Submitted: 05-23-2007 by medicineman
This review is written by a paddler somewhere between beginner and intermediate and thus my target audience is those of similar ability, if you want professional opinions on this kayak please look toward those with greater credentials! Also know that I'm a bit of a kayak collector in an amateurish way in that having 19 kayaks was not a planned event. While it may seem that I spend my time researching the next kayak I have paddled over 2000 miles that is known and maybe half that much without notation. Having paddled many kayaks over many years I've come to have certain leanings on what is a good kayak for me-not you-and in this review a bit of philosophy will come out not only on strict paddling but also the intent of the particular kayak.
OK, maybe you are thinking that the 580 will make a good cruiser for day paddling. You'd be very correct. Using a standard European touring blade I sprinted to 6.4 mph in the 580-surely nothing close to what an athlete could mete out of this kayak but for 24 miles and in conditions ranging from pea soup to the above mentioned wind and chop I easily maintained a 4.5-4.7 mph average according to Mr. Garmin (and reaffirmed via Mr. Suunto). For an hour I easily cruised at 3.7mph into a 12-15mph headwind intentionally not wanting to work too hard knowing I still had 8 miles to the landing. Bottom line from this experience is that the hull is efficient, but you know that already because in your research you've found that the 580 is the predominant kayak chosen and listed as winning the most races in Australia.
Particulars of the kayak:
In north America a Mirage 580 will instantly stick out of the crowd due to its unique integral rudder. At one time Dagger offered a kayak with such but currently the only manufacturer offering such in the USA is Epic. I'll discuss the rudder in detail later, now I want to go over the obvious features of this kayak.
What about the cockpit (and that interesting shape)? If you like 'cowboy' entry you will love the 580. If you don't know what a 'cowboy' entry is you need to contact your BCU coach (humor me OK). The cockpit size is of course relative, huge if you're coming from a Strand SOF, large indeed if coming from a Lincoln Eggemoggin, a wee bit bigger if coming from a Nordkapp Jubilee, but the sweet part of the 580 cockpit is the fact that it can feel tight if you want it to be or loose and that's without outfitting!
As mentioned in the beginning you cannot look at a Mirage kayak and not notice the rudder. Here's a pic of the rudder from the rear. Like bilge pumps, there are endless debates over rudder versus skeg versus no rudder and nowadays having rudder and skeg. The Mirage system takes care of all arguments! How can this be you ask. It's simply really, when in the neutral position (and do note that if the kayak is moving the rudder with self neutralize) you have no rudder-but you can have a skeg! So how can that be? Well that depends on which rudder you have installed at the time. Mirage offers three different length rudders. One that is flush with the keel line, one that extends a bit, and one that is really long. Mine came supplied with the one that extends almost 3.5 inches below the keel (an extra rudder is $100 AUS). So if you have an extended rudder you always have a skeg. If you have the flush with keel rudder you only have a rudder when it's being used-how simple is that!
This boat does not weathercock in winds between 12 and 15mph--with or without rudder deployment. It suffers from no windage. It will turn on a lean and it will turn dramatically when leaned and rudder thrusted. It is rock solid in stability primary and secondary (that's what you get for 22.5 inches). It will tract like the proverbial train yet it is not rudder dependent to do so (versus a Looksha II which is rudder dependent, and a QCC700 which some say it is very desirous to have a skeg or rudder). If you want a Mirage 580 because it is a work of art then know I agree but remember I've never seen a kayak that didn't catch my eye... how long it holds my attention is another matter. If you want a very fast day cruise you won't go wrong here and if you want a kayak for paddle camping you will find the voluminous rear hatch your best friend ever. If you want a kayak for BCU training I have no idea in which direction they will turn their nose after looking at the rudder....I did have to specify bow and stern toggles when ordering, something not normally found on a 580!
Would I order a Mirage again? 100% certain that I would. The kayak is a joy to paddle. It is simply less work to accomplish what you would in other designs. Is this saying that less skill is needed? No, you can still work on and progress on all the skill sets but then again if you just want to paddle you can. Remember the question of intended use, well for me its distance paddling and kayak camping. The Mirage suits either with many positive features and benefits. Is it perfect, well no, it didn't have tethers on the Valley hatches and there is no perfect kayak without a 4th hatch.
(note: this review has been edited for length with permission of the author)