by Chase Tanner
“Hobie PA’s don’t work in the river”
I’m here to tell you that it’s time to shatter that connotation.
I’ll begin by saying that my only affiliation in this industry anymore is to my local paddle shop Appomattox River Company...so hopefully my words have more merit than someone trying to push a particular product with blind fealty to the crest on their jersey.
When I first saw the Hobie 360 drive debut at icast it peaked my curiosity, not because it was something I wanted to use...but because it was something that I dreaded. I was still firmly entrenched in my duty’s to Native Watercraft at the time and it almost instilled a sense of dread for 2020 sales figures. “Oh man...if that thing is as advertised, the rest of the pedal drive market segment is gonna have heck of a time competing with that.” I tried to pick it apart. I wanted it to have a weakness other than it’s price. “That’s a lot of moving parts. Maybe it won’t hold up over time? It’s first generation so it’ll have issues.” But in the back of my mind was a singular thought burning a hole in my brain. I wonder what that would do in the river?
Fast forward several months and I found myself sitting in a factory fresh Hobie PA12 360 on the James River in downtown Lynchburg. It really was an unbelievable moment. How did I get here from where I started? I was in my own head, and I couldn’t believe the events that had transpired for me to be sitting in a freaking Hobie PA in the river...snap out of it. I pushed off the bank, dropped the drive into the kayak and immediately hit the first rock I could find. The fins kicked back and agonizingly slid across the top of rock dropping back into place with a kick of the pedals once I was clear of the edge. “Ok well I didn’t break it, let’s see what it does in current”
This was the moment of my great Hobie awakening. I can tell you with utter confidence that a regular PA 12 with the md180 wouldn’t do it for me. It’s 360 or bust, because the course correction in current is on a different level than anything I’ve seen or been in to date. Gone are the days of waiting for water to move across the surface of a rudder to turn you. You can use the 360 drive to make the river bend to your will. Go where you want when you want and point the bow in the direction you want regardless of the influence of wind or current. I worked my way up a rapid flutter kicking and began mastering the controls.
There is a small adjustment period when first using the drive, mostly it takes some getting used to because the course corrections are so instantaneous with the 360 while still pedaling. I found it to throw me slightly off balance for about the first 10 mins. Having 2 independent ways to steer is pretty cool. You start to put it all together and it becomes a thoughtless process after a bit. I found myself orchestrating this beautiful symphony of aquatic maneuverability all the way to the dam and back several times. I’m sure anyone watching me would have been laughing at the crazy guy pedaling up the river sideways while doing laps around the island. I had a big grin on my face and I hadn’t even wet a line...cause my Hobie was working beautifully in the river.
I’ve now made 6 trips at 6 different single access locations between the James and Staunton river ranging from slow deep water to class 1 rapids and riffles, each time the kayak has excelled and provided new opportunity for fishing efficiency. I’ve also pulled up through rapids and paddled back down through them without issue which greatly increases the amount of water I can cover in this kayak.
A few observations.
I’ll say that the motion of the mirage drive is a lot easier on my back than that of a elliptical style drive.
The kick up feature is stiff from the factory and requires a bit of break in for them to reseat properly every time. I was having an issue where if I hit something slow enough to just kick back the front fin. It would contact the rear fin when pedaling to re-engage the drive. Turns out I just wasn’t pedaling hard enough to force it back into place.
The seat is comfortable and quiet and it’s probably my second favorite feature behind the drive. Pain free fishing is an important part of being efficient on the water.
I prefer the skeg down. I need to remember it’s down once I let it down. That may bite me one day if I’m drifting backwards.
I was introduced to horizontal rod storage in my natives....my love affair with it continues with the PA. No more breaking rod tips in trees.
It paddles ok for the rare instance you have to drop back through a shallow riffle. That’s the only time I’ve found myself even picking up the paddle so far.
This is not a boat I would put in technical water. I pull the drive to run the rapids I’ve been down in it so far. Class 2 tops. Ill stick to paddle craft on water like the James river gorge.
Flutter kicking, and holding the drive against the hull is still preferred to beating the drive up on rocks. It’s just nice to know the kick up feature is there as your safety net.
If I was a lake only angler, I’d have to give heavy consideration to saving the extra money and sticking with the md180 with kick ups.
Certainly still in the honeymoon phase of getting to know this kayak but so far it has performed as advertised for me. I’ll revisit this as I’ve had more seat time and put more wear and tear on all the various functions and features. It has been an absolute monster in the river and further changed the way I fish than when I made the jump from paddle to pedal in the first place. If it stands the test of time in durability, my Gluteus Maximus may very well spend most of its time parked in the seat with the flying H on it.
ARC has them in stock. Stop by and check one out if you are curious. Also available on the website : https://paddleva.com/products/hobie-mirage-pro-angler-12-with-360-drive-2020