The Eco Bezhig sea kayak from Mission Kayaking was added to my fleet long before the Global Paddler project kicked off in 2007 and I have had a soft spot for it ever since. I am such a big fan of this model that at one stage I had three of them; one for myself and two more for anyone else who wanted join me on the water. My brother Patrick now has an Eco Bezhig, my good friends Kate and Murray have Eco Bezhigs, and my partner Janelle has grown so fond of our lime/yellow Eco that she has nicknamed it Greeny and insists on it being handled with kid gloves.
I have had several Bezhigs over the years. Its pointed bow appears in so many Global Paddler photos that it has almost become an unofficial trademark for the project. The Eco Bezhig features on the front cover of The Paddler’s Guide to Queensland, the back cover of The Paddler’s Guide to New South Wales, and scores of pages in between. It is also a major star in the Global Paddler online gallery.
John Dobbe designed the Eco Bezhig for Mission Kayaking with serious voyages in mind and this boat has done plenty of those. Notable journeys include: Tim Taylor’s solo circumnavigation of New Zealand in 2012; the 1000kms4kids charity paddle in Tasmania which took place in 2010 and again in 2011; Alaina and Justin Keniger’s 8,000km Archipaddlo adventure from Bali to Cairns in 2011; Steve Posselt’s long haul from Brisbane to Adelaide along the Darling River in 2008 which he documented in his excellent book ‘Cry me a river’; and even my ’40 paddles and 40 pubs in 40 days’ odyssey in the same year. This kayak combines comfort, speed, stability, durability, and usability in a package that makes it perfect for everything from day trips to expeditions like these. Taking all the gear you need is rarely an issue as it has a huge carrying capacity both in terms of storage space and weight.
The Eco Bezhig has proven to be an excellent kayak for me, but there is no single kayak that is suitable for everyone. As noted in my books, the appropriate equipment for you will depend on “your physical attributes, the conditions you expect to experience, how far you are going to paddle, the amount of gear you need to take, whether you want to fish, and how you plan on getting to the water”. Therefore it is important to address some of the concerns that have been raised.
- Weight – It has been said that the Eco Bezhig is too heavy, but 27kg is extraordinarily light for a rotationally moulded polyethylene boat that is 5.4 metres in length. To decrease the weight you would need to reduce the length and therefore negatively impact the performance, or change the material and that would be to the detriment of its durability.
- Cockpit size – Some feel that the cockpit is very big and that therefore this is only a boat for larger paddlers. I am a larger paddler myself so it is hard to comment from personal experience. In fact I find it supremely comfortable because it is one of the few sit inside kayaks I have tried that has enough room for my knees. Having said that, numerous people of varying sizes have borrowed my boats and none have said that they find it too big. A more appropriate assessment of the cockpit may be that this may not be the right kayak for jockeys and even they could customise it using the provided hip pads and lumbar support.
- Volume – It has been said that the Eco-Bezhig is a big boat with a lot of volume that sits comparatively high in the water and it performs much better in waves and extremely choppy conditions when it is fully loaded. I have to agree with this. If you are likely to regularly find yourself in those sorts of conditions with an unloaded boat then it may be worth comparing the alternatives.
- Speed – Some say that the Eco Bezhig is too slow. A review conducted by Rapid Ascent in 2007 found that it could achieve a total straight line distance of 10.34 kilometres in an hour. It is true that several of the other boats they tested were quicker, but it also has to be said that the Bezhig wasn’t designed for racing and 10km/h is more than enough cruising speed for me.
Eco Bezhig might seem like a strange name for a kayak but the reasons behind it are pretty cool. The ‘Eco’ part is easy. It is derived from eco-friendly which is a label that paddling probably deserves more than any other outdoors activity. Bezhig is a word that means ‘one’ in the Ojibway language spoken by many of the indigenous people of Canada and North America where kayaking originated. This was used because the Eco Bezhig is designed for a single paddler. The two paddler version is called the Eco Niizh because Niizh means ‘two’ in the same language.
Sea to Summit is the Australian distributor for all kayaks manufactured by Mission Kayaking in New Zealand, and the Eco Bezhig is available from all kayak retailers that stock their excellent range of products for the recommended retail price of $2,699.
Length // 540cm
Width // 59cm
Cockpit – Internal // 44 x 74cm
Cockpit – External // 51 x 81cm
Weight // 27kg
Max load // 200 kg
Front hatch storage // 71 litres
Rear hatch storage // 80 litres
Day hatch storage // 50 litres
Glove box storage // 4 litres
Construction material // Super durable rotationally moulded polyethylene.
Long waterline // Maximises speed and tracking.
U-shaped hull // Gives great primary and secondary stability.
Uplifted flared bow // Provides lift in rough water for optimum seaworthiness and total confidence.
Grab handles // Loops at either end of the boat allow it to be held steady or carried.
Thigh braces // Provide a good connection with the kayak. This is essential in rough water.
Four areas of deck bungy // Enable items to be carried on top of the boat.
Front deck lines // Make it easier to grab hold of the kayak in the event of capsize.
‘Focus’ comfort seat // This is a large lightweight foam bucket seat which is arguably the most comfortable seat you will ever use. It provides plenty of support for long trips and can be further customised using ‘Focus’ hip pads and lumbar support. An added bonus is that the cockpit is easier to empty when full of water. Simply lift the bow of the boat and all the water runs out.
‘Focus’ bulkheads // These are an improvement on rotationally moulded bulkheads, as they not only seal out water; they provide intrinsic boat flotation. The bulkheads are sealed with injected hot melt glue and finished with a flexible adhesive sealant. They flex when the boat is put under pressure, thereby protecting the seal and the integrity of the bulkhead, keeping you safe and your gear dry.
‘Originz’ rudder // Activation controls are in front of the paddler instead of requiring you to reach behind or turn around to engage or disengage the rudder. Locked in pedals at the balls of the feet provide a solid connection with the boat. Levers at the top of the pedals enable directional control of the lightweight super tough polypropylene & nylon combination aerofoil rudder with your toes. Rudder lines are internal.
Large front and rear hatch openings // Make it easy to load and access gear. Sealed with neoprene cover and protected by foam hatch lid.
Paddle float rescue system // Self rescue is an important skill for sea kayakers. This quick-lock cinch and groove system simplifies the anchoring of a paddle float for that purpose.
Moulded swallow tail rudder park // This helps the rudder to centre perfectly when it is disengaged and also protects it from collisions.
Moulded break down (2 piece) paddle holder // A spare paddle is an essential item on long expeditions.
‘Top Dawg’ security attachment point // Enables the kayak to securely moored or locked to the car. This little feature adds big peace of mind.