Hobie Mirage Kayaks: Pedal Kayaks Versus Paddle Kayaks

Animated Hobie Mirage Drive Visual

What is the Mirage Drive, and how did it come about?

From its first unveiling in 1997 till today, Hobie Cat’s Mirage kayaks have gone being an interesting curiosity to one of the best selling kayak lines in the industry. Behind it all is the Mirage Drive Pedal mechanism developed by Hobie Cat engineer, Greg Ketterman. Mirage pedal drive kayaks are as different from paddling kayaks as downhill skiing is from snowboarding. They aren’t really better, or worse, than paddling kayaks, they’re just different.

In its most simple form, the Mirage drive fin (called a Hydrosail) works exactly like a penguins fin and for the same reason a Penguin goes forward through the water, so does a Mirage kayak. Each Hydrosail consists of a stainless steel rod on the leading edge that supports a flexible polyurethane fin. The fore and aft motion of the pedals at the top of the drive mechanism, move the fins back and forth under the water. This back and forth motion sculls the kayak forward at an amazingly fast speed.

How are Hobie Mirage Drive Kayaks different from paddle kayaks?

There are three things that all Mirage users notice the first time the get into the kayak. First, they’re fast. Much faster than a like sized paddling kayak. The two Mirage drive fins together are almost twice the size of the blade of a paddle so they move twice the water with each pedal stroke. It takes about half a dozen strokes to get the kayaks up to speed; from then on it’s an easy pedaling stroke to keep the boats going. Pedaling the Mirage drive feels about like a 5-10 mph pace on a bicycle on flat pavement. It’s really easy. And, for the bigger is better crowd, those clever folks at Hobie have developed two optional larger sized sets of fins for even more speed.

The second thing people notice is how stable the kayaks are. The back and forth motion of the Mirage drive fins adds stability to the boat unlike any other kayak or canoe. As long as the operator keeps pedaling, the boats are extremely quiet in the water, even in waves.

Third, your hands are free! Mirage kayaks are steered with a small steering lever that controls a rudder at the back of the boat. They have a much smaller turn radius than any other kayak or canoe. The lever is mounted right next to the seat. Point the lever right the boat steers right, point it left, the boat steers left. The cool thing about the steering control is that it’s designed with just enough resistance to hold its position without having to keep your hand on the lever. That leaves your hands free to fish, shoot pictures, eat or drink, work your GPS or just plain relax.

It’s been said that a Mirage kayak is to a paddling kayak like an iPod is to a Walkman. There’s probably not that much difference but they sure are cool. Find your local demo site, give em a try and see what you think. As the Hobie Cat motto says, “The world is a Waterpark. Since 1950 we’ve made the best rides”.