Kayak Trends Moving Toward Performance More Than Features?

Is the market trend for seasoned paddlers moving toward performance over features? That question was really at the forefront of my mind last week as I saw the constant posts about the NuCanoe Pursuit.

If you keep up with kayak anglers who are more visible across the US, you may have noticed what I did recently. There has been a shift in kayak choices from people who were once thought to be lifetime brand loyalists. More specifically, I’ve noticed a huge market surge in usage of the Pursuit. It was actually the reason I wanted to review it. (Read the review here.)

While NuCanoe has been around several years, the Pursuit is a newer offering. At first glimpse I was a little confused. No offense to the NuCanoe brand but from an outsiders view, I couldn’t figure out why I should shell out similar dollars for a Pursuit when I could just as easily buy an ATAK 140 or a Big Rig. That’s when I decided I needed to start making some phone calls.

I visited with Everett Park of NuCanoe and very candidly dared him to convince me why I should consider a Pursuit. He countered with the question, “Have you ever paddled one?” I hadn’t and admitted as much. I had seen them in show rooms and walked through them but my quick views only showed me a seat and a hull. He offered to get me with a local angler to paddle one to check it out and I agreed. I also persisted with my questioning. He answered all my questions and encouraged me to talk to other people who had made the switch. I wanted to know why people who had access to basically any boat they wanted would move to a kayak with what seemed like fewer features.

My next call was to Stewart Venable. Stewart has been a long time friend and contributor of Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine. He is a great angler and of outstanding character. I knew he would give me the straight answers I was seeking and he did. They just weren’t what I was expecting. I didn’t know the hidden gems of situational fishing that made up the Pursuit.

NuCanoe Pursuit
The Pursuit has a pretty plain deck by industry standards.

As kayak anglers get more time in the seat, years on the water, they refine what they are looking for in a kayak. It’s not so much get me off the bank to fish anymore. It’s more about give me what I need to fish the way I want to. I started in a nine foot long sit in kayak. Nearly seven years later when I could finally upgrade, I had preferences. I still do and sometimes they get changed as I discover new things that are available.

Kayak companies understand that kayak anglers who are buying boats at the $1500 price point and higher need to show value so that it feels like a good investment of your hard earned dollars. Many companies put resources into building a nice seat. Often there will be additions like places to mount electronics, rails for adding accessories, hatches of all sizes, flush mount rod holders and more.

I know this is what I struggled with at first with the Pursuit. It has a nice seat, some rails, and rod holders but it just didn’t seem flashy. The color ways are fairly uneventful. The hatches and bungees are standard to most kayaks. I just didn’t get it. Until I paddled it.

The point of everything on this kayak is about performance. The rocker shape, the hull design, the water channeling, the secondary stability, the deck layout, the horizontal up front rod storage are all designs that show up in performance.

So many of the nuances this kayak has cannot be experienced until you actually paddle it.

That was told to me multiple times by different people. I haven’t been in a kayak that length that felt like it didn’t need a rudder. It turned completely 180 degrees with a couple of paddle strokes. I haven’t paddled a kayak that so effortlessly kept momentum going forward while paddling and then gliding. I also started to notice why the rod tubes were in the locations they were and how the boat molding corresponded to that for holding rod butts. I noticed how the stability of the kayak played into its ability to turn the seat 360 degrees. It was eye opening. It wasn’t without flaws (see the review link above) but it was impressive beyond what I expected.

What I really came to realize is that the price point of this kayak doesn’t get you flash and gadgets and accessories. It gets you raw performance. From there you can add things on but in its raw form, it is all about buying performance.

How does that translate in the market?

Is the allure of GoPro screw in mounts, electronics pods, leaning chairs, and gear rails going to fade? I don’t know. It’s probably doubtful. If people want affirmation after a purchase, people who are not in the know will ooh and aah over gadgets. It looks impressive. Maybe it paddles well and maybe it doesn’t. Shiny, new included accessories will always be offered to help the buyer achieve satisfaction with the purchase price. You want to have SOMETHING to show for the money.

I know for paddlers who have years of seat time, performance is winning out. Not having to have different kayaks for different applications is winning out. At least for now.

I would have never considered the NuCanoe Pursuit had I not paddled it. It looked plain and unimpressive. With no real bells and whistles, I was uninterested. After paddling it and realizing my need for two or three kayaks for three different applications wasn’t really necessary and the switching to the Pursuit, by well established kayakers started to make better sense. This isn’t a shiny Ferrari on the show room floor. This is a good, reliable pickup truck that can do everything you need it to and gets great gas mileage to boot. While it won’t out pretty or out gadget other brands, it is going to outperform most in multiple applications.

That’s really where the question still lies.

Is performance really winning out over features?

NuCanoe is doing something different. They are offering a performance first alternative in a sea of beauty queens laden with accessories.  Will the trend continue as the sport of kayak angling ages, as more people move past the first kayak and start to look at new alternatives?

What do you think?

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Chris Payne

A lifelong Texan, Chris Payne has been an outdoor enthusiast his entire life and has spent the last 15 years fishing mainly from a kayak. He is known for his thorough and helpful reviews as well as how to articles for nearly everything kayak fishing related. If you have questions or comments, you can leave them on this post or email Chris at: paynefish@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Kayak Trends Moving Toward Performance More Than Features?

  • November 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I picked mine up today. A demo paddle sold me on it over the frontier. I’m coming out of a Hobie Tandem Island which was a awesome boat but I wanted something simpler and smaller. The pursuit should fit the bill nicely.

  • November 10, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Well said Chris. The key to understanding how good the Pursuit is, is to get out and paddle it. That is when it turns some heads! Love your pickup truck analogy. I am consistently pleased with how well the Pursuit paddles in the wind, very impressive for its class.

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