Tag Archives: incept kayak

Preview: Incept K40 Tasman kayak

Missed the K40 intro? – it’s here.
For a brief test run, skip to this.
For initial impressions of my K40, go here.

With three months on the coast of northwest Scotland lined up for 2011 I was looking for a more seaworthy boat than the Sunny or making the Sunny faster (see this and this). Two weeks watching the weather blow through September 2010 showed it changes a lot up there. First from the east then the west, it blew at up to 50mph so when it’s good you’ve got to drop everything and get out there. But if it changes on the water while most probably paddling alone you want to be sure you can get back fast and not have to jeopardise making progress by either bailing in a frenzy or struggling to re-board. Well, that’s the way I see it.
In Shark Bay, it didn’t take much of a swell – maybe a metre – to fill the Sunny up every 20 minutes or so. I’d hook onto Jeff’s tandem and they paddled while I pumped. And that was the warm Indian Ocean not The Minch, off the North Atlantic.
It’s not like I’ll be setting off for St Kilda every weekend to pick up half a dozen gannet eggs, but either a deck or self-bailage is needed to be able to paddle alone around there with security.
As you do, over the previous months I gone through periodic frenzies of internet research. A hardshell SinK was never in the running. I don’t like being jammed in those things, they’re awkward to transport and would need getting rid of after. Plus I can rent a decent sea kayak locally.
Instead, I wondered about the other extreme, an SoT; very popular with the rec paddling masses who may not know a hard chine from a Chinese burn, but have a whole lot of inshore fun nevertheless. Most SoTs are wide enough to do the Can-Can while wearing flippers and come in awful ‘explosion-in-a-paint-factory’ colour schemes.

The angler-oriented models are less hideous and I narrowed it down to an Ocean Kayak Prowler 15 (above left) or OK’s slimmer Scupper Pro (above). One went on ebay for just 300 quid while I was thinking about where I could store it. They say an SP is from the same mould as an RTM Tempo (left; 24kg 4.5, on 67cm) and their Disco (below right; 23kg 4.3, on 65cm) looks pretty good too for a plastic sea clog (the shape I mean – not the colour). Fast I imagine, easy as a bike to get on and off, but might require suiting up too often to be fun without getting chilled. Either of these would be a lot of fun if I lived in Florida or the Aegean. Not so sure about northwest Scotland.


So according to my calculations that left a folder, and for me the pick of the bunch has always been Feathercraft’s Big Kahuna (left; 4.5m x 64cm; 16kg – 14′ 9″ x 25″; 35lbs) featuring an extra big cockpit for creaky old men who can’t bend like they used to could.

Feathercrafts are expensive and the marked up price new in the UK is so far beyond the pale to give them an admiring cachet among paddlers. I missed one in the UK for £1800 then tracked down another in Hawaii with every last option plus a few extras for £2200. I could have brought it back and then sold it in the UK for what it cost after 3 months paddling.

It then turned out matey down the road had a Big K so we went out for a spin on the local, freezing river this week. More about that here. Short version: the BK would be a flaming good yak that could be left assembled for the duration and wouldn’t get turned away by security at the Sea Kayak Christmas Ball. On the scungy Medway it took a bit of turning in my clumsy hands but tracked fine, glided smoothly and weighs only 16kg; easy enough to portage on the shoulder. But it still has that unnerving SinKiness I don’t like and is a bit awkward to get out of – well for a spaz like me with a dodgy shin and who’s used to IKs you can fall into drunk.
The Feathercraft would have been a lovely boat up in the Isles, but has the same re-entry issues as any SinK. The way I see it, if it’s bad enough that you tip over, getting back in and staying upright long enough to pump it out is going to take some luck alone. Until I learn how to roll a kayak I don’t fancy that at all.
Nevertheless, I was all set on buying the slinky BK as it would cost me nothing once sold on and doubtless have been a pleasure to behold. Then Gael from SSKT slapped me out of it and pointed out that Incept from NZ will be selling their decked K40 IK in the UK next year – and without a usual horrendous UK mark up (Knoydart take note…). UK distributors Seakayakoban tell me they have a demo in stock now with the next delivery in March for around £1500.

The K40 is similar to the Grabner Holiday II which might be classed as one of the original twin-side beam IKs which begat the Gumotex Seakers I and II. The solo Seaker 1 (left; 4.8m x 75cm – 18 inches more than a K40 and 3 inches wider) is officially as expensive as the K40, though has been going at half price ($1500) from Innova in the US.
A fellow IK blogger recently got one. At just £1000 that’s a great price, but the problem is the deck is fixed (packing and drying issues, IMO) and it manages to weigh no less than 33 kilos/73lbs according to the Gumo.cz website (US distributors Innova claim 60lbs/27kg). Whatever it is, I had a chance to buy a used Seaker from Czecho a year or two back for just £800, but pulled out when I appreciated you can’t take a boat that heavy on a plane too easily, nor haul it too far.

Readers have occasionally emailed me about decking a Sunny. It could be done I suppose by gluing velcro or a zip onto the sides or maybe some understraps, or even an elastic-edged canopy, like fitted bed sheets. How good will that look if I was left to do it?

It’s actually something that might be a little easier to achieve with a semi-decked Gumo Helios II (above left) were it not for those ghastly sewn-in seats they have. In fact I see Grabner offer such a thing with their Helios-like Explorer II (right; 5m x 75cm) as part of the €600 accessory package. Nein danke.

So, the Incept K40 Tasman
Like Gumotex, Aire, NRS and the rest, Incept seems to be an established raft manufacturer who’s turned to IKs. The Incept K40 Tasman (4.3m x 69cm; 17kg. 14′ 3″ x 27; 37lbs) seems to have been refined since I last looked at their website at which time there was no UK distribution that I could see. There seem to have been at least two other versions but this one looks the most complete by far and following this investigation I bought a K40.
I don’t know about you but for an IK, that picture below is of a pretty good looking boat. I do wonder about the 27-inch width, being used to the 30-inch Sunny, but at 30-inches I cannot imagine ever tipping out of a Sunny short of getting crossed up against a rock or branch a couple of times. If I measure 27 inches across my lap, it looks just right as long as you’re sat low. The simple answer is of course to go up to Oban for a demo.

Just like the Alpacka the K40 has a deck that zips across to one side to roll up for sunny, calm days. We like that about IKs; it keeps the legs tanned and makes packing, drying and, if necessary, draining the boat mid-water so much easier.

The hull is composed of three I-beamed chambers with twin-beam sides to help give its 14 feet better rigidity. The Sunny had round, single chamber sides which, although they get nice and taut on a hot day, the boat still flexes with the swell or even just with my weight in it. With I-beam chambers the K40 features pressure-relief valves on all three chambers including the sides rated at 5psi which are out of the water. This reduces the strain on the welded I-beam seams but it’s possible that some air will be purged through the valves as it expands in the course of a hot day. For this reason I see that Incept recommends carrying a small, top-up pump (right) as can be seen on the deck of the kayak pictured above. With it, you can re-pressurise the boat for maximum performance, and this can be done on the move as the valves (grey) are right there in the cockpit (the sidewall PRVs are behind the seat).
The twin beams also add up to less width (69cm or 27 inches – 3-4 inches less than my Sunny) and so more speed – although re-entry may be harder and all without – I hope – making it too tippy. It’s got a rudder because those high sides may catch a crosswind at times. Scoffed at by Brit sea kayakers who use boats that have hull profiles designed to turn when leaning out (very odd if you’re a motorbiker!), with a rudder you can paddle normally across the wind and use the rudder to correct the tracking.

A rudder will be good for sailing too. The boat also comes with a neoprene spray deck, a handy K-Pump and even thigh straps to enable control across a swell, better core muscle work-outs I reckon, and even eskimo rolling. In fact my boat came with no spray deck, no straps, no strap fittings (though there are markers), but it did have a K-Pump. Thigh straps are one thing I missed on a Sunny, more for the efficiency of paddling effort against the torso, than balance and control of tippiness (not a problem with that boat outside of hurricane conditions).
While getting the drum on the K40 I came across this video of a Kiwi guy who did an NZ South Island coast-to-coast over a fortnight. That is, upstream from the Tasman Sea, tough portage to a pass, then paddling down to the Pacific. (Ain’t these guys heard of packrafts!) His less driven mate came along in a 100-year old wooden replica boat – they were engaged in a historic C2C re-enactment using old and new craft.


It’s actually three, short videos of two guys having a little Kiwi back country adventure. Have a look at the K40 in action on vid II at 2:20. Many times on the rivers and seas you’ll see how a relatively modest waves wash over the deck of the K40 – a Gumo Sunny would be a brimming paddling pool at this point.
And again the vid reminds me of the advantages of an IK when it comes to bouncing off rocks and general abuse that would hurt a hardshell or loosen the joints of a taut folder like a Big Kahuna.

Incept Tasman K40 test in Scotland

Incept K40 Tasman Index Page

Some observations made here have been corrected once I actually bought and used a K40.

A couple of months ago I speculated that the Incept K40 may well be the long-sought successor to my ageing Gumotex Sunny, a great IK which I feel I’ve taken to the limit over the years. You may want to read the bottom half of that page first to get the drum on the Incept, but now I’ve actually spent an afternoon paddling a K40 around Shuna Island north of Oban and can conclude that apart from price, the Incept K40 ticks all the boxes. The other boat you see in the pictures is Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV – or SinK to you and me.

Weight in dimensions
I didn’t get a chance to measure and weigh the boat. The K40 is said to be 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and a foot and a half longer. It’s nowhere near as narrow as that sounds, as you can see on the left (Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV is only 21″ wide – cripes!) but the twin side tube construction gives higher, swamp-proof sides and more internal storage space. And it certainly looks higher in the water than a Sunny which is both good and bad.

Material and construction
According to the brochure the K40 is heat-welded from “a heavy-duty but light weight high-tech Polyurethane alloy [with PVC coating] … with 1100 dernier Polyester reinforcing [which is] exceptionally strong and hard wearing and is UV protected…”.
Handling the deflated boat out of the water my impression was that it felt no heavier than my 14-kilo Sunny, while the fabric felt harder, stiffer, less elastic and possibly a tad thinner than Sunny-era Nitrilon; a bit more like lino compared to a Sunny’s rafting fabric. That means when you deflate it it doesn’t collapse flat like a Sunny and it may take some effort to get it into the holdall supplied. On the Incept website they admit the material they use is less foldable than Hypalon. The stiffness (good thing for performance – less good for packing) shows when you inflate it using the supplied K-Pump K100 hand pump. I was expecting many minutes and a sore arm, but before I knew it and with very little effort the three chambers were purging their pressure release valves (PRVs) and the boat was suddenly as stiff as a board. Yes, the K40 has PRVs on all three chambers, probably because there are I-beams in the sidetubes.

It’s notable that the K40 has it’s inflation valves set in the cockpit. Should you lose pressure via the PRVs over the course of a hot day (and so lose some rigidity and performance) you could top-up on the water. One valve on the test boat was a bit stiff to release for pumping (left).
The seat and footrest pump up quickly by mouth with elbow valves, like an Alpacka, but with notably thicker fabric than Alpacka uses for its seat. Once set up for your size and with the rudder attached, I imagine the boat takes no longer to get on the water than a Sunny, that’s about 10 minutes. I can’t say I scrutinised it very closely, but the quality of construction on this example looked pretty good; at least as good as a Gumo. They say heat welding means no glue to deteriorate over the years and maybe less weight too (though some parts of the boat are glued).

Getting in and out
Before I saw the boat I feared the cockpit was on the small side, but it’s not. With one leg down in the boat and sat in the seat, I can bend the other leg and slide it inside; and this with full dry suit and other clobber on. No real need to sit on the back deck like on a hardshell or a Big Kahuna and best of all, while doing so the boat remains pretty stable. For getting out you can just pull out a leg, put it on the ground/seabed and stand up. Knowing this, my idea of stepping into the boat with the deck unzipped, pulling the hatch over me and then zipping up wasn’t necessary, except perhaps when you’ve unzipped to crawl back aboard after capsizing – something we tried later.

This zip-off deck really is a great idea for access, cooked up they say by IK pioneer Audrey Sutherland. How many folders and hard-shellers struggle cramming little bags through awkward deck hatches and then squeeze gingerly into their boats? I watched Jon doing just this after lunch on Shuna island. It’s the price you pay for speed on the water.
With the Incept I can bung my Watershed UDB in the back, lash the other bag or a lunch box to the front deck and put more in front of my feet so I can easily see a week’s worth of supplies fitting with room to spare. I don’t recall seeing any lashing points, easily glued on one imagines, and not strictly necessary with a deck, anyway, but then again spec sheets say there are 25 of them somewhere [not on this boat]. As for paddling undecked, it can be easily achieved by removing the stiff hatch coaming road. The deck also features four curved GRP batons which slip into sleeves and are very chunky while not being bulky like Gumo Seawave alloy frames. It would still be desirable to be able to ride the K40 with the top down on a sunny summertime river in France.

I didn’t get fully to grips with the thigh straps and anyway didn’t really need them in the calm conditions, but it sure is nice to have them there as standard [they’re not], with easy-to-hand micro adjusters. I had a feeling the Java or some boat I had (the Safari?) had curved straps which sat over the knee better. It did take a conscious effort to brace against them and power on, but with the unusual stiffness of the Tasman that all helped achieve the surprisingly high speeds I recorded. In choppier conditions I’d imagine you’d use them to brace against tipping, or of course for rolling the boat, a trick I may yet learn one day.

Speed, stability and tracking
The weather conditions for the test day in early March were very calm with a high pressure, white cloud and some mist, all clearing by the afternoon. On the water we headed out southwest against an incoming tide backed by a wind said to be 4mph (6kph), about as calm as it gets out on Loch Linnhe. In a couple of days it was forecast for 30mph+ out of Oban and was much calmer than our previous visit here. In these conditions stability was hardly tested but felt fine which was a relief considering the boat is 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and less even than the Java which was less confidence inspiring for me.

Although I took it pretty easy I never had ‘a moment’ in the K40, not even getting in and out. So with stability not an issue, next test was to see what this baby will do flat out! Jon had already cranked up 9kph on his Scorpio while I was faffing about, and hammering away with the 220-cm paddle the shop lent me (20cm shorter than I’m used to) I clocked 9.8kph (6mph) at some point against the breeze and tide, with a more readily sustainable 6-7kph (4mph).

This boat is definitely faster than my Sunny and these are about the same speeds I recorded in my Feathercraft Java a few years ago, also in calm conditions. The Incept is about 15% narrower and longer than the Sunny and a foot (30cm) shorter than the Java which is apparently wider but I very much doubt it.
It has to be said that after less than 10km on the water that day I was worn out and aching, but I hadn’t paddled for nearly two months. Out with a speedy hardshell, I was sometimes ahead, not because I was faster than Jon’s P&H, but because compared to previous runs in my Sunny with him, it took him more time than he expected to catch me up when I was ahead. We had a bit of a race as you do, and he certainly pulled away faster, but I had a feeling I caught up and if I’d had my normal paddle and spandex ski jumping suit I’d have had him! One day soon we’ll do a race round two points on a loch somewhere to see how our speed and turning match up, boat for boat. We did a similar test once in the desert, jump starting a loaded Honda XR650L. I lost that one and it’s gnawed at me for years.

Speaking of which, I’ve never owned a boat with a rudder before, though I’ve tried others here and there and it was fun, especially when engaged in ramming (above). Initially I didn’t bother with steering and just used it as a trailing skeg. Foot pedal actuation seemed a bit vague as you press flaps on top of the inflatable footrest thwart to move the rudder lines, but by the end of my session I’d got the knack and with the wind and tide behind us, I was ruddering a lot more and finding it useful. A bit more experimentation with positioning and tension would pin it down.
Early on I tried paddling with the rudder up, and into the wind the K40 did spin out after a few strokes if I didn’t correct hard, but then so did my Sunny before I got the knack of skeg-free paddling. Jon in his Scorpio was also deploying his retractable skeg in the same conditions and explained that in a proper Brit-style sea kayak you’d edge a bit to counteract the deflection of the wind on the front; the skeg is there to balance the defelction more than aid racking. Anyway, with the rudder always there and not vulnerable to fouling like a fixed skeg, why would you not use it except when paddling backwards, in which case it’s dead easy to flip it up and reverse all engines.

So there it is…
What in Neptune’s name is there not to like about the K40 apart from the hefty price and I suppose the IK’s bete noir: appearance? Looks like a sort of over-buoyant torpedo to me, sat high in the water, but I can get over that if it takes me to more places than my Sunny.

2020:
The K40 is hard to find new other than direct from Incept in NZ. Prices are high but you get a lot for your money. The rudder is not an extra and they should come with an K-Pump and a big dry bag and repair kit, but spray deck and thigh straps may be extra.
The ’25 D-rings and attachment points’ you read about were not present on the test boat or the one I eventually bought. More on this post. It’s worth noting with boats like the similar Grabners, many of these basic items are expensive extras.