I finally got a chance to test the Row on Air: Row Vista system and here are my first impressions and review. If I had to sum it down to one word, that word would be WOW.
Row Vista was designed and built in Austria by Row & Sail. It was first released as part of the XCAT multi function sailboat platform. It is a forward facing rowing system that allows you to rotate, articulate and feather the oars just like you do in a traditional rear facing high performance rowing scull. There are other forwards facing rowing systems on the market but they do not feature this blade feathering functionality. With those other designs you have to raise the oar much higher out of the water which results in more energy wasted and a less efficient stroke as well as the likelihood of catching the oar in your forward stroke.
XCAT also has the Row Motion system which is essentially a traditional rear facing rowing platform with sliding seat and foot rests for the purists out there. What makes forward rowing so compelling is that you can see where you are going which is without question a safer way to travel.
Rowing on the XCAT was superb as the platform was incredibly stable, smooth and fast. The wide base of the multi-hulled boat meant anyone could hop aboard and start rowing within seconds. The other advantage of course is that when the wind was blowing the XCAT was a really fun and capable sailboat! Unfortunately not everyone has room to store a sailboat, even one as portable as an XCAT! So Row & Sail had been working on developing a system that would work with rigid and inflatable SUPs and Kayaks.
Last year Row on Air product lines were officially launched and the response has been tremendous. We finally got our hands on one and wanted to share our thoughts on it.
I chose the Row Vista as this was the most innovative and intriguing unit. Row on Air offers 2 iSUPs and 1 inflatable Kayak model but the system ill work with a variety of other brands. We chose the Air Skiff 17' which is what you would call a displacement style SUP. These slice through the water as opposed to skitter on top of it like an all round SUP. They tend to track straighter and are faster in flat water but not as good at catching waves. Since I already have a regular SUP I wanted to compare the difference for myself.
Not including the SUP, the Row Vista system ships in 2 bags, 1 for the oars and gear mechanism and the other contained the base platform which consisted of the skid, seat and foot rests. The first thing i noticed was the package is much bigger than I anticipated, the longest bag being 80 inches. However each bag was much lighter than I expected and the heaviest one couldn't have weighed more than 30 lbs and the other felt like no more than 15 lbs. While easy to carry I do wish the bags had shoulder straps.
When I opened the bags and saw the stunning matte black finish of the carbon oars and anodized aluminum outrigger I was blown away. This was something out of an Apple store. The only thing better than looking at it was touching it. Each piece just exuded quality and engineering thought fullness.
The iSUP, the heaviest of the components, also came in a high quality bag with backpack shoulder straps and wheels which made it really easy to lug about. I first pumped up the iSUP. Normally I hate pumping things up and always recommend to customers that they get an electric pump, but my battery was drained from being used the past few days so I was forced to use the manual pump ... but much to my surprise it was really easy to inflate and the pressure gauge worked flawlessly. The pump had some sort of mechanism that made it much easier than other SUP pumps I've used.
Next I installed the Outrigger. In typical fashion I did not watch the instruction videos first so I made a couple of mistakes ... but within a couple of minutes i figured them out and resolved the issues. The system is incredibly intuitive and used friendly. Many people have commented how beautifully crafted the XCAT's are and how easily they come together and that same thoughtfulness is carried over to the Row on Air Product lines. They did however make a slight change to previous versions and I was testing the new SD-R mechanism. This system just clicked into place ... next time I will make a video of it because it works so elegantly.
With everything setup and my boater's safety kit (my trusty North Face backpack contains all my safety kit) strapped in, I waded into the lake. It was a windier day than I had hoped for my first session but but this would give me a good view of how the skiff would perform in adverse conditions.
I climbed aboard and immediately was disoriented by the forward facing system. I haven't done much rowing but the little I had done was enough to build some instinctual muscle memory that left me a little bewildered. But within a few minutes I was quickly starting to adapt.
The Air Skiff was little wobbly and it was clear that I probably should have chosen calmer waters or a less windy day for my first test session but I managed more than 2 hours on the water without a single capsize so that was quite reassuring. I started off on my knees straddling the center beam while i built my balance and comfort with the system. Within half an hour I had gotten onto the seat and into the foot rests. But I ended up changing positions seating styles many times to adapt to the challenging conditions. At one point i let my feet drag through the refreshing waters as i casually rowed up and down the bay.
By the end of an hour I was doing very well at feathering the oars and steering but I still had trouble with the overlapping handles. If you see rowers close up, one hand is above the other. As a novice I would have preferred non overlapping handles but I am sure there is a benefit to this design and would have to get used to it. An hour later I was much more comfortable with the overlap.
Once I got the hang of it I was really impressed with the power of each stroke and the speed I could generate. There were some SUPers in the water and I felt noticeably faster than them. I also liked that the system was not noisy. There was no loud creaking or gear sounds or any other extraneous noises of significance to detract from the sound of water gliding over the hull. During the calmer moments I also reveled in the sound of the sculls as they skimmed the surface using the patented feathering action. This was a really fun system.
I also felt that amazing workout burn that you get from a rowing machine with the added benefit of engaging your core through the act of balancing the SUP. I couldn't help but smile knowing that I was getting a great workout while having so much fun.
As the sun drifted lower in the sky and the shimmering sparkles across the water increased I started to analyze and wonder who is this product for? After all it's not exactly "cheap" in price. Clearly this was a high end toy for people who like high end gear and started to equate it with people who buy nice carbon fiber road bikes. I wish it was less expensive but the simple reality was anything that's hand made by artisans in Austria will always be more expensive than something made en masse in a sweat shop factory in China. Sometimes I wonder if the price for cheap is worth the cost to our humanity ... but that's another story.
I also wondered if I had to choose between rowing, SUP and Kayaking what would it be? Now that was a conundrum.
I once worked with a senior finance guy who would wake up at 4:00 AM to make sure he was on the water for 5 rowing to the rising sun. Rowers are a breed that seem obsessed with this amazing sport, but then again, aren't SUPers and Kayakers and Canoers? In the end I thought this would be perfect for people like me who had one of each ;) that way I could pick and choose. Also, each sport works out the body differently so by rotating it would be a good way to train the body. Also, this system overlaps with an iSUP or Kyaka so you could easily do more than one sport. If you are a die hard SUPer than stick with SUPing ... but if you want to throw something else into the mix and keep your water time from getting stale then why not mix it up?
In the end I decided each sport had it's primary user group. Clearly this would appeal to rowers but could serve as a secondary activity to paddlers. Or if you have a partner one could sup while the other paddles or rows, etc. But would this system appeal to high performance rowers?
Rowers in the past would have to join a rowing club and be limited to where and when they could row. Being a part of a club can be fun but it adds an expense. Sometimes you don't want the added expanse and other obligations and issues that comes with a club and you want the freedom to row whenever and wherever ... so yes i thought, this would definitely appeal to high end rowers. It certainly had the same features and performance of a high end rowing system. So what about traditional versus forward facing?
I definitely want to get a rear facing system just because I like having lots of choices for water activities and toys for friends to get out on the water with me. The rear facing is without a doubt the best for training if you are competing. But for novice or recreational users I cant help but think that the added safety and visibility of forward facing is the way to go. In the end I couldn't decide between the two and I leave that choice up to you.
But what I will say is if you are looking for a fun new activity to add to your water sports toolbox then look no further. This thing is incredible. I want to show it off as much as possible because i think it is such an amazing piece of tech. My hats off to the engineers and designers at Row on Air, they truly built something special that is as beautiful as it is functional.
Reach out to us if you want to start the conversation rolling on trying one out or getting one for yourself. We cant wait to show this off.
Thanks for reading everyone everyone and remember to be safe on the water and:
#seastheday #stepintoliquid #live #thelifeaquatic
with your trusted source for gear and info #MysticPointWaterSports
A couple more add-on points I wanted to make:
The Row Vista tracks incredibly straight. I don't know if it was a result of the Air Skiff or the RowVista itself (I'd imagine a bit of both) but wow this thing tracks straight. Where you look is where you go and even with one hand you can row straight as I was doing in the video above while holding the camera in the other.
The system comes in either a Flat "F" Outrigger which is ideal for SUPs and "Y" outrigger which is designed to go around the sidewalls of a kayak. The Y will work with a SUP but the F is cleaner and more out of the way of knees and legs and is therefore more comfortable and roomy.
The F-Outrigger has a further choice of UniHook or UniStrap, the Y Outrigger only comes in UniStrap. The UniHook is meant to work with the Row on Air branded SUP, Kayak and Skiffs which have been specially made to include cutouts for the feet and hooks for the UniHook fasteners. The UniStrap is meant to be used with a strap that goes around a SUP that does not have the hooks for securing. I used both to be extra sure I didn't lose my investment. I didn't try the UniHook alone but I'm confident the engineers did their job well and that the system will hold.
If you buy a unit I suggest getting the Unihook with 2 straps so you have the choice of both just like I did and therefore have the greatest flexibility for future use.
You can also add a couple of velcro straps to secure your feet into the foot rests but it's not necessary and I probably wouldn't recommend it until you are a more seasoned rower after a few sessions.
The SUP and Skiff can be wobbly but if you keep your weight low and are familiar with balance on a SUP you shouldn't have any problems. While I was out a SUPer fell of his SUP in the choppy conditions and others were paddling on their knees but I had no issues and didn't fall of once during the session.
And finally As always I say wear a life jacket, bring water and sunscreen and take every safety precaution you can while on the water. iSUPs are super safe and can be run over by a truck without damage but whenever I am on the water I take safety very seriously.
I hope I've answered any questions you may have with this blog post but if not feel free to reach out. ANd sory for any spelling mistakes or gramtical errors -- i hate proof reading. Thanks again for reading. Aloha fellow water lovers and water sport enthusiasts.
We just received the following customer review of his new XCAT sailboat with Row Vista and I wanted to share this and say Thank you for the kind words. Also below is a quick video clip of his XCAT on the St.Lawrence... Looks like September is the new July so at this rate we should be sailing into October and with wait times for a new boat at an all time low, now is a perfect time to get you a new sailboat that you can sail into fall and be ready as soon as the ice clears in the spring...
XCAT arrived home in 4 boxes. Everything was installed correctly including sails, rudder, net and rowing accessories in 2 and half hours. Of course I had to read the instructions and watch the videos during the first assembly. But was not really difficult. Moving the XCAT on the provided wheels up and down the lake was easily done single handed.
I tried the RowVista first. It is really fast, smooth and enjoyable. Very entertaining workout. The forward movement is a great and unique feature of this boat. When my daughter was rowing, other boaters were surprised how easy and fast this thing goes!
With my limited sailing experience I was able to take full control for over 20 hours of sailing single handed. It goes really fast and easy. Tacking by moving your weight forward using the amazingly designed automatic rudder is extraordinary. With a crew of 2 we hiked, we jibed and it was fun. So far, I sailed it in wind speeds 5-11 knots. I felt very safe. Hoping with some training, I will get the courage to try the 15 knots sailing. I sailed the XCAT with a friend of mine who is an experienced sailor and he was amazed with the boat quality, light weight and the simplicity of assembly-disassembly procedure. I also see the boat brings attention from other boaters with lots of thumbs up. One has to say that there has been a lot of engineering in this boat.
I have to tell that switching gears between sailing and rowing rigs takes less than 10 min. I was sailing at the same time with someone who has a Minicat and it is clear that the Xcat is faster. But what is more important is that when the wind died, he headed back home and I went to switch gears to rowing and continued the fun during a beautiful sunny day.
Only one con, the left oar's latch opens sometimes spontaneously during rowing making the oar loose. I contacted the dealer and sent some pictures to get an advice. He immediately contacted the manufacturer and they sent me a replacement part right to my door.
Overall I am totally satisfied with this high quality boat and highly recommend it to others. I am planing to store the hulls on hangers in the garage during the winter. The dealer is also is very supportive and responsible. He responds to emails almost immediately. He is honest and highly professional.
We just wanted to take a moment to say congratulations to our new XCAT customer and thank him for his patience ... XCAT's are in high demand and are possibly the hottest day sailor on the planet right now so it took a little longer to get one than normal due to the incredible demand. But the factory has now ramped up additional production so shipping times should be back on target.
He was able to set it up no problem out of the box and although there was no wind that day he did get to try out the Row Vista system and his initial impression was that it was "extremely fast and enjoyable".
And for those who are interested, It's still not too late to get your XCAT in time for the 2017 season...
That was my reaction when I first saw the X-Cat, winner of SAIL Magazine's Best Boat of 2017. You can sail it, row it, attach a motor to it, you can even use it for Stand Up Paddling! This is the most diverse multi-functional boat I have ever seen, but as if that was not enough, wait until you see the rowing mechanism innovation.
Traditional rowing requires you to face backwards, not very safe or user friendly, but effective nonetheless. High performance rowing, (or sculling), added a sliding seat and became a world class sport as well as an amazing fitness activity. Dedicated high performance long narrow row boats, called sculls, are extremely expensive, difficult to store and transport and can only be used in calm waters.
The X-Cat has an option called RowMotion that emulates the motion and efficiency of a high performance scull. RowMotion uses a sliding seat which faces in the traditional backwards orientation allowing for a highly efficient stroke. However since the boat is a catamaran and sits higher on the water you can use this boat in choppier or rougher waters than you could a classic scull.
But that's not the most amazing innovation.
X-Cat has developed a forward facing rowing system that has to be seen to be believed. It uses a sliding seat and gear mechanism that allows for the same efficient range of motion including rotation, or feathering, of the oars. This systems is called RowVista and to my knowledge its the only one in the world that does that. Facing forwards is safer and more user friendly and combined with the ability to use the X-Cat in choppier waters makes this the most advanced rower on the planet! Rowers can now train in a variety of conditions and waters. And since the boat is portable you can take anywhere, but more on that in a moment.
The X-Cat is so stable you can actually Stand Up Paddle on it! And the boat is built tough and capable of beaching on sand or grass. Designed and built in Austria using the finest components and materials from Carbon Fibre to "MacBook" grade Aluminum this is clearly a high calibre work of engineering art.
Motorboat, Stand Up Paddle Boat, Rear Facing Rowing and Front Facing Rowing are all great, but what about the sailing characteristics? In terms of a sailboat the X-Cat weighs less than a Laser and has a shorter mast yet larger sail area using a modern fully battened sail design making this one very nimble, very fast and very fun sailboat that's easy to right, much safer and easier to use than larger catamarans.
This is hands down the most diverse and innovative multi-function catamaran sailboat in the world and a worthy winner of the 2017 Best Sailboat Award!
Adventure is wherever your heart takes you and at Mystic Point Water Sports we love innovation, but we really appreciate portability so we can follow our heart's adventure wherever that may lead. Did we mention the X-Cat is also highly portable? The whole thing disassembles in minutes and the hulls can easily be transported on the roof of your car. Now you can store the boat in a garage without he need for a trailer. And when you do arrive at your destination it only takes about 30 minutes to setup.
Soon we will be updating our website and online store with the complete range of X-Cat products and accessories but for now you can shop for the boat HERE. And you can download the complete catalog HERE. If there is something you see in the catalog that is not up on the store yet just Contact Us and we will be happy to help.
MysticPointWaterSports.com is thrilled to partner with this exciting and innovative company from Europe and to be chosen as the exclusive Canadian importer and distributor and we can't wait to get the X-Cat on the water and in to our customer's happy hands!
Until then follow your heart's adventure, don't drink and sail and wear a life jacket... Aloha.