Vaikobi Gear Review – The Hot New Look in Paddling Apparel
In early August I caught wind of a new start-up named Vaikobi, based out of Australia and dedicated to building top quality clothing specifically designed for surfski paddling. While I have been very pleased with both NRS and Kokatat, they each have their specialties, and I’m always curious to see what else is on the market and how it can complement my current lines.
I quickly reached out to Pat Langley at Vaikobi who was super excited at the opportunity to work with TC Surfski as his first distributor in the US. Pat wasted no time in shipping over a sample pack that represented a majority of their line-up in both the V Cold and V Heat pieces. I received them in mid August, so had the opportunity to put the V Heat to the test on some 90 degree days.
First Package Arrives
When the package arrived and I started trying on all the different pieces, my wife Kim’s face lit up for the first time ever in the context of paddle clothing. Historically, she has always just sort of “looked the other way” whenever she sees me heading out the door decked out in my paddle gear and has always been reluctant to join me in paddling whenever they may be public on lookers present. Now all of a sudden she was actually quite interested in what I was putting on. Kim’s first words were, “I’ve never seen such stylish paddle clothing, it reminds me of Lululemon.” Bingo! I’m far from a style guru, but to hear those words from Kim, I knew immediately Vaikobi was on to something. I had a women’s piece that Kim tried on and immediately claimed for her own. There is a long story on this, but net/net, it was actually the envy of all the women who laid eyes on it and in the end Kim had to give it up until my next shipment arrived.
First time Out
I was 100% confident Vaikobi looked amazing and felt great while it was on, but the big question was, how would it perform. On my first chance to try the gear it was a hot day, so I went with the V Heat Shorts and the V Heat Short Sleeve Top. I immediately loved both of them. The shorts are thin enough that they don’t feel bulky or impede your movement in the boat. Additionally they have a nice thin airprene piece in the seat that adds just the right amount of padding to really make a difference in taking the edge off in a long paddle. My 3rd time out in the shorts I did a 16 mile paddle in my V12 after not paddling that boat for over 6 weeks, and having only paddled that distance once the entire summer. I wasn’t a bit sore. I have accumulated several different pairs of shorts over the years and these quickly rose to the top as my go to pair for warm weather paddling.
The top felt equally comfortable. It is loose fitting by design, with great articulation around the arms to support an unrestricted paddle motion. I didn’t have any chafing at all and it kept me cool throughout the paddle.
V Heat Shorts become my “Go To”
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and you can see in the picture below, the Vaikobi V Heat Shorts were my top pick for the 19.3 mile Ride the Wave Regatta race. That race was about twice as long as my typical long paddles (distance and time) and while it took a toll on me overall, I didn’t have any chafe or soreness anywhere in the seat region.
Testing out the V Cold Pants and Top
Fast forward a couple weeks, and fall has officially arrived here in Northern Michigan. I’ve now been able to put the V Cold line to good use. I’m loving the V Cold pants and the V Cold Plus Top. They both look and perform amazing, controlling my body temperature so that I stay warm, but not overheated.
A Few Tweaks
I do think there are a few very small tweaks that can be made and I’ve shared those with Pat who has been very keen to get my feedback. In the V Cold top, I would like to see a tighter neck. In my experience it is a little chilly getting into and out of the water and having more of a snug fitting mock neck with zipper (for venting) would be the holy grail. Once I’m paddling I don’t notice the neck and I’m completely comfortable, so it is really just in and out of the water where I notice it.
My other suggestion for Vaikobi is to lengthen the arms a bit on their long sleeve tops and lengthen the calf portion of the pants. I always struggle to find clothes that fit well and typically have to buy special sizing (large-tall) to get a perfect fit with my clothes. But in my experience surfski paddlers are a pretty athletic bunch and I think it would be safe for Vaikobi to go with a little more of an athletic cut on their stretchy clothing, similar to what I have experienced with Lululemon. Just for reference, I am 6’4″ and around 205 lbs. My rough dimensions are: 43′ Chest, 36′ sleeve, 16 1/2′ neck, 34′ waist, 35′ inseam. I have found the XL to fit best, but for me, it would be optimal if the sleeves were a little longer and the neck and torso a little tighter.
For the pants, I am wearing a XXL which I felt were necessary to get the length. The pants are unisex so while I don’t typically where a XXL, these are still plenty tight on me.
Vaikobi is very well poised to revolutionize both the style and function of performance paddle wear. I’m extremely excited to be working with them as they evolve their product line. We paddle gorgeous and sexy boats and deserve to have apparel to match! There is no doubt in my mind that Vaikobi will soon be turning heads at paddle clubs around the world.
Please check the on-line catalog on my website to see what’s in stock and note that I plan to continue expanding my stock over the coming months. If you don’t see something you are interested in, please let me know.
Also note that I will be running a special promotional offer and if you buy over $225 in Vaikobi gear you will receive your choice of the Vaikobi Carbon Cap, Sun Visor, or Performance wicking hat. ($24 dollar value)
In case you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a completely independent and unsolicited review of Vaikobi gear by Paul Tomblin who runs a blog at blog.xcski.com Note: – Paul placed the first Vaikobi order on-line at tcsurfski.com , I’m pretty sure Paul is a believer!
More pictures are available on my Facebook Page