I’ve had the Eco Bezhig for about 3 years now and have paddled many k’s in it. In previous posts I’ve discussed some issues that Mission (formerly Perception) should see to in the event of an Eco Bezhig 2. At the very least I think they should put out an option to buy as spare parts some things that would make the boat much, much better.
First problem is the seat. It is molded foam and forms the central bulkhead. The idea is to make a very comfortable seat and initially it appears so but after spending some time in it I can say it certainly is not comfortable. The rake angle of the back of the seat is too flat which causes you to lean back as you paddle. This results in an inefficient forward stroke that causes fatigue much more quickly than a normal adjustable seat. I noticed Mission have released some pads to glue onto the seat to correct this but surely a replacement seat should be designed and offered. Anton from Southern Adventures in Gosford contacted me and said he could get a replacement seat for nearly $300. Since my seat is starting to fall to pieces, it would be nice to be able to replace it with a corrected style. Also, the fact that the seat is falling to pieces galls me no end as no other boat I know has this problem. My Gecko has a seat that archaeologists will dig up in 5000 years.
The Ozo pedals are bloody uncomfortable too. I know they are widely used but they are stupidly designed with the rudder cables attached to the top which means they get in the way of your toes. You have to control the rudder with the tips of your toes rather than your whole foot and this makes your whole foot fatigue and go numb. The pedals themselves are far too small and are very hard to adjust if sand gets in the sliding lock. I have padded out the floor of the cockpit with 1 inch marine cell foam to increase the height of my feet relative to the pedals and for some comfort and this has helped but there is a poor relationship between the angle of the pedals to the position of the molded knee braces in the upper cockpit which significantly adds to fatigue. Unfortunately, this is a design issue and cannot be remedied.
The rear deck rigging is dangerously inadequate. There are no rear decklines and fitting 8mm lines is very difficult to do securely as the attach points are very small. The upshot of this is extreme difficulty in self-recovering from the rear. That’s just appalling. The rigging at the front is fine, though, so I don’t understand why the designers stopped there.
The worst problem, and one that is completely insurmountable, is the dreadful weathercocking. I like to paddle without rudder as much as possible but you can’t do a long stretch without rudder down or you’ll end up going round in small circles. It is a pig of a boat to handle and has poor edging characteristics. I’m doing a lot better at this these days because I practice all the time but compared to say the Impex Assateague which can hold a near vertical edge indefinitely, the Eco is unstable.
A minor issue and one easily fixed is the clear plastic map-holder thingy over the glovebox hatch forward of the cockpit. This is an annoying and useless piece of junk. I know most Eco owners get rid of it but I’ve kept mine for some reason. It frequently detaches and snags a paddle leash causing repeated mis-strokes. I hate it and will get rid of it. It does have a handy set of bungies for a drink bottle though.
So, for a boat that costs near A$3000, the Eco has many shortcomings that don’t become apparent until after you’ve paddled one for some time. I can see why they were massively outsold by Mirage for years. However, these days there are many other great designs around that might offer better paddling. The Valley RM series are great value at around $2600, there’s also Impex, Boreal and SKUK boats but these are much dearer and composite. Even a tub like the Australis Salamander has a superior seat and rigging and might offer as good an alternative.
I’ve had loads of fun in Eco and have become a proficient seakayaker in it. My financial constraints at the moment mean I’m stuck with it for a few more years so having the seat problem fixed at least would be great. But I’m astonished at how much better a paddler I am in a superior boat so ultimately the Eco Bezhig is holding me back. I think if Mission want the Eco to be their serious single seakayak, they need to address those concerns that can easily be fixed and do it soon. There’s not much they can do about the handling or weathercocking and a beginner might find these tolerable if the other stuff is sorted. They can do this on the current version. I would like to see an Eco 2 which has better edging, a skeg and/or rudder, lower volume all round and better seat and pedals. A provision for a foot pump would be nice. So would some hard points for towing or a sail and custom decklines and bungie rigging. This would make the boat competitive next to a Valley Aquanaut, a Mirage 580, Penguin or a Tasman Explorer, a contender for the $3000 price point and maybe the front runner.