In 2009, Walker Bay introduced their high-pressure sit-on top Airis Inflatables kayaks which included the Play, Sport, Tender, Velocity, Tandem and the very popular Angler. Two years ago, the manufacturing plant was moved to Mexico, and the Airis kayak line was put on hold while production of their popular inflatable boat line got up to speed. This year, the Airis kayak line is back on track with a fresh redesign. The Sport 11 debuted April 2012, melding features from the original Sport and original Velocity, to make a streamlined, “sporty” new kayak that will tick the boxes for many.
Our first shipment of Airis Sport 11 inflatable kayaks arrived last week – an 11 foot version weighing in at 19 lbs with a payload of 250 lbs. Here is our write-up.
The box as received weighs 32 lbs, measuring 28 x 20 x14 inches. Inside is a very nifty backpack which houses the kayak body. Also included in the box is a seat, repair kit, double action pump and instructions.
The kayak rolled up can easily be fit inside the backpack, along with the seat. The pump can be strapped to the outside of the pack, while the repair kit can slip into the zippering pocket. Breakdown paddles in a bag could also be strapped into the other side of the pack.
We began by reading through the updated 2012 Airis manual.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak. There are basically three pieces – the kayak body, floor and seat. Pretty simple.
Remove the floor from the kayak and set it aside. The Sport 11 kayak body has been redesigned with two main inflatation chambers utilizing military valves; there is a third chamber on the floor. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – with your finger, twist the plunger slightly to the “up” position to inflate (air goes in but doesn’t come back out) and “down” to deflate (air comes out).
Put the pressure gauge on the included double action pump, locking it in between the pump itself and the hose. (Please note: there is an inflate and a deflate side to the pump/hose attachment.) The pump comes with a military valve adaptor which locks onto the valve with a slight twist.
At this point we noticed something not mentioned in the manual. The Sport 11 comes with a single action/double action hand pump, which is defaulted to the double action. This means the air is pushed in on the up and the down stroke. This can become tough to pump as you get up towards the 3 and 4 PSI range. With a simple “twist of the knob” the pump becomes a single action pump – pushing air in on the down stroke only, making it easier to reach the higher ranges.
Per the instructions, pump up one chamber about 50% and then the other about 50% – this will help evenly distribute the air inside the chambers. Then completely pump each chamber up to full pressure of 6.5PSI. Screw on the wingnut caps to protect the valves, and prevent air from accidentally escaping.
Next, take the seat and position it against the back of the kayak. Take each side strap and run it through the d-ring on the back of each side handle, looping it back through the cinch locks on the back of the seat.
Last step – take the floor chamber and position it in the bottom of the kayak, over the seat base. Following the same advice mentioned previously on military valves, pump up the floor. Make sure it is evenly positioned, pushing it under the inflated side chambers if necessary. Pump it up to full 6.5PSI pressure – the floor chamber now holds the seat base in position, making it virtually impossible to slide around.
Couldn’t be much simpler, you’re now done!
Deflation is just as easy. Simply open up the valves and roll up the kayak, pushing out the air. You can also use the deflate side of the hand pump to completely pump out the air. Replace the wingnuts to protect the valves when not in use.
Features and Specifications
The Airis Sport 11 was redesigned as a cross between the prior Sport and Velocity models. The new Sport features a tapering silhouette – this decreases the “real estate” thus decreasing the weight, while still making it pretty stable.
The Airis Sport 11 is constructed with four carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides). The fore and aft handles have a slim profile – making it easier to roll up for storage – while the two side handles have rubberized grips. Despite having so many handles, this lightweight kayak is very easy to carry – the simplest being hooked over your shoulder.
Two D-rings are strategically placed on the front upper hull, allowing one to attach optional deck bags – or even a Windpaddle sail for downwind sailing! Additional storage options can be found on the hull behind the seat with a bungee deck lacing system measuring 14 inches wide and deep, tapering to 11 inches wide. Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck.
The 48″ seating well is fairly open, and entirely surrounded with a “spray rail” or “splash guard” – this is a curving lip that helps prevent some of the water splashing in. The rail is 58 inches long with a perimeter measurement of 139 inches. Other features include integrated foot rests which are positioned 40 inches from the back of the seat. The fabric seat back is 15 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
We measured 46 inches behind the seat to the stern of the kayak, and 29 inches from the spray rail to the bow.
The hull has an integrated deep tracking fin, 9 inches x 5 inches.
The kayak body construction features a proprietary Airweb construction – this consists of a heavy duty, seven-layer polymer coated fabric that is joined inside by thousands of drop-stitch fibers, allowing the kayak to be pumped up to much higher pressures than standard inflatables.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10’ 10 inches long (11 feet when deflated) and 30 inches at the widest point, tapering to 8 inches at the bow and 15 inches at the rear. The seating well is 4 inches deep. The kayak body weighed in at 19 lbs alone, or 25 lbs in the pack with seat, case and pump. Weight limitations suggest 250 lbs for person and gear.
On the Water
I tested out the kayak over two days and two different weather conditions. In choppy conditions, water breaks over the spray guard, and fills under the inflatable floor. As I was not out for a long time (this would not be my first choice kayak for rough weather, but I was eager to get the Sport on the water) I don’t know if over time the water will build up and fill in, so my suggestion is to stash a microfiber towel on board to wick out any extra water.
The second time was a beautiful spring day and the Sport literally raced through the water. It tracked beautifully, turned nimbly and was very stable – I was even able to stand up and sit down without flipping or falling, but I wouldn’t suggest it as a common practice.
My buddy Eddie came along for the ride, and managed to watch for birds and minnows without impeding my paddling ability or stability. Possibly a parent with small child would find this a good kayaking choice.
For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and easy to carry, though I can’t reach the integrated foot pegs, and the seat can not be moved closer. At 6’2”, my husband had no problem and absolutely loved the kayak – it’s one of his paddling favorites as he prefers the open design.
We both agreed that a spray deck would be helpful.
Despite first impressions on the cloth seat, with proper strap adjustment it’s quite comfortable and offers good support.
This is a great kayak – at 19 lbs it’s light-as-a-feather, zippy, tracks well and is just plain fun. The redesign has streamlined the kayak – it really shines in flat or calm water. In fact, I think I like it even better than my original Airis Velocity.
The D-ring attachments and bungee deck lacing add just enough flexibility for added storage and accessories without making it too complicated.
Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes, but for those wanting to speed up the process, investing in a 12-volt pump to kick-start the inflation process would be worthwhile. The included double/single-action pump is a great touch, making it much easier to reach the recommended 6.5 PSI.
This is a great choice for travel – the backpack is rugged enough to check as baggage, it’s perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car. And at 25 lbs, the entire package works for a trek into the back country for remote paddling. My only suggestion for a future “wish list” would be adjustable foot braces, and a spray deck option.
Stay tuned. The 2012 Play redesign should be surfacing in May, followed by the Play Tandem. We’ll let you know the progress as we find out. For more info see the Airis Sport 11 specifications and manual on our website or watch our YouTube video on the Airis Sport 11.
AirKayaks intro special! Take $100 off the Airis Sport Package through May 15th! Use coupon code SPORT at checkout!