(The Gear Loop) - Paddling on a beautifully clam day - when the sun is shining, the water flat and the wind non-existent - is a fun, rewarding and peaceful endeavour. Paddling when the current is strong, the wind is making things choppy and the temperature frigid is most definitely not.
The problem is, we’re not always faced with perfect conditions and the difficulty of paddling in tidal areas, or those with particularly nasty currents, can turn that kayak or SUP trip into a royal pain in the backside.
Although most definitely cheating, the Vaquita electric motor is a simple after-market solution that kayak and paddle board owners can bolt onto both hard boards and inflatables to make life on the water a little easier.
The package consists of a motor, which efficiently clips into the fin box of most paddle boards or straps to the underside of a kayak, a 2.5kg/325Wh battery pack and a wireless remote. We took to the Cornish waters with it to see if it is any good.
There’s no denying the Vaquita electric motor makes a day on the water much easier. It also opens up the ability to travel further, explore more and simply paddle for longer, even when heavily laden with kit and the weather turns sour. However, it’s also very expensive, looks a bit awkward when installed and reduces the fitness benefits somewhat. But for those who absolutely need extra paddle power, it's a solid purchase that's very easy to get to grips with.
Price: £700 | Buy from Ride and Glide UK
Vaquita Electric SUP and Kayak motor
- Easy to install
- Makes paddling a doddle
- Good battery life
- Relatively heavy
- Looks bulky when in place
- The price
- Impacts fitness
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Vaquita Electric Motor in short:
- Top speed: 6mph
- Run time: 25% throttle - 8 hours, 50% throttle - 5 hours, 100% throttle - 1 hour
- Charge time: 3 hours
- Input power: 330W
- Weight: 2.5kg (battery), 1.5kg (motor)
- Eight-speed wireless remote
- Safety cut-off sensors
Design and set-up
The Vaquita arrives in a fairly large and weighty box, housing all of the components you need to get started.
Essentially, if your board or kayak has a fin box (either US standard or inflatable style), it’s as simple as fitting the motor to the provided adaptor and installing as you would normally.
Kayaks without fins are a little trickier, but Vaquita supply a number of straps that wrap around the unit and hull. It’s not a pretty solution, but it works.
The paddle board compatibility is neat, until it comes time to safely stash the battery pack, as it’s very dependant on what cargo system your board sports.
Those with webbing or a number of D-rings at the rear of their boards will find it simple and relatively neat, as the battery pack bungees to the back and remains fairly secure throughout the ride. Unfortunately, our inflatable Red Paddle Board wasn’t graced with as much handy stowage.
We ended up pinching some straps from the front of the board and installing them at the rear as best as we could. The battery is heavy enough to stay in place on its own and the system isn’t really designed for waves or overly choppy water any way. It’s also waterproof and floats, should the worst happen.
Annoyingly but quite predictably, there’s also a wire to trail from the battery pack to the motor, while the wireless remote can happily slip on to a wrist or wrap around the shaft of a paddle.
Like we say, it’s not the neatest solution but set-up was fast and everything felt and appeared well built, as if it would last many years at sea.
Performance on the water
With eight speeds on offer, it’s possible to dial in the perfect amount of thrust to assist with your paddling. We tested this on relatively calm waters aboard a Red Paddle Co. iSUP, although the tidal nature of the area meant there was a hell of a current in one direction.
With only the smallest dab of electrical assistance, the iSUP started to move smoothly, assisting paddle strokes like an eBike assists a rider. But crank up the volume and the Vaquita motor provided a decent amount of shove.
The top speed is rated at 6mph, but on the water, it feels a lot faster. We experienced numerous perplexed looks from fellow kayakers, boarders and dog walkers as we silently glided past at speed.
At full throttle, the battery will only last an hour, but in reality, there’s little need for maximum shove, so long as you are willing to assist in the paddling.
Even at 50 per cent thrust, it’s possible to travel far at a good pace, while the battery will last around five hours. That’s plenty of time to achieve some serious watery exploration.
Above all else, the motor really came into its own when battling tides and currents, especially if you’ve loaded the board with pets, kids, fishing equipment or a picnic box. We found this after speeding in one direction, only to have to frantically paddle back against the heavy river current to our starting point and all of our gear.
Without the motor, this would have taken hours and a fair amount of sweat. Purchasing one of those would certainly take away a certain amount of the strength and cardio benefits associated with SUPing, but it’s a lot better than being dragged backwards by a current.
The Vaquita electric motor is a clever and versatile (if a little cumbersome) solution for those who want a little boost to their regular paddles. It allows riders or kayakers to travel further and faster with minimal effort, or simply extends a sunny session on the water by several hours. The set-up process is simple and it will attach to most small watercraft, but it can feel a bit like it has been bolted on as an after though, which it sort of has. But that said, the design is sleek and it’s a tough cookie. But it will really come down to money, because the Vaquita costs as a much as a good inflatable paddle board or kayak, effectively doubling your budget instantly.