This should spark off a brawl in the NSW Seakayaking Club also known as the Mirage Appreciation Society! I am going to assert here that plastic tupperware boats are better than glass. Actually, I’m not, as I will be buying a glass boat next. What I going amto contend is that glass boats do not have an automatic assumption of superiority. Glass, rather composite, boat afficianados believe their boats are faster, stiffer, lighter and more “serious” a boat. There is an underlying belief that plastic boats are toylike and for beginners. There maybe some elements of truth in these but let’s look at this in reality. They are not faster! In fact without a paddler they are completely motionless. The assumption of higher speed is virtually unprovable. I am 110kg, an ex weight lifter and competitive swimmer. Though 44 years old and in poor shape I am physically powerful and over a short distance can out paddle most. In my Ecobezhig I could easily outpace most club paddlers over say 500m.
My boat is 5.4m and goes like a rocket when I’m in a good cadence. Let’s say I go up against a similar person in a Mirage 580. Now the Miraganista could argue a strong case for better hydrodynamic design and a host of other technical advantages. I would even believe it. But the only way to determine which boat has intrinsic speed advantages would be to test each boat with the same paddler in the the same completely still stretch of water with no wind and over many repeated runs with the paddler rested and in the same energy state each time. Pretty bloody impossible I’d say. The reality is that even taking the boat off the roof of the car creates a real-world variation that affects speed. Each wave, each swell, each gust and miss-stroke, each look to the left and right, a bad night’s sleep, breakfast, all add up to paddler variables that completely swamp any technical edge in the boat. If the Mirage has a 10% technical edge over my Eco and I have a 12% edge over the Mirage paddler, I’m faster.
This also relates to stiffness. Big deal. So my boat bends a bit and warps. I’ve read enough hydrodynamic review to know that stiff is not a real advantage. It’s a point of view. You can take 10 boat designers and get 10 different ideas about designing speed. Whichever one you take is just an opinion.
The better built argument is the easiest to debunk. Rock launching and landing is a no brainer win to plastic. Though I have been paddling for years, relative to my club I’m a noobie. I am more likely to screw up, smash the boat up, drop it or whatever. Do this on composite and spend the night patching it up. I wash mine down and put it away. Of course, it’s easier to repair composite but this just confirms my point. You have to. Arguing that a good paddler shouldn’t bust their boat is a non-argument. Of course, they shouldn’t but that’s got nothing to do with the boat. Paddler superiority is another argument.
Composite boats are not lighter either. The Ecobezhig is 24kg. The same as a Mirage. End of argument. You see most of the arguments stem from a confusion with kayaks versus the kayak/paddler combination. At the moment, for all the reasons above, plastics boats for me are superior. The advantages they offer are being deployed, now. My EcoBezhig is fantastic because it’s light, reliable, fast and very comfortable. That said my next boat will be either a Mirage 580 or a Nadgee, depending on the best fit, best service and best deal.