I watched her roll down to the waterfront and lean her Schwinn 10-speed against a garden pagoda. Her earbudded head bopping to some unknown beat, she proceeded to unpack the inflatable kayak stashed on her bike trailer and lean into a hand pump very similar to the Advanced Elements pump I held in my own hands. The race was on.

The AirFusion Elite streamlines Advanced Elements’ hybrid frame and airtube design. High-pressure air chambers along the chines and gunwales add stability and tension the PVC skin, while aluminum poles along the keel and front deck improve tracking, hull speed and water shedding. The result is a boat that feels surprisingly rigid in the water, yet avoids the complex assembly of a folding kayak.

Advanced Elements AirFusion Elite Specs
Length: 13’
Width: 28”
Material: PVC
Weight: 32 pounds
Price: $899


While the competition takes shape like a parade float down the shore, I insert the AirFusion’s foam floor, slide in the keel and deck poles, and inflate the side chambers, removable bow and stern thwarts and cockpit coaming.

The AirFusion’s design appears simplistic, but it’s actually ingenious. The foam tile floor insulates, stiffens and gives shape to the hull.

The inflatable thwarts serve as bulkheads, acting as a foot brace in the bow and creating a roomy, well-defined rear storage area accessed through a Velcro hatch and dry bag-style roll closure on the stern deck.

Earbud Girl beats me to the water—I’m scribbling notes when she launches—but I beat her out of the harbor.

While her department store pool toy spins in circles with each paddle stroke, my craft accelerates quickly, cruises comfortably, tracks well on the level and snaps around with a slight edge.

Woman kneeling beside duffel bag on a dock

Rock-solid stability and a standard-sized cockpit opening keep it dry when playing in waves, although there’s not quite enough knee support for aggressive bracing.

Lightweight and lively, the AirFusion Elite is great for paddlers who want fast and easy set-up without compromising performance.

Ideal for: Grab-and-go lunch break and after work adventures; traveling with your ‘yak; carefully packed overnights on lakes, rivers and sheltered coasts.

Assembly time: 10 minutes

This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak’s Summer 2014 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.

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