Don’t worry, it’ll hold you.
The confidence in his voice got me thinking~a boat without a frame….no rigid seat…massive load capacity of 515lbs…? It sounded like Dave Inks had either created one amazing inflatable fly fishing boat…or he didn’t have both of HIS oars in the water!
Little did I know that the Water Strider Kickboat was the result of more than two decades of experience in raft design and a lifetime of fishing experience that has literally taken Dave around the world.
Having one of the world’s premier whitewater boat builders in charge of manufacturing bolsters his commitment to making the Water Strider the best it can possibly be.
For many of us, the decision to add a watercraft of any kind to our arsenal represents a desire to reach out to new water, to new fly fishing possibilities. While budget always plays a role in any acquisition, should it really be the most important factor? Before you decide what type suits your needs the best, its wise to consider what kinds of water you’ll be fishing, what your own physical strengths/limitations are and how your new boat will make your fishing better…without complicating it. For me, the Water Strider Kickboat deserved special attention. If an inflatable was heavy-duty enough for me to use, pack down so small that I could carry the entire system on my back and be set-up without tools or hardware…it could only ADD to my fishing experience! I got a copy of the Water Strider DVD…WOW!
I’ll admit that I watched the Water Strider DVD about a five or six times before I attempted to inflate/set-up the boat. I had myself convinced that there just HAD to be more to it. Having witnessed the clumsy efforts of anglers in waders assembling metal-framed pontoon boats, I studied the subtleties of the Water Strider movie, determined to get it right the FIRST time. As with all things Water Strider~good design made assembly simple. No unnecessary details, no fussy fittings~just the straight goods. After the first set-up, it could be out of the bag, inflated and in the water in about 12 minutes…at a RELAXED pace. Just how easy is it? Have a look!
A bundle of fly fishing possibilities~the Water Strider is the most compact, single person inflatable boat (propelled by both fins and oars) available today. All you need to get fishing is stowed away in the PVC dry bag equipped with padded shoulder straps. It can fit easily into small cars, checked as baggage when you fly, carried on your back hiking or cycling…you get the idea!
Unpacked~clockwise: 2pc. heavy-duty oars, foot pump, the Water Strider boat (rolled-up) PVC Dry bag/backpack and fins.
Strap removed, the boat is opened to a flat position.
Putting the oars together~simple, and VERY solid.
Foot pump is equipped to allow for both inflation, and deflation. The latter is quite handy in colder weather! This hose screws into the pump…
The Water Strider uses the industry’s best valves~Hackley Roberts. These will allow inflation in both the open, and closed position. This is ideal~open, pumping is a breeze. It became obvious to me that pumping them to about 3/4 pressure open was key, then (once closed) you could top-up the chambers up to pressure losing none when the hose is removed.
A quick push/turn is all that’s required to switch from open to closed. Pushing this small yellow button is also the way to bleed off a little pressure on hot, sunny days. Visible here is the plug that covers the valve when you’re done.
One of the two chambers~a little over half filled.
Both chambers filled (see two valves at the top of the photo) and onto the Air Ride Inflatable seat. This requires a very small amount of air to get to pressure, I fill it with the valve in the closed position. More about this seat later…
The inflatable backrest requires a small amount of hot air from you. (not an issue with most of the fly fishermen I know) From zero to full, about 10 seconds.
The backrest, ready for adjustment.
The straps on the inflatable backrest are adjustable. Just position your rear end on the seat, get comfortable. Pull the 2 adjustment straps until you feel the backrest snug against your back.
Detail of the oar pin/nut
Remove the tethered nut, install the oar and replace the nut.
You’re ready to go!
Premium materials~polyester cloth, polyurethane and PVC give the Water Strider both extreme strength/rigidity AND reduced weight. The material, a special urethane PVC alloy was field tested for 5 years before being used in the Water Strider. Stainless steel D-rings and heavy duty equipment straps (both used for tying down equipment/dry bag etc.) all but guarantee that you’ll have years of trouble-free service from this boat. Easy to manage, easy to get this boat anywhere. There is a wealth of information on www.waterstrider.com about the materials/processes that go into this amazing boat. As I’m not a boat builder, you’re best source of information IS Dave’s site. An angler’s perspective on the Water Strider? Read on!
Its safe to say that I had some reservations about the Water Strider. I was convinced it was built every bit as well as it’s advertised, but hey~every product has it’s limitations…right? An inflatable seat…..I had visions of the sides of the boat puckering in under my 6’ 2”, very hefty frame. (and you know what I mean when I say “hefty”) Even if it did hold…an inflatable back rest? Shouldn’t an investment in a boat like the Water Strider at LEAST give me a proper seat? The first time I inflated it, I was convinced. The first time I used it, I began to understand some of the things Dave Inks had told me about it. I can honestly say~this boat is made WITHOUT compromise. Every detail, every material choice is deliberate. A few notes about the design…
The boat is essentially built like a self-bailing white water raft with half of it’s floor missing. This makes it possible to propel the boat using fins~hence the “kickboat” definition. The angler’s low position (legs outstretched) provides and excellent angle to make the fins a very efficient way to move around. Hands-free means you’re doing more fishing and less messing around with the positioning of the boat. I found this to be an amazing way of getting around. The seat provides excellent comfort and additional flotation and does not, I hasten to add, DOES NOT budge when I sit on it. (How this is possible~I’m not sure) Rowing with the oars provided is the alternative and very helpful for greater amount of propulsion required while negotiating rivers, covering large areas on lakes etc. Unlike most pontoon boats, the oars on the Water Strider lay totally flat when not in use. This might seem like a minor detail, but (considering how low you sit) this solution allows for an unobstructed view and makes it almost impossible to get your fly line tangled-up on them. Room to easily net a fish from any position is an added bonus!
There is a stripping apron rolled-up and tied to one side of the boat as well. When open, it fastens to the opposite side of the boat with Velcro. I found this to be very secure and a pleasure to use. In the Water Strider DVD, Dave demonstrates how the apron can quickly be disconnected in the event of an emergency~if it were unnecessarily complicated, a stripping apron could hold you into the seat of a boat if it ever capsized. Again, good design born out of years of experience. I received a good number of emails and comments about the open floor of the boat. What might seem like a bizarre design is actually probably the most impressive part OF it. Aside from the fact that carrying the Water Strider to the water’s edge is a breeze, the open floor allows you to stand up in shallow water and have the boat stay put.
On more than a few occasions, I had good-sized (not-so-cooperative) fish hooked and used the fins to get to shore. Standing up, the fish was landed/released and I was off again. When your ready to take a break/head to shore, no need to anchor, or tie-off the boat really. Row/fin your way to shore, stand up, lift up the boat and walk on shore~very slick! When you’re covering some distance with the oars, a foot strap (made from seatbelt material) is provided to rest your feet on. It takes up no room, adds no weight to speak of and does it’s job well.
The final goods…
Shore-bound anglers….your time has come! The Water Strider combines the finest materials, most advanced manufacturing processes to deliver a boat with no rival. I was fortunate to be able to test the claims made by Water Strider and the boat pulled through with flying colors. I did check it in as baggage on a flight across Canada…I did float a large stretch of the Bow River in Calgary…pack it into remote brook trout lakes…the boat and I saw allot of action together, and enough fish to put a smile on my face that’s lasted all winter. Do yourself a favor; if you’re in the market for an inflatable, give the Water Strider Kickboat serious consideration.