Submitted: 11-06-2006 by MerlinMc
My first composite kayak was a QCC Q400X, which I still own and enjoy using. It's a nice stable platform for photography and it's fast enough to keep up with other sea kayakers. I generally paddle in the Pacific off the southern California coast.
When I decided to add a second kayak to the fleet, my wish list included: (1) excellent rough water capability; (2) reasonably fast; (3) good tracking; (4) stable enough for a "cowboy scramble" rescue; (5) day hatch; and (6) nice build quality along with the ability to pick colors for hull, deck, lettering, etc. In addition to the Mirage 580, I considered/tested: QCC Q700X, Epic Endurance 18, (Onno) Tideline 19, Current Designs Extreme. The new Epic 18x, with the integrated rudder and day hatch, wasn't available so I have not tried that boat. I decided on the Mirage 580 since all of the other alternatives were missing one or more items from my wish list.
Let me start by saying that this is a great all around kayak. It's fast, stable, comfortable, tracks well, and is maneuverable (when using the integrated rudder). The cockpit is well designed in that the outer rim allows for thigh bracing and there's enough length to allow "knees up" high-speed paddling. I like Snap Dragon spray skirts and custom ordered one to get a good fit. The custom route only costs about $10 more and the fit is perfect. There is enough room between the side of the seat and hull for a hand pump on one side and a paddle float on the other. The paddle float isn't really needed for re-entry though I still bring one along just to be safe. I installed a River Runner bilge pump in the cockpit behind the seat. Mirage will also install an electric bilge pump as an option.
I ordered mine in Kevlar with an "expedition" lay-up. Lighter lay-ups are available. Mirage sets the boat up for your size, weight, etc. My hull and deck are white while the join line, hatches, fittings, lines and bungies are all black. It looks great and I've had lots of complements. Mirage also offers some less conservative color schemes. Overall, I would say the build quality is as good as my QCC. Some of the deck fittings on the QCC are better, but then again QCC has the best fittings I've seen on any kayak.
For me, pragmatism trumps tradition so the integrated rudder pleases rather than annoys. This device is really convenient and doesn't seem to slow the kayak at all. The rudder can be removed entirely and there are two or three versions of the rudder. It's easy and fast to swap or remove the rudder. I have the "race" version, which is flush with the keel as well as one that extends below the keel. Using the rudder works much like the rudder pedals in an aircraft. Even the longer rudder glides through kelp beds and over beach lines without getting hung.
Mirage is great to work with. Receiving a shipment from outside the country is a pain in the ass. My first boat was damaged and I had to fight with the insurance company to get them to agree to pay. The US port charges can add up, especially if you use a customs broker. I cleared the second boat through customs myself and saved several hundred dollars.
I would highly recommend this boat. It's worth the trouble to get is shipped from Australia because there's not anything like it here in the US.