Follow up to Elevation’s informative posts (thank you!) in the C-Tug thread about buying a Delta 14 knockoff from Ridgeside in Ningbo, China, and having it shipped to Australia, distance about 5,000 miles. Total cost with shipping about $1115 USD.
I paid $1300 for a new Delta 12.10 (regular price $1500) last July, so pretty close to what Elevation paid. My shipping distance from China would have been 7,000 miles. So although paying $480 for a Delta knockoff is tempting, when you add the shipping cost it’s a wash.
If a US dealer were to buy a large number of Ridgeside kayaks and get a large discount on the shipping, I bet the retail cost in the US would still be close to Delta’s. So a wash again.
Elevation describes impressive service from China. Delta also has good service, albeit on the other side of the continent from me. My local dealer told me after I handed over the cash that the kayak was not returnable for any reason, even if defective. Not good service.
Regarding theft of US designs by Chinese manufacturers, this is a problem, of course. But there are a couple of ways to look at this. The US is known for innovative designs but high manufacturing costs. China’s education system (and society) doesn’t lend itself to innovation, but does facilitate cheaper, high-quality manufacturing in the 21st century. (Go ahead and dispute that, but first look at the bottom of your computer to see where it was made.) So the two countries complement each other in a way that benefits consumers. That explains why US companies turn to China for manufacturing and why Chinese companies turn to the US for designs, legally or illegally.
In my opinion, Delta’s hull is the most stable, therefore safest design on the market for beginner and intermediate paddlers, and popular among experienced sea kayakers as well. This hull shape SHOULD be copied by other manufacturers. As for copying the entire design of the Delta 14, if you watch this videoyou will see several differences between the Ridgeway and Delta:
They’re not necessarily improvements, so thus far I don’t see Ridgeway having a competitive edge over Delta unless you live close to China. They look about equal in quality, until we know more about the reliability of Ridgeway kayaks. In any case, Ridgeway has kept the main weaknesses of the Delta design. Their market will always be limited as long as they keep the small cockpit and nonremoveable knee braces copied from Delta.
I’ll stick with my Delta for now but I think it’s exciting that Chinese companies are entering the thermoformed market because design improvements are needed.
Looking forward to more from Elevation about how his kayak holds up over time.