It’s been some time since I’ve paddled sea kayaks as I’ve been paddling surfskis for the past few years, but today I got to experience a very different type of sea kayak, one that redefines the entire category. The kayak in question is the very new Mirage 583 “Freeride”, which has literally just come off the development line and is set for commercial production in the coming weeks.
The folks at Mirage have been working on the concept for a couple of years, with the idea to create a sea kayak that could be used in many different ways across multiple waterway types, be that fitness paddling, surf kayaking, rock gardening, swell riding or even boat wake chasing. The “Freeride” concept is just that – kayaks that give their paddlers the freedom to use them in any way they like – and is targeted more at the day paddler looking to have fun rather than expedition paddlers loading up for long trips.
The design concept is quite straight forward. They’ve taken the sea kayak hull from the Mirage 582, with plenty of rocker, a flattened centre section and an integrated Mirage rudder, and then married it with an open deck that will look familiar to surfski paddlers with it’s adjustable footplate and venturi drain. The 583 however is nothing like a surfski, in that its traditional sea kayak shape still handles exactly like a sea kayak when it comes to edging and technical strokes.
I took the Mirage 583 Freeride out for a test paddle to see what it was like, keeping in mind I was still very weary after last weekends 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. I’d also paddled the Mirage 582 briefly a few weeks earlier so I had that as a reference point to the handling of this new type of kayak.
Firstly, the moulded seat sits higher than the hull-attached seat of the 582, which to a paddler of my size (i.e. 120kg+) made the 583 feel less stable. The feeling wasn’t dramatic but it did feel a fraction twitchier sitting up higher. That said, the higher seat position and open deck combined to offer a far better paddling position, as I could sit up and over my feet for greater power as well as letting me paddle with my knees together for better rotation and drive. This solves one of my biggest criticisms of sea kayaks today – the need to paddle with splayed knees (required to fit my legs under the hull of a sit-in kayak hull).
The hull shape gives plenty of secondary stability in chop and despite plenty of large cruisers sending wake side-on into me, I didn’t ever feel like I was going to come out of the Freeride. Plus with just the smallest of bumps behind the 583, it would quickly accelerate and was easy to keep fast enough to stay on waves. Later in the session I chased boat wake and found the 583 very easy to keep on the bubbling bumps and found the ride stable and enjoyable, if not fairly wet!
Lastly, I wanted to see how hard it would be to remount the boat once off (not that I ever felt like I was going to tip out!). I jumped off the kayak and, using my extensive experience mounting surfskis (haha!), found the 583 very easy to slide onto and into in just seconds.
This is a fascinating boat with lots of options on how it can be used. Because it is so easy to remount it will undoubtedly become a favourite for rock-gardening and surfing, but the rumours from Mirage is that there’s likely to be a kayak-fishing lay-up as well in the not too distant future.
With such a new category of paddling, I’m not sure we can guess how the 583 will be mainly used by its target market, but one thing is for sure, it’s going to have plenty of demand with Mirage already taking orders and the wait-list now 4-5 weeks long. It’ll certainly be a sea kayak to watch out for this Summer. Cheers, FP