According to the Special Report on Paddle Sports done by The Outdoor Foundation and The Coleman Company, 21.7 million Americans participated in paddle sports in 2014. Seven outings was the average number for enthusiasts that year, which was up nine-percent from the previous year. In 2013, SUPs had more first-time participants than any other sport in the U.S. Given paddling’s popularity, naturally, manufacturers have been creating some cool new gear specifically for SUPs and kayaks. Here are some of our favorites.
Hobie Soft Cooler/Fish Bag
Fishing is a main driver for people with kayaks and even SUPs (we’ve seen them with chairs and rod holders tied on). So it’s understandable that there needs to be a place to store the day’s catch. But regular rectangular coolers don’t fit well on the back of a yak.
Now thanks to Hobie, you can keep your fish cool and safe in soft-sided, zippered, form-fitting coolers that attach to a kayak or SUP. Of course, you don’t have to catch fish. These handy coolers will also carry your lunch or fixings for a substantial happy hour for all your kayaking friends. Half-inch closed cell foam insulates the vinyl-coated triangular coolers that close with a secure YKK zipper. They have handles and D-rings so you can carry them already loaded and tie them on easily, and they come in two sizes: large (36”L x 8”H x 20”W at one end and 10”W at the other) and medium (24”L x 7”H x 16”W at one end and 7”W at the other). The packs keep contents cool all day even in the sun and retail for $179 and $129, respectively. For more information, visit Hobie.
Tunes are a necessary part of outdoor activities whether you’re out for relaxation or for exercise. Yes, you can take your chances and play music off your phone but that’s pretty risky—especially if you’re not sure of your balance—and that’s an argument for a separate and waterproof source of sound. Prolific New Zealand marine stereo manufacturer, Fusion, has built the perfect paddle sport stereo called StereoActive.
StereoActive is a portable sound system that is waterproof to IPX7 standards and it floats. Simply load it up like an MP3 player via a micro-USB stick (It’s also an AM/FM receiver with Weatherband available in the U.S. only). It has up to 20 hours of continuous battery life and an LED charge indicator. Two 20-watt speakers are angled up to throw sound at the kayak or SUP driver with greatest efficiency. The unit is made of UV-resistant polycarbonate and has large scalloped buttons so you can skip tracks or manipulate the volume with your paddle, without ever bending down or reaching out.
A separate storage compartment called ActiveSafe is available to hold your phone, car keys, money or credit card in a safe and dry place It too is waterproof, and floats and attaches below the stereo unit. A mounting system attaches permanently to your board or kayak and lets you attach and detach the StereoActive unit so you can take it with you in the house or tent. Price: $299. For more information, visit Stereoactive.
Dual Jet Marine Kayak Drive
Although it’s all about the journey, sometimes you want to kayak to your fishing or cruising grounds in a hurry. How about a jet engine? Dual Jet Marine Adventure Company has an electric motor that will get you quickly to the beach or the boat after an extended kayaking excursion.
Combine two electric jet motors about the size of large bullet-shaped audio speakers, and connect them with a cross bar on which sits a small lithium battery. Add a joystick control module and you have a mini twin-screw drive unit for your kayak. The motors can be lowered to accommodate the higher sides of a canoe. The joystick lets you turn right or left by applying more thrust from one motor or the other when you twist the knob, and accelerates or slows down by moving it forward or backward.
The assembly weights 22 pounds with the bar and the 12-V 36 amp-hour lithium battery and the motors provide a half a horsepower of thrust at 1200 max RPM. On one charge, expect to drive two to five miles depending on speed and conditions, or anywhere from 45 minutes to five hours. The joystick is water-resistant to IP67 standards so it can take a splash or submerge to three feet for 30 minutes. Price: $1,295.
An Umbrella (Any Old Umbrella)
Paddling is tiring, not to mention blister-inducing. So if you don’t have $1,300 to spend on propulsion and can’t get Hobie’s magic MirageDrive where paddling becomes peddling (available for both kayaks and their proprietary SUP), then go low tech and buy an umbrella at the drugstore. For easy downwind performance, nothing beats a big round sail in the form of an umbrella, preferably the collapsible kind for easy stowage. I’m serious—it works—although your arm may get tired from holding it. With the right conditions, you can go a long distance at decent speeds with little effort on a SUP or a kayak. Price: cheap.