Inflatable kayaks are not a new concept at Hobie, which has been making them for more than a decade. A design breakthrough came in 2014 with Hobie’s first triple-air-chamber stand-up paddleboard. The team then combined that idea with Hobie’s MirageDrive pedal system, which can be used instead of a paddle.
“We launched this boat and found that, because of the triple chambers, the MirageDrive and the seat, the performance was just eye-opening,” says Mark Johnson, senior manager of product development. “This boat was so maneuverable and compact. It was a game-changer, a real ‘aha’ moment for us.”
The model became a bestseller, leading Hobie to develop today’s iTrek series of inflatable pedal kayaks and pedal boards. The five-model series includes the iEclipse stand-up pedal board; the Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight, Mirage iTrek 11 and Mirage iTrek 14 Duo pedal kayaks; and the Fiesta, a four-person pedal kayak.
“All of the boats except the Fiesta come with a rolling duffel bag that has great wheels and a telescopic handle,” he says. “It’s great for the docks, great for yachts. Everything comes super-compact and fits in the bag.”
Four of the five models have the triple-chamber construction; the Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight is a single-chamber design for lower weight. At 20 pounds, it can be carried up, say, a hillside in the Caribbean. “Our whole goal with that boat was to make the lightest, most compact design that we could,” he says.
The series premiered in 2021, but because of supply-chain and other pandemic issues, many people saw the iTrek models for the first time at boat shows this past winter. Johnson says he’s excited for more boaters to learn how stable the inflatables feel and experience their speed, which can be 5 or 6 knots.
“The performance on them is so over-the-top. You have this MirageDrive that’s extremely proficient…and you have this steering system that turns on a dime, and you combine it with how light these boats are, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God,’” he says. “You can go fast enough that you could theoretically get pulled over in a harbor by a harbor patrol. These boats are just fun as heck.”