About the Writer
My name is Greg, I live in Brisbane, Australia, I’m 42 years old, my height is 5’9″ (175cm), and I weigh 126.5lb (57.4 kilos). With no previous kayaking experience, I hired a sea kayak 5 years ago and over 4 days, paddled 24.8 miles (40kms) up and back down the Upper Noosa River. It was such a great experience that I have wanted a kayak of my own ever since, but couldn’t find one that suited my needs… until now.
I am assuming that because you are reading this, you are thinking about buying a kayak and you are considering the AirFusion. I’ve got an AirFusion, got it on the 1st of February 2010. I have had it for only 16 days, have set it up 7 times and I have gotten it wet 4 times. Done just on 28.3 miles (45.6kms) and have spent 11 hours and 48 minutes paddling in it.
I know very little about kayaking. However, having broken LOTS of windsurfer and mountain bike parts over the past 18 years, I have a pretty good idea as to what works and what doesn’t. Read on and I will tell you all about my AirFusion maiden voyage. You will get to watch an action replay of my maiden voyage in the AirFusion, and I will share some of the things I learned along the way.
Getting it and Setting it Up
When a product is well designed and built, I have noticed that people spend little time saying how good it is, and lots of time discussing tiny problems and what needs to happen in order to make everything ok. It’s as if there is no point wasting time stating the obvious. I think the AirFusion is going to be one of those products that has its own forum filled with AirFusion lovers eager to discuss any and every problem they are having, not to warn people, but to help other AirFusion paddlers have an even more enjoyable paddling experience. Speaking of experience, lets take a look at my AirFusion and its maiden voyage.
I ordered the AirFusion deluxe system from http://airkayaks.com/ae1040.html, mostly because they ship internationally, and because they included Australia in their international zones (zone C). It arrived in two boxes, via UPS, on my back door step in 7 days including a weekend (5 working days). I am very happy with that time, considering the size and weight of the boxes. UPS did a great job and really looked after my new toy.
The AirFusion is a pleasure to set up! I “could” set it up in 10 minutes, but to me kayaking is supposed to be relaxing, so 15 to 20 minutes for me is the set up time. Plus, I’m into mountain biking and when changing a tube we do something called “seating.”
Pump the tyre up till it’s just taking shape then with both hands, bend the tyre from side to side and do so all the way around the rim. Doing this makes the tyre sit in just the right place on the rim.
The front and back air bags in the AirFusion need to be seated, so that the two side chambers on both sides of the kayak are pushing into the air bag, not above or below it in any way. Hard to explain, easy to see where they should be during set up.
For me, the hardest thing about the set up is remembering that the big air bag goes in the back, and the small air bag goes in the front. I have had to check the manual during all seven set ups. Big – back. Small – front. When I get around to it, I will write “Front” on the small air bag. I just went and did it, now it’s forget proof.
By the way, the two air bags are well protected from punctures inside zip sealable cases, which remind me of pillow cases. The four side air chambers are also inside protective covers. I have an urge to stab them with a knife to see how tough they are, but I won’t. The air bags and chambers have an additional layer of protection from what nature may throw at them.
The actual kayak itself is made of, as Advanced Elements describe it, “heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin material for extreme puncture resistance.” It’s thicker and stronger than it looks in the photos on the internet. I was both surprised and impressed! I think that the designers of the AirFusion have done everything possible, within reason, to insure that this kayak stays afloat.
The weak spot can be found where the inflation hoses join the air bags and air
chambers. They are ok, it’s just an area that needs to be handled with care. Don’t pull on them, twist them, or carry the air bags by them. If during set up you need to move an air bag closer to the middle of the kayak, reach in and grab the pillow case. Resist the temptation to pull on the hose. Also, be careful with them when packing them in the supplied carry bag.
The carry bag is, in itself, a well thought out work of art. Believe it or not, everything fits back into it with ease. Just an idea… Save and re-use the plastic bag that the poles come in. The bag keeps them orderly and helps to protect the main part of the Kayak from being scratched by the tubes as they a pushed into the carry bag. Maybe one day the AirFusion will come with a proper bag for the poles or a sleeve within the carry bag.
The poles are very nicely made. However, there are two big locking pins and one small locking pin. I am finding the small pin to be a bit of a pain to push in, in order to lock and unlock the poles. It is spring loaded with lots of load. When I get around to it. I will remove it from inside the pole and flatten the part that makes it springy, just a little bit. Doing that will make it less springy and easier to push in. I have done the same thing with my windsurfer. The pins are no fun in cold weather.
The two pins that lock in place the poles that run down both sides of the kayak are connected to the outside of two of the poles. The pins are connected to pieces of flat steel, which are a little sharp around the edges. During set up, I make sure they are not touching either the top or bottom air chamber (face them out).
The double action hand pump, Model AE2011 from Advanced Elements, works surprisingly well. I was expecting to have to use a 12 volt air pump to inflate and deflate the AirFusion, but the pump I got with the AirFusion works so well, and so fast, that I haven’t bothered to try my 12 volt pump (I spent $34 on a new battery for it too).
The hose on the pump has five adaptors attached to the end of it, the AirFusion only needs two of them. I will be removing the three that I don’t need, because they tend to get in the way when I’m trying to find the one I need. I would have removed them already, but like everything else from Advanced Elements, it is well made, so they are hard to remove/lose.
When I first used the pump, I found that the adaptor would “pop off” when I started
pumping. To stop this from happening, I now turn the hose half a turn, so it springs
or turns back locking itself onto the adaptor, when I connect the two together. I use
the push-on adaptor while “seating” (it’s quicker). Then, to get the right pressure, I
use the screw-on adaptor. I screw the adaptor on (fingers around the hose, thumb
pushing on the end of the adaptor), then plug in the hose (turn the hose first).
There is no need to use the pump to deflate the air chambers or air bags. To remove
air from the air bags and air chambers, unscrew the valves on the end of the hoses
and deflation happens on its own, and at a great rate of knots. It’s very hustle free
and easy with no forcing air out like you have to do with other things that pump up. To
speed up the unscrewing of each valve, loosen it, then roll it along your pointer finger.
I set the AirFusion up twice the day I got it, once the next day, then I packed it up
and put it in the back of my car, ready for a quick getaway the following afternoon. It
fits in my Toyota Corolla easily. No need to put it on the roof, which is soooo nice! It
really is great to be able to fit a 13 foot long boat in the back of my car. I wanted a
kayak that would fit in my car and I wanted a kayak that would be super easy to
paddle… I got both!
I was off and paddling! With a GPS on the floor, I headed for a creek, a few paddles south. I was then up a creek WITH a paddle. Anyway, in short, I went up a creek and
back, paddled to an island, crossed a channel, went up another creek, crossed the
channel again, heading for yet another creek, which turned out to be too shallow even
for the AirFusion, then headed back around the same island and back to the start.
I set a pretty lazy pace, but it was both a pace I was happy with (relaxing), and it was a pace that I could hold for four or five hours. The amount of effort I put into each stroke, in order to keep that pretty lazy pace, was weirdly little. It feels like the
paddle is half the size that it is. I think this is because the AirFusion is lightish
weight 32 lbs (14.5kgs), narrow 25″ (640mm) and longish 13′ (3960mm).
Apart from having a sore backside, I didn’t feel like I had been paddling for an hour
and a half. No, I didn’t feel like I had been paddling at all. The next day, my bum had
fully recovered, my arms were great, oddly, my legs were a bit stiff. Another thing I
noticed was that the paddle hardly ever bangs against the side of the boat while
paddling, which is something that did happen with the one I hired 5 years ago.
Unlike my flat-bar road bike, The AirFusion is surprisingly good at going up wind.
Sevenish knots of wind coursed about a 0.6mph (1kph) drop in speed. It may be my
lack of paddling skills, but it was not so good at going straight down wind. It turned
side on to the wind very easily. I haven’t used the WindPaddle yet, but I expect that
to solve this little problem, and some.
Cannon 4pc Breakdown Paddle
The kayak I hired used to get very wet inside. The AirFusion doesn’t and there are two reasons for it. The first is the little rubber washer things that came with the paddle. They slide onto each end of the paddle and stop water running down the paddle tube and into the kayak. I actually didn’t know what they were.
I just figured that they slide onto the paddle pole, so that’s where I put them. It wasn’t until I was out paddling that I discovered their purpose in my life. The second reason the AirFusion doesn’t fill up with water is because of where I have positioned the seat.
The first two times I set it up, I had the seat right back. I moved it forward on the third set-up to about the middle of its adjustment range, so that I had more storage space behind the seat. Yesterday, during my third paddle, I stopped and moved the seat back to see what effect it would have on performance. Instantly, I noticed more water getting in the kayak from the paddle. It’s the water that drips off the rubber things that finds its way into the kayak and onto me. By positioning the rubber things so that they don’t dip into the water as I paddle, I have reduced the amount of water that drips off of them.
When the seat is forward the water drips onto the front of the kayak, not on me. The
deluxe model comes with a spray skirt, which is supposed to stop all water from
getting in. I could use that for longer trips or rough conditions.
Packlite Spray Skirt
I haven’t used the spray skirt that came with my kayak, but having just come back
from my first overnight paddle (fourth time on the water in the AirFusion), I want to tell you about a place I have found to be great for storing the spray shirt.
Pole number 6 goes under the top/front section of the AirFusion. It goes through a
sleeve and then connects to the top part of the front rib. With the spray skirt in its
carry bag, I loosely wrapped a tie down (used to tie things to a roof rack), around the
spray skirt, then pushed the tie down and the spray skirt onto pole 6.
They will slide along the pole about 4 or 5 inches (100mm). Once in position, I
tightened up the tie down. It sits there, out of the way, yet close and handy for when
the sea gets a little rough. Most importantly, it doesn’t take up any valuable storage
Turns On a Dime… Almost
While going forward, I dug the paddle into the water just behind where I sit. Then I
dragged the paddle forward. I did that once, then I paddled in the normal direction,
but on the opposite side of the kayak. I did that once as well and after that it was
back to left side-right side paddling. One hard reverse dig and one fairly hard forward
paddle and the AirFusion has done a 180 degree turn. I think that’s pretty good!
So, it may not quite turn on a dime, but it’s close enough, not to mention easy
enough to do.
What Don’t I Like About the AirFusion – The Hard Facts
The AirFusion maiden voyage was a roaring success! It fit in my car, it was easy to assemble, it floated, and it paddled well. On the way home, I kept thinking, what don’t I like about it? I couldn’t come up with anything. I’d then think about something else. Then the same question would come to mind, what don’t I like about it – another blank.
This happened about four or five times. I decided to do a little shopping on the way home. I parked the car at some shops near home (20 minute drive from the kayak test site), jumped out of the car and ouch, oow uh! I had a mild to harsh case of hard seat-inflicted sore bum.
The seat in the AirFusion is quite hard and although I felt it after about an hour of paddling, it wasn’t until I got out of the car that I really felt like it had kicked me in the butt (so to speak). You’ll be pleased to know, I soon recovered and all is now well.
Advanced Elements have put a zip on the seat pad cover, so I can put whatever padding my bum agrees with, in it.
My Hard Seat Fix
The seat in the AirFusion is soooo hard! Well, it is for me anyway. I shouldn’t really complain, I was just out looking for a fix at one of those big all-in-one camping stores, and happened to notice that none of the kayaks (even the $4000 ones) have much, if any, padding on the seat. The seat pad in the AirFusion is 2 inches (50mm) thick, you could say, heavy duty foam. It will last a long time, I’ll give it that.
My quick and temporary fix for my little seat problem was to wear my black bike shorts. They have an inner padded lining. Wearing these shorts make the hard seat a little more bearable for a little bit longer.
Although I haven’t tried it out on the water yet, just on the floor at home, I want to tell you about something I just bought from that big camping shop.
It’s a self-inflating travel or camping pillow (Size: 40 x 28 x 8cm) that, out of luck more than anything, fits close to perfectly inside the seat cover and on top of the original 2″ pad. The AirFusion seat has a zip on the back that I can now unzip just enough to gain access to the pillow’s inflation valve in order to do a little on-the-fly fine tuning. It looks and feels like it will solve the problem and make paddling a whole lot more enjoyable.
Very briefly (so much to tell), I bought a Sea To Summit XL Compression Dry Sack –
(D27cm/10.5in H58cm/23in Vol 30L down to 10)L. It fits perfectly behind the seat. I’ve
got my tarp, Hennessy Hammock, under mat, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner,
shorts, shirt and pillow in it and there’s room for more. I put it on top of a 1.3 gal (5L)
water bladder that I bought from a local supermarket (like a wine cask). I carry
another one on the floor in front of the seat. That’s 2.6 gallons or 10 liters of water.
Once again, there’s room for more (2*10 liters).
Note: The two water bladders and the compression sack get loaded and unloaded when the AirFusion is on the water. I can carry the AirFusion loaded with 4+ days
supply of food and a few other things still in the kayak. So moving from the water, to
the car or camp site, takes two trips.
Another thing that I don’t like about the Air Fusion is the front and back storage areas.
Apart from there being very little space, the zippers make access very difficult.
The folks at Advanced Elements say, “The front and rear zippers are really for access to connect the poles and help with alignment of the tubes. Access to the limited storage space can also be done through these zippers but only with very small items. It is recommended that users deflate the thwart and access the storage this way. I know it takes more time/effort this way but a longer zipper could cause problems with keeping water out and skin tension/stress.”
I don’t plan on deflating either the front or back air bags. I am working around it by
making room behind the seat – by putting the seat in the middle of its adjustment
range, and putting the back air bag 2 or 3 inches behind the black mark on the floor.
The back storage area has enough room for 3 to 5 days food. The front storage area
is a good rubbish bin and the back deck-laced storage area on top is a great place
for my 20 liter dry sack in which I store all kinds of things from a water purifier to an
MP4 player and a solar battery charger. I could put all my food in it too, but I want
to store as much as I can below deck. I like to give the impression that I am going
on a day trip when really I’m off on a two or more day tour.
Boys And Their Toys
I’ve got a Garmin 705 GPS. I used it to record my AirFusion’s Maiden Voyage.
Just for a bit of fun, click on the link below and a new window will open. Click on the
“Player” button then the “satellite” button, then to the right of the rabbit, click the
button to expand the window, click on the “play” button. Then sit back and watch
me paddle 4.5 mile/7kms in about 35 seconds!
Change to metric (kph), top right of page, “View in Metric.”
Note: Unfortunately my GPS didn’t record the first maiden voyage (why I’ll never know). Just for the record, I went back two days later and did the same course. So, it’s really the AirFusion Maiden Voyage, take two.
The real maiden voyage took 1:36, 13 minutes longer (mostly because I didn’t know
where I was going). Both days there was a 5 to 7 knot east, south east breeze
blowing down the main channel, one foot chop, at most, and a few white caps here
I bought the AirFusion Kayak System: Deluxe from http://airkayaks.com . I also
ordered a life jacket, Riptide from MTI Adventurewear – #MTI-716A, which I didn’t
mention above, but it’s good value, and a WindPaddle Adventure Pop-Up Sail.
The shipping cost to Australia was $207 US and my bank was nice enough to
charge me a $45 AU international transaction fee. The total cost was $1522 AU,
plus $45 bank theft fee. $1567 AU.
Why am I telling you this when I am supposed to be summarizing…
On the surface, I spent $1567 on a kayak, but underneath, I really spent my
money on freedom, escape, relaxation, pleasure, peace, harmony, stress reduction,
joy, happiness, and the odd bit of action and excitement… I think it was money well
spent and will be for many years!
Thanks for reading!
Below are two links to two fantastic AirFusion reviews, have a read:
Wow! The new AirFusion Kayak from Advanced Elements at http://wp.me/pHiOm-3N
AirFusion: Review of a “Unique” Kayak at http://wp.me/pHiOm-4s
Blog note: Many thanks to Greg for taking the time to write down the many details on his new AirFusion experiences!