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Wenonah Canoe Review: Wee Lassie Solo Canoe

Wenonah's Wee Lassie solo canoe reviewed by Kaydi Pyette
Go light, go solo, go right now. The 16-pound Wee Lassie is ready for your next pint-sized adventure. Photo: Joel Clifton

According to Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This quote rang true when I first set eyes on the sleek, new and tiny 10.5-foot Wenonah Canoe Wee Lassie in Paddling Magazine’s New Product Showcase at last year’s Paddlesports Retailer event in Oklahoma City.

Wenonah Canoe’s Wee Lassie Specs
Length: 10 ft 6 in
Width: 27 in
Weight: 16 lbs
Material: Ultra-light Kevlar
MSRP: $1,649 USD
wenonah.com

By the end of the show, the Wee Lassie had been crowned Best New Canoe in the Paddling Magazine Industry Awards, as voted by on-site media, retailers and paddling enthusiasts casting votes from home. All this hype and nobody had even paddled it. This only amped up my desire to try it out.

For much of the winter, however, the diminutive Wee Lassie haunted my daydreams from where it rested on my canoe tree, still wrapped in its shipping plastics after a late December delivery.

When a warm, sunny morning was forecast a couple days before spring officially arrived, I gleefully freed it from its wintery cocoon.

Wenonah’s Wee Lassie is a lightweight canoe for epic adventures

Weighing just 16 pounds, I marched the Wee Lassie a kilometer through my sleepy suburban neighborhood to the lonely waterfront launch. I tiptoed around some shore ice and settled for my first paddle of the season. Bliss.

woman tossing a canoe over her head
At just 16 pounds, the Wee Lassie is so light we could play catch. | Photo: Joel Clifton

Dawn patrols, sunset sessions, and sneaking out for lunchtime paddles are precisely the sorts of adventures the Wee Lassie is designed for. Wenonah markets it as a roomier, more portage-friendly alternative to a solo recreational kayak.

“The Wee Lassie is aimed at the segment of the market looking for a smaller, ridiculously lightweight boat. The pick-it-up-I-just-want-to-go-float type,” says Mike Looman, Wenonah’s head of North American sales.

A century-old Wenonah solo canoe design

Wenonah is aiming this packboat-style canoe at middle-aged weekend warriors and folks interested in its unique blend of weight and comfort.

The Wee Lassie design—which has a century-old history and has been made by a dozen other manufacturers—plays on the popularity of packboats in upstate New York and the Adirondacks, adds Looman.

“It’s performance-inspired to a point, but the Wee Lassie is solidly in the sport and leisure category.”

At just 16 pounds, this is Wenonah’s lightest canoe—it’s a grab-and-go boat on a diet. Other things also weighing 16 pounds include: a 12-pin bowling ball, a 12-week old Labrador puppy, and a family-sized Easter ham.

My lazy housecat actually outweighs the Wee Lassie by four-and-a-half pounds. Sure, Sampson is a little overweight, but you get the point. The Wee Lassie is so light, you and I could play a high-stakes game of catch.

To create this 10.5-foot version, Wenonah took their larger Wee Lassie, which is 12.5 feet long, 24 pounds and debuted in 2012, and “proportionally shrank it down, keeping the lines consistent and symmetrical,” says Looman.

The larger model is popular with larger paddlers of course, as well as anglers and anyone else looking to bring a bit of gear.

Wenonah’s first 10-foot canoe

The 10.5-foot Wee Lassie is all about minimalism.

Maybe ultralight, thru-hiking legend Ray Jardine could squeeze in an overnight pack, but this is a true grab-and-float boat—“you’re not going to go paddle five or six miles in it,” says Looman. Wenonah makes lots of other boats for that.

“The challenge for us was the Wee Lassie doesn’t necessarily fit our pedigree of making performance, touring and race designs,” says Looman.

“It’s performance-inspired to a point, but the Wee Lassie is solidly in the sport and leisure category.”

Just because it’s featherweight, don’t make the mistake of assuming the Wee Lassie is fragile.

The Wee Lassie immediately charmed me. With a center depth of just 10 inches, it’s most comfortable exploring the nooks and crannies of sparkling ponds, serene lakes and calm shorelines.

There’s really no rocker to speak of, which maximizes the waterline and helps give this little boat good glide for its length. With either a single blade or a double, the Wee Lassie is nimble and responsive—an enjoyably easy paddle.

A Wenonah kevlar canoe for superb strength to weight

Just because it’s featherweight, don’t make the mistake of assuming the Wee Lassie is fragile. I think most paddlers would be inclined to baby it—I know I was—but I also contend it’s stronger than its delicate looks suggest.

The Wee Lassie only comes in Wenonah’s Ultra-light Kevlar layup. This hull is used for many of Wenonah’s boats designed for speed, distance and much tougher conditions than the Wee Lassie is likely to experience.

The hand layup construction uses Wenonah’s proven core-mat material, which “allows for superb strength to weight,” according to Looman.

Small aluminum plates are laminated into the hull and the seat is riveted into these plates. This eliminates rivet heads on the exterior for a glossy and unmarred finish.

The Wee Lassie’s black aluminum trim comes standard, as do the tiny vinyl deck plates and a floor-mounted fiberglass seat with the Cushgear Backsaver back rest, which features an inflatable backpad for added comfort.

The thwart was at a perfect distance for resting my feet. In terms of bells and whistles—that’s about all 16 pounds worth.

There’s an attractive minimalism about the Wenonah Wee Lassie. Many canoes and kayaks in the recreation category come with a plethora of features—cup holders, dashboards, even ports for charging smartphones—but the Wee Lassie eschews all that.

It’s just me and the water open to the air—truly, there’s not much room for much else. The no-frills simplicity is refreshing. Simple sophistication indeed.

Go light, go solo, go right now. The 16-pound Wee Lassie is ready for your next pint-sized adventure. Feature Photo: Joel Clifton

Terrifying Footage Of Kayaker Caught In Sieve

This video highlights one of the greatest fears kayakers have on the river. It is the reason that river safety is so important and is why all guides and professionals are trained in swiftwater rescue.

This video was published back in 2015 but is still a great example to talk about today. A team of professional kayakers including Rafa Ortiz and Rush Sturges head to Nevis Bluff rapids on the Kawarau River in New Zealand.

The Kawarau River is big. In the video they mention this trip was planned after a few weeks of running smaller rivers and switching to larger water was going to be a challenge.

“You look at it from shore. You look at it from every single different angle you can, but it just comes down to being in your boat and what ever you see when paddling through it. The water is changing every single second” said Ortiz.

Leading the group was local kayaker Jordy Searle, who has paddled the river a number of times and knows it well. As the group was making their way quickly downriver, Searle turned to give the group a thumbs-up signal. Just as he was doing this, his boat was sucked into a sieve.

Among the most terrifying hazards a paddler can face, a sieve is a narrowing that forces rushing water beneath the rocks where it can trap a kayaker and hold them under.

The group quickly raced to shore tossing throw bags allowing Searle a few extra breaths before going completely under water. “It’s hard to put into words what it is like when you see somebody die” said Sturges.

At this point there was not much the team was able to do without putting themselves at risk. They were just waiting hoping that he was going to pop out on the other side.

The following seconds likely feeling like hours, Sturges talks about the relief of finally seeing Searle come to the surface of the water.

Jordy Searle trapped in sieve in Nevis Bluff Rapids
Jordy Searle trapped in sieve in Nevis Bluff Rapids in New Zealand | Photo: Courtesy of Outside TV

It really makes you question how worth it, it really is. I mean, how many more drops, how many more rivers, how many more crazy rapids can you run before you lose a friend – Sturges

Rivers can be a humbling place for even the most experienced paddlers as this video shows. It stresses the importance of being properly trained in river rescue, also ensuring you are always wearing the proper safety equipment.

It is amazing that they managed to capture this entire situation so well. This being filmed at a time when drones where not a thing and instead paddlers had to arrange for a helicopter to follow them down river.

Times are changing. Now that drones are becoming much more common in a filmmaker’s tool kit, these scary situations are more likely to be captured and can be shared with other paddlers to learn from.

Folding Canoe Review: MyCanoe’s Recreational Plus

Kaydi Pyette and Geoff Whitlock paddling MyCanoe's folding Plus Model Canoe
Some assembly required. | Photo: Joel Clifton

MyCanoe’s folding recreational Plus model has the distinction of being the only boat reviewed by Paddling Magazine shipped with its own rubber mallet for assembly.

MyCanoe’s Plus Folding Canoe Specs
Length: 14 ft 8 in
Width: 35 in
Weight: 52 lbs
Capacity: 440 lbs
MSRP: $1,390 USD
oricanoe.com

I got my first, in-person look at the MyCanoe at last year’s Paddlesports Retailer in Oklahoma City. On the tradeshow floor, marketing manager Jay Lee offered a demonstration, making construction look fluid and easy.

He’d had some practice. Months later, in my backyard with an unfolded hull draped across my back deck, I picked up my mallet trying to remember back to his simple step-by-step instructions.

A durable and lightweight canoe that can travel anywhere

The hull of the MyCanoe is constructed of a five-millimeter, double-layer polypropylene. Lightweight and durable, it looks and feels a bit like plastic, corrugated cardboard.

The material is manufactured custom for MyCanoe at a factory in Korea. The material is then shipped to the company’s headquarters near Nashville, Tennessee.

I didn’t drag it to the shore or smash it into rocks, but I certainly didn’t need to baby it.

Once there the sheets get cut to size, folded and customized in-house. More than 60 pieces make up the MyCanoe Plus and its accessories. There are three models MyCanoe offers, Basic, 3.0 and Plus, which differ mostly based on the accessories offered.

Our Plus model loaner comes standard with an attachable rowing kit. The process to go from raw material to folding canoe takes between four to six hours, says Lee. Last year OriCanoe produced 1,000 canoes.

MyCanoe’s Plus is comparable to other top folding canoe models

Many similarities have been drawn between MyCanoe’s models and Oru Kayak, and for good reason.

Not only are both brands inspired by origami and boast a similar-looking hull material, but the two brands have been helping each other along the way, says Lee.

“Oru Kayak started at the same time as we developed, but they issued the patent first. We were thinking very similar things at the same time and exchanged a lot of ideas,” Lee adds. “We’re still helping each other—and also competing, of course.”

From concept to launch took Lee’s team two-and-a-half years. “Lots of trial and error,” is how he describes the effort. “But it’s fun for our team. We’re all 40 to 50 years old, we enjoy this, and a lot of us are doing it in our free time.”

Kaydi Pyette carrying MyCanoe's Plus Model folding canoe and a wooden paddle in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
When MyCanoe is folded up, the hull of the 14.5-foot canoe is the size of a large suitcase at 37 x 8 x 25 inches.
| Photo: Joel Clifton

Building MyCanoe’s folding canoe is easier the second time around

But back to the construction mallet. The MyCanoe Plus hull unfolds as one piece, so there’s really no chance of putting it together wrong.

Still, my first attempt took about 30 minutes, mostly because it seemed counter-intuitive and I was shy to use so much force to bend the stiff polypropylene into shape.

Red-faced and cursing, I looked back to consult the instructions multiple times. I must be doing something wrong. Nope—the first few times the MyCanoe is set up, you just need to use some muscle.

It’s especially suited to urbanites, and others who might not have a place to store a hardshell canoe or a way to transport it.

Some tasks, like sliding on the gunwales, which come in 12 pieces, are much easier with a friend—one set of hands can straighten angles, while the other can slip the gunwales on, piece by piece.

Once familiar with the process, construction should only take 10 minutes, according to Lee.

That’s an impressive time frame as some other folding canoes and folding kayaks we’ve reviewed here at Paddling Magazine take 30-plus minutes to set-up. Of course, like with any folding design, expect set-up time to double if you’re at a public beach—crowds of curious onlookers will pepper you with questions and slow you down.

Dismantling the MyCanoe and folding it back into its suitcase is simple after you’ve done it once. This is where the mallet comes in—a hearty tap with the mallet helps the canoe fold back along its crease lines.

The plastic hull retains some memory once you’ve set-up and dismantled it a few times, and the whole process speeds up as the folds break in and become more flexible.

MyCanoe’s Plus makes canoe storage simple

Refreshingly, the MyCanoe Plus isn’t trying to be a do-it-all design. With a 440-pound recommended maximum carrying capacity and no optional yoke on offer, few paddlers would make this their dedicated tripper.

However, for anyone who wants a unique boat to explore local waters—and as a shoreside conversation starter—it’s perfect. It’s especially suited to urbanites, and others who might not have a place to store a hardshell canoe or a way to transport it, confirms Lee.

A 14-foot two-person canoe

In terms of performance, this MyCanoe paddles like you’d expect from a recreational canoe of its 14.7-foot length and beamy 35-inch width.

It’s not the speediest boat, but it maneuvers well and is far more confidence-inspiring on the water than you’d imagine when you see its suitcase riding on public transit.

The shallow-V hull rolls a bit in chop, but the MyCanoe’s sharp chines provide excellent stability if you’re ever to edge it over that far.

Carry less, explore more.

The seats affix to the ribs of the canoe allowing for eight different tandem positions. However, the seats hover just a couple inches above the bottom of the hull, which means kneeling and tucking my feet under the seat aren’t an option.

As for durability, the special material is rated to withstand 20,000 folds. To put this in perspective I did some math.

I could hypothetically set it up and dismantle it once a day, every day, for more than 25 years. And by my mid-50s I may want a new canoe anyway. As for general paddling, basically, I’d treat it as I would a fiberglass canoe.

I didn’t drag it to the shore or smash it into rocks, but I certainly didn’t need to baby it.

Unfold this portable canoe for your next paddling adventure

The portability of the MyCanoe could lend itself to international travel—the slogan on the website is, “Carry less, explore more.”

Iced in all of February, I wanted to bring this boat on a family trip to Mexico to get some shots to accompany this review.

However, when the time came, I couldn’t wrap my head around traveling around with two additional pieces of luggage for a single, sun-kissed Instagram photo.

The MyCanoe’s hull folds up into a tidy 36-pound package, but the extra 16-pound duffel, containing seats, gunwales, ribs and more, cinched the decision to leave it behind.

To be fair, I didn’t take my 16-foot Prospector by Nova Craft Canoe to Cancun either.

Lee’s team plans to launch a third-generation version of the MyCanoe later this year, which I think may address portability.

Lee couldn’t say much yet, but he hinted the next generation is taking its inspiration from pop-up tent ingenuity. Lee’s goal is to create a canoe able to go from folded hull to full canoe in less than five minutes.

We can’t wait to test that one. In the meantime, the MyCanoe Plus is a fun, novel and innovative vessel for exploration for urban adventurers and it’s waiting in my front hall closet for my next waterfront day trip.

Some assembly required. Feature Photo: Joel Clifton

Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link

Meanest Link in Algonquin Park
Northern Scavenger tackles the Meanest Link in Algonquin Park

Rapid Media’s Digital Content and Social Media Manager, Alex Traynor, set out with tripping partner Noah Booth to complete Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link trip in a mere 10 days. The Meanest Link route was created in memory of Bill Swift Sr., one of the founders of Algonquin Outfitters, and connects the four Algonquin Outfitters locations through a very specific set of rivers and lakes. The Meanest Link consists of 424 kilometers and over 100 portages including an additional 65 kilometers of up-river travel on the Big East River. Not only do they hold the second fastest time to complete the Meanest Link, they also managed to film the entire route making an entertaining documentary of their trip. Since Alex conveniently works in the Rapid Media office, and it was the editor who suggested this route to him, it was pretty easy to force him and Noah to answer a few questions.

Why Did You Decide To Do This Trip?

Noah: Each year we look to do a trip that challenges us in a new way. When we first considered the Meanest Link first, my initial reaction was “that’s impossible”, but once the idea was seeded, we both became more curious in our ability to complete such an iconic route in an unprecedented amount of time. This curiosity quickly grew to the idea of how we can use this as a means to create adventure in other people’s lives. This is when we first thought to use this trip as a fundraising opportunity for Project Canoe.

What Were Your Biggest Challenges On The Trip?

Noah: We have a tendency to get lost in the moment and forget to eat and drink. On a trip like this, we couldn’t afford to become dehydrated or malnourished because that’s when bad decisions are made and people make silly mistakes. 

Alex: For me it was just the sheer distance we had to cover with the high number of portages on a daily basis. Previously I would have said that a 30km day with 10 portages was a big day. Now we were hitting almost 60km a day with up to 23 portages.

Did You Ever Think You Weren’t Going To Finish?

Noah: I knew the only way we weren’t going to finish is if one of us got hurt. The thought of one of us twisting an ankle or falling bad on a portage was always on the back of my mind. 

 Alex: Travelling up the Big East river at the beginning of this trip was really slow going. We were concerned that we were behind schedule but we were ready to pull some late nights paddling and portaging into the dark in order to make up the distance we needed to.

Did You Have Any Low Points On The Trip?

Noah: The couple hours of paddling down Dickson Lake on route to the infamous Dickson-Bonfield portage. We had already done 20 portages and 44 kms. The last thing I wanted to do was take on the largest portage in Algonquin (5.5 km) at the end of a very long day. It was difficult to mentally prepare for that one. 

Alex: When we got lost in the alders on the Nipissing River. It was such a claustrophobic feeling not being able to tell where we were on the river. We were soaking wet from travelling through all the thick wet bush on the river, the temperature was dropping, daylight disappearing, and we had no idea where we were going to camp.

What Was The Biggest Cause For Celebration?

Both: When we rounded the final corner of the Big East River and saw the first yellow portage sign going into Algonquin Park. We knew the portages were just starting, but we were so relived to be done with wading against the strong current of the Big East and the unmarked bushwaking portages.

Would You Do This Trip Again?

Both: We live in “Canoe Country”; there are just too many routes to explore to do the same trip twice. As far as challenging trips go, who know where our curiosity will take us next.

One Recommendation For Other Paddlers Looking To Tackle The Meanest Link?

Noah: Have a good sense of humour. If you can’t laugh at the amount of distance and portages you have to do, you’re in for trouble.

Alex: Don’t do this trip in 10 days. While we definitely enjoyed pushing our bodies to the limits, if you have the luxury of more time available you might as well take as long as possible to enjoy this route.

Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link Part 1: The Big East

Starting at Algonquin Outfitters – Oxtongue Lake, Alex and Noah spent the first 2.5 days outside of the park which included a quick stop in Huntsville, as well as a 66 km “paddle” up the Big East River. The Big East River is a large variable in the route and has proved to be a critical factor in determining if the pair would be able to finish the link on schedule. Attempting this section in the driest time of the year was also a concern. Would there be enough water?

The Route: Oxtongue Lake, Oxtongue River, Lake of Bays, South Portage Road, Peninsula Lake, Fairy Lake, Muskoka River, Hunter’s Bay, Lake Vernon, Big East River Delta, Big East River, McCraney Creek.

Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link Part 2: Walking The West

Alex and Noah made it to portage country, and Algonquin’s Western boundary is no exception. The first day in the park included 23 portages in 42 C weather followed by a meander down the “lost” river. A river so thick in alders, you get lost.

The Route: McCraney Lake, Little McCraney Lake, Rain Lake, Casey Lake, Daisy Lake, Ralph Bice Lake, David Lake, Mubwayaka Lake, Pugawagun Lake, Pezheki Lake, Iago Lake, Papukiwis Lake, Manu Lake, Shawshaw Lake, Tim Lake, Chibiabos Lake, Indian Pipe Lake, West Koko Pond, Big Bob Lake, Nipissing River.

Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link Part 3: Northern Gems

Alex and Noah enjoy the hospitality of Algonquin Outfitters – Brent store, the most northern section of the route. From here they head into the heart of Algonquin and visit some of the park’s most renowned lakes which includes a stop at the Mean Dude’s favourite campsite for a couple tasty beverages.

The Route: Cedar Lake, Petawawa River, Radiant Lake, Petawawa River, Francis Lake, Crow River, Lake Lavieille, Hardy Bay, Dickson Lake.

Algonquin Park’s Meanest Link Part 4: Southern Stretch

In the final days, Alex and Noah dig deep to complete the link. Along the way they paddle some of Algonquin’s most accessed lakes, visit Camp Pathfinder and wind through the Oxtongue Provincial Park.

The Route: Bonfield Lake, Wright Lake, Opeongo Lake, Sproule Lake, Sunday Lake, Little Rock Lake, Kearney Lake, Whitefish Lake, Pog Lake, Lake of Two Rivers, Madawaska River, Cache Lake, Tanamakoon Lake, Little Madawaska River, Source Lake, Ouse Lake, Smoke Lake, Tea Lake, Oxtongue River, Ragged Falls, Oxtongue Lake.

Top 18 Things Paddlers Should Keep In Their Car

In this video Paul Mason gives an overview of the paddling gear he likes to leave in his vehicle.

Most paddlers are familiar with the feeling of reaching into your bag looking for some piece of gear that you swear you packed that morning. Unfortunately more times than not this bag was packed while you were throwing back your breakfast, feeding the dog and running out the door.

The reality is that this has happened to all of us, and it is going to happen again whether it is you or one of your friends. Since many of us have extra gear kicking around the house, maybe this is the time to pack it up and put it in a bin that now lives in your car instead. You might just save the day at the put-in.

Some of these items are worse to forget than others. Forgetting to bring gorilla tape might not be the end of the world but forgetting a life jacket could kibosh the expedition. Also, a friend who forgets their dry top might still be able to paddle and it will only be cold for them. If your friend forgets a throw bag, it will be you paying for it.

[View the latest boats and gear in the Paddling Buyer’s Guide]

Paul Mason’s Top 18 Pieces Of Gear To Keep In The Car

1) Life Jacket
2) Garbage Bagpotential rain jacket, garbage collection or inflation device.
3) Air Bags 
4) Helmet
5) Baseball Capto hide that gnarly post paddle hair.
6) Electrical Tape
7) Duct Tape (or Gorilla Tape)quick and dirty repairs.
8) Paddling Dry Jacket
9) Throw Bagif your friends forget this, it is you that pays for it.
10) Extra Piece Of Foam
11) Contact Cementgreat for patch work.
12) Webbing
13) Wirefor the muffler that fell off on the way to the put-in.
14) Vice Grips
15) Lightersecure the ends of cut rope or for the spontaneous post-paddle campfire.
16) Pencil with Duct Tape
17) Sandpaper – remove rough patches before patching.
18) Zip Ties – endless uses.

Other Items You Might Consider Adding:

1) Paddle
2) Cam Strapsyou can never have too many.
3) Carabiner
4) Granola Bars
5) Water Bottle

Four Places More Valuable Than A House

4 Places More Valuable Than A House
4 Places More Valuable Than A House

Four walls and a roof often don’t accommodate the semi-nomadic lifestyle that kayakers, canoeists, rafters and pedal boaters alike find themselves falling into.

Indeed, there are many places more valuable to those chasing falling water:

 1) A Car

If it rolls and carries boats on the roof, it fits the bill. It’s a bed, a gear closet, and a way to get from A to B. As an accomplice in escapes from the city, packing a paddler’s car is usually something between a game of tetris and a game of Jenga, with game pieces made of wooden shelves, plastic bins and stinky gear. It doesn’t hold grudges for the routine abandonment that occurs at the put-in to a river, at the airport or at the trailhead.

If it makes it from A to B in one piece, it’s a good day. If not, call it an adventure, group bonding, or #epic. There’s probably a paddler who can pick you up on their way to the river.

2) The Greasy Spoon, Wherever The Water Is

From local diners to the closest Tim Hortons, wherever the rain is falling and the rivers are running, there will be a gaggle of paddlers hunkered down in the corner, hogging the wifi, curating the next sick edit, or sending long-awaited updates to the loved ones whose perfume of choice isn’t wet neoprene.

Clad in down jackets and toques, cut-offs and tank tops, devouring breakfast combos and fueling up on dirt-tasting coffee (made tolerable only by Canadian pride) before heading into the frigid air for a rainy day adventure, or into the sunshine in search of running water.

The wifi’s better than any house we’ve lived in, the fridge is definitely better stocked, and there’s a high probability that the bathrooms are cleaner.

[Also Read: The ABC’s Of Dirtbags]

3) The Bar 

Savouring the first gulp after a multi-day, or stunting the next hangover before this one begins, kindred spirits can inevitably be recognized by sunburns and helmet hair. In dive bars and trendy microbreweries, paddlers will be nursing sore blisters and egos, reliving the sharpest lines and the best beatering of a glorious day spent on the river.

4) The Tent

A safe haven. Safe from weather and from bugs. Safe from tripmates, when day 5 becomes just a little too much. Safe from the hustle and bustle. Where a house would keep one home with the temptation of crossing something off the fix-it list, a tent solely asks for duct tape and an adventure. Plopped amongst trees, rapids, or inebriated festival-goers, it’s a (relatively) dry place to rest a head, a shelter for introverted minds.

Here’s to the places that fill our lives, fuel adventure, and don’t keep us in one place.

Kayaking Hawaii | A SEND Vacation

In the land of surfing and sunshine, a different type of adventure exists for those who seek its secret.  The Wailuku River forms in the saddle between the two biggest volcanic peaks on the planet before rapidly dropping to the Pacific Ocean below.

Villa in Hawaii
The SEND crew enjoying their Hawaii Vacation | Photo: Courtesy SEND

The Wailuku can often lie dormant and tranquil as the river trickles over countless ledges into their pools below; however, when it awakes, this river displays its true nature in a torrential flash of power.  Translating to the “River of Death” in the native Hawaiian language, the Wailuku has a dark past, filled with legends of the Hawaiian Gods.  As it rushes to life down the side of the mountains, the Wailuku River flows through Hilo, Hawaii, one of the rainiest cities in the United States

[See Also: Dane Jackson’s 2018 Highlight Reel]

Kayaking Ocean Waves
SEND kayaking the ocean waves of Hawaii | Photo: Courtesy SEND

If one exerts the patience necessary, this river will host some of your best days on the river. Period.  A complete descent of the Wailuku from Waiale Falls to the Ocean is only a few miles long, but enclosed within its canyons is something for every waterfall seeking kayaker.  Easy portages exist around: 70ft tall PePe Falls, 55ft Raptor Falls, 110ft Rainbows and 35 ft Pterodactyl Falls.  Outside of these four larger waterfalls, the chasms of the Wailuku surround you will a feeling that is none other than that of Jurassic Park.  Dropping you one perfect waterfall at a time deeper into columnar basalt walls overgrown with tropical foliage dangled above.

[See Also: Kalob Grady’s 2017/2018 Highlight Reel]

Kayaking waterfalls in Hawaii
Dane Jackson, Kalob Grady and Paul Palmer hitting the beautiful waterfalls of Hawaii | Photo: Courtesy SEND

More than 25 clean waterfalls ranging from five to 25ft tall are dispersed throughout the section down to Rainbow falls, and then again from Rainbow Falls to the Ocean.  The only obstacle in your way from true endless joy are the water levels and the health of your own spine.

Pack your gear, be prepared to lifestyle, and when it rains, get ready for a kayaking experience so incredible, you’ll swear you are in the midst of an old Hawaiian legend.

See all the latest kayaks and gear in the Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Folding Kayak Review: Trak 2.0 Touring Kayak

Trak Kayaks 2.0 Touring Kayak - Folding Kayak Review - Man launching foldable kayak into Lake Ontario, Canada
Transform and roll out! The redesign of the TRAK will please day tourers and far-flung adventurers alike. Photo: Joel Clifton

When I first reviewed the TRAK kayak over a decade ago, TRAK was an audacious startup with a knack for marketing but little experience in business or paddling. It set out to change the game with a unique gimmick—a hull with jacks in the folding frame, letting the paddler change its shape on the fly.

TRAK Kayaks
TRAK 2.0 Specs
Length: 16 ft
Width: 22.5 in
Weight: 42 lbs
Cockpit: 16.5 x 30.5 in
Packed: 53 lbs
Size Packed: 41 x 19 x 9 in
Payload Capacity: 350 lbs
MSRP: $3,599 USD

Why would I want a shape-shifting watercraft, I had wondered. And if I really wanted a folding kayak, wouldn’t I eschew TRAK for a company with a track record? The kayak itself was pretty neat, but I didn’t expect to hear much more from its makers in the ensuing years.

Easy urban kayak storage

Fast forward to 2019 and the landscape has transformed. In the folding kayak space TRAK Kayaks is now the established brand and natural heir to the stalwarts such as Feathercraft and Folbot, which have, well, folded.

The company’s target demographic ranges from younger professionals to baby boomers at their peak of discretionary time and income looking to rediscover themselves outdoors.

Meanwhile, high real-estate prices, denser cities, lower car ownership and the popularity of inflatable SUPs and novelty watercraft, like the Oru Kayak, are ripening the North American market for folding craft, which have never been a fixture here as they have been in Europe.

A performance alternative to Oru Kayaks

A few years ago, TRAK decided instead of improving incrementally on its original design it would apply all the lessons of its first decade into a completely overhauled 2.0 edition, focusing on ease of assembly, portability and convenience.

The company amassed 500 pre-orders primarily through Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers in 2017 and early 2018. After some unexpected delays, the first batch of TRAK Kayaks’ TRAK 2.0 are shipping from TRAK’s factory in the Philippines.

Trak Kayaks 2.0 Touring Kayak. Man pulling folding kayak bag through the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Everything packs effortlessly into the rolling travel bag. TRAK makes a harness that turns the bag into a backpack for rough terrain. | Photo: Joel Clifton

A lightweight kayak is the best kayak for travel

Highlights include lighter materials—upgrading from 6000 to 7000 series aircraft-grade aluminum for some of the frame and carbon fiber for the ribs—resulting in a weight loss of about 10 pounds and a packed size that’s a foot shorter.

The frame snaps together more quickly and easily. And TRAK’s marketing message has matured from something like “the kayak that changes shape!” to “the ultimate general-purpose touring kayak (that just happens to change shape and fold into a rolling suitcase too).”

In a few seconds, I reached a Goldilocks level of maneuverability that normally would have required trying out different boats.

TRAK now transcends the folding-kayak niche and is gunning for mass appeal, promoting a vehicle that is transformative in both a mechanical and spiritual sense.

The TRAK arrived at my door in a large cardboard box. Setup flows intuitively. The color-coded frame, blue for bow and red for stern, snaps together with shock cords, just like tent poles.

A high-performance skin-on-frame kayak

Aided by online videos and instructions, my first setup took an hour. Popping the sleek frame together elicited both an atavistic and space-age joy—kayaking’s skin-and-frame deep past mashed up with aerospace technology.

I wouldn’t mind reenacting this ritual before every paddle. I felt I’d performed a magic trick or created modern art. The second time I built it waterside in under 20 minutes, half expecting applause, and went back from kayak-to-bag even faster without struggle.

The final stage upon launch is to expand three hydraulic jacks in the hull, one on each side and the keel, to tension the skin and adjust the rocker, which changes the waterline length to anywhere between 12 and 15 feet.

I simply cranked up the keel jack until the kayak felt right. In a few seconds, I reached a Goldilocks level of maneuverability that normally would have required trying out different boats. The included sprayskirt has an opening with a roll-down waterproof closure for reaching in and adjusting the jacks.

The TRAK 2.0 is a rocket in the surf, maybe because of its lightness or some unknowable skin-on-frame Zen principle.

The stern is shaped like a skeg, providing for very straight tracking unless you really shorten the waterline with the jack or put the kayak on edge, then it turns instantly.

The hard-chine, shallow-V hull has a high-performance feel, with moderate initial stability and very smooth edging, with no flop or point of no return before the cockpit coaming is well underwater.

There’s no integrated rudder or skeg, but anytime you’d want one—an extreme crosswind maybe—you can adjust the side jacks to give the hull a compensatory zig or zag.

TRAK cites affinity with water as its underlying inspiration and purpose, which their new creation seems to share.

I have no metrics to support any of the aficionados’ claims of skin-on-frame outperforming in rough water by mystically absorbing or smoothing out the energy of the waves; however, from personal experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something to the theory.

A foldable sea kayak that performs like a hardshell

The TRAK 2.0 is a beautiful, smooth ride, gliding easily through waves, while chop tickles my heels through the subtly vibrating skin and frame.

Acceleration is quick, especially in a following sea, where it catches waves incredibly fast; the 2.0 is a rocket in the surf, maybe because of its lightness or some unknowable skin-on-frame Zen principle.

Apply an edge or a paddle stroke and the 2.0 responds instantly, a trait TRAK attributes to the new carbon-fiber ribs, which makes it stiffer and more responsive overall than previous versions with plastic ribs.

Detracting only slightly from the TRAK’s graceful appearance is the boxiness of the hull around the cockpit where the three jacks are, forming a straight section in the otherwise gently curving frame.

Otherwise, the deck is in many ways sleeker and more beautiful than a hardshell kayak, owing to the low profile of the attachment points for the many bungees and full-length deck-lines; they’re simply sewn into the skin. I wouldn’t be surprised if these attachments are stronger than the plastic fittings on a conventional kayak.

TRAK says its polyurethane skin, which is reinforced with an extra layer at the keel, can withstand just about any abrasion or puncture. An unconditional five-year warranty covers the entire craft.

The comfortable kayak seat isn’t the only feature we love

Many thoughtful design details show off years of engineering: the robust end toggles are screwed right into the hard plastic bow and stern inserts and are coated with rubber, so they are easy to grab; the large rubber handle on the deck zipper doubles as an extra carrying point; the ultra-comfortable padded seat; and the infinitely adjustable padded thigh braces are available in two thicknesses.

Loading the TRAK is tricky because there are no deck hatches, but it can be done. The included two gear and flotation bags hold 55 liters each. TRAK pegs the payload at about 350 pounds, including paddler, and recommends trips of up to 10 days.

At 16 feet, an all-arounder dimension falling squarely between an ocean day/playboat and dedicated tourer, plus a hull that changes shape to accommodate all uses, the TRAK 2.0 really is a paragon of versatility and tradition-meets-technology that will meet most paddlers’ every need.

If you’re interested in ordering one, 50 percent down this spring will get you in line for October or November delivery.

By early 2020 TRAK expects to be caught up and ready to deliver on impulse purchases, with free shipping worldwide to make wild dreams possible. Just fly to some exotic destination and order a TRAK to your hotel.

Tim Shuff lives with his family of four in a small downtown house with no basement or garage. Feature Photo: Joel Clifton

SUP Fails Video

This video highlight reel showcases the best of the worst SUP fails you have ever seen.

Those who have tried a standup paddleboard before know that there is a learning curve getting used to the balancing. It doesn’t take much to fall off one if you are new to the sport.

Paddleboarding can be relaxing and peaceful but it can also be very humbling. This is clearly shown in the display of overconfident paddlers trying the more advance maneuvers like handstands or tree jumping. We are thankful for their efforts.

Whether you are a beginner or experienced paddler, you should always wear your PFD. They even make belt pack PFDs so you don’t get those unwanted tan lines.

We also wouldn’t recommend your first time on a paddleboard be next to the dock where you could fall and hit your head. There are a few of these cringe-worthy moments on display in the video.

If you are looking to purchase a SUP, we recommend checking out the paddleboards in our Paddling Buyers Guide.

Sit back and enjoy!

 

Win a Werner Kayak Paddle

 

Werner’s 2019 whitewater paddles have just dropped and to celebrate, we have a treat for our loyal readers. We’re giving one lucky paddler the opportunity to win a Werner Surge or Werner Strike. To enter, complete the form below with your first name and email address. Once you’ve entered, share to earn 25 bonus entries.

Watch the video above to see these sweet paddles in action. Then check out what’s new from Werner Paddles in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

Photo credit: Kalob Grady | Paddler: Dave Fusilli