The first week he lived in Northern Virginia, Jim Reynolds asked his new neighbors why both of their kayaks stayed on racks.
“I hit fifty a couple years back and gained a pound or two,” said one. “Too hard to board.”
“Me too,” the other chimed in. “My hips and knees gave me more grief getting out of the boat than being on the water was worth.”
Reynolds, who had sold sporting goods during his early career, found himself unable to let that conversation go. He looked, but “didn’t find much on the Internet addressing the problem,” he said.
Already thinking about a start-up business, Reynolds began working on a kayak design for speed, maneuverability, leg and body room, wet and dry stowage and absolute stability for exit and entry. Comfortable seats and a paddle position less demanding than the customary high arm posture were musts. “I knew cats and trimarans were the fastest designs for their capacities and I knew the v-hull was faster and tracked better than any other,” Reynolds said. “What I wanted included the option to stand up once in a while to stretch my legs, and the ability to move my body into different positions when I needed to do that. I wanted outriggers different from any I’d seen.”
Laut Design in Raleigh, N.C. drew up Reynolds’ ideas for the Tri-Kayak, a folding outrigger with easily removable ‘pontoons’ running parallel with the v-hull, and comfortably deployable by the seated paddler. Stainless steel tubes just behind the seat are movable to 45-degree or to 90-degree angles putting the stabilizers closer in or further away from the kayak, to accommodate varying situations. “The outriggers,” said Reynolds, “never more than barely touch the water or interfere with speed unless the boat is rocking. And they never get in the way of the paddle.”
“It was fun taking the prototype to boat shows during 2014,” Reynolds said. “Every time we have it out, people are curious. They stand in line to try the boat. One old farmer waited for a turn even though he was really nervous. He got in, dipped the paddle one careful stroke, and was off. He came back with a huge grin, and a real sense of accomplishment. Those are good days,” Reynolds said, sporting a grin of his own.
“What we wanted was to build a kayak to do whatever you want it to do,” he said. “Some boats have a particular purpose: fishing, swimming, snorkeling, exploring, racing, whatever. TriKayak can serve anyone’s purposes. With the outriggers all the way out and a foot-strap on the eye-hook, anyone can climb back into the boat right from underwater. With them at mid-point, you can stretch your legs, move to get things out of the dry-storage or a cold drink from the ice compartment.” He went on to admit, “I can’t say everyone could stand up with total safety, although it does have a floor board, but you never feel tippy sitting down and moving around.”
So I, being well over fifty, got into the waiting Tri-Kayak with no difficulty at all and collected my first impressions.
The seat is high, relative to other kayak seats, so even winter cold water creates no numb tush. Expanded visibility and variety of possible leg positions make a whole ‘nother comfort level, especially for long legged people. Knowing paddlers whose back issues keep them from the water, I’d like them to try this arrangement. And my hands grip the paddle in a very comfortable position, elbows bent at 80 to 90 degrees below, directly in line with my shoulders. The blades dip effectively with a gentle reach, and easily remain cleanly above the gunnels so those upper thumb knuckles never hit the boat. Lovely!
On the wider river, I began to rock the boat – just to see what it felt like. It rocked, but not far. With my hands on gunnels and feet braced, I set up a rhythm. The outriggers just mellowed out the energy; so I stood up.
Standing would have felt safer had I fully extended the pontoons, but jumping out was not an option in January, so I settled for wishing I were in south Florida doing this test, and headed in.
Paddling back toward shore, I was amazed to realize how efficiently and swiftly the hull was moving through the water with very little push from me. The glide was straight and went on for an unexpected number of feet after one pull. I was glad to have noticed this, as my planned sidewise landing would have turned into a very abrupt collision of bow and bank at this speed. Letting the paddle rest, I following instructions, allowing the bow to enter the sand gently, and the helpers to pull her in. Disembarking with dry feet and my own large grin, I concluded the TriKayak XS-1 perfect for my generation, my adult children and my grandchildren too.
See Specs, dealers, online sales, pricing, accessories at TriKayak.com