For folks who enjoy the water, there are exciting new kayaks and paddling products on the market. Vermont Sports checked out some of the newer gear and—like you—we’re champing at the bit to get out on the water and play.
For the stand-up paddler, OluKai has a new closed water shoe that separates your first and second toes from the other three for agility and balance. Kele Leistritz, product-line manager, explained that paddlers get most of their power from their big toes, so freeing them allows greater mobility. The Maliko is described as a “crossover, minimalist adventure shoe.” Leistritz said the bottom of the shoe is designed under the “firm, wet sand principal,” which allows toes to splay out naturally while sand collects under the arch. The shoes have open sandwich mesh that allows water to enter and leave without collecting inside.
$110; Mountain Goat, Manchester; and by order in stores across the state.
Although Vermont stand-up paddlers have generally paddled on flat water, Jason Starr of Paddlesurf Champlain is hoping to introduce river paddling to the Green Mountain State. Mike Harvey of Badfish SUP recommends that those just starting out try the company’s Multi-Chamber Inflatable Technology SUP. Because there are limits to the shape of an inflatable craft, the company has added extra side chambers that improve stability and performance. The MCIT can be taken out on flat water and is stable enough to allow a paddler to seat a child or a dog on the front, but it’s also an entry-level SUP for rivers. Since it’s inflatable, it is easy to store and transport.
$1,375–$1,470, depending on the size; available by order at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington and Umiak in Stowe.
River guide Tessa Sibbet touts three new white-water kayaking products, starting with the Dagger Mamba 8.1 Creeker. The 8.1 is considered more forgiving than its predecessor, and Sibbet believes it is a faster boat with better handling. The 8.1 has a bucket seat that allows the kayaker to sit lower in the cockpit, which is a more stable feel for a boat that is capable of technical creeks and serious white water. One added safety feature is a step-out pillar that can be used if the boat is pinned between rocks.
$1,049; Canoe Imports, Burlington; Eastern Mountain Sports, South Burlington, Rutland, and Manchester.
Sibbet also recommended the new Bomber Gear K-Bomb Spray Skirt, which is designed for white water but can also be used on recreational crafts. The K-Bomb is made of Aramid polymer, the same substance used for ballistic-rated body armor, but it has a lot of stretch, as well as being water repellent. Sibbet said the K-Bomb holds while going through rapids or on high-volume rivers.
$175; available only from bombergear.com.
Lastly, the Eddy Flexi Paddle is considered a more flexible version of their standard paddle. The extra flex in the shaft is designed to lighten the stress on elbows and shoulders and reduce the chance of tendonitis.
$325; available at Eastern Mountain Sports, South Burlington, Rutland, and Manchester.
If your preference is flat water, Craig Richardson at Clearwater Sports recommends the Native Ultimate for those looking for a stable boat. The Native Ultimate has a patented tunnel hull design that makes it easy to change positions and even stand in the boat. The Air-Lite seat system was designed for comfort. Richardson compared it to a folding camp chair with a mesh seat back. The Native Ultimate comes in 12-inch and 14.5-inch solo models, as well as a 14.5-inch tandem version.
$799, $899, and $1,099; available at Clearwater Sports, Waitsfield; Norse House, Bondville; Small Boat Exchange, South Burlington.
Richardson also recommended the Astral Buoyancy’s V-Eight PFD for its breathability. He described the vest as one that can be worn by those who normally shed their safety devices because of the heat. The V-Eight uses what is described as Airescape Technology, consisting of die cut holes in the foam. The mesh back also provides a lot of ventilation so the jacket is both light and cool.
$105; Clearwater Sports, Waitsfield; Eastern Mountain Sports, South Burlington, Rutland, and Manchester; Middlebury Mountaineer, Middlebury.
There are lots of other products out there for those looking to play on the water. Head out to your local retailer and see what can enhance your paddling experience.