When Puritan Meets Pedals E-mail
Written by Ema Grey   
Tuesday, 06 August 2013 00:00

AndyJadePedalling

Standing on the periphery of a seldom used boat ramp, it dawned on me that I had better shift my attitude; I was entering into this experience with a long-standing and largely unsubstantiated bias toward paddle-powered boats. I gazed upward to watch a circling osprey ride a thermal toward a more advantageous striking point. If successful, it would be his third fish in ten minutes. I hoped that the bird's success was a sharable phenomenon. The weather was indeed fishy; air and water were equal in temperature and hovering in the high sixties. Conditions were ripe for the aforementioned attitude adjustment. My guide was soon to arrive, and, despite the armada of Hobies that he was set to bring, one thing drew my excitement - the possibility that I may finally have a decent chance at catching a bass of substantial size. My guide is a well known professional. If anyone can lead me toward a decent bronzeback, it was him. If, in route to this piscatorial success, I had to give some pedal powered boats a try, so be it.

Before accepting our sport into my life, I was a sea kayaker, and a stodgy purist version thereof. My coffee table has long hosted a collection of well worn journals detailing the merits of particular chine angles, Greenland paddles, and high performance British hulls. If age allowed, I would have a requisite gray beard to match my two-tone Seattle Sombrero. I had always held pedals as a suspicious way in which to propel a boat - an affront, perhaps, to a well-honed tradition.

The demo model Outbacks slid from their trailer and entered the river's eddy. I was immediately taken in by the graceful lines of the hull. Perhaps these strange aqua bikes aren't so different after all. Upon initial inspection, I confirmed my first impression; the hull, and overall molding, looked very performance oriented. My guide instructed me to return to the trailer and assist him in the removal of another vessel. Large, looming, and adorned with accoutrement before unseen my these eyes, the Pro Angler 12 should have struck upon every nerve in this purist's body. Setting it gently upon the algae-stained concrete, I couldn't help but notice the artful combination of form and function apparent in its design. Though even Hobie refuses to label the Pro Angler as a kayak, the boat is very much regarded as a premier vessel within the sport. I was excited to match my preconceived notions against the boat's reputation.

I consider myself to be a faster than average paddler. I have a casual interest in stroke mechanics, and have spent far too much time bantering about in forums dedicated to human powered vehicles. Now sitting in the Outback fifty feet from the boat ramp, I was well aware that I would never be able to match a paddle to the Mirage drive's speed. Granted, I had the uber-efficient Turbo fins fluttering beneath my hull, and an oversized sailing rudder answering my every directional beck and call, but I felt as though I had long been cheating myself into subscribing to a false sense of beliefs. Fishing pole in one hand, Mexican lager in the other, I was moving upstream at a speed well beyond all but select surf skis and K1 needles. 

With a design inspired by penguin flippers, the Mirage drive proved to be a very efficient means of locomotion. It employs the user's large muscle groups, and appears to waste little, if any, of the transferred energy. As simple as pedaling an exercise bike, the process removes the influence of errant paddle strokes or the improper, arm-driven technique seen so often on the local rivers. This human-powered vehicle nerd was becoming convinced with each push of the pedal.

Switching from the Outback to the Pro Angler, I experienced far less of a change than I expected. The larger boat's weight, size, and real estate were lost on the overall performance. I could easily match pace with the neighboring Outback, and the large vessel's nimbleness was striking. I fully expected to overtly favor the Outback, and had I been given my testing druthers, I would have blindly pledged allegiance to the svelter Adventure or Revolution. This, however, was not the case. I came to see that comparisons are moot; these vessels were designed to fill entirely different niches.  The local reservoir, with it's numerous yet fickle species, would be a perfect habitat for the PA. Load up the Plano boxes, live well, lunch cooler, and dog, and comfortably spend the day wandering the various biomes of the lake. The Outback hearkened within me a different fantasy - a lengthy yet expedient journey from harbor to jetty to offshore reef and beyond, a run and gun tour of locales far removed from each other. In the course of a few short hours, I had somehow gone from skeptic to coveting dreamer. I wanted in on this pedal thing.

My initial assessment of the evening's fishiness was one of false hope; my guide and I each landed one meager bass. Perhaps, though, my excitement was to foreshadow a casting away of preconceived biases. A personal growth, of sorts. In the process, I made a new friend and shared some laughs and stories.  Returning home, I gazed upon my coffee table, and slowly and reflectively removed from its surface each of the well read sea kayaking journals. In their place now sit the latest brochures for pedal powered boats.

 

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