Earlier this year we had the opportunity to take our first look at Innova’s new Thaya inflatable kayak – a 2+ person, high-pressure, inflatable kayak for recreational paddling.
The Innova line is unique for a number of reasons. First, the kayaks are handmade in the Czech Republic – the factory has manufactured inflatable boats for well over 50 years. Secondly, the manufacturing process produces kayaks that can become quite compact, making them a great choice for travel. And third, the kayaks are environmentally-friendly as they are mostly PVC-free.
The Thaya is the newest introduction to the US market, already garnering a gold model at the 2019 European Paddlesport sProduct of the Year Awards, based on stability, paddling performance and its environmentally-friendly footprint.
While it is not yet available in the states (due in May 2019) we received an early production line piece for review. So here is our write-up on the the Innova Thaya inflatable tandem kayak, which weighs 39 lbs, is 13 feet 5 inches in length and has a payload of 595 lbs for two persons and gear. (Please note: some of the information will be duplicated from other Innova reviews).
Getting Started with the Innova Thaya
The box as received measures 28 x 19 x 13 inches, weighing in at 44 lbs.
Inside is a very nifty and compact 80-liter backpack with adjustable shoulder straps, front pouch pocket and roll top closure. This contains the kayak body, tracking fin, 2 foot rests, repair kit, instructions, valve adaptor, cinch belt, 2 seats and sponge. Packed dimensions are 25 x 16 x 10 inches as received in the bag, with a weight of 40.75 lbs for the pack and contents.
We read through the included instruction manuals. Just like all the Innova products, the Innova Thaya manual is surprisingly detailed in some aspects, while lacking in others. As the kayaks are made in Europe, many of the details are based around European specs and regulations and can sound more complicated than it actually is.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak body. What is immediately noticeable is how FLAT the kayak is when deflated – of course, this makes it quite compact for travel.
Install the tracking fin into the “shoe” before inflating the kayak. 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 side. The first time we tried this, we struggled to get the second slot into position but this gets easier with use.
Next, decide which paddling mode you will be doing – solo, tandem or tandem with small being or gear. The instructions suggest attaching and inflating the foot braces and seats first, but these come already attached from the factory. There are four sets of upper d-rings, and five sets of floor tabs – you will use both of these to attach the seats and braces. We opted for a tandem set up for our first round.
The seats and braces are easier to inflate before attaching to the kayak. There are two valves on each seat, and one on each brace. All utilize a twistlock valve, which performs as it sounds – twist the end to open or close the valve. The Boston valve adaptor will not friction fit over the twistlock so you will have to do one of three things – have another paddler hold the valve over the twistlock; carefully negotiate holding the adaptor and twistlock together with one hand while pumping with the other; or give up and blow it up with your mouth. It took about 1 to 2 puffs to get each foot brace filled out. Then pump up the inflatable seats 1 to 1.5 PSI (the pressure is not mentioned in the instruction manual). Since this also utilizes a twistlock, once again you need to balance – this took about 5 pumps/puffs. AirKayaks note: Here is a nifty little home-made adaptor that works with these twistlocks.
Next, attach the seat side straps to the side d-rings. Loop the strap (located on the rear of the seat back) up through the d-ring and then back, looping it through the seat buckle. Use the 1st and 3rd set of d-rings for tandem paddling, the 1st, 2nd and 4th for three, and the 2nd for solo paddling. AirKayaks note: It is much simpler to purchase some small carabiners and attach them to the end of the strap loops. Then you can simply clip these into the d-rings without all the “reweaving.”
Attach the seat back straps to the second and fourth floor tabs.
At this point we want to point out that the foot braces came attached in the wrong locations. You will note one brace is a rounded semi-circle, and the other a large rectangle. The rounded brace is used by the front paddler. Attach that to the first floor tab, and the rear brace to the 4th floor tab. Don’t worry too much about the positions, as these will get adjusted when you start paddling.
Now you’re ready to inflate the kayak.
The Innova Thaya 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 adaptor in the repair cannister. The kayak does not come with a pump, but the adaptor friction fits onto the Boston valve conical adaptor found on most pumps. (AirKayaks: Before doing ANYTHING, attach the adaptor to your pump with the string.)
The Innova instructions suggest pumping up the side chambers first, and the floor last.
Following this format, lock the Innova adaptor 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. We did have a hard time preventing the Boston nozzle on our pump from popping off the adaptor – possibly some slight sandpaper might rough up the surface for a better friction fit. Worst case, one could glue the adaptor to the Boston valve nozzle.
It took us about 40 strokes with a double action pump to reach the recommended 3 PSI. Move on to the other side. Pump up the second side partially, then make sure the seats and braces are centered, pushed into position. Continue pumping again 39-40 strokes to reach 3 PSI.
Pump up the floor chamber – this took approximately 60 pumps with a double action hand pump to reach the recommended 7 PSI. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plunger from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.
Done – less than 10 minutes, surprisingly simple and very quick.
Deflating the Innova Thaya
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn all the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin (if installed) – the seats and braces can be left in place. The air can be quickly pushed out by either rolling up the kayak towards the valves, or pumping out the final air by using the deflate mode on your pump – once done, turn the valves to the inflate position so air doesn’t creep back in, and replace the wing-nut caps.
Then fold the kayak side chambers in on top of each other (you don’t want it to be wider than the height of the backpack.) Starting at the rear, fold over the snout up to the fin boot, then fold again. Starting at the other end, fold back about a foot, then again and again. Fold the two sides together and use the cinch belt to hold it shut. This should then slip back into the bag.
Innova Thaya: Materials and Construction
The Innova Thaya is constructed from a 1200 denier rubber-coated laminate material called Nitrylon – this consists of a synthetic rubber coating over polyester on the inside and outside of the tube.
Nitrylon is the same material used in high-end Zodiac-type yacht tenders, and is stronger, more abrasion and puncture-resistant than PVC as well as being greener – there is minimal out-gassing.
About Drop Stitch Floor Technology
The Thaya is different from Innova’s other kayaks, as the Nitrilon material is used for drop stitch construction.
The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC floor.
In a standard PVC floor (as shown above, PVC on left, dropstitch floor on right), long “I-Beams” run the length of the floor, connecting the floor ceiling to bottom. This allows the floor to maintain a fairly uniform thickness, but if one of the I-Beams pops (due to over-inflation) the floor will become more like a blob.
With drop stitch construction, thousands of tiny threads connect both the top and bottom layers, creating a stronger link that can withstand much higher pressures.
Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance – the photo above shows another drop stitch floor sitting on top of a PVC floor. This is the technology used in inflatable SUP paddle boards.
The image above is from an Airis Inflatable Sport Kayak showing the interior drop stitching.
Innova Thaya Features
There are nine inflation chambers – three inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor) and 6 Twistlocks (two each on the seats and one on the foot brace.)
There are two molded rubber handles located on the splash decks (front and rear). The 16-inch front splash deck has side rope “grab handles” extending 19 inches.
The rear splash deck runs 26 inches with 28 inches of rope rigging as well as a 7.5 inch deep by 8.5 – 12 inch bungee deck lacing for attaching gear.
A “drain hole” is located behind the rear handle.
Four sets (8 total) of d-rings are positioned on the side tubes at 55, 86, 103 and 115 inches from the nose. These are used as seat attachments but can also be used for strapping in gear.
Five sets of floor attachments are located at 26, 65, 93, 110 and 120 inches from the snout. All floor attachments include a web clip and d-ring except for the second one, which features 2 web clips. These are used as seat-back tie downs, brace attachments and also for attaching optional gear.
A numbered boot system is located 55 to 65 inches from the snout. This features slots three inches apart: these are referenced in the instructions, and used to attach the foot brace based on paddler height, when paddling solo.
The front foot brace is semi-circular, measuring roughly 9 inches deep by 16 inches wide and 2 inches inflated. The brace position has a leeway of about 8 inches forward and back, due to a 16 inch strap.
A rear foot brace is more rectangular, measuring 20 inches wide by 8 inches deep and up to 2 inches thick. It has about 16 inches of strapping.
The inflatable seats have two twistlock valves each (back and seat), a bottom strap and two side straps. The seat base measures 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep and two inches inflated.
The back is about 18 inches wide by 17 inches tall (also 2-inches inflated). There are two more d-rings on the seat back for attaching gear.
A bungee containment system is located under the rear splash deck – this features two clips on the underside of the deck, with elastic rigging to contain gear.
The hull features integrated drop stitch material, rather than a removable floor chamber. The tracking fin measures 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide.
The 80-liter backpack features a roll top closure and a deep front pocket, two padded shoulder straps, grab handle and two d-rings. Measurements are 41 x 10 x 17 inches unrolled, with front pocket dimensions of 14 x 8 x 4 inches.
We measured the Thaya. Outer dimensions were 163 inches from “eyelet to eyelet” with an exterior width of 34 inches at midpoint. The interior length was 160 inches with a 17 inch width, again at midpoint. The tubes are roughly 8-9 inches wide and create a well 8 inches deep. Weight capacity is 507 lbs for two persons with small companion or gear.
We measured the tandem paddling set-up as outlined above. With the front seat-back sitting over the #2 on the floor and the side straps attached to the 1st set of tube d-rings, there is 32 to 41 inches from seat back to brace (the brace may need to be deflated to move it forward). With the rear seat-back positioned 2 to 3 inches before the fourth set of d-rings, there is 43 inches behind the seat (22 inches open) and 46 inches seat-back to seat-back. The rear brace can be positioned to allow 26 to 41 inches of rear leg room.
We then set up the Thaya for three paddlers using a different seat for the third (we did not have another Innova seat). By moving the front seat all the way forward and moving the rear seat all the way back, we were able to position the middle seat using this configuration – the 1st, 2nd and 4th tube d-rings and 2nd, 3rd and 5th floor buckles. This gave measurements of 52 inches from front seat back to inner snout, and 32 inches to the brace. The center seat had 30 inches to the front seat back, and 32 inches from the second seat back to rear seat back. There was roughly 29 inches behind the rear seat to the inner tail. As this is fairly tight paddling, you may opt to not use the center seat (the foot brace could work as a saddle seat).
Last set up was for solo paddling. We attached the seat base to the 2nd set of d-rings. In this location, there was 82 inches from seat back to nose and 61 inches from seat back to inner tail – the seat can be moved up or back a couple inches. There are four slot positions for the foot brace on the floor, each one set up for various paddler heights; for my height of 5’4″ it was slot #2. Measurements were as follows from seat back to brace: All the way out – 42 inches, Slot 4 – 38 inches, Slot 3 – 35 inches, Slot 2 – 32 inches, Slot 1 – 29 inches. Please note that you don’t need all the slots, but it does keep the webbing in position.
Innova Thaya On the Water.
We tested out the Innova Thaya over a few days.
I first took it out solo on a slightly choppy day. As the handles are located on the bow and stern sides, it is a little awkward to carry solo, though it is possible to hook it over your shoulder. With two people carrying, it’s great.
First of all, this is incredibly roomy for my 5’4″ – perfect for carrying lots of gear, and the weight is not overwhelming. I was impressed with how well it handled, and how easily it rode over the water. The kayak is pretty zippy and – for a kayak this long – it turns very easily. While I calculated the foot brace Slot 2 as appropriate for my height (based on the instruction manual) I actually felt more comfortable on Slot 3.
I then went out tandem with my husband on a calm morning. The Thaya paddles well as a tandem. It didn’t feel quite as fast as paddling solo. but that may be due to the fact I positioned Chuck’s seat back as far as it could go, to judge how much extra room there was for a third small passenger. With the extra weight, the Thaya is slightly less maneuverable – but still pretty good. My husband – at 6’2″ – was very impressed with how comfortable and roomy the kayak felt, and he did not feel any knuckle rub; there was enough clearance. He also felt one could easily bring along a child or dog without being cramped – in fact, the inflatable foot brace could be a great child’s seat.
My 6’2″ husband then took it out solo. He felt it handled extremely well, tracked well and was speedy. He also particularly liked how easy it was to get in and out, due to the rigid floor, as well as how light and easily carried the Thaya was.
I then took the kayak out solo again in calm weather. Once again, I was immediately impressed with how well it handled solo, and how speedy and maneuverable it was. The dropstitch floor feels quite solid; in fact, I was able to stand up, though wouldn’t make a practice of it.
In high waves, with the lower side walls some water will splash in.
Packing up took just a few minutes. The “smooth skin” of the Nitrylon material allows one to just wipe down the kayak to dry it off, and then fold up into the pack. I did notice slight scuffing – Innova says the McNett UVTech is very helpful as a coating to keep the kayak lustrous and prevent scuffs.
Bottom Line on the Innova Thaya Inflatable Kayak:
The Innova Thaya is a wonderful, recreational kayak suitable for those wanting portability, simplicity, easy entry and lots of storage options. On calm waters – such as lakes, inlets and slower-moving rivers – the kayak paddles smoothly and tracks well as both a single and a tandem. On rougher waters, be prepared to dress appropriately, as waves can splash over the side walls.
Both my husband and I found it to paddle well as a solo yet the Thaya is roomy and comfortable enough for two adults with an afternoon of gear. This would also be a great choice for an adult and child or dog, or those needing enough storage space to haul camping equipment.
While it’s possible to add an optional third seat, three paddlers would be cramped unless they were fairly small.
The material is rugged enough that I would not hesitate to bring along a canine buddy – and there’s certainly room. The photo above shows me paddling with my buddy Eddie in the Innova Sunny, constructed from the same material.
Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes. Take down is equally simple, just wipe down and fold/roll up – the Nitrilon material is rugged and easy to clean, yet still packs up extremely flat and compact.
Environmentally-conscious paddlers will find the minimal-PVC and China-free construction appealing.
The included backpack is compact and rugged, perfect for a trek into remote areas or riding mass-transit. It can also be stashed in the trunk of a small car, and is small enough to easily take on your next plane flight – it’s a great choice for travel.
MSRP on the Innova Thaya inflatable kayak is $1199, with availability scheduled for early May. For more information, or to purchase, visit the Innova Thaya product page at AirKayaks.com. You can also contact us to get on the Notification List.
Below is a video on the Thaya Dropstitch technology and construction.