your paddlesports destination

Profile

Name: ljleejohns

Most Recent Reviews

For almost effortless touring, the new Accent "Air" deserves consideration as a top choice for professional paddlers, new paddlers, young paddlers, old: for everyone who wants a light, sophisticated carbon fibre paddle that, at 24 ounces (680 grams), lays claim to being the lightest low-angle paddle in existence (although a rival company claims something similar but charges twice the price: $400 vs. $199 for the two-piece straight shaft). In addition to its other virtues, the new "Air" has a wonderful Kingpin feathering system that is durable and so easy to use that I have seen a nine-year-old work its fifteen-degree incremental settings and feathering angles in a demonstration of simplicity itself. The Kingpin system is so remarkable that it should encourage anyone to try feathering a paddle against the wind, even in the harshest conditions when quick and easy changes can be all-important.

The strong all-polymer blade (which I prefer, for strength, to foam core blades) has a complex double dihedral asymmetrical design, but its area is smaller than larger high-angle blades. The "Air" supports a quicker "beat" and thus feels very much like a Greenland paddle but with greater thrust. Against a 25-knot steady wind and whitecaps, I compared the new "Air" against my favourite high-angle 34-ounce carbon fibre paddle (964 grams) that I habitually use out at sea. After nearly an hour of battling the elements, I was grateful for the lightness and efficiency of the "Air," which saved me over a hundred pounds of effort.

As a touring paddle, the Accent "Air" sets a new standard for its almost unnoticeable swing weight, smooth action in the water, and instant feathering options, thanks to its Kingpin system. In addition to its other state-of-the-art features, its attractive list price justifies a "10" rating.

Of the hundreds of good paddles out there, this new full-carbon four-piece touring paddle from advanced elements stands out. It weighs only 30 oz., and its carbon-fiber shaft also sports a carbon-fiber blade.

It is tough. I have beaten this paddle up severely over the past year and a half, and it still shows no signs of wear, whereas my carbon-shaft paddles with nylon blades have all frayed and worn on the edges where they are jammed into sand and rock.

In sum, this new full-carbon paddle is light, strong, portable, and really tough - and a great value, in a class with the most expensive brands more than two to three times its price. The only possible cavil is that the buttons for feathering and putting the paddle together may seem a bit small - no doubt to keep weight down, though.

The original 13' AirFusion won a design award after its introduction in early 2010. In the spring of 2013, it was succeeded by the equally high-performing but more stable and comfortable AirFusion Elite. They look alike; so, what else is still the same? Most importantly, their ease of paddling: they are "energy-efficient" kayaks that glide across the water at a sustained cruising speed (circa 4 mph) with less effort than my big sea kayak and dozens of other hard-shells and inflatables I have used in recent years.

The differences? The new Elite has a categorically greater primary or initial stability. At the same weight (32 lbs.), the wider Elite has larger high-pressure side chambers, rides a bit higher in the water without greater displacement, and easily shows an equivalent hull speed. It has more "volume" and room and now includes a hatch behind the cockpit. It is easier to assemble because the four side poles have been eliminated: for me, ten minutes, which is an excellent assembly time for a combination folding/inflatable watercraft.

It is, in sum, a lightweight, high-performance, portable kayak at an attractive price. With its dedicated skeg, a spray skirt, and a sail, it is a go-anywhere formula for fun.

The original AirFusion was more of a specialty kayak perhaps best appreciated by more advanced paddlers. The new Elite is an "all-rounder" for everyone, thanks to its stability, comfort, and versatility. The original AirFusion's award objectively underlines its top rating of "10." In my experience of both kayaks, the new Elite surpasses its progenitor and deserves to retain this top rating.

The original 13' AirFusion won a design award after its introduction in early 2010. In the spring of 2013, it was succeeded by the equally high-performing but more stable and comfortable AirFusion Elite. They look alike; so, what else is still the same? Most importantly, their ease of paddling: they are "energy-efficient" kayaks that glide across the water at a sustained cruising speed (circa 4 mph) with less effort than my big sea kayak and dozens of other hard-shells and inflatables I have used in recent years.

The differences? The new Elite has a categorically greater primary or initial stability. At the same weight (32 lbs.), the wider Elite has larger high-pressure side chambers, rides a bit higher in the water without greater displacement, and easily shows an equivalent hull speed. It has more "volume" and room and now includes a hatch behind the cockpit. It is easier to assemble because the four side poles have been eliminated: for me, ten minutes, which is an excellent assembly time for a combination folding/inflatable watercraft.

It is, in sum, a lightweight, high-performance, portable kayak at an attractive price. With its dedicated skeg, a spray skirt, and a sail, it is a go-anywhere formula for fun.

The original AirFusion was more of a specialty kayak perhaps best appreciated by more advanced paddlers. The new Elite is an "all-rounder" for everyone, thanks to its stability, comfort, and versatility. The original AirFusion's award objectively underlines its top rating of "10." In my experience of both kayaks, the new Elite surpasses its progenitor and deserves to retain this top rating.

Last summer, I said I would use my Cannon Wave paddles (two piece and four piece) in the winter and try to break or shatter their carbon/fibre shafts by putting them through their paces in sub-freezing temperatures. Well, I failed!

On several occasions, when temps were in the low 20s F. (circa -5 C.), I was out for hours at a time in Advanced Elements inflatables (whose air chambers help insulate the paddler against the cold), accelerating quickly, turning sharply, and generally stressing the paddles as best I could. Not only did they endure all this, but they were actually warm to hold with bare hands. What a change from composite shafts that splintered in the cold.

I reported these happy results to a paddle expert at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) who said the Cannon Wave carbon/fibre shaft paddle has become a best seller and a favourite in the local kayaking community. Its powerful blade and strong shaft join with its great swing weight and outstanding value (in the low hundreds, Canadian) to put it at the forefront.

Well, this fussy reviewer is now convinced: for the four piece, a rating of 9; for the two piece a rating of 10. Add in its value, this paddle rates a well-deserved and overall 10. Catch the "Wave," say I.

Rarely is the word "unique" justified, but there is nothing else out there quite like this new kayak. My observations thus concern this kayak on its own terms more than in comparison with other kinds of watercraft because, simply, it is one of a kind. Of course, if you have a medium to long-length hard-shell and have grown tired of struggling to load and transport it, risking more damage to yourself or to your kayak, the high performance and the 32 lbs of the AirFusion, which is light enough to be carried into otherwise inaccessible areas, may be of interest to you. If you own a folding kayak and are frustrated by spending the better part of an hour or more assembling it, the 10 to 15 minutes of set-up time for the AirFusion may be of interest to you. Finally, if you have never owned a kayak before, the AirFusion may lead you to a lifelong addiction to the sport of kayaking, especially in view of its low price (under $800 USD) in relation to a level of performance usually found only in craft costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more.
  1. Construction/Set-Up Time:
    The AirFusion is 13' long, has a 25" beam, weighs 32 lbs., and can accommodate a paddler up to 235 lbs. (at 220 lbs., I am, alas, approaching that limit). Its unusual and effective construction involves a few anodized, hollow aluminum poles working in conjunction with small-diameter, high-pressure top and bottom inflation chambers along the sides and with two inflatable thwarts near the bow (footrest) and stern whose main function is to give a final shape to the kayak. The bow and stern of the AirFusion have the signature rigid aluminum forms Advanced Elements uses in its Advanced Frame line. The most important anodized snap-together pole runs from the bottom of the aluminum forms along the entire length of the kayak, serving as an equivalent to the BackBone in the Advanced Frame line. When paddling, one can see the V-shape it makes in the hull. The end result, though, is a completely different kind of hybrid. The hull and decking are sturdy PVC tarpaulin, and they are tough enough to take a lot of action – and drying time is minimal. The instructions are lucid, and the illustrations are clear. It took me 25 minutes to set this kayak up the first time (after I had read through the manual twice) but only 15 minutes the second time. As I approach 10 minutes, I think 15 minutes is probably closer to an average time. Finally, I like its weight and portability. I can see myself, in the coming months, carrying it along wilderness paths to otherwise inaccessible mountain lakes in my home province of B.C. and in the American West.
    Rating: 10.
  2. Fun-Factor/Image:
    The AirFusion is an attention-getter, a real head-turner, and, with its instant response to whatever the paddler wants, the equivalent of a sports car on the water. Paradoxically, however, it obeys my "Invisibility Rule: The Best Kayaks Disappear and Are Invisible to the Paddler." That is to say, they do nothing to call attention to themselves by presenting problems with their tracking, turning, stability, and ease of paddling. They do not, in short, distract. The AirFusion melts into the water as it gives an experience of serious fun.
    Rating: 10.
  3. Tracking/Hull Speed:
    The AirFusion is light on its metaphorical feet – fast, nimble, accelerates quickly – and most people should, without much paddling effort, be able to maintain a cruising speed in the 4.5 – 5.5 m.p.h. range. With a large, stiff, powerful paddle that moves a lot of water, rather ridiculous top speeds are possible (6 -7 m.p.h. range). Unlike Advanced Frame kayaks, it has no skeg – only landing skids under the bow and stern. The stern back-plate has a hole running through it to accommodate a rudder, which some paddlers may be glad to have; but I personally sense no need of such a device for the AirFusion, which tracks very well without one. A rudder adds "drag" to any kayak, and, by calling attention to its operation, becomes a needless distraction. On the other hand, it is possible to put a sail on the AirFusion; and, in that case, a rudder could prove indispensable. Besides tracking well, the AirFusion glides well; and any "drift" one encounters at the end of a glide is easily addressed, almost unconsciously, by one's paddling technique. The front 15% of the hull (approx.) rides just above the water, like a rocker. This helps break incoming waves but also leaves the craft a bit more vulnerable to weathercocking in transverse winds (the tendency to turn in the direction of the wind), although I have not found that to be objectionable in this kayak. Again, adjusting one's paddling technique is all that is required.
    Rating: 9.
  4. Stability/Carrying Capacity:
    Kayaks are often unstable when at rest in the water during, say, bird-watching, photography, fishing – and especially when one enters and leaves them. The AirFusion is surprisingly stable in such conditions – one does not need to look at the horizon to keep one's balance – and those small, high-pressure side inflation tubes seem to be the key to this stability. The slight tippiness some paddlers may encounter does not, in other words, compromise this craft's basic stability. For fishing, however, one needs carrying space for one’s gear; and the AirFusion's fore and aft zippers reveal only small spaces behind the inflatable thwarts. The deck bungees are thus the main places for carrying gear, but it should be kept light (shoes, sandwiches, and so on) because heavy items on the deck will raise the center of gravity, establish a "moment of inertia," and create the potential for an undesired outcome. Of course, it makes no sense to ask a watercraft to do things it was not designed to do; but carrying space here is limited mainly to lightweight items – which is also why many of us own more than one kayak.
    Rating: 8.
  5. Value:
    We Canadians generally have short arms and low pockets and are loath to part with our money unless we can find an exceptional deal. At its price (under $800 USD) and given its performance, the AirFusion may prove irresistible. Over the next few years, I fully expect to see our coastal waters, inlets, lakes, and rivers sporting this new kayak.
    Rating: 10+.
The people at Advanced Elements challenge themselves with statements about "cutting-edge technology" and "the evolution of inflatable kayaks" – perhaps in an attempt to establish the company, in the world of inflatable and hybrid kayaks, as "the smartest kid in the class." With the introduction of the AirFusion, Advanced Elements is, in my view, making its boldest statement yet in support of those ideals. Conclusion: for its price and performance, the AirFusion is a stunning achievement.

This review applies to the Cannon "Wave" paddles, 230 cm, carbon/fibre shafts, two-piece and four-piece, tested by both myself (6'1" 225 lbs) and my son (6'3" 185 lbs) on our Advanced Elements Expeditions with BackBones. We routinely maintained a 5-6 mph pace, did rapid stops, carved power turns, and tried our best to break these paddles. I do winter kayaking in Canada and have shattered glass and composite shafts in sub-freezing temps - which has left me a bit frosty on the subject! My aluminum shaft paddles get pretty darned cold in such conditions, and the advice to wear heavier gloves is not all that helpful. So, here are the Cannon "Wave" paddles, which, I am assured, will survive cold conditions without shattering. We'll see. In the meantime, here is a preliminary report:

1) The "swing weight" of these paddles is close to perfection. Although these are not the lightest paddles out there (Accents, for example, are as much as ten ounces lighter), in use, these "Waves" feel so light and so want to dig into the water that they are like feathers - one could swing them all day without tiring, it would seem.

2) The two-piece is ever so slightly better than the four-piece for balance, smoothness, and its tiny bit lower weight. The four-piece is my choice for traveling, though - and the two-piece is for local waters.

3) Both of these paddles really "grip" the water and move it along better than other paddles I have tried. This yields more power. I have tried to flex the blades but cannot because they are so rigid and stiff, which helps their ability to move water.

4) Although the four-piece is not quite as close to perfection as the two-piece, I have not encountered another four-piece as easy to use as this one. Even many two-piece paddles I have used (with composite, glass shafts) feel "clunky" and awkward compared to this four-piece "Wave."

5) All large-bladed paddles I have used "wobble" a bit in the water when one barely grips their shafts. This is also true of the "Waves," and I do not know if this is an inherent problem with all paddles of this design.

6) Next spring, I will update this review, after seeing how the "Wave" paddles hold up in cold temps. In hockey, carbon shafts shatter impressively, compared to aluminum or wood - let's hope that does not happen with these paddles. If they survive my (largely unintended) abuse, I'll gladly rate them higher.

My son and I have been thoroughly enjoying our Advanced Elements Expeditions on many different waterways, in many different conditions, from still, flat water to 25-30 knot winds, waves, and large swells on the sea. In every case, our Expeditions have performed impressively and have inspired confidence in their design and capabilities: their tracking, gliding, stability, and comfort.

Our experience is exactly the opposite of the reviewer who gave this craft the lowest possible rating. Mind you, it took a few times to know how to set up the 13' EXP right; and our previous experience with the smaller 10'5" Advanced Frame undoubtedly was a help. We are great advocates of the BackBone accessory, which, with the aluminum forms, gives a rigid internal architecture to this kayak that will give it a hull speed and an ability to take on large waves that will equal a hard shell of similar beam and length.

Initial set-up is important, as it is, say, for folding kayaks, such as the Feathercrafts (their Kahuna performs in a generically similar way, incidentally). There are a few "tricks" one learns in aligning the BackBone and the floor until a perfect set-up takes no more than ten minutes, tops. Placing the BackBone over the bow's landing skid and the stern's skeg is not difficult, once one uses both hands, inside and outside the hull. Inflating the floor a bit to give it shape before installing it over the BackBone also ensures a symmetrical line-up. Of course - and of prime importance - the main chambers and floor must (I repeat "must") be inflated to a good and firm level - or the kayak simply will not work well at all (I can almost hear Mae West saying, "A hard kayak is good to find"). Sitting back as far as one can in the cockpit is also important. Note that the storage space in the stern would be compromised were the cockpit placed farther back: hence, the need to sit back and engage that skeg to good purpose.

All these little refinements add up to a great gain for a great kayak, but Advanced Elements kayaks, like all IKs and folding kayaks, require somewhat commensurate mental advancement to get the best out of their designs. There is a learning curve, which is steeper, the longer the IK. Thus, the 8'4" Lagoon (Dragonfly XC, Skedaddle) is almost fool-proof. Just pump it up, and it is ready to hit the water. The 10'5" requires more attention, especially if a BackBone is installed - but well worth the little bit of extra effort, given the improvement in performance.

The hull speed of the Expedition is greater than the AF 1, and, again, especially with a BackBone, this craft will glide in a straight line, will paddle at a tangent against steady whitecaps and winds without much weathercocking, and will show a remarkable seaworthiness in all waters. Many of my family and friends have paddled my Expedition; all are astonished by its performance, especially those who have owned hard shells. So, why is my son's and my experience of this kayak so categorically different from some and so similar to others? We are too busy using these wonderful IKs to worry about the answer.