Submitted: 08-13-2012 by valkyrie0one
I knew the Airfusion was my boat the moment I got it on the water. I love its maneuverability, comfort, speed, and style, and when its light weight and affordable price are taken into consideration as well, it seems pretty much unbeatable.
It took some trial and error to get the setup down pat, but now it's easy. I take about 25 minutes, but I hate to rush. Tips: I inflate the back thwart halfway, then adjust it and the center pole to align with the aft keel, then inflate it fully. I insert the front top pole only partway before I begin to inflate the front thwart, so I have room to stick my hand in the zipper. I inflate the thwart halfway and then adjust it and the center pole through the zipper so it's aligned with the fore keel. Then I push the top pole into position and finish inflating the front thwart. Also, I place the front thwart fairly far forward because I think that shifting my weight forward really helps the bow cut through the water.
I have had a few center pole issues, and this is why I scored it a 9/10. I've found that a bit of Jig-a-loo graphite spray in the cuff before assembly helps it slide better and also cleans out sediment that may have crept in. When taking the center pole apart, it helps to place the kayak in a depression on the ground so that the bow and stern are slightly higher than the middle. This way it's easier to shift the pole around to find the "sweet spot" - which is usually down a bit - so you can slide the cuff without wrenching it. However, I have still had enough trouble with this on occasion (maybe 10% of the time) that I plan to add a strap wrench to my kit on another reviewer's suggestion.
I am a small paddler: female, 105 lb, and only 5 ft. Being able to handle my boat out of the water solo is a big issue for me, and the Airfusion is great in this area. I'll never have to chuck it on top of a car, and even fully loaded I can always carry it down to the water by myself. And - bonus - if you are small like me and also put the front thwart far forward, you can fit a tremendous amount of stuff in the cockpit behind you.
My most recent trip with the Airfusion was a 2-day exploration of the Mullica River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Mullica is a fast-flowing & winding river, with a fair number of beaver dams and un-sawn blowdowns. Even fully loaded with ~30 lbs of gear, the AF edged like a champ, quickly outpacing my boyfriend's Current Designs Kestrel. He got so frustrated with his boat's inability to turn properly, and there I am, zipping along in a smaller half circle around the bend next to him, fighting not to look smug.
One final word about Advanced Elements: they have awesome customer service. My boat had an incorrectly stitched shell (they said they'd never had this happen before), and turned persistently in one direction. The AE people were very helpful - after troubleshooting didn't have any effect, they sent me a new shell which arrived in 5 days and works perfectly, without even asking me to ship them the old one!