After our previous reviews on the Innova Sunny and Innova Twist, we awaited our third shipment of Innova kayaks – the Swing IIs. The Swing I – a 10.5 ft single version – will be arriving in late December. Both models were introduced in 2012.
This is the next in a series of writeups on each of the Innova kayaks. As previously mentioned, the Innova line is unique in that their kayaks are handmade in the Czech Republic rather than China or Korea. Additionally, the Innova Swing I and Swing II – as well as the Twist series – utilize materials that are PVC-free, making them a greener option than most kayaks on the market.
This week we had the first opportunity to take out the Innova Swing II, a high-pressure 13 ft 2″ tandem inflatable kayak weighing a mere 28 lbs with a selling price of $799.
The box as received weighs 30.4 lbs with dimensions of 29 x 17 x 11 inches.
Inside is the Swing II body – neatly folded with a cinch strap – multiple instruction sheets, 3 metal insertion bars, tracking fin, seats, foot rest, repair kit, and valve adaptor. At 28 lbs for the combined package and a folded size of 24 x 16 x 10 inches, the Swing II is small enough to fit in the optional standard Innova 40L backpack (not included), which can fit in plane cargo overhead bins.
The main instruction manual covers set up for both the Swing I and Swing II kayaks, thus there will be overlap in both of our writeups. As with all the Innova manuals to date, the instructions are quite detailed – there is one instruction sheet for fin installation, one for utilizing the valves, and another on the kayak in general; the Swing has added instructions detailing the “insertion bars”. As the kayaks are made in Europe, many of the details are based around European specs and regulations and can sound daunting.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak body. What is immediately noticeable is how FLAT the kayak is when deflated.
Install the tracking fin before inflating the kayak. The Swing II utilizes a single fin with double slots. Slip the end with the larger slot in first, making sure that the fin is pointing towards the “back” of the kayak. This enables it to slide in enough to fit in the second slot. While the first time can be a struggle to get the back side into position, after a couple of rounds it becomes quite easy.
Attach the foot brace (this comes attached from the factory) by weaving the webbing through the floor connector and back.
While the next step is to “attach” the seats, the Swing II seats are actually permanently attached to the kayak floor with an elastic web, but also have two side straps and a rear seat clip. This is where we will veer a little from the instructions.
Take out the three 20-inch aluminum reinforcement bars that give the kayak its upper shape. These are labeled 3, 4 and 5 with a left (L) side and a right (R) side. These correspond to numbered slots inside the kayak, and are not interchangeable. Layout #3 before the front seat, #4 behind the front seat, and #5 behind the rear seat.
The bars are installed in the same manner as the tracking fin. Match the labeling on the bars to the labeling on the bar “slots” inside the kayak, first #3 (left and right) then #4 (left and right) and last is #5. This takes a bit of gyration the first couple of times, but gets easier with subsequent installations. To reach the rear section, it is helpful to open the zipper for adequate work space, sliding in each side.
Why are these labelled 3, 4 and 5? The Swing I uses two metal bars, and these are labeled 1 and 2. Since each bar has a different cant and angle, those owning both Swing I and Swing II kayaks will be able to easily identify the specific part.
At this point – before doing anything else – loosely attach both seat-back loops to the metal bars 4 and 5, leaving the side straps unfastened. Completely zip up the rear deck. If you don’t do that, it is impossible to close it after inflation – take it from the voice of experience.
The Innova Swing II features three main inflation chambers utilizing military valves – one for the floor and one for each side. The military-style plunger valve is 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).
Locate the military valve adapter in the repair canister. The Innova Swing II does not come with a pump, but the adaptor allows one to use the Boston valve conical adapter found on most pumps. (AirKayaks note: Before doing ANYTHING, attach the adapter to your pump with the string.) Lock the Innova adapter onto the military valve with a slight twist, and push the conical adaptor in to friction fit the two. Since the Innova main chambers are inflated to 3 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
Unlike the Sunny and Twists, the Swing main chambers are pumped up first. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure may only read while you are pumping, since most gauges work on back pressure. At 3 PSI, switch over to the other side chamber. Finally, pump up the floor chamber. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed. Please note: the military valve push pins can sometimes deceptively look as if they are UP while in the deflate mode. When this happens, as soon as you remove the pump adapter all the air with swoosh out. So, make sure they are truly popped up. On the positive side, this is so easy to pump up, it’s not a big issue.
Attach the adjustable seat side straps to the kayak. You’re done! The Swing II is remarkably easy and fast to set up – less than 10 minutes.
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin. For the smallest package, remove the metal bars and detach enough seat connections to make it flat – you can leave the bars in place, but it won’t fold up as small. Fold in the kayak sides so you can only see the red upper. Fold over each end, and then fold up the kayak again, meeting in the middle – a diagram in the instruction manual is quite helpful. Tie it up with the cinch strap and you’re done. As a side note, while you can press out most of the air and get the kayak back into the pack, to really minimize the size/footprint, it is best to pump out the final air, using the deflate mode on your pump. Turn the valves to the inflate position so air doesn’t creep back in, and replace the wing-nut caps.
Features and Specifications
Just like the Twists, the Innova Swing II hull is constructed from LitePack, a polyester ripstop fabric that is single coated with rubber on the inside to increase air retention, with electronically-welded seams.
The material is treated with a Teflon water repellant to aid in drying and prevent staining. LitePack is PVC-free, making it more environmentally friendly than standard inflatables using PVC bladders – there is no out-gassing.
The deck (upper) is constructed from a urethane-coated ripstop nylon to ensure water repellency, with seams glued to the hull. Additionally, the design features “tubeless” construction, meaning there are no separate inner chambers than can cause water to become trapped between the layers.
There are three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor). Next to the floor valve is a pressure release valve. The initial Swings were designed with a light gray hull. The US-distributed Swings have a black hull, which can absorb heat in hot sun, causing the chamber to expand. The pressure release valves are designed to release air pressure at about 3 PSI, ensuring that the floors do not become over-inflated.
Two low-profile, molded rubber handles are located in the bow and stern, but you can also carry it by hooking over your shoulder.
Two bungee decking systems – with 4 d-rings each – are located on the bow and stern, allowing one to attach deck bags and gear. The front deck lacing measures 19 inches tapering to 12 inches, by 10 inches and is located approximately 28 inches from the front paddler. The rear deck lacing measures 18 inches tapering to 10.5 inches, by 10.5 inches and is located about 11 inches behind the paddler when seated.
A 24 inch front zipper allows one to access the foot brace and any gear that one might want to store in the snout.
Three aluminum bars/deck lifts sculpt the kayak body, supporting the coaming area and allowing water to run off. The bars also provide added rigidity to the hull, raise the seating well to about 10 inches in depth, fix the side-to-side dimensions and provide longitudinal stability, making the kayak stiffer.
The two foam backrest seats are permanently attached to the floor with elastic lacing. Two seat side straps and one rear seat strap keep the seats fixed into position. Seat dimensions are 20″ wide by 12.5 inches tall for the seat back, and 14 inches deep by 15-13 inch wide for the seat base; the seats are about 3/4 of an inch thick.
The two cockpit openings have a 2 inch coaming lip, preventing much water from dripping into the seating wells. The lips have 5 velcro strips that allow one to attach an optional Innova spray skirt. Each seating well is 31 by 18 inches, with a perimeter of 81 inches, and the two seating wells have 10.5 inches of fabric separating them on top.
For the front paddler, there is approximately 47 inches from the front of the first seating well to the snout, and roughly 63 inches from the seat back to the bow. The foam foot brace can be positioned about 39 to 47 inches from the seat back. The rear paddler has approximately 42 inches from the rear seat back, to the front seat back, for legroom, and there is 37 inches from the back of the rear seat to the kayak stern, on top.
Behind the rear seat is an area under the deck, which can be used for storage – this is accessed by putting down the seat back, or via a 25 inch zipper. Interior dimensions are roughly 31 inches from the seat back, 18 inches wide tapering to a point. There is about 3 inches leeway in positioning the seats in the cockpit.
The hull has a removable tracking fin measuring 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, with sculpted i-beams.
We took overall measurements. The kayak is 13 feet 2 inches long, with an exterior width of 34 inches and interior width of 17 to 18 inches. The side tubes are approximately 8 inches in diameter, while the deck lifts give approximately 8-9 inches in interior depth. Payload is 397 lbs for 2 persons and gear.
On the Water
We tested out the Innova Swing II over a couple of days.
First, we took it out as a tandem for a short jaunt on calm water. My 6’2 husband took the rear seat, while I sat in front. As a taller person, he had a little trouble easing himself into the seating well, and hit his back on the metal bar. While paddling, his feet were tucked around the front seat – but no complaints. At 5’4″, I had no issues getting into the seating well, but my feet barely reached the foot brace. Paddling tandem on the water, the kayak paddles well, rides the waves, and tracks smoothly. As the deck lifts raise the hood slightly higher, foot crunching is less of an issue that with other inflatables.
I next took it out solo, paddling from the rear position. The seating well is positioned back fairly far, so the bow lifts slightly out of the water. While paddle-able, it seemed a weighted front would make a difference. To check out this theory, l once again cajoled my paddling buddy, Eddie, to come out for a spin. Bingo! His added weight of 40 lbs was perfect to balance out the kayak, and the fabric also appears to be rugged enough for dog claws – bring a towel to be on the safe side.
So, bring a kid, bring a canine companion, or pack a bunch of gear in the front seat and you’re “good-to-go”- 20 to 25 lbs should be enough. As a side note, I had plenty of room for my height, so it might make sense for the taller paddler to sit in front when using the kayak as a tandem.
The only issue of note is that the kayak seats are a thin foam, and have a low back against the aluminum bar – this can become uncomfortable over time. Tim at Innova recommended loosening up the back seat strap, and tightening up the side straps, in effect moving the seat forward from the bar. This appears to work well.
The rear storage well can fit a certain amount of gear, though it is a little difficult to access – one needs to either unstrap the kayak seat back, or unzip the rear zipper. When the kayak is inflated, it is a little tough to get the zipper fully closed.
On the beach, much of the water ran off. While under the waterline it took a little air-drying, it was much less time than many of the PVC-chambered inflatables with fabric covers. Despite battling through patches of algae, it wiped pretty clean.
The Innova Swing II is a great choice for travel where a tandem option is desired. It’s rugged yet lightweight – at 28 lbs it weighs at least 10 lbs less than most other 2-person inflatables, and can be easily backpacked into remote areas, or stored in the trunk of a car. For air travel, the kayak easily packs down to “overhead luggage” size, though one might want to pack the aluminum bars into standard luggage as their size and shape might be construed as a potential weapon.
The kayak is roomy enough for two – particularly when the smaller paddler is in back and the larger in front. The interior seating well has more headroom than other inflatables, and the enclosed deck provides protection from the wind, water and elements not found in open style cockpits or sit-on-tops. Optional spray skirts are available for both the Swing I and II, allowing a wider range of paddling choices in inclement weather.
Multiple storage options – interior front snout, behind the rear seat and two decktop bungee lacing systems – make this a great choice for camping trips and explorations. And with added weight in the front, this can also be comfortably paddled solo, providing even more options for stashing gear, long-term excursions or an enjoyable trip with small friend.
Rated through Class II waters, the kayak is perfect for light whitewater, slow moving rivers, lakes, bays, inlets and coastal ocean.
Those paddlers that want a tandem kayak that is 1) lightweight, 2) portable 3) quick to setup and breakdown, with 4) a more enclosed design will find the Swing II quite appealing. Environmentally-conscious eco-travelers will find the PVC and China-free construction equally as attractive