Helios Inflatable Kayak – Older Model

There were quite a few early Helios inflatable kayaks brought into the US prior to 1990s. We would love to find them.

If you think you or someone you know have one of the older Helios boats made in our factory, send us a picture, a story of how you obtained it, and the estimated date of manufacturing (please send us the report if you use carbon dating).

What is the Difference between Innova Sunny and Innova Helios II inflatable kayaks?


The Sunny and the Helios II inflatable kayaks are about the same length width and weight. Which one is best for you depends on how much of the time you would be paddling solo versus with a partner. Either kayak can be paddled solo or double, but the Sunny is a somewhat better solo kayak and the Helios II is a somewhat better double kayak.

Here’s why. The Sunny seats tie-in and the boat can be setup with a single paddler in the middle of the boat, with the other seat replaced by an adjustable footrest. Being in the middle of the kayak means that the boat is balanced in a crosswind, and neither end will weathercock away from the wind. The Helios II can also be paddled solo from the fixed aft seating, and to counteract the weathercocking of the kayak the optional rudder can be used — by taking a cut into the crosswind. But we would give the edge to the Sunny for solo paddling.

For double paddling the Helios II is a little better than the Sunny because the paddler in front will stay drier paddling into a chop. They sit a little further aft in the Helios II than in the Sunny, and the Helios has more foredeck protection. The Helios II’s optional rudder also gives very positive foot control of steering when paddling double, whereas the Sunny requires paddle steering.

So if you are going to be paddling primarily solo, but occasionally double, go with the Innova Sunny. Conversely, if you are buying your inflatable kayak for double paddling, the Innova Helios II is hard to beat. The Helios II has been picked for the Readers’ Choice Award from Sea Kayaker magazine for the “Best Inflatable Kayak” both times the 3-year award has been given — for a term of 6 years.


…in a 25-knot headwind, the Innova was faster (by ½ a knot) than the rigid sea kayaks in the race…

In the 1997 San Juan Challenge an Innova Helios (as the only inflatable entry) was one of only 17 kayaks out of a field of 41 to finish this 40-mile race. With winds of 25-29 knots, gusting to 45 knots, nine rigid sea kayaks capsized and needed to be pulled from the water by chase boats when they could not self-rescue in the rough conditions.

The Innova Helios II won its section, averaging 3 knots. In a 25-knot headwind, it was faster (by ½ a knot) than the rigid sea kayaks in the race. In calm water, it was slower (by ½ a knot) than those same boats.

Some inflatables, like the Innova Safari, are unique in their ability to handle a wide variety of water conditions. Use your Safari in whitewater, surf, and when touring.

Concern about sitting in water

I am considering the purchase of a Helios 1. However, it appears you sit in the very bottom of the kayak? If so, I’m assuming it will be wet, which is not my idea of fun! Is there a manufacturer that provides an acceptable seat pad (one that does not absorb water, slide around, or is overly thick to upset the balance)?

Thanks for the question. Actually we recommend sitting on a pad to adjust the ergonomics, not so much to stay dry. That is, if a paddler has a short sitting height, it might be more comfortable for them to be a little higher in the kayak to get an efficient paddling angle.

Without the pad you are correct in saying that you sit on the floor of the kayak. I find that you don’t sit in a puddle since the edges of the floor are below the top of the floor, and these crevices act as bilges for water in the boat. That said, I recommend wearing paddling dry pants or neoprene farmer johns when paddling in these cold waters — paddle drips get blown onto your legs in a moderate wind. In an inflatable kayak, as in a sit-on-top, you should dress your lower torso first. (In a kayak with a cockpit rim and sprayskirt you would dress your upper torso first).

So my first priority in spending to stay dry and warm would be paddling dry pants. If you are interested in a seat, you might check out those made by Crazy Creek. These would get you higher and provide some more rigid back support.

What exactly comes with the Helios I?

What exactly comes with the Helios I. A foot pump and repair kit? Will your K100 pump work with the Helios I ? I have my eye on the Helios I at REI. Seems like its what I am looking for.

The Helios I comes with the drybag/backpack and a repair kit. An inflation pump is not included. The K100 pump works well with the Helios I, or any of the Innova models. Be sure you use the 30-degree angle adapter that comes with the K100. It allows better access to the valve and is a fail-safe connection with the valve face.

In the Helios what are the small inflatable tubes with nylon straps?

In the Helios, the small inflatable tubes with nylon straps are the stretchers or foot braces. They are used to push against with your legs to keep a more upright paddling posture, and they are adjustable in length. An efficient sweep paddle stroke uses a twisting motion of the torso (rotate your trunk pushing the paddle) requiring bracing of the feet. This paddling motion will reduce fatigue of the arms.