Gumotex have a new model of the Safari self-bailing white-water/surf IK called 330 or 330 XL. According to the stats the new boat is 26cm or ten inches longer than the regular Safari and now 80cm- or no less than three inches wider, which means buoyancy is up 30% to a rated 130kg. Weight is down 500g too. In the UK they go for under £500. I had the original pre-2003 Safari (left and right) – my very first IK and a very tippy boat for which I was too heavy and perhaps just too big. Part of the reason for tippiness is you’re sat high because a self-bailer needs a thick floor to put the your butt above the water level swilling around the draining holes in the floor. If that boat is also narrow and you’re an over-fed newb, then you both sit in water and have trouble keeping upright. Post 2003 Safaris were said to be much less tippy. The new 330 retains the all-important thigh straps but will be a more stable, user-friendly IK that’s still suited to rapids and surf without the need for decks (as on the Framura or Swings) or for frequent bank-side visits to drain it (right). But you get the horrible, old-school Gumotex footrest and a seat with no back support. I’d glue on some hull-top patches for a proper backrest like on my Seawave or Grabner, and a footrest tube too. The claimed specs are: 330cm long; 80cm wide; 12kg; max load 130kg and 3psi pressure with a PRV in the floor. The preceding Safari was: 304 x 72cm; 12.5kg; max load 100kg and runs the same pressure and PRV.
Lurking deep in the weeds we find Gumo’s other new IK, a fishing kayak called the Halibut. I do like a tasty halibut fried in butter and lemon, and this well-equipped trawler is high-seated, heavy but reassuringly wide (3.75m long, 96cm wide, 21kg). It also comes with a floor plate for standing, but energetic casting might take some skill to pull off. At €999 it’s quite pricey too, but there are probably more fishing kayakers out there (mostly in hardshell SoTs) than the rest of us put together.
Gumotex Safari (pre-2003) Back when I didn’t know an IK from JK Rowling, my very first IK was a used Safari. And light and tough though it was, this early model Safari was a mistake. The Safari Mk1 was a tad over 3 metres long (same as a Solar 1), 72cm wide and weighted 12kg. I pretty much knew that when I bought it used in 2004 for £120 from boatpark.cz, but it was so cheap it was worth the punt. At my weight I pretty much maxed-out the boat’s 100-kilo payload, and at 6.1” I looked like I was sat in a small bath (left). Without a skeg I also found it impossible to paddle straight (but had no experience then; see this). It felt nice and fast (see video below – cameras have got a lot better since!) but way too tippy to inspire confidence in a large beginner. It’s the only IK I’ve ever had which I could barely stay in. And for me it was way too cramped to pack a useful load for a few day’s touring.
Anyone with a bit of experience could have realised this before they bought it, but for I just wanted to check out a proper IK close up before moving on. I soon got a Sunny and have never looked back with Gumotex IKs; the Safari was passed on to my g-friend who’s a foot shorter and half my weight. A great feature on the Safari were the thigh straps (visible in the pics above). They really connect you to the boat and help you to paddle hard by controlling the yawing, as well as the roll to correct tipping) – great for the back and stomach muscles. Knowing now that later Safari models are more stable, I’d be quite keen to try one again as a play/day boat.
New or old, a Safari is also a self-bailer which is highly desirable when the going gets even a little rough, but only if you’re not too heavy to end up sitting in pooled water, as I was. G-friend used the Safari in Croatia and found she needed about 10kg of rock ballast in either end (see pic above) to make the boat stable and, as it happened, faster. Without them the boat sat high and even she felt tippy. Therefore the optimum weight for a pre-2003 Safari would be around 70kg. Now you know. We sold the Safari and got a Solar 1 or 300. The Safari is still in the Gumo line up and in full-coat Nitrilon too, like other Gumotexes. For a small WW fiend, a Safari would be a great little boat. There are plenty of videos online testifying to that fact.
Note. I’m told post-2003 Safaris (below left) have a different hull design and are less tippy. The newer one had twin side tubes but still a rounded hull profile. BoatPeople in CA don’t mince their words when they talk about it still being tippy in certain conditions, and the current short Safari is not the same hull shape as an old and stable Solar 300 we still owned. As for weight limit, I doubt that’s different. North American Innova importer Tim R. told me “I would rate the Solar’s stability as a 9 out of 10, the old Safari would be a 6 and the new Safari an 8. The very first Safari prototype was a 3!” Got all that? Now watch this sea surfing vid from Poland from 2008 – just mute the awful music – not a first on youtube.
They don’t make the Solar 300 anymore – it’s been superseded by the lighter Twists, although the similar full-coat, white-water Safari is still made All these Gumboats and a few others may benefit from the footrest mod as described below, as might the 410C and Seawave which both use a similarly mushy footrest pillow. Our Solar dates from 2006 and although (or because) it doesn’t get used much it still looks like new. And it’s lost no air to speak of lying in the garden for over a month (can’t say the same for my K40). But the seat/footrest arrangement is poor, like all Gumos from that era. The seat pivots at the right angle base as you lean on it, because the top edge is attached to the bottom edge instead of the actual boat, like any sensible IK. You lean back, it lifts up – no good. I messed around a lot with my old Sunny before I got smart and simply glued some D-rings onto the top of the hull sides, which Gumo started doing soon after. This way when you lean back or brace against the footrest, you’re locked to the boat and so get more drive. The pillow thwart footrest is OK, but I ditched that at the same time on my Sunny to use a small Otter box. For the Solar, the g-friend is short and can’t reach the footrest pillow even set right back. I glued on a pair of big D-rings with Aquaseal (hopefully bonding PVC D-rings to the Nitrilon hull) to the top of the hull sides to provide a fixed point to tension the seat back. And I removed the footrest pillow and replaced it with a bit of sawn-off four-inch drain pipe, tapeing the pipe ends to limit any rubbing against the hull. The seat straps were sewn into a loop and clipped to the D-rings. Hopefully this mod will improve bracing in the Solar – it’s the bane of all IKs (and SoTs for that matter) which without bracing are like paddling a log. This ought to improve response, giving you something to drive off. The footrest (the tape goes through a slot under the pipe) can easily be moved, even when inflated. I suspect it may well transform the Solar which is a nippy IK. The next step would be to fit thigh straps as found on the current Safari – then you can do cool stuff like this – but for the use our Solar gets, the current improvement will do. Recently I also glued on the later style skeg patch (left) to take the plastic fin. No more faffing about with butterfly nuts and bolts and bits of bent alloy. The patch costs £12 and so does the skeg, which I also fitted to my Grabner Amigo.
“My solution: Gumotex Solar 410C … the difference is ludicrous!” Happy Gumotex owner after running a Sevylor Hudson for a few years.
Great website – what a wealth of information. I wish I had read it before buying my Sevylor Pointer K2, I would have bought a Gumotex. Never too late; it just costs you more. Anna M.
In my opinion the long-established Czech Gumotex rubber factory in Břeclav make the best-value, proper IKs in Europe (in North America branded ‘Innova’). All you have to do is pick the best one for your needs. To see the 2020 catalog click this. Gumotex also made some expensive, high-pressure, super-tough models, such as these raft-wide Ks.
In 2011 they stopped selling the Sunny in Europe. The 25cm longer, but similar Solar 410C took its place and in 2017 became the near-identical Solar 3. In 2019 that got renamed the Solar 019 with a new identical model called Thaya featuring a more rigid drop stitch floor. Hybrid drop stitch hulls using their rubber-based Nitrilon fabric looks like the new direction for Gumotex IKs. The same durability but better performing boats which glide like hardshells but roll up into a bag. The Rush models of 2020 took this a step further.
Compared to some IKs, Gumotex are simple, robust and gimmick free, and over the years the design has been refined: better skeg fitment, better removable seats (but still heavy), lighter material options while in most cases keeping PRVs in the floors. Better push-push valves as well as lighter Nitrilon, and now with fitted or removable decked boats like the Seawave, Framura and Rush. The sporty Safari (with a 330XL version) the Solar 3/019 as well as the Framura and the versatile Seawave are all great touring boats, and the Nitrilon Twists are light. I haven’t owned or tried every Gumotex IK mentioned here, but in most cases know people who do- or have. The video below shows what sort of whitewater fun you can have with Gumotex IKs and even canoes.
Gumotex IKs are what I call ‘tubeless’ (this definition has since been adopted by Innova). There’s more here but in short this is the ‘European’ way of making IKs: simply gluing all the sections into a sealed inflatable vessel, like a packraft. It’s expensive but has advantages over the bladder ‘inner tube’ boats more common in the US. Most Gumotex IKs are made out of Nitrilon, their version of DuPont’s hypalon: the original tough, EDPM-like synthetic rubber-coated fabric as used on white water rafts that lasts forever but has now been superseded by similar but lighter fabrics. You might have thought that full-coat Nitrilon over a bit OTT so a few years ago Gumotex introduced LitePack (later called Nitrilon Lite) on low-end IKs like the Twist, with the rubber coating only on the outside. It saved weight but the boats proved to be less durable and Nitrilon Lite was quietly dropped in 2018. (A mate of mine has many failures with his Lite Twists). As mentioned, the current Nitrilon (as on my Seawave) feels thinner and more supple than the original less shiny and stiffer Nitrilon of years ago. Maybe it’s not as tough but I bet it’s lighter.
One thing you should know with Gumboats is that all except the Seawave, Rush (and the Ks) are rated at 0.2 bar or 2.9psi, something for which a Bravo footpump is fine. This is better pressure than many other IKs, but not like the 0.3 bar boats from Incept and Grabner.
I’ve read of Gumboaters running more than the recommended pressure in the side tubes to make the boats stiffer and more responsive. I suspect they could take it as long as they don’t get too hot out of the water. Running at the recommended pressure can mean that when a boat gets over 3.5m long – like the Solar 3 – it will flex in the swell or rough water. This was a nuisance with my Sunny in roughish seas because it swamped over the sides. Fwiw, I ran my Seawave side tubes for years at 0.33 bar – 50% more than the recommended 0.25. I had no problems with the thing peeling apart but importantly, I did add 0.33-rated PRVsso that the sides would purge air if they got too hot.
On flat water, long boat flexing can mean reduced speeds if you’re heavy like me. Apart from going on a diet, I considered various ideas to fix that in my old Sunny, but in the end settled on a Grabner Amigo, a basic boat best described as a ‘high pressure’ Solar 3. It was solid as a brick, but expensive. I sold the Amigo and from 2014 ran a Seawave which I adapted in various ways, including running over-pressure side tubes with added PRVs, as mentioned.
For waterside holiday fun to longer touring expeditions, you can’t go wrong with a Gumotex IK.
See also this about rudders And read this about decks
Short answer: Yes. It’s easier to go straight while paddling as hard as you like, and since 2014 all Gumotex come with them, as do many other IKs. Some can be mounted or removed by hand even from an inflated boat. And if not, it’s easy to glue a kit to any IK (see below).
A few years ago Gumotex introduced a slip-on skeg which was near identical in shape to one I’d had made in the alloy-skeg days, but in tough plastic and with clever tool-less mounting (above). I’ve fitted these plastic skegs to older Gumotex IKs and other IKs. The kit is under £20 + glue, and the skeg is tough. Just make sure you glue it on really well; it helps if your boat is made from a matching rubber fabric as the supplied Nitrilon patch. or make your own patch from same fabric.
I fitted the tough Gumotex skeg to my Grabner Amigo IK (above) and at sea used it all the time. But on the shallow Spey (below) that boat didn’t handle at all well without a skeg, possibly because the a tailwind pushed the high back around. It was really quite annoying as a few years earlier my broadly similar Sunny managed the Spey fine, so it clearly varies from boat to boat.
If you’re an experienced paddler you’ll have acquired the knack of going straight without a skeg – handy for paddling shallow rivers where the skeg would drag. A little more paddling finesse and small constant correction is required, especially if powering on. It’s good to learn the technique: fix your eyes on a tree or marker on a distant bank and paddle as gently as you like towards it, not looking away and keeping the nose of the boat in line with the marker. By using very light strokes you’ll see it can be done if it’s not too windy when again, a skeg helps with tracking (going straight).
I even found I could paddle a ten-foot Solar (below) without a skeg. Once you know you can go straight without a skeg, it’s just a matter of adopting the same finesse but with a bit more power. Only when you attempt the speeds of a Maori war party will the deflection get too much because you can paddle faster and still go straight with a skeg. Out at sea or on busier rivers, I always use a skeg.
I’ve often thought a hinged retractable skeg with a spring or just weight could be a good idea: it would pivot backwards when dragging in shallows, then drop back down when there’s enough depth. Seems SUPs also have this problem and in the US, FrogFish have made such a thing for boards, but they say the spring can be a weak point. I’ve envisaged something more normal skeg size as I can imagine in rapids drifting sideways into a rock or something might put a lot of leverage on such a long skeg. SUPs don’t normally do rapids. Especially if your kayak has a rudder mount, I think it would be quite easy to make one, if you think it’s worthwhile.
On a shorter, wider, slower packraft the consensus seems to be skegs make little difference. I can believe it before I knew it and now I know it. The bow still yaws or pivots a little left to right as you paddle; less so with a load mounted on the bow. Tracking – going straight – is not the same thing and not a problem on a packraft because you can’t go that fast. You move along with a moderate left-right bow shuffle which it’s true, does limit your speed – but speed is limited by a packraft’s hull shape anyway. Or is it? If anything, a packraft skeg fitted under the bow rather than the stern might limit this yawing, but I imagine you’ll destroy the instant turning ability for little actual benefit. Good for crossing a long lake in a hurry maybe. Can’t say I’ve seen this idea mentioned, though I am sure someone’s tried it. In 2011 Alpacka invented the extended stern (right; bottom) which has the same effect as a skeg. It’s been widely copied by other manufacturers and it definitely works. below; clip on skeg on my MRS Nomad. Tried it once but generally not needed.