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The quest for affordable lightweight kayaks and market trends

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The quest for affordable lightweight kayaks and market trends

There is a growing segment of the kayaking market composed of people seeking lightweight, durable, affordable kayaks that paddle well- the Goldilocks of the kayak world, if you will. For many people, it is out there in the form of ABS plastic kayaks.

For years your only option for a quality lightweight kayak was a composite boat. Composites are a combination of carbon, fiberglass, and Kevlar. The result is a high-performance, lightweight boat, but composites are somewhat fragile and very expensive.

On the other end of the spectrum are rotomolded polyethylene boats. These make up the majority of the market because of their affordable price tag, availability, and durability. But they are heavy. Rotomolded boats are produced by putting plastic pellets in a heated mold that rotates until the pellets melt together and form to the mold. It produces a nearly indestructible, thick plastic boat.

A rotomolded Old Town Loon lightweight kayak

Enter ABS plastic to the market. ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. It gained popularity in the automotive industry in the 1960s. Now it is widely used across a variety of industries, and it has been a game changer in the kayak market. Its strength-to-weight ratio is excellent and lends itself beautifully to the world of kayaking.

ABS plastic comes in sheet form. The sheets are pressed under heat and pressure onto a mold. This process provides opportunities to make the plastic thicker just in areas where extra stiffness is needed without adding overall bulk which leads to excess weight. Sheets come in different thicknesses and pressing the top and bottom in two separate pieces provides further control over how the materials are distributed. The two halves of the boat are then seamed together. Being able to control the finer points of fabrication means less material, but in the right places, can create a high-performance result. The plastic sheets are also thinner than rotomolded plastic, hence the weight savings. The resulting ABS boat is stiffer than its rotomolded counterpart and more durable and much more affordable than composite boats.


Lightweight Kayaks that paddle well…the holy grail!

Over the past several years there has been increased demand for lightweight boats that paddle well. Many factors contribute to his market shift- arguably the biggest is the aging kayaker population.  People who have been paddling rotomolded boats for years are finding it harder to get the boat on top of the car. They are searching for a kayak that paddles well, but it also needs to be light, durable, and reasonably priced. ABS plastic boats fit the bill. Many people in this category see the value in spending a little more on a boat to get something that will be easier to use. And since they tend to hold onto their boats for a long time, it is a worthy investment.

Hurricane Skimmer 140 Tandem affordable lightweight kayak
ABS boats are quite durable, and with normal paddling and handling, they will hold up well for many years. If damage should occur, repairs are generally pretty easy and can be done with plastic weld or fiberglass. Having a boat that doesn’t need to be babied is also appealing to those coming from years of paddling rotomolded boats that are nearly indestructible.

Another factor driving people to lighter-weight boats is the prevalence of taller vehicles. It is more difficult to hoist any boat onto an SUV than a little sedan. A heavy boat is even harder.  The increase in higher vehicles has led to the need for more accessible lightweight boat options.  Often people do not think about the ease of loading their kayaks when buying a new vehicle. But when it is time to actually load them, their weight seems amplified. ABS plastic boats are much easier to handle and load than rotomolded kayaks, especially when you are dealing with the weight up higher.

Eddyline Sitka XT - riding the lightweight kayak market trend

Those people wanting to be able to handle their boat alone are also a driving force behind the growing popularity of ABS kayaks. For those who paddle alone, or who meet up with friends or a paddling group, it can be very important to be able to handle the boat solo when there is no one around for a loading assist. ABS boats are a great option for them. Having to rely on someone to help load your boat every time can be adventure prohibitive. ABS plastic kayaks offer a degree of autonomy to these paddlers that they would not have with rotomolded boats. 

Riot Ultralight Intrigue 10

There are many options when searching for a new kayak. The popularity of ABS boats is likely to continue to increase with certain paddlers looking for a balance of features and price. It is the Goldilocks of the kayak world for many people providing a boat that paddles well and is lightweight, durable, and cost-effective. 


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Weekly Delivery in RI
Curbside Pickup Available
Free Shipping for Orders +$199*