Upolu, Samoa: Kayaking on Fanuatapu Island, Upolu, Samoa
I write to tell you of my happy relationship with my Helios 380ex. I ordered it in 2001 from your website, innovakayak.com, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer on the island of Upolu in Samoa. I was working with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to set up two Marine Protected Areas, one in the Aleipata district on the east coast, chosen for its offshore islet ecosystems and one in the Safata district known for its extensive mangrove estuaries. During our work, the Helios became my trusty sidekick, enabling us to quickly and quietly survey areas of reef which would have otherwise required firing up the outboard skiff.
But my Helios was much more than a workhorse. It is truly unique in what it can do. I know of no other boat that can be paddled in serious conditions, outside the reef, in the currents and swells of the Pacific, and yet able to be carried on my back, on a bike, on a bus… you get the idea. It opened up new areas of the archipelago to me, areas that I otherwise would not have seen. Perhaps my most memorable trip was from Apia to Manono island; where the seagoing locals, after they got over their astonishment at the va’a pa’u (skin boat), clearly recognized the seaworthiness of the design.
When I first saw an ad for your boats in the back of a magazine, I was drawn to the design, and thrilled to have finally found an inflatable kayak that was clearly not a toy, but mean to be used. When I ordered my Helios 380ex, another volunteer made fun of me for ordering a “balloon…that could never perform in the ocean.” Well, after only a few months of jealously watching me prove him wrong by using my Helios all over Samoa, he ordered his own! I couldn’t believe it!