Stealth Kayaks a fiberglass revolution

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The meaning of the word renaissance in French is rebirth but the word more often refers to a time in history that marked the revival of classic learnings after a long period of cultural stagnation and decline. So, now when fiberglass fishing kayaks are gaining popularity through the world I look at it more as a renaissance rather than a revolution.

Because to some this fiberglass thing is nothing new. Brett Challenor along with his dad Bruce have been working with fiberglass for almost a lifetime already. Bruce first learned how to use fiberglass as he patched up his own torned surfboards at home in his garage as a kid but already as a teenager he started designing and building both surfboards and boats. And now almost forty-five years ago at the age of sixteen he designed and built his first boat all by himself.

Although the kayak was supposedly invented around the Barents Sea some three thousand years ago one could state that it later evolved and that paddling now is driven forward by South Africa. Ask any competition paddler where he would like to go to train or where those who has inspired him comes from. Ninety nine percent will say South Africa. Racing kayaks on open water is almost in their genetic code. They grow up around beaches and water sports are what they do. It is in their culture to race in surf skis in open water situation facing anything to big, breaking surf, waves, strong winds and powerful tides and rips.

Paddling in those conditions requires a kayak capable of handling everything the ocean throws at you and Brett along with his dad started up Stealth Performance Products in 1996 while Brett was still racing surf skis for South Africa. Their aim was to use his dads designing and constructing skills along with Bretts hands on experience to build the best racing kayaks possible.

However there is one more thing that South Africa is famous for and it is their fishing. They got it all!

– yellowfin tunas, mahi mahi, sailfish, GT, Kingfish, marlins, bottom fish species, snappers, sharks, you name it, they got it! If that was not enough, the fish are both big in size and plentiful.

Combine their kayaking skills with the available fishing and you got a perfect recipe for creating some very talented kayak anglers and it is no joke when I say the most hardcore kayak anglers there are come from southern Africa. It is only that they themselves don´t seem to realize it. Either that or they are just very down to earth guys that don´t make a big deal about it…

Stealth Kayaks evolved from exactly this, big fish and open water racing. When Brett stopped racing he combined his love of fishing with his paddling skills coupled with his dad´s designing skills and together they set out to build the best performing fishing kayaks in the world.

– and the material?

– fiberglass, of course.

Modern kayak fishing has changed a lot lately. The market needs to sell things to grow itself and modern fishing kayaks have become wider and wider up to a point where they are no longer possible to paddle with a paddle, at least not if you got the wind against you, need to travel a longer distance or face some tough conditions. The market has developed accessories that requires larger kayaks. Accessories like electric anchor systems, phone and tablett holders so you can bring a ipad on the water. They got seats that are more comfortable than car seats that can be adjusted in every possible way. Modern kayaks also carry so many electronic devices that you require a powerful battery to run them all.

This has in turn made the market realize that these kayaks can´t be paddled in a classic way anymore so they now come equipped with electrical motors and pedals to drive the kayaks.

Please don´t get me wrong. I am not in this to debate the right or wrong of this or to discuss pedals or motors. If you want pedals, get them! We are all free to like whatever we fancy but I am mentioning this part of modern kayak fishing because it explains why Stealth Kayaks are gaining popularity around the world contrary to the fact that they are one small kayak manufacturer in South Africa building every kayak by hand.

The downside of the heavy modern kayaks are for one thing that they are very heavy and hard to load onto your car by yourself and to do so you often need to take off the seat, the electronics, all accessories and so on all in all making the kayak less mobile and hitting the water time consuming.

Stealth Kayaks are made so that they shall be as mobile as possible and as light as possible. A Fisha 460 weights around 23kg:s and can easily be handled by anyone. All Stealth kayaks are built with very large center hatch that doubles as rod storage while launching through the surf and as a place to put your catch. It is also perfect for packing with camping gear and you can easily fit both your sleeping bag, tent and a few days of supplies.

All kayaks come supplied with four flush mounted rod holders that will survive the heaviest of fish strikes. Two of the rod holders are put on an angle perfect for trolling while the two at the back are facing upwards for carrying extra rods for casting as showing fish or maybe a baitfish rod.

Your fish finder can either be flush mounted in the are in front of you by cutting a whole in the fiberglass or there are special carbon center hatch lids that are built to take sounders up to 7”. You can also mount a bigger screen if you need in a traditional way on a mount but that makes the kayak a little less portable.

Many think that a Stealth is unstable but I would after using one for over a year claim differently. First of all, all stability always come from the paddler himself, not the kayak. You get to know your kayak and what at first feels unstable is later something you don´t even think of. A Stealth is also so very easy to get back on if fallen off. Self rescue is not even an issue without all accessories and things sticking out like on modern kayaks.What really makes Stealth special though is the feeling you get once you first try one.

– they glide, with seemingly no effort required.

A Stealth Kayak move through the water column seemingly effort less.

– at least compared to a plastic kayak.

Plastic vs fiberglass

Plastic is a good material. It is cheap and sturdy. A plastic kayak can take a lot of beating. They are also fairly easy for the manufacturer to make and one single worker can make many kayaks in one day. The material is a little bit heavy and has flex in it making for a less good paddling kayak dur to the lack of stiffness. The rotomoulded plastic kayaks are also rough in the surface, creating resistance in the water.

Fiberglass is fairly expensive and it requires a lot of skill to build a kayak. It is time consuming with different processes where it has to set or dry before continuing. Building a Stealth Kayak takes around two weeks and are hand made by skilled kayak builders. The fiberglass is very stiff and the Gelcoat surface of the kayak is like glass. It has no poores and on the water it glides without resistance against the material.

Stealth is growing extremely rapidly in popularity. Kayak anglers in New Zeeland and Australia have all turned to Stealth for their extreme fishing for big fish offshore. In the USA and Hawaii Stealth is spreading everyday and what is now happening is that the demand from European kayak anglers is exploding.

The reason is simple. Stealth Kayaks makes the best paddling kayaks there are according to many. But the main reason is that as the market progresses into a new era with wide pedal and motor kayaks that progress is not for everyone and a growing group of kayak anglers have turned back wanting a kayak that can really be paddled well and there is nothing faster than a Stealth.

– question is if you want to join the fiberglass revolution?

Extra Facts

Stealth makes three models, the Fisha, the Profisha and the Surf Fisha.

The Fisha is a little wider and perfect for both sea fishing but also for fresh waters and rivers or for the bigger paddler.

The Profisha is the most popular model and comes in three lengths. This kayak was intended for hardcore fishing and long paddles at sea. The smallest model, the Profisha 475 has proved popular also by fresh water anglers.

The Surf Fisha is for the angler launching a lot through big waves.

Stealth has dealers in Sweden, France, Spain, Italy and England at the moment but within a year that list will be more extensive.

Stealth offer both stock kayaks but you can also design your own kayak and they make it to your specifications.

Right now Stealth is putting together a European order to arrive this spring and if someone wants a custom designed kayak they can contact Stealth on either of the below addresses.

You can find everything you need about Stealth Kayaks at their main webpage. www.stealthkayaks.co.za or on their European Facebook @Stealth Kayaks EU or instagram @stealthkayakseu

Text Joel Abrahamsson