New kajaks and surfskis...
Time to reveal a little more about the kayak hulls that showed on a photo from my trip to China in March. This time the designs are for a new player on the market – Axis kayaks. The basic order was for a line of short and easily handled kayaks and surfskis, for beginners to feel confident in and for experienced paddlers playing and surfing in waves. The method to achieve this is to combine the best qualities from sea kayaks and surfskis.
Very simplified, sea kayaks are developed for comfortable touring with camping gear and to handle waves smoothly and undramatically. They have generally large volume and load capacity, and the hulls are configured towards trackability to make long passages effortless and to be maneuverable without rudder/skeg. For safety they are more or less easy to roll and re-entry from the water, or rely on additional safety gadgets.
Similarly simplified, surfskis are developed for speed and control in demanding conditions, with less stability, very little directional stability, and limited load capacity. The lack of trackability means a lively but difficult-to-handle hull, but with a large rudder with direct and precise response it offers superb maneuvering and total control in waves. Safety is based on the open cockpit, making it easy to re-enter from the water – no water to pump out and no spraydeck to reattach.
A successful mix is of course not altogether straightforward. There are some opposing properties that cannot be handled without compromises. But we wanted the general comfort, load capacity and smooth movements from sea kayaks combined with the control in waves and exciting speed performance from surfskis. Which of course is nothing new, but we felt there were more to this combination than had been previously achieved.
Much care has gone into the construction, rethinking a lot of small details normally taken for granted. New integrated hatches with clever locking knobs are elegant, unobtrusive and light. A new seat-bulkhead assembly is light, comfortable and safe. We use epoxy instead of the cheaper polyester and vinylester – partly because epoxy is stronger, lasts longer and is more durable than the alternatives, and partly because the curing time is long enough to allow for vacuum infusion, resulting in a higher fiber-epoxy ratio – and thus an even lighter, stronger and more durable laminate.
Comfort and safety are perhaps the most important qualities in a kayak. You may accept and get used to some peculiarities in a kayak, but if you are not comfortable and feel safe, paddling will never be more than a short and not very exciting pastime. The same bucket seat is used in both the kayaks and the surfskis – a comfortable seat carefully designed to provide support where needed, but also to allow working the knees racing style – and at the same time to connect the paddler to the hull without feeling cramped, and minimize the volume of the cockpit – which is an important safety measure, should the cockpit for any reason become water-filled. The stability curve is balanced to provide a reasonable (but not too much) initial stability, and very good secondary stiffness. This means that the kayak will be more cooperative in rough seas, calmer and drier in challenging circumstances.
The new crafts will be avaliable with kayak deck or open surfski cockpit – maybe introducing convinced sea kayak paddlers to the exciting world of surfskis, and vice versa.
Along with the development of the hulls and seating configuration, a lot of thought and time have gone into the decoration scheme. Looking at the kayak market it may seems that almost conceivable scheme have been done somewhere or sometimes. It is not easy to come up with a layout that feels fresh and new, not just now but also in a few years, which stands out without being busy, which at the same time is thrilling and subtle and that is viewed as exciting but not ostentatious. This is what we finally decided upon: a few colors, simple uncomplicated color fields, graphically distinct combinations (so simple that they can be implemented in the gelcoat layer and thus protected from wear).
Starting with three basic models, between 450 and 500 cm in length - short enough for surf and play in rough water or whitewater, but long enough to keep up with longer kayaks at cruising speed, the first kayaks and skis will be shown at outdoor trade shows and fairs in the fall, and begin shipping during late fall. They will hit the stores during spring 2014 (apart from Kajakk & Fritid in Drammen, Norway, who have been involved from the start, we do not have a dealer list ready yet).
Axis Kayaks new website went live a couple of days ago, with a short presentation of the project. More info later...