Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: The 2012 Airis Play Hi-Pressure Inflatable Kayak from Walker Bay

Last month we released our product review on the Airis Sport 6.5 PSI high pressure inflatable kayak – the first in a series of redesigns being offered by Airis (Walker Bay) for 2012. Recently we received the new 8.5 foot Airis Play model, the second kayak in the series and a cross between the original Play 8 and Play 9.

At 18 lbs with a max load of 225 lbs, the new 6.5 PSI Airis Play is lighter, longer and more compact, making it very easy to maneuver and highly portable for traveling. Here is our write-up.

Getting Started

The box as received weighs 30 lbs, measuring 28 x 20 x14 inches.

Inside is a very nifty backpack which houses the kayak body. Also included in the box is a seat, repair kit, double action pump, gauge and instructions. The kayak rolled up can easily be fit inside the backpack, along with the seat. The pump can be strapped to the outside of the pack, while the repair kit can slip into the zippering pocket. Breakdown paddles in a bag could also be strapped into the other side of the pack.

First step, unpack and unfold the kayak. There are basically just three pieces – the kayak body, floor and seat. Pretty simple.

The Play Single kayak body has been redesigned with two main inflation chambers utilizing military valves with a third chamber on the floor. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – with your finger, twist the plunger slightly to the “up” position to inflate (air goes in but doesn’t come back out) and “down” to deflate (air comes out).

Put the pressure gauge on the included double action pump, locking it in between the pump itself and the hose. (Please note: there is an inflate and a deflate side to the pump/hose attachment.) The pump comes with a military valve adaptor which locks onto the valve with a slight twist.

The new Airis Play Single also comes with an updated pump, which we term a “dual action” pump – a single action/double action hand pump. This is defaulted to the “double action” which means the air is pushed in on the up and the down stroke. When obtaining higher pressures (towards the 3 and 4 PSI range) it becomes increasingly tougher to pump. With a simple “twist of the knob” the pump becomes a single action pump – pushing air in on the down stroke only, making it easier to reach the higher ranges of 6 to 7 PSI.

Per the instructions, pump up one main chamber about 50% and then the other about 50% – this will help evenly distribute the air inside the chambers. Then completely pump each chamber up to full pressure of 6.5PSI. Screw on the wingnut caps to protect the valves, and prevent air from accidentally escaping.

Next, pull up the back of the kayak floor bladder. Take the seat and position it against the back of the kayak, with the seat bottom on the floor. Replace the floor OVER the seat base.

Take each side strap and run it through the d-ring on the back of each side handle, looping it back through the cinch locks on the back of the seat.

Last step – following the same advice mentioned previously on military valves, pump up the floor. Make sure it is evenly positioned, pushing it under the inflated side chambers if necessary. Pump it up to full 6.5PSI pressure; the floor chamber now holds the seat base in position, making it virtually impossible to slide around.

In much less than 10 minutes you’re ready for the water!

Deflation is just as easy. Simply open up the valves and roll up the kayak, pushing out the air. You can also use the deflate side of the hand pump to completely pump out the air. Replace the wingnuts to protect the valves when not in use.

Features and Specifications

The Airis Play Single is constructed with four carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides).

The fore and aft handles have a slim profile – making it easier to roll up for storage – while the two side handles have rubberized grips.

Despite having so many handles, this lightweight kayak is very easy to carry – the simplest being hooked over your shoulder.

A bungee deck lacing system – measuring 14 inches wide by 10 inches deep, tapering to 9 inches wide – allows one to carry gear, while 2 d-rings offer more attachment points.

The 48″ seating well is fairly open, and entirely surrounded with a “spray rail” or “splash guard” – this is a curving lip that helps prevent some of the water splashing in. The rail is 58 inches long with a perimeter measurement of 139 inches.

Other features include integrated foot rests which are positioned 40 inches from the back of the seat. The fabric seat back is 15 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

The hull has an integrated deep tracking fin, 9 inches x 5 inches.

The kayak body construction features a proprietary Airweb construction – this consists of a heavy duty, seven-layer polymer coated fabric that is joined inside by thousands of drop-stitch fibers, allowing the kayak to be pumped up to much higher pressures than standard inflatables.

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 8.5 feet long (102 inches) and approximately 31 inches at the widest point. The seating well is 4 inches deep, while the kayak body overall is about 6 inches thick. The kayak body weighed in at 18 lbs alone, or 23.5 lbs in the backpack with seat and pump. Weight limitations suggest 225 lbs for person and gear.

Comparison to the Airis Sport model

As we still had our demo Airis Sport model pumped up in the warehouse, we hauled it out for comparison with the new Play Single. In general the kayaks are quite similar except for length and small features. To begin with, the seating wells are identical in size, they utilize the same foot braces, seats, tracking fin, pump and backpack.

The lengths are different. The Airis Sport is 126 inches long with 29 inches from the bow to the front rail guard, and 46″ from the seat back to the stern. The Airis Play is 102 inches long with 21″ from the bow to the front rail guard, and 24″ from the seat back to the stern.

The only other differences – the Sport has a more tapering silhouette, the bungee deck lacing takes up a larger area, and there are two d-rings in the bow of the Sport.

On the Water

I tested out the kayak over two days in slight swells. The Airis Play is very nimble, turning on a dime, and tracks pretty well despite it’s smaller length – it is important to note that the smaller lighter kayaks will have a tendency to “wag” a bit in the nose if you are a power paddler. The idea is to take it easy. I had great fun riding back in on the swells and wishing I had a bit of surf.

It’s also very stable – I was able to stand up and sit down without flipping or falling, but I wouldn’t suggest it as a common practice.

As noted in our previous writeup on the Airis Sport, in choppy conditions, water breaks over the spray guard, and fills under the inflatable floor. I don’t know if over time the water will build up and fill in, so my suggestion is to stash a microfiber towel on board to wick out any extra water.

For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and easy to carry, though I can’t reach the integrated foot pegs, and the seat can not be moved closer. While my 6’2″ husband was not able to take a test ride at this time, he had previously tested the older model Play and the 2012 model Sport and had no problems fitting in the seating area; as both the Play and Sport seating wells are identical, I would have no reason to think he would have a problem.

I also managed to cajole my kayaking buddy, Eddie, to come out for a spin. There was ample enough room for a 40-lb canine, so I imagine that smaller adults would be able to bring along a small child.

Despite first impressions on the cloth seat, with proper strap adjustment it’s quite comfortable and offers good support.

A spray deck would be a great addition, offering more versatility. I did test out the Play with a Seattle Sports XL half deck. While not perfect ( the seating compartment is shallow), with a little creativity the half deck could be an option offering more protection from the elements as well as more storage pockets.

Bottom Line:

The Airis Play is aptly named – this is a fun kayak for all members of the family. It’s perfect for light whitewater and small surf, wave-riding and taking short explorations.

At 18 lbs it’s light-as-a-feather, highly portable, rugged, stable and maneuverable.

Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes, but for those wanting to speed up the process, investing in a 12-volt pump to kick-start the inflation process would be worthwhile. The  included double/single-action pump is a great touch, making it much easier to reach the recommended 6.5 PSI.

The D-ring attachments and bungee deck lacing add just enough flexibility for added storage and accessories without making it too complicated, though the addition of a couple more d-rings would allow use of thigh straps and more flexibility in adding optional accessories – such as a downwind sail.

The included backpack is rugged and roomy, opening up the possibility of a trek into remote areas. It can also be stashed in the trunk of a car or checked as baggage for your next plane flight – it’s a great choice for travel.

As with the Airis Sport, my only suggestion for a future “wish list” would be adjustable foot braces and a spray deck option. But, the bottom line – if you want slightly more gear attachments or prefer longer touring excursions, take a look at the Airis Sport inflatable kayak (MSRP $1099). If you want to run some mild waves and white water, want short jaunts along the shoreline, or size and weight is an issue, then the Airis Play (MSRP $799) is just your ticket – it’s certainly fun on the water.

To purchase, or for more details and specifications on the Airis line of kayaks, visit the website at

See the Airis Play Inflatable Kayak Product Page or the Airis Sport Inflatable Kayak Product Page.

You can also watch our YouTube Video on the New Airis Play Inflatable Kayak from Walker Bay

Stay tuned. Coming soon – the Airis Play Tandem Inflatable Kayak and the new Airis Arrow Standup SUP Paddleboards!


  1. We are interested in the Airis Play. I read one report the scupper’s can leak on the 2014 model.Can anyone update me on the matter. Thankyou

    1. Hello Anne:
      I have heard that, but have not experienced it myself. The side walls on this kayak are low, so if you are in any type of moving water, you will get water over the edge and pooling. If you do have pooling water, you can bring along a microfiber towel (such as used to wash a car) to wick up excess. The kayaks that we have enroute (due late November, early December) do have a new “screw-on” drain plug. Of course, that won’t make any difference if you are experiencing splash-over or paddle-drip. Best just to bring a towel.

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