Every so often there is a major advancement in sporting equipment and technology that it represents a step change in the development of the sport.
In 2000 Speedo developed Fastskin swim suits, inspired by the texture of shark skin, to help swimmers slip through the water with less drag and more speed.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics 13 of the 15 new world records which were broken were done so by swimmers wearing the new Fastskin suits.
In 2009 the contentious introduction of the double diffuser is credited with helping the unknown Brawn GP to win the F1 championship in their first year of competition.
Not all advancements are quite so world-beating, but maybe important enough to change the way the sport can be enjoyed by the masses.
One such advancement is the development of drop stitch fabric into the world of the inflatable kayak.
Drop stitching is the use of thousands of very fine, yet strong, threads, called space yarn, that join two pieces of parallel fabric together.
The yarn is threaded through the two layers of fabric and no holes or pinpricks are left so that the material can be sealed to form air chambers.
When the resulting section is filled with air it becomes incredibly rigid whilst remaining lightweight, and the stitches providing the strength to allow a higher air pressure in the air chambers.
For instance the air chamber Z-Pro Tango uses an air pressure of 10psi, a drop stitch kayak can have an air pressure of 15psi or even 20psi.
This technology was originally used to make stand up paddle boards, now manufacturers have used it to develop inflatable kayaks that are much more rigid and stronger that the traditional air chamber type. The drop stitch air chambers, sandwiched between layers of strong, heavy duty PVC, can be much thinner than the rounded sausage chambers of old.
This means that the kayaks can be designed to have a move V-shaped hull than the traditional inflatable design and that means that the kayak will track and slice through the water better, much more like a rigid boat.
The boats are so rigid that there is almost no bending and if there is a puncture it can be repaired.
It is a step change in the advancement of the equipment. Many of the fears and reasons for not using a blow up canoe are now obsolete, as the crafts made from the drop stitch fabric provide almost the same strength and rigidity of the solid rigid kayaks with the ease of use and deflated weight of an inflatable.
Drop stitch kayaks and canoes come in many forms and sizes. They can be suitable for one, two and three persons. The rigidity means that they have the strength to be used in white water and sea kayaking situations.
What drop stitch inflatable kayaks are there available in NZ? This is something we will explore in another post, stay tuned.
The images are courtesy of Zebec.