Hobie dropped the first pedal-driven kayak back in 1997, but it was 15 years before we took the technology seriously. When we finally placed one of the boats in our test rotation, we were blown away by how capable it turned out to be compared with most recreational craft. Hobie’s patent ran out last year, and competing designs have started to enter the market.
Jackson Kayak Cruise FD ($2,399)
Jackson Kayak’s Cruise FD rips on Class I and II whitewater, thanks to a sharply cut, rockered bow and best-in-category turning radius.
Wilderness Systems Radar 115 ($1,349)
The budget-friendly Wilderness Systems Radar 115 was stable enough for testers to stand up and fish on lakes. The propeller is spring loaded and can be raised from the cockpit, making shore landings drama-free.
Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal ($2,200)
Ocean Kayak released the Malibu Pedal, which extends the company’s family-friendly sit-on-top pedigree. The 34.5-inch-wide platform is plenty stable, and a jump seat makes it comfy for a life-jacketed toddler to hang out in the stern for hours of mellow ocean cruising.
Hobie Compass ($1,949)
At the end of the day, however, Hobie hasn’t lost its hard-earned respect. The Compass is its most accessible pedal-powered boat to date. At 68 pounds, it’s more than ten pounds lighter than its predecessor, the Outback, and the sub-$2,000 price tag puts it within range of first-time buyers. It’s also stabler than the Outback, thanks to a wider stern, and the drivetrain can go in reverse—a huge improvement for anglers.