Hobie has just come out with another double or tandem, paddle only yak that has some interesting new features not found on the other tandem models, either paddle or pedal. The only problem is, just where does this yak fit in the Hobie overall scheme of things? Is it, at 11' 6” and 57 lbs., to be considered the double version of the Pursuit paddle model at 12' 2” and 42 lbs.? Or is it best looked at as the non-Mirage drive version of the other new tandem, the Outfitter Mirage, that comes in at 12' 8” and 62 lbs? Then, where does the older tandem paddle yak, the Odyssey, fit at 14' 0” and 69 lbs? Should the Odyssey be considered the double version of the Quest, for example? Or should the Kona be considered the double version of the Quest? And finally, what to do with the original Hobie Mirage Tandem at 14' 6” and 69 lbs.? Sure, the latter is bigger and roomier, but do consumers prefer that, or do they prefer the lighter weight of, say, the Outfitter Mirage tandem that is more specifically set up for sailing and fishing with four built-in rod-holders, gunwale tackle trays, twin hatches, and twin mesh storage pockets? To me, these features would make the Outfitter the clear choice as the double version of the Outback. But, as you can see, I'm confused, as I'm afraid many new yak buyers will be as well. As mentioned in an earlier review, I am beginning to think that Hobie may want to consider weeding out a model or two that does not clearly fill a particular stall in their stable. Otherwise, Hobie may be competing, mainly with itself, in attempting to gain the new buyer's bucks. But then again, maybe in the long run that is a good thing-give the new buyer lots of choices in an attempt to gain his or her business.
OK, with that little philosophical rant out of the way, let's take a look at some of the interesting features of the new Kona, paddle only, double or tandem.
1. First pic is of the overall boat. Note the dual mesh-covered pockets on the starboard side, the dual 8-inch hatches and the dual seating arrangement. But, hold on here, why are the two seats both near the stern?
2. Here is a closer view of the cockpit. Note the two molded-in handles (or hand-grips) in the hull itself, just ahead of the forward seat. Note too, the paired, tabbed paddle holder bungees on each side. But especially note all the cockpit space ahead of the seats. Where did this come from?
This relates to what I found to be one of the most interesting features of this new yak. With the new 4-point seat attachment straps, and strategically placed eye straps, you can mix and match the seats in the Kona to suit whatever activity or function you might be involved in. For example, the hull is designed so that the seats can be spaced equidistant from one another, as in most other tandem yaks. Or both seats can be placed towards the stern, as you see here, to give you a humongous open area in the forward part of the cockpit. Or both seats can be situated towards the bow to give you a much-enlarged stern storage capacity.
3. I can see several advantages to this. For example, if you are a diver heading out into the SoCal kelp beds, both you and your buddy can paddle from the stern, while the forward part of the cockpit could easily hold a couple of dive tanks, vests, fins, masks, camera gear, goody bags, and what have you. Notice the built-in foot braces in the cockpit sidewall for all three possible seating positions. Very clever! Or, for family fun with several small children (all wearing their PFDs, natch), the parents can sit in the stern as you see here and the kids can cluster on the deck forward, as mine used to do in my neighbor's borrowed canoe. Or, for a family camping adventure to a nearby island, one could carry quite a bit of camping gear in this part of the cockpit, as well as inside the hull via the two 8-inch hatches. For two large adults, it might not be a viable arrangement for a long-distance paddle, but at least it gives you several additional options. Here is a closer view of the rear seating area from the starboard side.
4. How is this mix and match possible? The key is in the new 4-point attachment seat straps. These new seats lack the plastic pegs on the bottom of the seat that used to fit into indentations in the cockpit seating area to prevent seat movement. Instead, the seats now require only two pairs of eye straps for support of the four seat adjusting straps. Here you can see how the seat straps of the rear seat are clipped into the D-ring of the forward seat straps for support. Note also the convenient cup-holder and tray just ahead of the forward seat here. When both seats are arranged equidistant from one another, this midships tray and cup-holder would be located just behind the forward seat. There are also two cup-holders built into the port gunwale, as you can see here for the rear-cup-holder just adjacent to the hatch. Note also this closer view of the port handle, or handgrip, just ahead of the forward seat. This is an integral part of the hull itself (both port and starboard), rather than requiring an additional installation later, following the molding process.
5. With both seats arranged in the normal tandem position, or towards the rear as you see here, the rear deck area is admittedly pretty puny. But, if you were to place both seats as far forward as possible, this then opens up a good-sized area aft for carrying gear.
So, in summary then, what we have here with the Kona “Coaster” (my name) is a rather ingenious seat arrangement from the Hobie designers. I suppose, if you did not mind playing sardine, that you could buy a third 4-point seat for placement forward in the boat. I mean, the Kona is rated for 450 lbs (same as for the Outfittter and the Adventure). So as long as your 3 occupants did not exceed this total hull capacity, you should be good to go. Another nice boat from the Hobie designers that seems to be a rather innovative approach to tandem or double kayaking, with some ingenious new twists to kayak seating and storage.