Hula Dancer – Islander Hula review
The Islander Hula Kayak has been a favourite with one of the Sitons.com crew for a while. Compact in nature (it fits inside estate cars – which is a bonus), nippy around surf zones, manoeuvrable and yet still possessing a decent level of stability for a smaller sit on top we thought it was about time we check out the Islander Hula properly.
Our test Hula came sporting bright red and orange livery which makes sure you stand out from the crowd. Fittings and fixtures are tip top with seat mounting points being super sturdy – the last thing you want is these pulling out during your session. Moulded foot rests look pretty comfy and for a boat designed with smaller adults in mind, according to the brand’s website, it’s a hull accommodating of longer limbed individuals. Flip the Islander Hula onto its back and there a some deep set chines running nose to tail which should aid tracking. The brand also bill this as a boat for messing about in surf and as such there’s a degree of nose kick to help when paddling out through white water and dropping into waves. All in all the Hula is a nice looking bit of kit and we couldn’t wait to get it wet.
Onto the water
Having tried a number of smaller sit on top kayaks there’s one thing apparent: as much as brands describe these boats as being suitable for smaller adults and children, bigger boned paddlers, with fundamental paddle skills already in place, will have no trouble piloting them. For sure, the lesser volume means they sit lower in the water, and as such it’s a MUCH damper ride. But the trade-off is manoeuvrability – something which should be the case here. After building forwards momentum the Hula’s personality reveals itself. It feels long and narrow for a boat erring on the smaller side of the spectrum, but lively at the same time. That may sound contradictory but the front section of the Islander Hula is pulled in somewhat and this helps with tracking.
Smaller sit on tops struggle with tracking and glide, to various extents, so this was a welcome trait – especially as the peak we were heading for lies about a mile offshore. Stability isn’t an issue, even with narrower dimensions, and speed is surprisingly good. As such the paddle out from the beach is efficient. For those looking at flat water usage the Hula would make a great play boat – having the ability to switch its lively personality on and off makes it infinitely appealing. Incline the Hula onto an edge and you transform something a sedate sled into a much more hyperactive beast. As such the Hula would make a decent mellow white water boat for those with skills.
The waves we ended up chucking the Hula at weren’t particularly big. In fact, we’d go so far as to say they were just ripples. But, even with such non-extreme conditions, the Hula proved fun and versatile when confronted with liquid walls. And let’s be honest, most paddlers don’t want hectic conditions, rather a mellow scenario with which to have fun. Islander Kayak’s Hula bunny hops incoming froth without issue and upsetting the paddler’s composure. Even riders of bigger bone structures, like a few of our testers, found being bounced around by aerated lips no issue. Spinning on a six pence the Hula manoeuvres into position, ready to pick up swells without fuss. It’s then a few strokes before you’re hurtling along a smooth wall of water.
Leaning into the turn and the Hula’s top speed on a wave is admirable. It’s not quite as throw about as some similar boats but is no less fun. For the surf novice, in particular, the Hula is a good tutoring platform. If you should end up tipped in the drink the slightly narrower width of the Hula makes it easier to reach across the deck, grab the opposite rail and haul yourself back onboard. It’s also light and simple to flip back upright should it capsize.
A great family boat
For many, it will be the family friendly nature of the Hula that will appeal. Whilst the weight (or lack of) certainly makes the Hula easier to move around on land, the same is also true on water. Lighter/smaller paddlers will find that the Hula is a great boat to learn on: Stable, manoeuvrable and a lot of fun.
Islander Kayak’s Hula is a fun little boat for anyone after a manoeuvrable, but composed, boat to use in small to medium waves. Even if surf isn’t your thing then the Hula could be a worthy inclusion for your toy box. On flat water it offers a lively ride and could even be thrown at a bit of mellow white water. As mentioned at the start of this write up, every sit on top has its target weight but if you’re on the wrong side of that don’t discount the Islander Hula. With enough paddling skill and kayak understanding you can pilot a sit on top like this even if you’re bigger boned. It might be wise to try before you buy, just to be sure, but it’s certainly doable.