Innova Swing II – Good, But No SUV


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  • #3150
    Lee Arbach TBP

    3 Stars out of 5

    Post for stwagstaff
    02/16/2018 – 01:54:36 PM

    I am a serial inflatable kayak owner, going back 40 years. The Innova Swing II, purchased by the ever-reliable “,” is my latest purchase. My feelings about the boat are mixed. Overall, it’s not quite what I was hoping for,despite some strengths.

    By far, the best IK I’ve owned is the Aire Super Lynx tandem, a sit-on-top boat that’s made several trips to Maui and Baja California, as well as having paddled a number of fun days on the Class III Gorge in on the South Fork of the American. It has been used as a faithful diving and fishing platform, in consecutive years handily serving as a snorkeling mothership for two large adults and two young kids far out over the coral reefs of Maui and Kauai. The boat is fast, tracks well, and is stiff enough to surf safely into the beach in head-high Maui waves (white knuckled, but uneventful.) The catch to this all-around excellence is weight (and price): the $1,800 boat, all in, with cushy foam-padded seats, in the lightest ripstop rolling bag I can find, tips the scales at nearly 60 lbs. Add a patch kit, break-down paddles, and the requisite beefy pump, the total package weighs somewhere in the mid 60s. In practice, this means it gets packed in two separate bags. Even removing everything that’s not glued in, the hull alone is almost exactly 50 lbs in its bag – just a bit more when it’s damp – which busts the airline’s 50-lb weight limit. This not only dramatically increases the price of air travel, but the hassle of lugging two bulky bags is simply too great to be worth it for many trips.

    My hope, in purchasing the Innova Swing II, was to replicate most of the utility of the Super Lynx, but massively reduce the weight and bulk. In terms of weight alone, the Swing II succeeds. It’s almost 20 lbs lighter than the Aire. But this has its own price: the Swing is a non-self-bailer with a fabric deck with large cockpit openings. To support this floppy deck, the boat relies on a trio of welded arched trusses made of heavy-gage aluminum tubing and plate feet. These are awkward to install in the boat, and especially awkward to store in a bag. Practically speaking, it would be dangerous to pack these metal parts in a soft duffel along with the boat hull – the feet protrude with hard edged that would easily dig into and tear the boat if it were to get crushed by other luggage – which means you really need to pack this boat in a hard-sided suitcase. There goes the weight advantage.

    To keep my Swing II under the weight budget on my recent trip to Costa Rica, I had to pack the boat and trusses in one hard-sided bag, and the pair of 4-piece paddles, a foot pump and patch kit, and bailing pump, in another (that also contained the meager rest of my traveling gear.)

    Another problem with the supporting trusses comes in transportation of the assembled boat. While a soft decked boat can be safely tied to a roof using simple straps (so long as it’s clean), the trusses on the Swing form hard pressure points that I found (to my chagrin) easily dent and scratch the roof of a rental car. On the other hand, tie the boat on right side up and the cockpitted fabric deck of the boat acts like a wind sock – flapping violently and threatening to tear the boat apart at modest speeds. Even if you were to tie the inverted boat to normal roof rack cross bars, to avoid damaging the roof, you’ll risk the same wind-powered buffeting. In our trip to Costa Rica, the wind blew hard all week, and the soft cockpit deck proved a constant liability in windy conditions, both on and off the water. Finally, getting in and out of the soft-decked cockpitted boat is much harder than sitting down on an open-topped IK. In surf, the boat easily takes in even small waves, resulting in the need to paddle the non-self-bailer out to open water before pumping out the swamped hull with a hand pump.

    The Swing II is not nearly as rigid as my double-layer Super Lynx, which means it’s not as fast and not as nimble, but it does feel very wide and stable. It tracks fine with the included removable skeg, but it feels sluggish in rough water by comparison. I paddled the boat as a tandem, but also solo, which it handled pretty well, by sliding my butt forward until my stomach touched the rear cockpit rim. Unfortunately, the rear seat cannot be adjusted far enough forward to accommodate this amid-ship seating position, so I had to paddle solo without back support, which is soon exhausting. To its credit, the soft deck offers excellent sun and water protection, and the covered cockpit actually makes a great cubby for storing fishing tackle and other gear. It could be very valuable in cold water with the addition of a sprayskirt.

    The best experience I had with this kayak was paddling with my 70-something mother several miles up a mangrove river, where we were able to sneak up on a wide array of exotic birds. Most of the time, she had binoculars to her eyes and I provided the majority of horsepower from the back seat. Paddling was easy on the flat, windless water. My mother declared the boat “far more comfortable than that other one,” (the Aire) and she clearly liked it more than I did.

    I haven’t completely given up on the Swing II, but I realize it’s not really the boat for me. It’s pretty great on flat water as a tandem. But as an “SUV” for use as an adventure and fishing platform in rough, windy conditions and surf, or where cartop travel is integral to its mission, it simply doesn’t work as well as a good sit-on-top. The soft deck and rigid truss system, in particular, really limits the sport-utility use of this boat.

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