no one complained. But they only run 0.2 bar so need help in stiffening up in the hot sun. They also have fixed decks in red. Many Grabner IKs are now made with black exteriors too (right). One assumes the Rush’s grey, lowish-psi floor will handle increased pressures from passive solar heating, especially as it’s in the water most of the time. But the black side tubes will get taught which becomes a nuisance to manage (or worry about), even if tubes/cylinders handle high pressures better than flat slabs. In fact, as you’ll see from the comments below and elsewhere, Gumotex have found black is not notably worse than red or green in absorbing solar heating and dangerously over-pressurising. And if you’re that worried it would be just as easy to install PRVs in the Rush side tubes, as it was on my Seawave.
Because a DS floor is flat, one imagines it will hinder effective tracking, despite having a skeg at the back. The flat hull will plane over the water and wander off to the sides like a packraft – the so-called ‘[windscreen] wiper-effect’.
So, similar to Sea Eagle‘s patented NeedleKnife Keel™ (right), Gumo added a more discrete ‘keel hump‘ under the bow (left) to compensate for the lack of old-style parallel I-beam floor tubes which added a directional element. You can see from the overhead image above that this keel hump is mirrored on the floor inside the boat, either by design or need. This protuberance makes a high-wear point on the IK in the shallows so it’s just as well the floor is double thickness Nitrilon, as mentioned above. It’s the same on any boat. On my Seawave I pre-emptively added a protective strake – a strip of hypalon – to the central tubed rib, though to be honest it never got much wear as I try and be careful. Mine was hardly worn in five years of mostly sea paddling.
Rushs can be fitted with optional decks (green on the R1, above, red on the R2, below), using the same velcro system as the Seawave, with those horribly bulky alloy spars (right) supporting the decking (surely a flexible rod like tentpole material wouldn’t be hard to make). I read on other reviews that they’ve greatly improved the coaming (hatch rim) so that spray skirts attach more securely. In the still on the right the footrest appears to be the usual rubbish black cushion adjusted by strap and seats can be moved to a variety of positions, too, but the other images show grey footrest tubes which are supposedly dropstitch – much better. Seats are now solid foam, but the base looks too thin and low to me. A stiff foam backrest (with side bracing straps) is good, but an inflatable seat base is much more comfortable to sit on because you can vary the pressure and so the height. Foam eventually loses its cushioning but an inflatable seat doesn’t need to be made of hefty hull-grade hypalon, as on other Gumo IKs (more in the vid below). But anyway, a seat is easily changed to suit your prefs. More on IK seats here.
Below, a review of a Rush 1 by Austrian Steve. Can’t understand a word but some observations: I like his convertible Eckla Rolly trolley/cart/camp chair; also love the lovely long canoe chute at 20:40. Have to say though, I winced a bit at some boat dragging here and there. Do the right thing, Steve; it only weighs 12kg! Note also this shortish boat seemed to track pretty well without a skeg – the frontal keel-hump may be effective in leading it by the nose, after all. But in the comments Steve admits the stiff, flat floor slaps down hard on wave trains coming out of rapids and I suppose would be the same at sea. It’s a drawback of flat, raft-like DS floors. See this for an easily translatable written review also in German.
The price of a 2021 R1/R2 has jumped from a hefty £900/£1200 to €1150/1500, plus decks going from £200/310/370 (tandem). There’s also a rudder kit (price unknown) which will be similar to the Seawave unit. IMO it’s not so useful, even on the longer R2. But like decks, some may like the option.
As you can tell, I was comparing the Rush 2 with my 5-year-old Seawave and wondered if it might be time (or an excuse) to change. An unprecedented five years of ownership proves there’s nothing wrong with my Seawave [I sold my Seawave in May 2020 then bought another in October]. What are the benefits of a Rush 2? Black is not such an attractive or useful colour for a boat, and neither is losing a foot in length or 50kg in payload over the Seawave – at least at sea. On a river the greater nippiness from less length will have benefits, but for that I have a packraft. As for greater rigidity, it looks pretty good in this clip but my adapted HP Seawave was very good compared to the lower-pressure Gumboats, and it seems the speed (see below) is no greater, but the gliding effort is reduced. The word is a Seawave with a DS floor will be out at the end of 2021 (probably 2022) but that will begin to approach Grabner prices.
Ten minutes after a paddling away from a tranquil Swanage seafront bathed in a Turneresque light (above), we found ourselves battling a stiff breeze rolling off the Ballard Downs on the north edge of Swanage Bay. The odd whitecap scurried by, a sign that the IK Limit was not far away. This felt like more than the predicted 10mph northerly. We dug onward, and once tucked below the cliffs the pounding eased. The northerly was probably amplified as it rushed down the south slope of the Downs and hit the sea. We’d paddled through that turbid patch – a bit of a shock before breakfast. What would it be like once out in the open round Ballard Point? Mutiny was afoot.
“Let’s see how it is round the corner, then decide,” I informed the crew. “Aye aye, cap’n sir.”
We eased around the corner expecting the worst, but were greeted by a magical sight: a line of 200-foot high chalk cliffs receding to a distant group of stacks and pinnacles glowing in the soft morning light and all soothed by a gentle breeze.
It was only a mile from here to Handfast Point aka: Old Harry, passing several stacks, arches, caves and slots. Ever the goldfish in its bowl, I’d got distracted before looking up tide times, but judging by yesterday evening’s paddle around Brownsea Island in nearby Poole Harbour, it was a couple of hours into its southerly ebb. We arrived at Harry’s about mid-tide but with still just enough water to paddle through most of the arches as well as some narrow slots which were already running too fast to tackle against the flow (below). A bit of a tidal race swirled past the Point, but nothing dramatic.
I’ve been planning to do Swanage for years and it was even better than expected. It must have been packed out yesterday on the bank holiday, but today, before 9am we had the place to ourselves. It’s a fascinating geological formation and all the better explored from a paddleboat.
Lit by a rising sun and on the top half of the tide must be ideal timing for a visit here. All up, it was only a two-hour roundtrip from Swanage seafront and in similarly good conditions would be easily packraftable from the north off nearby Studland beach.
Hope to paddle this again, one time.PS: Little did I know that this summer 2019 paddle would be out last sea paddle in the Seawave. Not since my original Gumo Sunny on which I learned and did so much, have I owned an IK for so long and had such fun times. What a great boat that was.