Not many people will have necessarily heard of the Hobie pedal-powered kayaks. However, a lot of people may be familiar with the Hobie Cat (catamaran), but the origins go back much further. The founder of the company was Hobart Alter known to his friends as Hobie. His story starts in California in 1950 where he initially crafted balsa-wood surfboards for friends and by 1958 he created the process for foam-filled fibreglass surfboards. There were major contributions to the sport of skateboarding with polyurethane wheels in 1962. The famous Hobie Cats were launched in 1968, as well as many mono-hull fibreglass sailboats; the innovative company even found time to introduce products as diverse as remote-control gliders, polarised sunglasses and women’s swimwear.
The first forays into angling craft came in 1994 with the introduction of the Hobie Float Cat. Technology was advancing and the first rotomolded polyurethane catamarans came in the same year. By 1996, the technology has been applied to the first Hobie kayaks (we offer kayaking and fishing tours with Hobie kayaks), and in the following year the revolutionary Mirage Drive made big waves in the kayaking scene.
Hobie’s Mirage Drive was born of the theory that it’s easier to push something with your bigger leg muscles than it is to pull something with your upper body’s smaller muscles.
Two pedal-mounted levers located just forward of the kayak seat are attached via a clever system of chains and pulleys to powerful underwater fins. These flexible fins assume the shape of a propeller blade, providing forward motion with each pedal stroke. A major advantage of the system is its ability to generate equal power on both sides because the fin inverts its shape on the opposite backstroke.
Some of the major advantages of this system include:
- Increased efficiency due to the backstroke action
- More stability due to the seal effect of the fins
- Hands-free action for fishing and photography etc. thanks to the lever control system
- No drips from the paddles – a great advantage for beginners
- No need to synchronise paddle strokes in tandem kayaks, a blessing for any couple enjoying the water
The first generation of Mirage Drives lasted from 1997 to 2006, in which time the first angling-specific kayaks, the Outback model, was introduced in 2001. These were a huge success, but far from the end on the innovation and development of the system.
The 2006 turbo fin was a simple redesign of the length, and squaring off the tip of the fin offered more torque and stability. 2014 saw a 10% increase in efficiency due to the significant modifications and the addition of ball bearings on all moving parts.
Up until 2016, the drive system had only allowed forward propulsion; the introduction of the 180 Mirage Drives changed all that. By pulling a cord located in front of the pedal the whole fin system under the water would rotate 180 degrees to enable travel in the reverse direction, this is a serious benefit to the kayak angler.
Further refinements saw kick up fins that would retract if they struck a submerged obstacle and return to position once it had passed, this personally saved me many hours having to realign the metal masts within the fins after every tour.
The latest iteration has enabled true 360-degree motion for the top-of-the-line fishing kayaks, the drive shape is much broader hence they can’t be swapped between the Hobie pedal-powered kayaks like all previous Mirage Drives. The end result is a system that allows a safer, more efficient and more stable way to explore the water.
If you want to see them in action in some superb locations – arrange a tour with is today.
The Mirage Drives really do make for a very easy, relaxing and splash-free experience!