Fatstick 12.6ft inflatable hybrid SUP/sit on top
Hybrid paddle craft concepts aren’t new. We actually published a round up piece in 2013 that highlights this – www.sitons.com/articles/sit-kayaks-and-hybrid-design-concepts/ It’s taken us until now to actually lay hands on a hybrid toy, however – in this case Fatstick’s sit on/stand up inflatable 12.6ft offering.
Unlike stand up paddle boards inflatable sit on/sit in kayaks don’t have quite the same reputation. In most instances inflatable kayaks aren’t considered the best option – unless storage and transport is that limited there really is no other choice (we appreciate this is generalisation). Inflatable SUPs (or iSUPs for short) in contrast have become an extremely popular option for stand up paddlers. Manufactured from drop stitch material (multi-threads running between each layer of outer PVC covering with gaps to allow air between) iSUPs offer decent levels of rigidity, ease of use (including inflation) and performance once out on the water. Some brands employ patented ways of offering increased stiffness, such as carbon rail inserts, while other companies, like Fatstick, stick with the common formula. Being single chamber designs it’s easy to build in rocker and profile shape – with this is inherently more difficult with inflatable kayaks due to the nature of their shape.
Inflating is via the rear valve. The provided pump simply attaches with a quick twist (you need to ensure the centre valve piece is up) and then begin pumping. Although it’s a relatively easy process, ramming air into the board is time consuming to say the least. At 12.6ft the Fatstick requires a decent amount of pumping. A gauge on the pump handle tells you how much progress you’ve made but inflating to the recommended 15psi is sweat inducing work. From experience it’s also worth adding a bit extra as the more rigid a platform you have the better. You might be asking why we didn’t use an electric 12V pump? The reason is over inflation – you should always rely on the manual option as you can never ‘pop’ these boards that way. It’s physically impossible. Having shown up and blown up it’s then a case of slotting the rear fin into its box and attaching the seat. Embedded D-rings are extremely secure and robust and the provided padded seat is secured via standard brass clips. Upon inspection I was dubious about the paddling position. After all this is a SUP that can be transformed into a sit on top – what if the designers had got the cockpit location wrong? Too far back would cause drag while pushed forwards would no doubt induce nose diving. I needn’t have worried though as once out on the brine it was actually spot on.
ONTO THE WATER
As we’re all aware sit on top kayaks are designed with chines or grooves/spines cut into the hull. It’s these contours that allow your boat to work in paddling mode. Without this hull profile I wasn’t sure how the Fatstick would track. To my surprise it was actually pretty good – in fact the tracking of the 12.6ft is better than some SOTs I’ve tried! This is down to the rear thruster fin set up that keeps everything straight and true. The large central fin and smaller side bites do an impressive job of biting and providing direction stability. Even without a water piercing nose shape the Fatstick effortlessly glides across the water and doesn’t deviate from its course. Floating, as opposed to displacing, cuts down on resistance slightly during forward strokes. This changes when it gets breezy but for calm glassy days and/or moderately blowy periods the Fatstick does a pretty efficient job of getting you from A to B. Manoeuvring from seated isn’t quite as good as with smaller kayaks and you can’t really edge properly as the Fatstick’s rails don’t bite as you’d find with a kayak hull. Pilots will therefore need to put in wide sweep strokes to manoeuvre. We can’t stress enough how good the supplied seat is. It’s super easy to set up correctly and once in paddling position you realise how comfortable it is – in fact we’d go so far as to say it’s better than many specific sit on top seats currently available. Perched on a flat deck wasn’t an issue either – although we appreciate some seasoned paddlers may miss a moulded seating area.
Storage is limited to say the least. There’s a token area on the nose that has bungee cord for lashing gear to the deck but that’s it. This won’t cut the mustard for many who are more used to multiple compartments and tank wells. While not really the point of this hybrid concept, however, it’d be worth looking at your normal sit on top if carrying lots of gear is your thing.
Many may be wondering about the durability of the Fatstick 12.6ft. Having dragged it up and down a shingle beach it stands up to a fair amount of abuse and certainly doesn’t puncture easily – we’ve yet to find a rip or tear. A repair kit is supplied as part of the package but it’s definitely worth checking for nicks and holes before you go afloat. As already stated, the 12.6ft is a single chamber air filled platform and having it sink once out on the brine wouldn’t too welcome.
STAND UP MODE
As much as this is a website about sit on top kayaking it wouldn’t be right not mentioning the Fatstick’s SUP capabilities. And capable it certainly is. Displaying all the traits as when sitting down it’s an extremely glidey machine that will inspire confidence in all paddlers – sit down or stand up. If you’re keen to do a bit of both SUP and kayaking then you could lash the paddle you’re not using to the deck, using the forward bungee cord, and swap about at will. The only thing to account for is the kayak seat – sitting slap bang in the standing area you’ll need to straddle this when in SUP mode and less nimble folks may struggle with this.
Fatsick’s 12.6ft inflatable SUP/SOT hybrid shape is a super versatile bit of paddling kit. Attach the extremely comfy kayak seat and you have a smooth gliding and fun double bladed machine. Step up to stand and SUP mode offers great stability for those learning and progressing. And the really beauty of this design? Simply deflate, pack down and chuck it in the boot of your car – no faffing about trying to manhandle it onto roofbars.