Innova Kayaks | Your Summer Adventure, Inflated

Summer is coming on hard here in the Southwest and with the heat comes a focus on water adventures. When the sun is beating down and the trails become unbearably hot, it’s time to break out the kayaks.

A while back I started thinking about inflatable kayaks.  I grew up on the river and spent many a summer paddling or rowing all sorts of water across the Pacific Northwest. I loved the water and missed it terribly when I moved out to Arizona. My wife and I have made an effort to include river and lake activities into our travel, but that involves either hauling a big, heavy kayak around or renting something wherever we end up. Those aren’t always great options, so I started looking for something more convenient.

Dave on the Rogue River

Space is always at a premium when we travel, so looking for a solution that would be compact, easy to use, reliable and lightweight-ish would be key. I remember having an inflatable kayak as a kid. It was one of the cheaper plastic models from the early 80’s and didn’t hold up well to abuse. My brother and I destroyed it after only a couple summers of river trips. Cheap inflatables are everywhere, you can usually grab something inexpensive at Walmart but I’d be lucky to get a single season out of it. That’s just not going to work for me.

What I was looking for was something that could travel well, but put up with some abuse. My days rafting big rivers in big boats made me very aware of how easy it is for inflatable rafts to break down or tear apart in rough terrain. So aside from packability and lightweight, I wanted to make sure I found a durable boat that could handle regular abuse. I wanted something that could handle whitewater as well as it could handle flatwater. Finding the right solution would mean maximizing our summer outdoor fun no matter where we go.

During my search, I was introduced to Innova Kayaks.

Innova Kayaks are one of the first inflatables I’ve seen that have all the high-end production options as the big, expensive professional inflatables but without the price tag. All their kayak hulls are made of Nitrylon Lite™ (NL), a rip-stop polyester fabric, rubber-coated on the interior for air-retention, and Teflon®-treated on the outside for water repellency and stain resistance. This offers durability similar to what you get from the big commercial boats. I was also really impressed to see a commercial-grade valve system on these boats. This is pretty key, considering valve failure is one of the most common problems with inflatables. I have the Innova Swing I single-person kayak which retails right around $600. That’s a pretty good price for any kayak, let alone an inflatable with this level of quality construction (compare that to the NRS inflatables that range from $1000-$2000). Most of the Innova Kayaks also have a heavy-duty rip-stop urethane-coated deck material with zippered access to close in the boat deck. This allows for some good protection that a lot of other inflatables don’t have as well the ability to add a spray skirt ($50) for whitewater kayaking. Another feature of the Swing I is the removable tracking fin for greater stability and control in flat water.

The Innova Swing I is a nice-sized, single-person inflatable kayak. It’s versatile enough to take on just about any kind of water and small enough to be packed into any location. The Swing I rolls up into about 18″x10″ and weighs around 25lbs. Innova makes a drybag backpack to make carrying your inflatable easier.

Inflating the Innova Kayak

Innova valve system

Having an Inflatable Kayak opened up some really cool opportunities for me. A friend reached out to me last Fall about a possible trip, but it would require packing our raft gear several miles down a side canyon to the Colorado River below Lake Mead. This would not have been possible without an inflatable kayak. We met at the take-out and drove to the trailhead that would lead to our put-in. After a moderate hike down to the river, we were able to toss out our gear, pump up both of the boats, and head down the river in less than an hour. We spent two days paddling the easy flatwater of the Colorado River, camping on a spit of sand attached to the deep rocky canyons. The Swing I performed beautifully on the river and even made for a decent bed at camp that night.

Innova River Trip B-1

DCIM101GOPRO

Lower Salt Paddle-7

Since getting the inflatable kayak, I have found fewer reasons to pull out the old, heavy, plastic kayak I used to paddle around. Now, trips down the Lower Salt River, Verde River, or paddling around the local lake reservoirs is easier and more comfortable. The Swing I is lighter, more manageable in the water, and packs smaller than any other kayak I’ve had.

If like me, your summer trips revolve around water you need to look into Innova Kayaks. For the price, they are one of the best options on the market for inflatable kayaks. I’ve been really impressed with the overall quality and durability of the Swing I. Check out the full boat selection from Innova Kayaks on their website.

 

Disclosure: I was provided the Swing I in order to test and review the kayak for performance and reliability. I have done my due diligence testing this product extensively in various environments, conditions, and purposes. The above information is my own opinion of Innova products and inflatable kayaks in general based on my own experiences.

Saturday Ride to Tempe Town Lake…

The tail end of October I spent nursing an excruciatingly painful swollen knee. It finally improved but I’ve been taking it easy on it so far. I’ve tried running a couple of times and it still feels loose and unpredictable so I’ve taken to riding my bike to keep up some activity.

Not only do I need to keep up the rehab on the knee, but I’m in a new part of town and I have been looking forward to exploring. I took last Saturday to bike along the park that sits next to my house. It’s a beautiful park with lakes and ponds, botanical gardens, sports fields and a nice long bike path. It’s been over a decade since I’ve explored the parks along Hayden in Scottsdale.

So Saturday I decided to ride south along the trail and see what there was to see. I had no idea that the Tempe Town Lake was connected to this trail system and only 5.5 miles from the new house! I’ve never really been to Tempe Lake, even though it’s been there since it was filled with water from the Central Arizona Project in 1999. The history of the Tempe Town Lake area is very interesting stuff, it’s been a central part of the valley for a very long time. The Lake Project itself had been in the works for over a decade before it was actually realized.

bike trail cuts under major roadway

I decide to extend the ride and loop the lake along the shoreline trail. I stopped to take some pictures and especially enjoyed shooting the West End Pedestrian Bridge. I knew there was a lot to do down here but I really had no idea how active a site the Lake had become. With it’s proximity to the University, there were tons of people out running, boating, biking, playing volleyball and fishing all along the shore line.

View down the West Pedestrian Bridge

I finished my loop in a wicked headwind. I stopped a mile or so from the house and laid out in the sun on the soft grass of one of the parks. It’s nice to know the Lake is so close and easy to reach from the new place. The total ride was a little over 18 miles, a good rehab ride and a great way to spend my Saturday morning. I will have to do this one again!

More Photos from the Lake…

South Lake Tahoe: Wedding Planning…

“We’re getting married here.”

These are the words my beautiful fiancé whispered in my ear as I held her in my arms on the grassy hill overlooking Regan Beach.  We have researched for months trying to find a location for our wedding ceremony.  Tahoe is a beautiful place, but finding just the right location for our wedding had proved difficult.  We had originally settled on a beach location just outside our reception venue, but once we physically visited the beach we were concerned about too many problems and the search continued.

Other decisions were easier and our trip last week was mainly to see if we had made the right decisions.  I think we did well.  We had found 968 Park Hotel online.  The hotel is a renovation of an older establishment.  The new owners had a vision of creating the first Eco-Hotel in South Lake Tahoe.  The new “Green” Hotel was created with the environment in mind.

“Since day one of the renovation every effort was made to reduce, re-use and recycle as much of the existing materials as possible.  Any materials and furnishings that could not be reused were either donated or recycled for other purposes and the new materials used in the renovation were specifically chosen for their sustainability.”

Lobby of the 968 Park Hotel

Lobby and Bar at 968 Park Hotel

We both fell in love with the concept of the hotel immediately.  But concept and practice are two different things.  We made reservations to stay at 968 Park Hotel on this trip to make sure the hotel would fit our needs to house our guests for the wedding.  There were a few minor issues, not much different than you’d find in any busy hotel (it was the weekend after the biggest snow of the year and they were packed).  We had rooms for us and our parents, and the general consensus was that the hotel would fit our needs nicely.  We had a great stay and we highly recommend them if you are in the area.  Even if you don’t stay there, stop in to the little bar for Happy Hour and just check the place out.

The other easy decision was the venue for the Rehearsal Dinner.  Almost every time we visited Lake Tahoe we would be in Tahoe City on the north side of the lake.  Our favorite spot on the north side is Rosie’s Cafe.  Rosie’s is fantastic and a perfect little local restaurant.  When we got engaged, they worked with me to set up a special dinner for Merelyn and they even brought us Champagne, on the house, and insisted on serving us cake for Merelyn’s birthday.  It’s a great little place with TONS of personality and we wanted to share it with our friends and family.  So we had breakfast at Rosie’s and met with the manager, Deanne, who cheerfully talked to us about how easy and fun it would be to have our rehearsal dinner there.  It’s the only part of our wedding that will not be in South Lake, but it’s well worth the drive.

We were also in town for the important business of settling on our reception venue.  More than anything else, this had us worried because these places book up FAST in Tahoe and we had chosen our venue without ever having visited them.  We were worried about the decor, the space, the food…

interior of Riva Room at Riva Grill

Interior at Riva Grill Event Room...

Riva Grill sits at Ski Run Marina right on the beach in South Lake Tahoe just behind the dock for the famous Tahoe Queen paddle boat.  We loved the beach front location and it’s only about a mile away from the hotel, an easy walk.  Sunday afternoon we stopped in with our parents in tow to have lunch and meet with the event coordinator there.  We all made sure to order something different off the menu so we could get a good picture of the quality of the food.  The food was amazing!  Their Conchiglie Pasta was fantastic and you can have it with grilled vegetables instead of chicken (for the vegetarians!)  They will also do a vegetarian Risotto (rich, creamy and delicious).  The food turned out to be incredibly good and once we got a look upstairs at the room reserved for our event, we were sold.  It’s a beautiful space, and there is tons of room.  The entire wall facing the lake is glass and the glass doors open to a narrow balcony overlooking the beach.  Their event coordinator, Amanda, was very friendly and helpful.

But we still needed a place for the ceremony.  Our contact at 968 Park Hotel, Cristina, listened to our dilemma one afternoon and recommended we look at Regan Beach.  We separated from our parents after lunch the next day and decided to swing by and take a look.  The beach looked ok, parking was sufficient, it wasn’t ideal…but better than the beach in front of Riva.  Then as we started to drive away we saw a small posting about a wedding.  The small hill above the beach, lined with trees and overlooking the lake, must be the spot.  We kicked below the icy snow and discovered grass and a small brick patio in the middle of the space.  With our imagination we shook off the cold of winter and could see the space as it would look in Ooctober…the trees full and green, maybe just starting to turn color…the grass and shrubs green and full and the beautiful blue lake in the background of it all.

view of Lake Tahoe from Regan Beach

We brought our parents back to show them and get their opinions. But as we stood there in the middle of the snow-covered knoll, we knew this was the place.  Merelyn reached out and grabbed my hands, and whispered, “We’re getting married here…” and I knew by the smile on her face that she was right.

We fell in love in Tahoe…we fell in love with Tahoe…and we can’t wait to start our lives together in Tahoe.