I dream about penguins and hippos. And kayaking. When I awake, I wonder if the visions were an unconscious attempt to make sense of the uniquely equipped boat I had strapped to my roof rack the previous evening—the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 kayak.

Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 Specs
Length: 13’5”
Width: 28.5”
Weight: 82.8 lbs
MSRP: $1,999

Pick how to paddle with the Revolution 13

The popular do-it-all model in the Mirage sit-on-top line, the Revolution 13 can be propelled with either paddle or pedals thanks to Hobie’s ingenious MirageDrive. Taking engineering cues from the graceful underwater flight of penguins, the MirageDrive’s flexible hydrofoil fins scissor the water with each leisurely push of the pedals, propelling the kayak at cruising speeds matching those of a sprinting paddler.

[ See also: The World Of Whitewater’s First Semi-Pro Pedal Boater ]

Mimic the flight of the penguins

Using your legs has other advantages as well: think less effort, Jillian Michaels quads, and leaving your hands free to photograph, cast or snack. It’s also a great option for paddlers who suffer from upper body or back strain—switch from paddle to pedals to use an entirely different muscle group while giving your back a break.

The Hobie Revolution 13 is a pleasure to pedal

Being a pedal boat neophyte, I worried about maneuvering while pedaling and steering with the small hand lever that controls the Revolution’s rudder. The lake still looked distinctly Antarctic (remember the longest winter ever?), and I hoped to steer my polyethylene penguin well clear of the ice shelves. I needn’t have fretted. While the hand-operated rudder and Hobie’s lean-back-and-put-your-feet-up pedal position went against every grain of my paddler’s intuition, it’s an undeniably comfortable, efficient and even addictive way to chew the miles.

At 83 pounds fully rigged, the Revolution is something of a hippo to maneuver on land (ask a friend to help carry or, better yet, get Hobie’s handy kayak cart), but on the water the MirageDrive literally gives this kayak wings. With the fins and rudder deployed, the Revolution dances across the water, pirouetting in tight circles and flying through wind chop.

Curious as to the Revolution’s aptitude for longer tours, I packed the eight-inch round stern and center hatches and cavernous bow hatch with enough kit for a weekend escape. The added weight barely registered. Even fully loaded, it responded promptly to rudder inputs or paddle strokes, and swiftly accelerated to cruising speed with just a few kicks of the pedals.

Excellent primary stability and a spacious on-deck cargo area make the Revolution 13 an ideal platform for kayak anglers or furry companions. Aspiring sailors can drop Hobie’s optional downwind sail kit into an inconspicuous footing near the bow, free from the unnerving sketchiness that accompanies attempts to harness the wind in less forgiving craft.

Woman floats on clear water in the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 kayak
THE MIRAGE REVOLUTION 13 By Hobie Kayaksbody | Feature Photo: Vince Paquot

When it comes to rough water performance, the MirageDrive fins further increase stability, much like the daggerboard on a sailboat. If you do manage to capsize or fall overboard, self-rescue is as simple as scrambling back onto your seat and watching the floodwaters drain through the scupper holes. One addition we’d like to see is full perimeter lines to increase the number of grab holds, in the water and on land.

Perhaps the inspiration for Hobie’s clever engineering solutions came to their designers in their dreams—it worked for Thomas Edison, after all. Despite my grasping, my own recent hypnagogic revelation probably says less about the attributes of the Revolution 13 than it does my expanding paddling proclivities. The image of disparate species sharing their waters represents an unlikely admission from a diehard paddler: there’s room in my kayak for pedals

Penguin Power

MirageDrive fins propel the Revolution forward with each pedal push, and fold flush to the hull for skimming over shallows. There’s no reverse gear—grab your paddle to back up.

Stow or Go

Use the rudder when pedaling to avoid traveling in circles. When retracted for paddling or transport, the rudder twists flat against the deck. Now that’s smart.

Lumbar Lovin’

Hobie’s high-back padded seat features an inflatable lumbar support for all-day comfort. Rudder controls, center hatch, pedal adjustments and dual fishing rod holders are within easy reach.


This article on why the kayak is the best way to enjoy the outdoors was published in the Early Summer 2014 issue of Adventure Kayak magazine.This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2014 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine.  Subscribe to Paddling Magazine and get 25 years of digital magazine archives including our legacy titles: Rapid, Adventure Kayak and Canoeroots.

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