Bic Corporation, the ubiquitous France-based maker of lighters and ballpoint pens, has a division that sells surfboards, windsurfing rigs, kiteboards and, unbeknownst to me, a line of recreational kayaks. Bic Sport (www.bicsport.com), as the division is called, this year debuted a kayak line designed for boaters with limited storage space.
The company’s Yakka kayaks, which include three models, are nearly identical boats with rigid plastic hulls and inflatable sidewalls. For storing and transporting the Yakka kayaks, Bic Sport added hinges to the middle of the hull, letting you fold the boat in half and tuck it away in the bed of a pickup or, perhaps, your closet in a cramped city apartment.
Made for urban dwellers and other people looking to take some of the hassle out of owning, moving and storing a normal 10-foot-or-longer kayak, the sit-on-top Yakka boats fold down into 59 × 30 × 15-inch packages that weigh about 50 pounds. The boats come equipped with handles and a wheel on one end to provide a means to move the packed-up boat around.
In my tests, the Yakka 120 model was easy to set up, requiring just a couple minutes to unfold the boat, pump up the sidewalls and position a bar that adds rigidity to the hinged hull. On the water the boat went straight and turned easily, though it was no speed demon. My friends on the river that day, sitting in sleek touring boats, were literally miles ahead of me after an hour of downstream paddling.
But despite its lack of speed, the Yakka 120 was stable and fun. It has foam padding for a seat and integrated foot braces. The boat, which is 9 feet, 4 inches long and about 30 inches wide, would be perfect for fishing or just tooling around a lake on a lazy summer’s day. First-time kayakers and kids would be good candidates for the Yakka as well.
Bic Sports claims the boat can handle flat water up to class II whitewater. I paddled a swelling Mississippi River in late April with the boat. Fast currents and strong eddies were easily negotiated in the craft, though I am an experienced whitewater kayaker.
The other Yakka iterations — the Yakka 80 and Yakka 120 Explorer — are identical boats, though with different weight limitations and color schemes. All Yakka models retail for $599 apiece. Accessories, including paddles, dry bags and padded seatbacks, are among the available Yakka accoutrements.