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Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50
Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50

Review: Innova Kayaks

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Innova Kayaks is owned by partners Tim Rosenhan, Paul Neutzand and Hal Brookins. In the early 90's Innova Kayaks, then known as Innova Recreational Equipment, introduced high-end inflatable touring kayaks to the North American market. Before Innova inflatable kayaks came onto the North American paddling scene, the only inflatable kayaks available were vinyl pool toys or whitewater specific "Duckies" for river outfitters.

As the walls of Eastern Europe tumbled down, Paul visited his hometown, Prague, and couldn't help but notice people in inflatable kayaks paddling the Vltava river which runs through the city. The quality of these boats were unmistakable. They were made of the same durable type of material as Zodiacs and whitewater rafts. This really helped in their research to make high quality inflatable kayaks. As they began selling Innova inflatable boats, people began buying them because they appealed to people who loved kayaking but had no good place to store their boats, people who loved to travel (with their kayaks) and people who enjoyed the easy transport and quick assembly of an inflatable kayak. Innova Kayaks have received more awards than any other inflatable kayak brand!

Paul and Tim helped raise the awareness of the value, durability, and performance of Innova inflatable kayaks. Recent innovations include the introduction of "PVC free" materials offering the same durability but a greener future. Innova Kayaks now offers boats for every paddling niche – from expedition sea kayaks to whitewater canoes.

Swing I

Innova Swing kayaks are fast, green, and light. We fell in love with handsome lines that cut through the water perfectly. This doesn’t look like a typical inflatable kayak and can be inflated in about 5 minutes. The directions are very clear and easy to follow. It quickly dries off and packs away. As a 5'3" 66 year old female, it is difficult to find a kayak that is lightweight and easy to use and this exceeded all our expectations! It is exciting that the Swings offer the same performance of a rigid kayak of the same length at 1/3 the weight. Plus, unlike some inflatable kayaks, the Swings are rather elegant in appearance.

The Swing uses an efficient "tubeless" system. The hulls are made of rip-stop polyester fabric, rubber-coated on the interior for air-retention, and Teflon®-treated on the outside for water repellency and stain resistance. You don’t appreciate the importance of this unless you have had another type where water gets trapped between the cover and the bladder. In that case, you have to leave the kayak inflated for days until it fully dries out, but not with the Swings! The air-holding seams are vulcanized and permanently bonded (similar to the way in which tires are vulcanized). Each chamber is individually tested at the factory for air retention. The Swing “tubeless” construction parallels what tire manufacturers went to decades ago - it is inherently light, but it also inflates to a higher pressure than competing bladder kayaks (3-psi vs 2-psi).

We love how the higher pressure means that the Swings are stiffer in rough water and have snappier paddling performance. Swing decks are urethane-coated with zippered access for gear storage and cleaning ease. The decks shed water quickly and easily. The deck support system uses aluminum arches fore and aft of the cockpit openings. These arches are set crosswise and provide a deck shape and structure. The arches contribute to the stiffness of the Swing for paddling in rough water. These arches can be removed easily for a compact folded package, or left in the kayak for a slightly larger folded size.

The decks have fore-and-aft zippers for ease of gear access and cleaning the boat. The zippered deck opens completely in two flaps for full access. We found this helps when attaching the arches. Each deck is provided with gear bungees. How nice to have carrying handles on each ends. An optional spray skirt to wisk the water away is available for purchase. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is increasingly being recognized as a material of significant environmental concern. Environmentally conscious companies such as L.L. Bean have a PVC-free policy on the products they sell. The Swing is free of PVC.

Each kayak is divided into three separate air chambers for safety. The valves are sophisticated “bayonet” style units set flush with the fabric surface. A pressure relief valve is installed in the kayak floor chamber to relieve possible overpressure. Setup time with a manual pump is about 5 minutes.

The kayak is only 10 ft. 6 in. and weighs only 22 pounds yet it will carry up to 265 pounds. We especially like the detachable fin that works great on a lake or teaching beginners. We tested it with a 225 pound 6'2" male and 130 pound 5'3" female and found it comfortable for both. So nice to have one kayak that can be used by the whole family!

We would strongly suggest purchasing the Swing PVC-Free Backpack/Drybag.

This bag is large enough to hold a Swing II double kayak, 2 PFD's, inflation pump and paddles. It comes with a roll-down top to make a large drybag, padded adjustable shoulder straps, and a nifty arrangement to carry a paddle on the outside of the bag. The construction is a rugged urethane coated fabric, yet only weighs 3 pounds.


...Fiftysense Product Review Panel

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