When it comes to super-practical and seaworthy kayaks, the South Africans have got it.In fact they have always had it, as I found out when I took a super light custom waveski out for a surf at Jeffries bay a long, long time ago (way before any of One Direction were born). Boy did it shift along the waves, that is until I nose-dived it and snapped it in two. Oops. And then I got a load of seas urchin spikes in my foot which got infected. So I had to buy it and have had a lot of fun on it since.
So I have always kept an eye on fishing kayak developments in South Africa, while paddling about here in our very wide,but ultra stable and fun, plastic yaks. The SA glass fibre kayaks were of a different league, more like a modified sea kayak and capable of taking on a bayful of legendary Cape rollers that have had the entire Southern Ocean to build up a bit of kayak-snapping power.
My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when I spotted a Paddleyak Swift hybrid kayak, top of my wishlist, for sale on e-bay, only 25 miles from home! I bought it for a snip (maybe the word ‘hybrid’ put others bidders off…sounds a bit neither-one-thing-nor-the-other).
The Paddleyak Swift is not strictly a fishing kayak. I had to put the flush-mounted rod-holders in myself, or at least my chum Austen did. If I had attempted it it would probably have gone to the bottom on its maiden voyage.
It’s got hatches in the front and rear deck so no tankwell to sling your catch in.The only place to put your fish is in the footwell, with your feet. I don’t keep many fish so it’s not that much of an issue but on the occasion I have wanted to bring the odd decent-sized bass or pollack home, it’s a bit distracting to have them thrashing, then twitching, around your legs. And in the case of bass, spiking and lacerating.
And in common with other South African SOT kayaks it hardly sets new standards in seat comfort. Although the seat is nicely moulded into a vague buttock-shape, you are left sitting on bare gelcoat. This is a pity as the UK plastic yaks are streets ahead with regard to seat comfort….an all day paddle does not leave you numb from the kidneys down.
I ‘drop in’ an OK comfort seat when I go on a long paddle in the Swift. There is nowhere to clip it on but it fits fairly snuggly. The biggest problem is that it raises your centre of gravity significantly and makes the relatively narrow kayak significantly less stable.
It’s actually way narrower than any UK sit-on-top kayak at 23″ wide. The Scupper pro and RTM Disco are 26″, most are 28-30″. Length is just over 17ft and weight of my one is about 27kgs (a bit on the heavy side, especially as it doesn’t have side carrying handles).
So does it really cruise along alot quicker than the beamy plastic SOTs?. Well, yes, but I’m not sure by how much. I would guess it moves about 0.5mph faster than a Scupper Pro at moderate effort. The ‘glide’ is where you’ve got a real advantage, so you can stop paddling to pick your nose with hardly any reduction in speed, where the shorter kayak would have ground to a halt, and veered off to the side. The chunky over-the-stern rudder helps in maintaining direction, of course.
Easter a couple of years ago was a scorcher and I was determined to see how many miles I could notch up in a day, on the open sea, in the Swift. I near perfect conditions I paddled the entire length of Chesil bank from West Bay to Portland, and back again. 36 miles, and at the end of it I was a gibbering fool, but possibly because I had been driven crazy by staring at a featureless wall of pebbles all day, rather than the physical exertion. I take my hat off to extreme kayakers who can notch up 50 miles in a day and then the same the next day, and the next as part of a UK circumnavigation (….oooh, that gives me an idea).
So I use the Swift for all my estuary and sheltered coastal water day trips if I want to clock up the miles (or keep warm in winter) and fishing is only second priority. Although it’s probably a bit quick for trolling a lure behind it is a sure way to catch a regular trickle of bass in the Autumn, and always a thrill to hear that line buzzing out as a beast is hooked.
I might think twice before tackling a major bit of exposed north Cornwall coast by myself in the Swift. I have yet to tip it over but wind chop combined with a swell and bounceback from a vertical cliff can lead to a bit of a wobble (and ultimately less enjoyment) than the rock steady scupper Pro or Tarpon.
Maybe it’s best feature is it’s fantastic looks.Good grief, what am I saying, I really need to get out more. But there is no question the sleek lines combined with the motorbike-style fairing creates quite an unusual, and impressive look. It certainly draws quite a crowd when I roll up at a busy beach. Onlookers are not so impressed , however,when they watch me cranking my numb legs and stiff back out of the seat. Oh and the nose of the boat is a favourite dog leg-cocking location…I think it is permanently impregnated with pheromones.
There seems to be a bit of a buzz about the glass SA fishing yaks at the moment with the arrival of Stealth in the UK. If the Stealth Pro Fisha 575 combines the paddling attributes of the Paddleyak Swift with improved fishing credentials it will be a formidable boat. as long as it has the looks too.