At our local kayak club we have a thriving polo group with two youth teams that train on the same day and are competing each time to get the best boats available. We have a lot of old polyester felix boats, some of them are almost 20 years old. As you can imagine, it gets harder and harder to keep these afloat each year. So it’s time for new boats and this time without the hassle of fixing them each year, we want polyethyleen (PE) plastic boats.
After looking around there isn’t much choice in the polokayak market. At the Dutch market there are only 2 choices, the basic Exo model for 400 euro or the solid Eskimo Gecko for around 700 euro. We didn’t really like the Exo, so that leaves us with the Gecko to go to. Other options like the Revenge boats are hard to come by in the Netherlands, and as we want to try them out before buying they are not really an option.
At the start of February an interesting message appeared at Kanoshop. Fluid had introduced a new boat the Vuvubat, and this time it wasn’t a whitewater or sit-on-top but a polokayak. As we wanted to compare this Vuvubat to the Gecko, we waited till the testkayak would arrive. As Fluid is build in South Africa and they are shipped by container, it would take till the end of march before we could test one out.
Each year Kanoshop organizes a Summer Kick Off to launch the season. We decided that would be a good moment to test the new boat and check out the rest of the event. The world record longest kayak for example : > 90 meter. As the Eskimo Gecko was no longer supplied by Kanoshop, we lended one from Levitas, our student neighbor poloclub. We wanted to test them both to see how they differed and which one was better.
To make it interesting we had six testers to decide if we wanted the Fluid or the Eskimo. Kris and I to see how it compares to a DPP Dynamic, our boat for the last 5 years: “How good is it if you are spoiled with a carbon dynamic?” Noor and Sjoukje from the youth poloteam : “Is it a good boat for beginners and better than what we have?” and Peter Paul and Leo as adult beginners at polo: “Can we fit in the Fluid and can it handle till 95kg?”. As the new boats will be club boats, it would be really nice if every polo beginnner at our club could be accomodated by this new boat.
After studying the new model we found some negative points that according to information from Fluid and Rokxat (the european dealer for Fluid) will be fixed in the production version. I’ve included their comments to our comments below:
The bumpers are attached at the top, which leaves the bottom of the boat unprotected. Not so bad for the Vuvubat itself but will be killing for our old polyester material if one drives a Vuvubat over another kayak.
The edges of the cockpit were really rough. Getting yourself out of the boat in a hurry like beginners do when capsizing would seriously injure them. A bit of sandpaper or an extra rubber around it would help.
Comment from Fluid: Will make sure the edges of the cockpit rim gets clean properly.
The seat is attached with only one screw on each side, after testing the boat the seat could move around. This might become a problem in the long run in that the plastic might break.
Comment from Fluid: I’m working on a new way to attach the seat, but it will take a few weeks to change the mould. In the mean time, we will glue some foam under the seats to prevent the seats from moving.
The foot braces moved around while sitting in the kayak, this might be a pre-production problem, it was strange anyway.
Comment from Fluid: Do you mean the footbrace is flexible? I think we could fix that by using a different aluminium bar. Will be too late for this container, but will have it fixed before the next container.
If you look at the boat it seems strange with a sort of handle on the back. On further inspection this has been done to make sure the foam will not move around. Interesting solution. A really positive point vs the Eskimo is the availability in multiple colors, all the Fluid colors are available. The Eskimo only has grey with the possibility to attach a color sticker. Production wise that’s easier and less costly for Eskimo of course, but we like a full color boat better. The Eskimo has a more finished look and feel, only negative point seem the hard bumpers.
Looking at a boat is nice and all, but the performance on the water is what it’s all about. After changing into our kayak gear we were really surprised about how the Fluid was on the water. The negative sides were more than made up for while kayaking in the Fluid.
I heard the following quotes of our testteam :
If you want to turn around 180 degrees, it just wants to continue to 360 without effort, almost as easy as my Dynamic – Kris
Now i can finally add the stern-dip-turn to my lessons to the youth team – Kris
This one is a 1000 times better than what we paddle normally – Noor
This one sits super comfy, i don’t even have to test it – Brenda
Only Leo couldn’t join the fun, he didn’t fit in the Fluid. Kris and I (both around 85kg) had the boat already dip the front while going forward, I doubt the boat handles that well with the maximum of 95kg. Leo did fit into the Gecko, it has a wider cockpit and seat, but weight wise, the Gecko can’t handle much more than the Fluid. Hopefully Fluid will one day make a bigger version of the Vuvubat to accomodate the starting adult poloer. We would be interested in a set of them.
As the Fluid Vuvubat has less volume than the Gecko, I assumed it would be less stable. However the Fluid is a bit wider and more slalom like shaped than the Gecko. The Gecko is smaller and heigher. The Fluid is more stable, but also handles better because you don’t have to put the height through the water when stern-dip-turning. We didn’t test the rolling capacities as the water was a bit cold, but we assume both will roll equally well. As for our polyester DIY’ers, they will have time left over for other things, as the plastic seems solid enough to last many years.
I heard the first shipment of production boats will arive half may, we’ll hope to get a set of them for our club, so we can retire some of the oldest boats and the youth team can start learning their stern dip turns.
We were positively surprised by the performance on the water and I believe Fluid has created a very good competitor for the Eskimo Gecko, especially if the finishing touch has been applied. It sounds promising that Fluid wants the feedback, thinks about solutions and will try to fix them for next versions. Sounds like good service, let’s see what it looks like when the production version is here.
Our thanks to Kanoshop to test the Fluid and Levitas for their Gecko.
Other photos can be found on the KanoRijnland blog.