There will be a part two when hopefully I'll find Merlin's cave.
I paddle the Helios and my uncle the Safari. We've been in some hairy situations and those boats have proved themselves time and time again.
I love your website.
If you'd like to share your experience, send us an email, comment on our facebook page, or submit an independent review at Paddling.net or Amazon.com.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Me and my uncle paddling around the Cornish coast. It is a magical place.
There will be a part two when hopefully I'll find Merlin's cave.
I paddle the Helios and my uncle the Safari. We've been in some hairy situations and those boats have proved themselves time and time again.
I love your website.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
I have been telling folks that I was the first single inflatable kayak to finish the Great Russian River Race...
...After they clap I admit that I was the ONLY inflatable kayak in the race (the only other inflatable was a paddle board).
Still, I finished well up in the single kayak class!
The Sunny is a great boat.
I and my Sunny leave for Micronesia next month.
"More news as it breaks."
Monday, April 1, 2013
Innova Swing II
Garage Space tight? Inflatable kayaks are great for easy storage and transport. But they usually have an open cockpit design - a bit compromise if you really want a closed-deck boat to proetect you and your gear in cold and/or rough water.
Solution: The Swing II affords all the benefits of an inflatable, but comes with a deck to repel spray. The 13'2" tandem can carry up to 400 pounds of people and equipment.
More importantly, its "tubeless" material (rubber-coated ripstop polyester) means its floor and side chambers can inflate to a higher pressure than bladder kayaks for a more rigid ride.
The poly content also helps it dry quicker for roll-up storage. Three metal crossbars snap in beneath the deck for added structural support. Medium -to large - size drybags fit in the fore and aft areas, accessible via a zippered deck; secure additional items to the deck rigging above.
For better tracking, attach the snap-in fin (included).
"We pulled the deflated boat from our Subaru's cargo hatch for a jaunt around Colorado's Trappers Lake, and had it set up in 10 minutes. It was a hit among grown-ups and kids alike," says one tester. "And when the afternoon breeze picked up, it punched through windchop, easily deflecting water off the deck."
Reality check: While inflatables win on portability, hard shells are faster and more responsive. $799; 26 lbs.; packed size is 26" x 16" x 10"; innovakayak.com
We absolutely love our Swing I kayaks.
This photo was taken on Econfina Creek in the Florida Panhandle, late December of 2012.
The paddle is a relaxing meander about 9 miles long, and the local canoe livery will shuttle your car to the take out for about $20. The creek has 3 beautiful hot springs, and in December it was free of tourists, bugs, and alligators.
I understand it gets very busy in Summer. Check it out at canoeeconfinacreek.net.
Vicki and Jim Bucklin
Sunday, March 31, 2013
I love the Swing kayaks.
I enjoyed both the Swing I and the Swing II on flat water, river delta and class 3 rivers.
The way these boats are designed, they are superbly stable and the deck keeps unwanted splashing outside.
I used the two-seater by myself and was surprised how easy it was to handle, while it allowed me to carry cargo.
These boats are well made and thought through. It shows in the simplicity of inflation/deflation and the ease with which you can pack it away and get ready for your next adventure.
What's not to love?
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
My new Twist and I went out on a small nearby lake this afternoon, a little windy which gave me a chance to try it in the wind.I am very comfortable in this boat, which is quite stable, easy to paddle and maneuver.
The Innova Twist covers the water much faster than my usual float tube, with less effort. The boat has a cozy enclosing feeling. The backrest and footrest work well for me.
The boat has a quality feel to the construction. Using the foot pump, it is very quick and simple to inflate it for use.
I think this will be a real improvement in accessing more water in the larger lakes I fish, I'll keep you updated.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Just yesterday I talked with a store clerk about the kayak residing in the trunk of my car, and she said she had been thinking about kayaks recently but couldn't wrap her brain around the idea of putting one on top of her car by herself. Great conversation...she wrote 'Innova' down on her sticky note.
I am attending a workshop with 40 people, many from different states, and the conversation inevitably turns to leisure activities. I bring up the kayak, at the ready, in my trunk...lot's of conversation after that.
Since the helios is softer than the kayak I use for rougher and colder weather when two hours is usually long enough, my trips have extended to nearly four hours in length at a time without discomfort in a seated position.
Love to hang out in kelp forests, riding the waves...the action is so similar on the body to snorkeling near the surf in Hawaii.
What keeps me alert and engaged for all that time you may ask?
The harbor seals and their pups, the dahl's porpoises and their babies, the jellyfish, the schools of juvenile salmon, smelt, herring.
The kelp beds, the sea urchins, the starfish and chitons
The comorants and how they tend to their young, pigeon guillemots, kingfishers, canadian geese, quiet fog, eagles training their offspring to fish by Dead Man's Cove.
The miraculous varieties of crab life hanging out in miraculous varieties of plant life and moving about on the bottom and tucked into rocks.
Shrimp, searches for barnacles and mussels the size of your fist, anemones, seagull frenzies at herring discoveries and/or incessant seal harassment.
Oyster catchers and lipid extraction, sea otter antics.
The sun's path across the sky, the Olympics, San Juan Islands, boat traffic, occasional winged insects, lava wave formations and striations.
Low tide and high tide and the changing currents and eddies, people watching and children and dogs at play.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Monday, April 30, 2012
I am the happy owner of 2 Innova Safari kayaks which have been used hard for over 11 years. I am a field biologist in BC where I use the boats to study grizzly bears, salmon and their habitat. I originally bought them because I needed boats that would fit in a Robinson R44 helicopter. They have performed beyond my initial expectations. Ocean River Sports in Victoria, BC)
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The Innova Twist kayak went on a National Geographic expedition to western Egypt. The writer for this expedition, Andrew Todhunter, sent us this:
...the boat was wonderful. While heavy winds prevented using the kayak on most of the lakes, I was able to inflate and paddle it on a lake out in the midst of the high dunes on the edge of the Great Sand Sea, south of the Siwa Oasis.
As you suggested, the Twist was almost certainly the first craft ever in that body of water.
It worked beautifully, and the small size when deflated made transporting it a dream (by hand and later in a tightly packed 4x4).
The Bedouin guides were amazed by the boat...
...With continued gratitude for your enthusiasm and support of National Geographic exploration!
Monday, August 22, 2011
Love the kayak! Everything fits into the trunk of my Mustang!
Here's a pic of my kayak parked in South Bethany Beach, DE.
Robert Merhaut Photography
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
It was just one of those rare combination of incidents...a sudden storm, a dragging anchor (which fouled the prop), a strong current and a bridge between us and open water.
Florida Keys: It was just one of those rare combination of incidents...a sudden storm, a dragging anchor (which fouled the prop), a strong current and a bridge between us and open water. My wife and I managed to escape our near capsizing craft by stepping into the Sunny that we had secured to our stern cleats.
The Sunny certainly played a role in helping us get to shore (no paddles) and save ourselves during the ordeal. We also managed to pull it up on the coral and rocky banks and secure it during the blow. The Sunny came through with only a few scratches (as did we), though my sailboat has been declared a loss by the insurance company.
Read the story here.
East Middlebury, VT
Saturday, January 8, 2011
While on vacation last week, below is some of what I saw. Awesome kayaking in October, when you are often the only one on the lake! From Clearwater B.C. on Kalamalka Lake I took my GPS with me and recorded the stats: In 5 hours and 25 minutes, only stopping a few times, but never getting out of the kayak I paddled 24 kilometres averaging 5 kilometres per hour with a top speed of 8.5 kilometers per hour, all on calm water. Now that was a workout, but big FUN!!! Two days later I managed to squeeze 8.9 kilometres per hour out of that Sunny, (in a short burst of speed). I've learned all of the proper gear to take with me now for all types of weather and am enjoying the heck out of my Sunny!!! Unfortunately, time to put it away until next year.
Note from Innova:
Thanks for the great shots Larry! I am so happy that you are liking the Sunny. It's a great boat--simple, quick to setup, and reasonably fast.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I am back in Denver, Colorado with my pictures ready to be developed. I started my trip on the Rock River at Beloit, Wisconsin, and it was a super section for a day or two. But, the water kept getting higher & higher until the river was legally closed to all boaters, so there was not a single boat on the river my entire 155 miles. And, even though several police officers drove past me and said nothing, toward the end of the river, there were "police line, do not cross."
It was a "wild" ride on the river in flood conditions; water high enough that I canoed over "No Parking" signs. One, I hit it as it was 6 inches under muddy water, an put a 4-6 inch scratch in my Safari. I have high-lighted the very slight "damage" because it is testament to the strength of the Innova Products. I also hit a couple posts that were meant to tie up boats, etc. These were also under water. Those posts were pretty "ugly" on top as they were driven into the river bottom (at low water) by hammer, leaving sharp & jagged post tops. At flood, they were impossible to see, but they did zero damage to my Safari, which is proof that the Innova Product is VERY strong.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Due to this and that, I hadn't had a chance to paddle the Sunny as a double yet. So July 8th I entered a Big Chop race, Little Chop for me, here in Vancouver. I paddled the Sunny as a single.
This was the first time paddling this kayak. I was really impressed how well it tracked compared to the Safari. During the 4km race in English Bay I encountered 2' waves coming from every direction due to the many powerboats in the area. I must say the Sunny behaved really well, however I could feel my body weight just wasn't enough to keep it going and it would almost stop at every wave. There was surprisingly little water coming into the boat. Being used to the self-bailing Safari I was a bit concerned about getting swamped, but that didn't happen. I finished the race 12 out of 20 boats. That's 40:50 for 2nm course. That's about a 3 knot average! Not too bad for an inflatable on it's first time out.
Another big difference I noticed from the Safari is that the Sunny would flex under my, not so heavy weight with almost every wave. This does not happen to the Safari... it's so much stiffer, and I think it is way better for solo paddling. The Safari is a whole lot more fun too. Having two people on the Sunny would definetelly be the way to go.
Note from Innova: You mentioned that the Sunny tracked better than the Safari. That's largely because the Sunny is a longer boat.
I couldn’t wait to get hold of the Double Twist. We took it on its maiden voyage on a splendid summer’s day. And we had such fun.
The trip itself was a relatively easy one. We rounded a point and paddled deep into an inlet. Our trip finished at my friend’s beach house…well, sort of. Her beach house was above the beach. We had to climb up an extremely long staircase from the beach to reach her house.
The Double Twist made this easy. We rolled up the 19 pound kayak, stuffed it into a backpack, and walked it up with no trouble at all.
Thanks for making this inflatable boat so light and fun to use.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I just want to let you know how much I appreciate that you brought INNOVA Inflatable Kayaks to the US/Canada, and that I think your customer service skills are excellent!!
I first learned about INNOVA when I was working in the Bella Coola Valley for BC Parks in 2001. A friend of mine had purchased 2 Safari's for field work (Biologist), and he convinced me to give them a try.
Three years ago my budget allowed me to purchase a Sunny (awesome), and this spring I found a used Safari (mint condition) in Vancouver. The response I get back from everyone I loan them to is the same, "amazing".
Two friends have since decided to sell their hard shells and use only the INNOVA inflatable kayaks.
The pump I recently purchased from you is great.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Link to Andrea's Blog
I'm really happy with my Safari inflatable kayak. I especially like how easy it is to put together and how comfortable it is. Transporting it to the water is so easy too.
The nice thing is that I can turn it on a dime. With time I will learn to correct my paddle stroke to help it go straight.
This coming week I'll go out with some other paddlers and start practicing re-entries. For now a paddlefloat will be at hand just in case.
And in a couple of weeks we will be cycling to Newcastle Island, by Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, for the weekend and take the Sunny in tow. That should be fun too. And of course there's Paddlefest too.
BTW, the other day I saw someone, boarding a bus, with the Innova bag on his back, a dry bag in one hand and a paddle with PFD in the other. He was on the bus and gone before I had a chance to chat.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Innova Swing I
Paddlesheep, Everyone's Travel Club, Amazon, Paddling.net, Canoe & Kayak
Innova Swing II
Canoe & Kayak, Paddlesheep, Everyone's Travel Club, Amazon
Tackle Tour (fishing/angling), Paddling.net (Solar), Paddling.net (Solar II)
Overlanders Handbook, Paddling.net, Amazon, Canoe & Kayak
Innova Helios I:
Paddling.net, Canoe & Kayak, Amazon
Innova Helios II:
Paddling.net, Canoe & Kayak, Amazon
Amazon, Paddling.net, Canoe & Kayak
Innova Double Twist:
Amazon, Paddling.net, Canoe & Kayak
Newsgroup conversation about Innova Kayaks:
KickRunners.com, foldingkayaks.com, more foldingkayaks.com
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Hooked on the Outdoors will present the award during the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City this August.
The 16-foot Seaker features high-pressure chambers, Kajak Sport deck hatches, a SmartTrack rudder, a standard spray skirt compatible cockpit, and a 15-minute setup time.
This is the second award for the Seaker, having earlier this year been selected as a
Paddler's Pick from Paddler magazine.
June 7, 2005
Just a quick note to let you know how much my family enjoys the Sunny that we purchased this year.
This past spring we purchased the Sunny to take on a vacation to the Captiva area on the gulf coast of Florida. It was great. It was easy to travel with and so easy to set up. Also, I was amazed at how well it paddled even in inlets where the wind and tide made paddling a challenge. I used it on some long day trips to deserted islands and carried a fair amount of gear. My daughters loved paddling it off the resort beach. We also used it a lot off the southern New Jersey coast, taking it out through the surf in search of dolphins. We had such a blast with it that I am selling two of my hard kayaks and purchasing two Safaris for playing in the surf.
May 24, 2002
I’m very happy to provide you with a testimonial regarding my personal and company experience with Innova, and specifically the Safari model. I have two Innova kayaks (a Safari and a Helios 380) in addition to three hard shell kayaks. I love to paddle on both flat and moderate white water. I have found the Innova inflatables to perform as well as the hard shell boats, which is very commendable given that they pack up into a small bundle and don’t require any rigid hardware. I’ve taken them on airplanes and in my sailboat, enabling me to paddle in places I otherwise couldn’t go.
The Safari is a great kayak — it is exceptionally maneuverable, yet tracks very well both with and without the detachable skeg. The internal straps make it both fun and stable in white water, and the inflatable seats keep the back comfortable on long flat water excursions. The material is exceptionally tough (even on barnacles) and the tube construction gives it the rigidity needed to perform well.
In speaking with our kayak buyer at REI, she indicated that Innova has high quality, durable, authentic boats that serve the paddling enthusiast (as opposed to the price-conscious recreational user).
Well, I’m off to South Puget Sound to paddle for the weekend!
President and CEO
Western Pacific Safari paddling in Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia & Darwin
I have been paddling your Safari kayak quite often and . . . I LOVE it. In fact, the BLUE RIDGE (SEVENTH Fleet command ship) deployed on the annual "Southern Swing" this year from January to April. During Southern Swing, we were in ports about half the time in places like Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, Darwin and Brisbane Australia and New Caledonia. I paddled the Safari in most of those places. The Safari is the perfect traveler's kayak because it is light, sooo compact and, it sets up so much quicker than folding kayaks. If I hear about some great rapids in a country that I happen to be visiting, I can put the Safari on my back, catch a bus, and BAM, there I am paddling on some exotic river, no hassles, no complicated coordination, just paddling. If good paddling is within a reasonable distance from my point of embarkation in a country, I like to ride my mountain bike, with the Safari on my back, to the paddling location. Now I ask you, how else can you carry a kayak on your mountain bike? You could use a folding kayak, but that spoils my fun because they take so long to set up.
I keep the Safari in my car so that I can paddle whenever I feel like it.
I am very satisfied with your kayak. It is VERY durable, versatile, compact and easy to set up. I have thrown it, dragged it and paddled over jagged rocks with it and it just won’t pop! The bottom is scratched up but there is no sign of serious wear. Believe me, I beat the crap out of your kayak and it laughs at me. I am a dedicated fan. I am very glad that you talked me out of bringing a folding kayak here to Japan. I would never paddle because of the required set up time.
Alan Kesselheim is an adventurer with more than 10,000 paddling miles in his wake, including two year-long wilderness imersions in the wilds of northern Canada. He is a full-time freelance writer with eight books to his credit, including Water and Sky, Threading the Currents, and The Wilderness Paddler’s Handbook. He is a Contributing Editor for Canoe & Kayak Magazine, a regular contributor to both Backpacker and Outside, a columnist for Big Sky Journal and has published hundreds of stories in national publications like Sports Afield, Men’s Journal, Audubon, Summit, Adventure Journal and many others. He lives with his family in Montana.
In my work as a full-time freelance writer with a specialty in paddle sports and outdoor adventure, I’ve spent a lot of time in inflatable and folding craft. My experience runs the gamut from ocean surf to Class IV whitewater, and from overnight trips to extended wilderness journeys. I have come to an appreciation for boats that really work in the blank spaces on maps, as opposed to the products that only look the part.
The Innova Safari is an inflatable kayak that works. I was first drawn to the boat because of its design, portability, and workmanship. Over a period of several years, I’ve had it in ocean surf in the Caribbean, in Class III and IV rapids on the Salmon River, in fast-moving current and big waves on the Yellowstone River, and on quiet water in touring situations. The Safari is unique because it handles this broad range of adventure with style and grace.
The boat tracks well on the flat, plays rough in the surf and rapids, is stable enough to be reassuring, while not giving away too much performance, and even takes a small load of gear for an overnight or long day trip. I trust the Safari enough to put my nine-year-old inside and let him go for the waves, and I don’t say that about many boats. Having paddled a number of craft that excel within a narrow niche, but fall apart under other conditions, I’ve grown to appreciate the adaptability and nimble nature of the Safari as it performs under the varied conditions presented by real-life paddling.
I thought that you might be interested in knowing that the Helios I bought from you has now been used on Shkodra Lake and a river in Albania, as well as on the Adriatic Sea off Montenegro, in northern Albania, and on the Ionian Sea of southern Albania. It has been a fun boat, easy to inflate and unsinkable.
Jim Van Dam, Grand Rapids, MI
I used the Helios 380 for five continuous months in Micronesia this winter. Conditions ranged from glassy calm to the feeling of the breath of Typhoon Dale in November. The boat handles well under almost all conditions. I was able to hold enough gear and supplies for two weeks by myself or one week with a partner. I would also like to comment on the ruggedness of the boat. During the five month expedition, I never had to patch the boat, coming home with only superficial scratches on the bottom. The Helios 380 is a serious boat that can take you places no hardshell can be taken, for a fraction of the cost of a folding boat.
My fiancee and I took your boat to all the Society Islands of French Polynesia and Kandavu and Vanua Levu in Fiji. In Fiji we loaded up all our gear plus presents for the local chiefs, and headed way off the tourist map. We stayed in villages that white people hadn't been to, and the locals were fascinated with the boat. After three months of hard use, still no patches, and this is after 5 months continuous use the year before! When we moved on to the trekking portion of our trip, we just washed the boat off and put it in a box and mailed it home. At the end of our journey, we swung through southern Thailand and rented sit on tops. We would really have rather had the Helios with us.
David Nitsch, Los Angeles, CA
“THE HELIOS IS A GREAT BOAT!!! The rudder really helps in wind and heavy chop. Did some easier Class III with some trepidation...a piece of cake! LOVED IT!!”
Mark Farber, Washington D.C.
It [Helios] will endure an amazing pounding from a wave that breaks over it without flipping. You’ve designed a dynamite kayak!”
William Mills, Great Falls, VA
We call our Helios the Fancy, because she will enable us to follow our fancy to the water of our choice anywhere. The boat offers a special advantage to senior citizens who are tired of wrestling large, heavy, bulky hard bodied canoes & kayaks on to the roofs of their cars for short paddles. Plus, she is fun.
Joseph Levine, Silver Spring, MD
"Here's a photo of me surfing a wave at Scudders Falls on the Delaware River near Trenton, NJ in the Traveller. The boat handled amazingly well. I was able to do snappy eddy turns and peel outs and as the photo shows, the boat surfs quite well. I was able to carve back and forth across a wave as easily as I can in a hard boat."
Scott Fairty, Browntown, VA
We received the Helios a couple of days ago and took it out for a spin this evening. It sets up very quickly; we had no problems at all. The kayak performs amazingly well and is much faster than we thought it would be. It handled the windy Potomac River nicely. We are very pleased with the Helios -- it is much more suitable than a folding kayak given our housing and storage situation.
Edward Prados, Washington, D.C.
The three months of Summer were spent training for my journey across England and familiarizing myself with the boat. I will say that it performed better than expected in its ability to track. It was more maneuverable than any of the other inflatables of my experience. The fact remains, no other boat would have offered the advantages of light weight, ease of transport, or overall performance, that the Innova offered. I don’t believe I could have paddled the 190 miles I did paddle in 19 days with any other boat.
Beth A. Smith, Emeryville, CA
“I am pleased to tell you I love the boat and recently took it to Kauai with my wife and we had a great time with it there... I’ll be going to Brazil soon with my Helios, too.”
Brad Frank, Turlock, CA
In May I purchased a Safari from you and would like to take a moment to give you my impressions. I have paddled the kayak on lakes, slow moving rivers, and in Class II whitewater. My Safari has performed wonderfully in all conditions met so far. I have scraped rocks, got hung up on logs, played in the rapids, worked the wind on a lake (25-30 mph), and even passed up a pontoon boat as I approached a dam on a local Michigan river. The Safari is river ready in ten minutes and ready to go home just as fast. It seems very durable (no punctures yet anyway) and the 303 protectant does a nice job on the finish of the boat. The touring seat is quite comfortable-recently I took a 21 mile trip on northern Michigan's Pine River with only 2 breaks of 15 minutes. I could not have done that in my hardshell kayak without a dead back and legs. I will continue to use the Safari at least once a week until the season ends. One last thing -- your help both on e-mail and on the phone were the personal touches that helped me in finally deciding on the inflatable Safari and I thank you personally for your time and expertise because with no local dealer and no personal experience with Innova; I probably would have purchased a different brand of boat.
Paul Maki, Kentwood, MI
Thank you for the Helios 380. Everyone that sees it is impressed with its design and quality of construction. Your 380 packs down into the smallest size serious boat any of my Rangers has ever seen. This is invaluable to us. No roof rack necessary, fast, fits easily into any car, pickup truck, helicopter, float plane or power boat.”
Sgt. Myles Morrison, Patrol Leader, Canadian Rangers, Ucluelet Patrol
"Thought you might like to hear that we have now used our "Sunny" double in adventure races, and in ocean, river, and lake environments. We competed in the Lake Champlain Challenge (six miles in the lake in Burlington, VT) and the Jacksonville (FL) Open Water Series, a one-mile ocean paddle. The Lake Champlain event was in windy, open conditions. We had to stop on an island halfway to empty the boat. Chop was about 1 1/2 foot, and swells maybe 2-3 feet - about the limit for the boat I think."
"Of some slight special note, we were crowned the champs in the "Mixed Married Masters Tandem Inflatable Kayak" at both events. We actually won the double kayak category in both the events, but the organizers thought it was a hoot that we are married, masters, and using an unconventional boat. It would be more impressive if we had more competition, though we did beat other people in "normal" kayaks."
"A bigger challenge for the two of us was the Beach Endurance Adventure Race (BEAR) The BEAR course is complex, with many 'special' events, but featured three kayak legs, two of about 4-5 miles each, and another of about 2/3 of a mile. The first two were interrupted with a land navigation challenge. The break between the 2nd and 3rd leg required a very long (~2 mile) portage, the short paddle, and then another 1/2 mile portage. We had a tremendous advantage on the portages with our light and easy to carry double kayak - we put it on our heads and just walked, while others wrestled with plastic and fiberglass boats. Had the portage been even longer (no thanks!) we could have deflated the boat and run with it in the pack. The boat seemed to be pretty tough also - we had to beach on oyster beds and thorn bushes several times, and I thought we might puncture, but that hull material was fine. Very cool. We finished third coed team overall, and first Masters."
"We fielded a lot of questions about the "Sunny", both during, and after all three events. We spread the word that we love our boat!"
Terry and Rebecca Ryan, Florida
Mekong River, Laos: Mekong River adventures in a Safari Kayak
October 12, 2000
The Mekong, flowing from the frigid Tibetan plateau to an immeasurably vast delta on the South China Sea, is the twelfth longest river in the world and the world's tenth in terms of volume of water. It is not a navigable whole, much to the chagrin of the French former colonizers of Indochina. Rapids obstruct the river's course in several places. Of these, the mighty falls in the Sihandon (four thousand islands) region of the Lao Mekong just north of the Cambodian border, Somphamit to the west and the larger and more ferocious Khon Phapheng to the east, are splendidly impressive and would certainly excite interest among the intreped readers of Canoe & Kayak, Whitewater Paddling and similar publications. Unknown to recreational paddlers in the wider world, the mighty Mekong's immense falls patiently await the attentions of the likes of Shannon Carroll and Doug Ammons.
Both sets of falls offer Class V+ dangers and thrills; the time to attempt either would be in July and August when the Mekong is running full and swift. In January there is more rock than water in evidence and fearless local fisher folk clamber over slickly wet rock surfaces to rig precarious, flimsy but visibly effective fish traps over the tumultuous billows and crashing surf. A brief experience of tubing the comparatively demure Nam Song River at Van Vieng in Laos encouraged me to try tubing the Mekong, Then brown as oxtail soup, full and flowing at a brisk walking pace, in August 1999.
Dire warnings of probable disasters and the menace supposedly posed by electric eels (they are, in fact, both rare and shy) reduced my tube trip to a mere three kilometers, from Mr. Tho's inexpensive bungalow resort on Don Det to the sturdy old railroad bridge linking Don Det and Don Khon. A light railway was constructed early last century to bypass the falls and make the Mekong a navigable waterway of sorts; it was abandoned in 1945 and the rails are now used for fencing local yards.
Khong Phapheng Falls
For the locals who inhabit the thirty-odd inhabited islands of Siphandon, the Mekong is both larder and highway: every adult, wrinkled crone and toddler can handle a wooden canoe with confidence and adroit skill but tubing was seemingly unknown in Siphandon until then.
Kayak recreational tourism has to be one of the cleanest and nicest form of tourism; we pollute hardly at all. If we spend relatively little, that modest expenditure finds its way into the packets of the lower-middle entrepreneurial class and peasantry of the locality, rather than the metropolitan wealthy who own vast hotels and resorts. Ideally, I would like to see Siphandon become a year-round kayaking resort for responsible kayakers; the local children are well nourished, cheery, self-confident and healthy but they could use some better clothes.
My Innova Safari kayak now lies at Mr. Tho's ramshackle thatched-hut resort on Don Det; readers of this article are welcome to use it so long as they stay at Mr. Tho's or have a meal there. Should you feel you need it, written authorization may be had from me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Chinese truck tube ("Double Coin Brand") rented from Mr. Pye in Muang Khong to an inflatable kayak is none too great a step. Then a resident of Osaka in Japan, I ordered an Innova Safari kayak to be sent to Mr. Pon's guest house at Muang Khong on the island of Don Khong ( Don means island in Lao, as Ko does in Thai and -shima in Japanese) from the Innova distributors in the U.S.A. (www.innovakayak.com). The Innova, made by the painstaking Bohemians of Gumotex in the Czech Republic, proved to be everything the American distributor claimed; it is tough, buoyant, comfortable and light enough to haul around and carry with ease.
The morning of the kayak's inflation drew a crowd of onlookers and eager participants; the kayak's rightful owner was brusquely elbowed aside while every available man and youth in the village tried the Innova experience, to be followed by Mr. Pon's serving girls - almost certainly his second or third cousins, for everyone in Siphandon seems to be related to everyone else. Squealing with glee, the two waitresses crossed the navigation channel to Hat Xai Khun, accepted the plaudits of all onlookers and returned aglow with triumph.
In January the Mekong is low and sluggish, a mere shadow of its mighty self in July and August. Still, I had not been in any kind of kayak or canoe in moving water for over two decades and the 22 kilometer passage from Muang Khong to the old railroad bridge at Ban Khon was a languid delight of six hours, enlivened by numerous stretches of Class I whitewater, rather fewer stretches of Class II and one lamentably brief stretch of Class III.
A glance at a detailed map of Siphandon suggested possibilities beyond unswerving adherence to the main channel, that had been delineated by navigation markers in the French period. Bearing to the west of Don Som takes one into quiet water frequented only by local fishers, local delivery boats and occasional waterborne commuters (grannies, aunties, tiny children and piglets).
I regret not having taken the westernmost channel from Muang Saen on Don Khong through the maze of islands to Don Xang and thence to Don Det; there simply wasn't enough time. It shall be done by other outsiders, if not by me.
There is a drawback to exploring the more minor channels of the Mekong when the water is low and sluggish. In January such channels are often blocked by green water weed in dense mats like the thick white polystyrene used for encasing computers and refrigerators. An hour or so spent struggling out of this heavy, clogging and impeding stuff can upset the best laid plans; I was overtaken by nightfall in a baffling maze of bushes and islands west of Don Det. Forward progress in the starlight appeared impracticable, a night spent in the Innova would have offered a midnight feast for every mosquito in Siphandon and invited agonizingly stiff joints the next day. While pondering these uninviting alternatives, your chronicler was cheered to observe a bonfire flare up a mere hundred or two meters away. After forty minutes of struggling with the mats of weed, I bumped into a moored canoe, struggled up the riverbank leading to a small community on Don Puey. Let it suffice to say that the civil and hospitable people in this insular hamlet, Don Puey being an island with maybe 25 families, offered the forlorn wayfarer a change of clothes, a hot meal and a bed with a mosquito net. A payment of approximately $4.00 was readily accepted (costs in Laos are low, except for the visa and the expenses incurred in getting there in the first place. My spouse complained bitterly that on occasion I was spending over $20.00 in a single day!).
Now, let me offer suggestions: go to Laos in July and/ or August. The truly adventurous could try doing the falls mentioned above. Those with more time but less enthusiasm might consider a kayak/canoe trip from Luang Nam Tha down the Nam Tha River to its confluence with the Mekong and a journey downstream to Siphandon. Whether a kayak journey from, say, Jinghong in China to the river's mouth in Vietnam is politically possible is necessarily open to question. Sooner or later someone will do it; why not you, dear reader?
Professor of English
Yosu National University - Korea
Southwestern coast of Crete in Greece: 120 nautical mile Greek Odyssey in a Helios 380EX
I would like to thank you for a truly sturdy and seaworthy product - the Helios 380EX. I ventured on an interesting journey - a solo, self-supported kayak tour of the south-western coast of Crete in Greece.
Sunset in the Greek Isles
The area is so remote that in certain instances I had to use old World War II German Maps for topography and water well sources.
After120 nautical miles in his Helios Dr. Spyropoulos appraches the village of Elafonission just 5 minutes late.
I completed the 120 nautical mile journey in 10 days - dubbing this the Odyssey II in epic Greek fashion. On the way I battled contrary currents, waves up to 10 to 12 feet high, and winds of up to Force 6 on the Beaufort scale. My Helios stood up to these test magnificently with only minor valve repair needed.
When I reached Elafonission, my final destination, I was scolded for my tardiness for our appointed time by my friends - after all, I was 5 minutes late!!!
Helios on the beach in Crete
Alex C. Spyropoulos, MD
Guide for Mountain Travel Sobek, South Pacific
Helios 380 excels in Papua New Guinea
November 28, 2001
I have spent at least 700 days paddling the Helios 380 in the South Pacific, Guiding clients and going off on my own, and am convinced the Helios is the best boat you can have for tropical applications. French Polynesia, the Cooks, Fiji, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, you can go ANYWHERE in this boat!
I’ve never had a puncture, though I’ve scraped over staghorn corals at low tide more than a few times. I am always careful to let a lot of air out of the boat if it’s going to be out of the water for more than a few minutes , and I’m religious about parking it in the shade. A little caution with the heat, sun and pressure, and this boat will last you for many years. The rubber material handles the intense tropical sun amazingly well, better than my skin.
Using the boat as a single, I can stay out for a week without resupplying water, and as a double, we can easily stay out for more than a week, resupplying water. With the optional rudder, the boat handles well in any winds you care to go out in, even when paddling tandem. I’ve surfed in, bashed my way out and ridden big tide rips without a worry. The boats virtually untippable, unless you broach in big surf.
The Helios really excels as a snorkelling platform: ANYONE can climb back in, without fins, and the security of snorkeling with a boat allows us to dive into rough water or currents that wouldn’t be prudent without such a safety net.
I’ve landed at an international airport, bought gas and tanked up on water and been paddling within half an hour of clearing customs – the convenience and speed of this boat in a bag can’t be appreciated until you’ve tried it. I’ve struggled with a certain folding boat under the blazing sun, 90 degrees dripping with sweat and humidity, crawling inside the damn boat, and would rather pump up a Helios and be on the water any day – it’s too easy for words.
The Helios is also ideal for what I call "covert landings": you’re paddling up to a crowded wharf or market in some third world island nation. Naturally, a large crowd assembles to stare at the boat, your gear. Do you really want to hang around with bits and pieces strewn all over, with everything you own up for inspection? With the Helios, I can land, have everything into one large duffle and be in a cab, on my way to the hotel, in 5 minutes!
Would you rather buy a new Helios and a PAIR of 6 month plane tickets to tropical Paradise (and have money lefr over for beers), or would you rather buy that heavy, bulky folding boat and stay at home? I’ll take the plane tickets any time!
Guide for Mountain Travel Sobek
Omacha Foundation, Orinoco River: River Dolphins, Giant Otters, Fishes, Turtles and Caimans
The Foundation Omacha is a non profit, non government organization created to study, research, protect and manage aquatic fauna in relation to the physical and cultural environment. The research and activities of the Foundation can be summed up in three main programs (bio-ecological, social-cultural and educational) which, taken together, provide the basis for conservation strategies.
The Foundation has projects in the Amazon, Orinoco and on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. In the Orinoco we are undertaking five different projects with river dolphins, giant otters, fishes, turtles and caimans.
We have observed a lot of interesting things in our research, especially in the giant otter project. We learned a lot from a rescued baby otter. It seems that his family was hunted to be sold as pets.
I will send you a brief summary of the project as soon as possible. I am very interested in trying to get an article into the Natural History Magazine. I have prepared it and I will send it to you later.
Maria Claudia Diazgranados
The Helios makes another friend.
Heidi Steltzer is a research scientist at Colorado State University working on a USGS study on Alaskan summers. She was flown into the Agashashok River setting by bush plane, staying on site for over two months.
Last year I purchased a Helios inflatable kayak from you for use at our field research site up in the Brooks Range in Alaska. It was GREAT!
I have attached a few photos to this e-mail to show you how we put it to use . . . and the fun that was had.
We used it to cross the main Channel of the Agashashok River in Noatak National Park and Preserve. For
work, we had two people kayak across, while one person would hold a rope attached to the kayak. Then, the rope would be used to pull the kayak back across and ferry the remaining two people over.
The river is shallow with a coarse gravel bottom. The kayak handled well even in the faster flowing sections, although we did tip over twice (once was early in the season, when the water was 45 degrees F). Angling the kayak perpendicular to the river and running into a small boulder just under the surface caused the tips. Also, it became a regular activity on our days off to hike up the river, fish and return in the Helios. The braided, shallow river channels could be floated in this boat, and I expect few others could have done so well.
Heidi crossing the Agashashok River in the
Noatak National Park and Preserve, Alaska
The Helios 380EX is working great. It handles swells and waves with ease, especially considering I have only been out in it four times and I have no previous experience. The water has been too rough recently for the locals (subsistence Yupik Eskimos) to want to put out in their Lunds in the ocean to set their subsistence nets. Consequently, most of the village is missing the silver salmon run.
Helios 380EX to the rescue. With a 50 foot subsistence net we have been catching about forty, seven to ten pound, silver salmon every day. We give them to the villagers. They are very appreciative.
Thank you people at Innova!
Larry Dunn, Alaska
Barbara with new friend, a Yupik Eskimo, and the Helios
SanBlas Islands & Fiji: Helios 380 aboard the Kastaway
09 ¼ 25.95 N
078 ¼ 31.43 W
October 15, 2002
We are sailing around the world in our Bowman 49 Ketch, Kastaway. We use the Helios 380 to explore the more remote islands of the South Pacific, and the world. The Helios is stored below in our sailboat when not in use. It packs down to a small size and it is easy to inflate.
We love to observe nature in its natural state without the noise of a dingy’s engine. The helios is perfect.
Two photographs were taken on the Island Tigre - Mamartupu in the San Blas Islands; one is of the Kona Indians gathering firewood from their dugout, called an Ulas; the other is of Ralph Kast and our Helios 380 next to a Kuna sailing dugout, called an Ulus.
The village on the Island of Tigre - Mamartupu does not look its best from the water due to many mildewing concrete houses along the waterfront.
Once you enter between the huts the island transforms itself into a little paradise. At shore you will find a Kuna handicraft store carrying Molas, wood carvings and good models of their dugouts or Ulas in the Kuna Language. Kuna people sail their dugouts daily as we drive cars.
We sailed from New York through the Caribbean to Trinidad and Cartagena Colombia. Then we sailed through the San Blas Islands and through the Panama canal to the Galapagos. From the Galapagos we sailed to the Tua Motus, Tahiti and the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, Tonga and now Fiji. Our next stop will be New Zealand. Our Helios has been with us the entire 10,000 mile voyage and we are looking forward to some good paddling in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.
We really love the idea of exploring in silence without the sound of an outboard engine. Thank you for letting us get a closer look at nature in our Innova Helios 380.
Ralph and Sharon Kast aboard Kastaway in Fiji
Upolu, Samoa: Kayaking on Fanuatapu Island, Upolu, Samoa
I write to tell you of my happy relationship with my Helios 380ex. I ordered it in 2001 from your website, innovakayak.com, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer on the island of Upolu in Samoa. I was working with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to set up two Marine Protected Areas, one in the Aleipata district on the east coast, chosen for its offshore islet ecosystems and one in the Safata district known for its extensive mangrove estuaries. During our work, the Helios became my trusty sidekick, enabling us to quickly and quietly survey areas of reef which would have otherwise required firing up the outboard skiff.
But my Helios was much more than a workhorse. It is truly unique in what it can do. I know of no other boat that can be paddled in serious conditions, outside the reef, in the currents and swells of the Pacific, and yet able to be carried on my back, on a bike, on a bus… you get the idea. It opened up new areas of the archipelago to me, areas that I otherwise would not have seen. Perhaps my most memorable trip was from Apia to Manono island; where the seagoing locals, after they got over their astonishment at the va’a pa’u (skin boat), clearly recognized the seaworthiness of the design.
When I first saw an ad for your boats in the back of a magazine, I was drawn to the design, and thrilled to have finally found an inflatable kayak that was clearly not a toy, but mean to be used. When I ordered my Helios 380ex, another volunteer made fun of me for ordering a “balloon…that could never perform in the ocean.” Well, after only a few months of jealously watching me prove him wrong by using my Helios all over Samoa, he ordered his own! I couldn’t believe it!
60th Birthday, 150 mile trek across Canada: 250 miles Northeast of Yellowknife
I am planning to celebrate the new millennium, and my 60th birthday, by making a 3-4 week solo trek 150 miles along the eskers 250 miles northeast of Yellowknife, NW Territories, Canada. This trackless area is characterized by ponds, lakes, streams and elevated eskers (gravel bars left by sub-glacial rivers). I will travel early this summer on foot, pulling a small, collapsible cart. When water crossings are required, I will paddle my gear and self in an inflatable kayak.
Innova will clearly be acknowledged in any publications or presentations that result from this trek.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Burlington, Washington - June 20, 2005
This is the second citation this year for the Helios 380EX, having been selected as a 2005 paddling gear pick by Backpacker magazine.
The Innova Helios 380EX is a two-person kayak with an optional rudder. The Helios has been in service around the world, including adventure tours in Papua New Guinea and Lake Baikal, Peace Corps work in Mongolia and Samoa, and geological field work in Alaska. It comes in a drybag/backpack small enough to be an airline carryon.
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