At under £450 on amazon UK today* and actually in stock too, the bold new graphics on the 2022 Aqua Marina Steam 412 hybrid (DS-F) does seem a lot of IK for your money in the longer, solo/double category we’re into here at IK&P. Fyi: a ‘hybrid’ is an IK with a stiff, flat drop-stitch floor (DS-F; ideally removable), but with conventional, lower pressure round side tubes (right). In my limited experience it’s a better solution than most FDS, all-dropstich IKs. *experimental affiliate link
What they say The STEAM series is one of the best inflatable touring kayaks on the market. The combination of superior hull speed, outstanding durability and tracking capabilities make this kayak best in class. Both STEAM-312 and STEAM-412 mix Aqua Marina super-tough reinforced PVC material and rigid drop-stitched DWF floor. These ultra-stiff materials in the STEAM’s construction make a portable air-kayak so rigid that performs just as good as a traditional hard shell kayak. A perfect choice for long distance adventures and mild river running.
Length is – you guessed it – a spacious and potentially nippy 4.12 metres or 13.6′; width is a reasonable 90cm or 34″, plus a claimed 15.5kg (34.2 lbs) for the boat in the bag with a stated payload of 180 kilos.
Oddly, the stated pressures of 1.4 psi (0.01 bar) for the side tubes are barely more than a vinyl Intex or Sevy cheapie (or lower end Aqua M IKs). The 4.3psi (0.3 bar) in the 7cm DS floor (AM call it a ‘deck’) is also about as low as DS can be – a Grabner all-tube IK will run the same psi. I wondered if they meant 0.14 bar / 2 psi? It seems not according to the official website and the Steam product manual (snapshot below). It makes you think the construction may not be up to it, or that they’ve stated hyper-conservative/warranty covering values in case users over-inflate. After all, the sidetubes have proper ‘raft’ or iSUP valves capable of ten times that figure. Oh well, PVC fabric is inherently stiff so you’d hope that ought to make a reasonably rigid boat.
It has to be said the so-called “… Inflatable V-shape keel design…” is not evident in any online imagery that I could find (left, last year’s model) or in the video below. The floor looks as flat as a iSUP board (which Aqua M also make) with two, mid-positioned skegs. Most IKs manage with one at the back, but you can remove them or use just one. A V-shaped keel (like the Optimal FDS) would eliminate the need for skegs, so it could all be just marketing babble.
Best of all, this is not another shell & bladder but a ‘tubeless’ IK, so with the removable floor, cleaning and quick drying ought to be as easy as it gets on an IK. Many IK-ers soon learn the value of this.
The foam footrest tubes have a couple of positions, with the seats positioned on velcro strips. And the closeable bailing ports (see inset above) mean you can take a bit of wave splash over sides without swamping the boat, as the video below demonstrates. But two heavier persons plus gear could also mean you end up sitting in (or hauling) water as the floor is only 7cm thick. Paddling would reveal all, but the ports are closeable.
All in all those ports, the length and tubeless build for four-fifty quid could be a great way of getting into IKs. It comes with a pump, carry sack and a spare dry bag. Add paddles and some water. At worst you open it up on delivery, pump it up in the sitting and realise you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake. Amazon returns are dead easy.
Kokopelli are a US packraft brand who started out in a Denver garage in 2012 but soon moved on to full Asian production. Known for their distinctive range of yellow TPU or PVC packrafts – long, short, bailing or decked, with the Moki I and Moki II they’ve moved into IKs. Both Mokis are what they’re calling hybrids: dropstitch floors with conventional side tubes. Warranty is a generous 3 years. As always here at IK&P, it’s the the two-seater’s added versatility as solo tourer that’s of interest. The online stats for the Moki II are:
Weight: 24kg (53lbs) • Full kit in bag 27kg (59.5lbs) ; boat with seats 21.5kg (47.4lbs) Length: 4.3m (14 feet) Width: 91cm (36″) • With deck (39″); no deck (38″) Sidetube ø: 21.8cm (8.6″) • 30.5cm (12″) Payload: 272kg (600lbs) Pressure: Sides 0.17bar (2.5psi) ; 0.27bar; DS floor (4 psi) • Set-up leaflet says: sides 3-4psi, floor 8-10psi Construction: 840D Nylon side sleeves for PVC bladders; 1000D PVC DS floor Price: U$ 999 (with tandem spraydeck); UK £950
Renting a Moki 2 a couple of months after this was written revealed several errors in the online specs. Only the length was spot on. The set up leaflet also refers to ‘… the packraft…’ a couple of times, as if it was hastily copied. Verified figures are in red above.
Big, 21.8cm nylon sidetubes house PVC bladders which take an above-average 2.5 psi (0.17 bar) while even the dropstitch floor (DS-F) only runs an oddly low 4.5psi. That’s about the same as my uprated Seawave or a similar, regular-tubed Grabner. Can a DS-F IK be too stiff? Possibly. Turns out official online data is wrong. As with many bladder boats and/or part or full DS IKs, weights tend to be higher and the Moki is more than most, but this may include all the extras, not least a huge roller duffle with backpack straps. The 24kg weight give may well add up to the boat with the deck and skirts.
The well-featured EVA foam seats look a bit thin in the floor, but that’s easily altered and they can be positioned securely anywhere along twin velcro bands on the floor, with the backrests braced off the hull top in both directions. A lot of IKs have these bow and stern bungies which are handy to slip a paddle in while you fiddle with a camera, but you’d not want to use them for anything important or bulky. Not listed, but you can also use velcro tabs on the side tube tops to secure paddles. The specs claim there are a dozen D-rings but they are just the bungies being repeated. There are no D-rings in the boat. The foam rubber tube footrest/s can be repositioned in daisy chain loops, presumably sewn to the DS-F casing and there a huge, clip-on skeg (tracking fin) plus what looks like a shallow front keel to help the flat floor track straight.
The zip-on tandem zip-on deck with coaming rods and skirts come with the boat too (hatch length: 86cm, 34″); an optional solo deck is available. Plus you get a compact, two-way barrel pump and a repair kit. Add a paddle and some water and you’re all set.
At the listed three feet or 91.4cm, both Mokis are pretty wide as so many US-branded IKs are (one reviewer verified a Moki I at 37″ wide). See true figures above. But something looks wrong with the stated dimensions (left). If the internal width between the tubes is 14″ and the side tubes are 8.6″ each, the total is 32.2″, nearly 5″ narrower and about the same as my old Seawave. That’s more than wide enough to be stable but nippy. I asked Kokopelli; someone replied but never got back and the website remains unchanged. From the proportions of the images above, the actual length looks somewhere between the two. Discrepancies explained by verified measurements, above.
We paddled a Moki II for a couple of days. Review here.
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 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 Gumotex models, but oddly, the all-new flagship Rush was put right to the back of the queue and remains there in 2022. 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 but also that any boat which can get round this (like the Itiwit X500) will be superior. The Rushs were briefly back in stock in2021 by which time all Gumotex IKs received a massive price hike which killed demand. The R2 is now listed at nearly €1999 (around £1730) and in 2022 supply is still patch, with boats not made for a year.
‘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 now jumped to a staggering €1417/1999, plus decks going from €410 (solo; R2). There’s also a rudder kit (€289) which is the same as the Seawave unit.
As you can see, I have been 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 but 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. There was talk of a Seawave with a DS floor out in 2022, but that well also be approaching Grabner prices.