Buying a kayak directly from China

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.

Based on my very limited experience dealing with a Chinese company, good luck with any issue unless they have a local contact you can deal with. Local at minimum being at least someone in your country who speaks your language.

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I avoid anything I can from china. No reason to help their military whom we will confront fairly soon. Slave labor, forced labor, and child labor they employ is another reason. Their IP theft is another reason. Top those off with pollution.


For sure there’s a LOT of design and IP theft coming from China. But somehow we all (we most) keep buying. Just look at those stacked container ships. Me included! My Riot kayak is made in China!

For the record, the theft is not only from the US, but Europe, the design center of the universe, and in the case of Delta, from Canada.

I vow that my next boat will be designed and manufactured closer to home.


True, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

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Very true. I have become more origin label conscious and I will always by US goods before any import, but you do not always have a choice, regardless of price.

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One thing on imported kayaks though. I bought a Vibe fishing kayak a few years ago (made in China), its a nice boat, rides great off shore, but all the outfitting was of very poor quality. So far, I have had to replace all the hatches, all the bungee cords, and the rudder lines. If you add up what I spent on replacement parts and my labor, I probably didn’t save much. Do your homework and make sure you know what you are getting.


I bought the kayak from China, all the the comments on here seem to be based on the U.S. market
I’m in AUSTRALIA, by the time a U.S/EU product gets here it has tripled in price. I bought an airseat for my old point65 from the online US store, was A$500+ by the time it got here. We are a small country population wise and kayaking is not the big sport it is in other parts of the world. Any home grown product is also expensive and doesn’t have the features I was looking for. Boats in the 3 or 4 shops in my state ate all imported, eg point65 imported from Sweden, but manufactured in China. After sales support from the manufacturer has been brilliant with them admitting a design error with the skeg ,1st sending me a replacement blade free of charge and then a bigger skeg box also free of charge. Only thing Ive paid for was postage for some large pieces of plastic in case I needed to do repairs. The major cost in the purchase was the Fedex shipping costs.

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The CD Visions that my wife and I bought over 10 years ago have Chinese made hulls. But my understanding is that Current Designs had only the bare fiberglass/aramid hulls made there with all fittings the same quality they used for their US made boats and fitted in their US factory. Their warranty (back then) was good enough that when my boat had a seat attachment point failure - a fairly simple to fix issue - they offered me a brand new boat. By having the hulls made in China, the MSRP of the boats was probably about $1K less expensive than an all-domestically produced similar model and since then both boats have been bulletproof.

So, I think what I’m saying is that there is room for compromises on this. Outsource the labor intensive operations to locations that can do it cheaper, and still keep the quality, details and warranty at high levels.