Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review | 2024

Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review 2024
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The Aqua Marina steam is a recreational kayak available in solo and tandem configurations.

Aqua Marina Steam IK: Overview

The Aqua Marina Steam is an entry-level inflatable kayak available in single or tandem passenger arrangements. The Steam is built for a faster paddling experience with more durable materials. The Steam features a durable PVC construction and drop stitch floor with reduced-diameter tubes for less wind resistance. While the Steam is meant to be a faster kayak than the Aqua Marina Laxo, it has a few drawbacks which prevent it from being as efficient as it could be.

Specifications

Dimensions:

  • Length: 10’3”, 13’6”
  • Width: 35”
  • Tube Diameter: 8.5”

Weight:

  • Kayak Weight: 25.5 lbs, 34.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 1 or 2 people
  • Maximum Payload: 250 lbs, 400 lbs

Buying Info:

Construction and Durability

Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review
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The Laxo has three air chambers, each using a Halkey-Roberts valve like those found on most iSUPs.

The Aqua Marina Steam is available in two different sizes – a 10’3” long solo kayak and a 13’6” long tandem kayak. The solo version is rated for up to 250 lbs. The tandem unfortunately doesn’t double that capacity, but rather has a rating of 400 lbs maximum carrying capacity.

The Steam is built with three air chambers. Each of the two 8.5” diameter side tubes is its own independent air chamber. These tubes are made of a reinforced PVC material and feature Halkey-Roberts style valves (the same as most iSUPs). However, even though the tubes are welded together and have the same types of valves as a high-pressure iSUP, the Steam’s tubes have a maximum inflation pressure of just 1.5 PSI.

The floor of the kayak itself is a layer of PVC with four, sealable, drainage holes in the middle on each side. However the Steam has a removable inflatable floor made of drop-stitch PVC. The 2.75” thick floor also has a Halkey-Roberts valve and is rated for up to 4.5 PSI. The Halkey Roberts valves allow for a secure connection between the valve and the pump hose and easy settings for inflation and deflation. The Steam does come with a miniature double-action hand pump with a built-in pressure gauge for easy inflation.

The floor pressure of 4.5 PSI is quite good for an inflatable kayak and provides plenty of stiffness and support for a seated kayaker. The very small, 8.5” diameter, side tubes are another story. Kayak tubes with smaller diameters require higher pressures in order to maintain their rigidity compared to larger diameter tubes at lower pressures. This is why a large whitewater raft with 18” tubes can be rigid enough to easily stand on at just 2 PSI. The Steam’s side tubes have a maximum pressure of just 1.5 PSI. With such a low pressure and small diameter, the Steam suffers from the same flex issue as the Aqua Marina Laxo. It bends where the paddler(s) is seated, and pressing your hands against the tube to shift your position is enough to partially collapse it. It would be great to see these kayaks get a construction boost to allow them to use higher (4-6PSI) in the tubes for better stability and performance on the water.

The floor fits snugly between and under the tubes – in fact you really do need to make sure you put the floor in first before inflating it, otherwise it’s not going to go in. Once the floor is inflated it can be shifted forward or backward a small amount with some effort, but it is difficult to do, so make sure it’s pointed the right way and lined up with the drain holes before inflation.

Features, Accessories and Comfort

Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review
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The Steam kayak kit includes fins, seats, pump, and dry bag – but no paddle.

The Aqua Marina Steam is built with a sleek, streamlined shape for faster travel across the water. The smaller tubes and lower profile reduce wind resistance (both as you paddle and from any side-wind) and have an easy entry in the front without pushing water as you paddle.

The bow and stern deck plates are made from a PVC material (similar to the construction of the tubes) and the deck plate has an adjustable bungee cord to create a medium size cargo area. There’s enough room for a 10-15L dry bag, shoes, or even a small soft-sided cooler. There are no other dedicated storage areas or d-rings on the Steam, however the D-rings for the rear of the seat can easily be used to tie down larger dry bags or medium-sized coolers.

The seat is removable and collapsible, and has a foam cushion bottom and flexible back panel. There are two small zippers that connect the sides of the seat and back panel to keep it upright. The four straps attach to the four d-rings around the seating area (upper straps to the front, lower straps to the back) and a strip of velcro on the kayak floor keeps the bottom of the seat from sliding around once installed. The length of the straps do not allow for much adjustment. Combined with the fixed position options for the foot brace, we come to a critical problem with the Steam: It’s just not comfortable for most adult paddlers. With the foot brace in the forward-most position and the seat as far back as it will adjust without sinking the stern, there’s just not enough leg room. I’m not a tall individual, either – I’m only 5’9”. Moving the seat to this position throws the kayak way out of trim (shown above), with the nose rising extremely high and the tail nearly sinking, and it’s still one of the least comfortable seating positions for a kayak I’ve ever used. I hoped that maybe the tandem version would offer more adjustability, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The seating positions/distances when both seats and foot braces are installed are identical for the front seat, but even more cramped for the back. However, the stern paddler can bypass the foot brace and use the rear of the front paddler’s seat for a foot brace – as long as the front paddler doesn’t get too upset about feeling feet in their back. Turning the tandem into a solo kayak is technically possible by installing one seat using the middle d-rings, but now the position is too far back to use the forward foot brace and there is no velcro on the floor to keep the seat from slipping. While the seating arrangements may not be ideal for adults, it does offer a great opportunity for a higher-performing design to be used by kids. They’ll also have the added benefit of a typically lighter paddler weight which will reduce issues with trim and flex as well.

In addition to the seat for each paddler and 2 fins for the Steam, Aqua Marina also includes a 10L dry bag with a shoulder strap, repair kit, mini hand pump and a hard plastic insert for the splash deflector built onto the bow deck. The Steam kit does not include a paddle, though.

Stability, Maneuverability, and Speed

Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review
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The Steam’s smaller tubes give it more of a “sit on” rather than “sit in” feel on the water.

All kayaks fall into one of two categories: “Sit On Top” or “Sit In” referring to where the paddler is positioned in or on the kayak. Most inflatable kayaks fall into the “Sit In” category. The tubes create a higher gunwale and the paddler sits on the floor or on a seat between the tubes. Because the Steam’s side tubes are quite small at just 8.5” in diameter, the Steam takes on more of the feeling of a sit on top kayak. The 35” overall width provides lots of primary stability for the Steam while it is resting flat on its bottom. However, the smaller tubes and sit-on-top positioning mean that there isn’t as much leeway for leaning the Steam over onto its side.

The Steam has a significant amount of rocker in both the nose and tail. This has the benefit of easily allowing it to rise up and over waves and choppy conditions. It also increases the Steam’s maneuverability compared to a flatter hull shape. Without installing the two keel fins, the Steam turns quickly and easily with just two forward sweep strokes. The tandem version takes an extra stroke and a half due to its longer waterline. Adding the fins reduces the Steam’s maneuverability, but it is still very manageable. The fins have the added benefit of increasing the Steam’s tracking ability. Without the fins you can still paddle in a straight line with good quality, even paddle strokes. However when paddling tandem, or if you are not consistently taking stroke after stroke, the fins help straighten out any imbalances.

The lower profile and smooth water-entry at the bow of the kayak gives the Steam not just a sleek look, but a smooth paddling sensation as well. There’s no pushing of water at the bow and acceleration is quick. The paddler positioning and rigidity issues do prevent the Steam from achieving the speeds and efficiencies it’s designed to achieve. Moving the seat forward to level the trim of the kayak means you lose the ability to press with your feet into the foot brace (which helps use your core and legs to power the boat). With an upgrade in pressure allowances and more adjustability in the foot brace position, the Steam will prove to be a faster and more efficient flatwater kayak.

Warranty and Customer Support and Value

Aqua Marina’s warranty and customer support are primarily handled by its network of retail vendors as they do not sell directly to customers. They do warranty the Steam against manufacturing defects for 1 year from the date of purchase, however any return policies are set by the retailers. In North America, the current Aqua Marina distributor is Zoppinh.com. They offer a 30 day return period for new/unused equipment. They can be reached by phone, email, web form, or social media for questions or concerns. Aqua Marina can be contacted directly via a web form or social media.

Overall the Aqua Marina Steam is the building block of a day-touring inflatable kayak. In its current configuration, the Steam still needs just a few minor adjustments in design before it can offer the same level of performance as several other inflatable kayaks in its price range, but it’s close.

Overall Impressions/Review Summary

Aqua Marina Steam Inflatable Kayak Review
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The Aqua Marina Steam is currently set up as a higher-performance kayak with sizing ideal for kids and teens.

Overall, I found the Aqua Marina Steam to be a bit of an intrigue. There’s some enhancements I’d like to see in its construction, but the biggest problem for me was comfort. Largely this was caused by the adjustability of the seat straps and the position of the foot brace. These are two very easily adjusted features that I hope Aqua Marina will consider for future versions of the Steam. As they are currently sized, though, the Steam solo would make for a great kayak for kids and paddlers under 5’2”, especially with the smaller diameter tubes allowing for an easier reach with the paddle.

One comment

  1. Useful review, I considered the Steam and eventually bought the Memba,which I deemed more stable.
    But eventually the seating configuration of the Memba is also problematic

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