Inflatable Kayaks in Florida


I am living in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and want to get into kayaking with my wife. Storage space is a problem for us so we are considering inflatable kayaks.

After a lot of research I have identified the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Convertible Kayak as my preferred option but cannot find any local retailers. I want to have a go in it before buying - is there anyone out there with this kayak who can let me know their experiences?



One option is to order it from REI. With their return policy, you can always test it and return it. I hate doing that to any merchant but it might be the best option.

My paddling partner bought his at REI, returned it and purchaced a folding kayak. The increased cost was obviously more but for the paddling we do, lakes mostly formed by canyons, this was a better option - he disliked the Advanced Elements kayak.

AE Convertible
It’s a decent kayak. Very stable, comfortable for two people but does not have a lot of storage space when using it as a double. It’s also very heavy, and will be slow to dry, as water will get under the floor and into the nylon chambers surrounding the pvc tubes.

In florida, your biggest issue might be the heat and the sun. Be careful about overinflating the boat. Carry a pump with you and don’t be afraid to let some air out of the chambers if you’re stopping on a beach for lunch. Pump it back up before heading out again.

I like the convertible but imho the best inflatable double going is the Innova Sunny.

West Marine is an AE dealer
And I know they have store(s) in Tampa.

Dunno about their return or demo policy for such things…

West Marine AE’s
I actually prefer the West Marine versions of the Advanced Elements. The colours are nicer (to my eyes anyway) and the deck on the 10.5 is an improvement over the stock AE deck.

Sports Authority
Oh yeah, I just remembered that Sports Authority is also an AE dealer and they have stores in Tampa:

inflatable kayaks
Tom Yost has plans available for free on how to make an inflatable (single or double) Search on Tom Yost.

We have made a single, and are currently about half way thru making a double. Cost is about $350 complete. These are true sea kayaks, not toys. Set up of the single takes 10 minutes from pack to the water.

Construction is amazingly simple.

If you need more info, e-mail me at

Inflatable kayaks and oyster bars
don’t mix… That limits your paddling in Florida…

Why not two Pakboats. They are NOT inflatables but do break down into one bag apiece.

Alv Elvestead is a super guy to deal with and if you contact him I am sure he can give you some local contacts to see and try in person

They’re great boats, but I’m not sure how well they would mix with oyster bars either.

My two cents worth…
Tampa Bay is no place for anything inflatable. If you’ve been in this area long enough you should know the damage oyster bars can do to even a kevlar boat. Even though you may have all the oyster bars plotted and plan to avoid them nature has a way of ruining the best of plans. Out here gusts can pop up out of nowhere on even the calmest days and push your craft into and onto oysters. And once deflated, well… what oysters can do to human flesh ain’t pretty.

I have a pakboat
that has done quite a few hundred miles on Arctic rocks but not oyster bars.

PakCanoe skins are made of a heavy-duty synthetic canvas coated with high-abrasion-resistance PVC

Here is an account of a Pakboat thats been to Alaska and the Glades

Inflatable kayaks in Florida
This is an interesting thread. We were recently in Milton, FL and paddled rented boats down the Coldwater Creek. These were hard shell, sit-on-top kayaks. We live in Georgia and most rented equipment is inflatable. We are about to pick up our NRS Bandit inflatable kayaks and were going to take them to Milton in November and paddle on rivers that run through Eglin AFB. The only oyster beds I know about are the salt rock beds that the raw on the half shell are presented on. Are there oyster beds on the Coldwater Creek, Blackwater River and other rivers in the Milton area? What about the cypress knees and other stubby tree trunks that we encountered while floating down the Coldwater Creek. Will they damage an inflatable? Should we not bring the inflatables?


I know storage seems to be the problem, but agree you need to be careful here. Oystershell beds are like knives. My last Everglades trip we got into a cold front storm and had no choice, but to hike portions out and our kayaks took some good beatings on these beds. I’d only get an inflatable if I was in an area where there is no chance of getting on one.

Sunny day - mininal wind - just fun for the day kind of boat.

Cypress knees, no problem…
Downed cedars with broken limbs and stobs, big problem! Due to its nature when cedar breaks it tends to splinter and because of its rot-resistance the splinters stay sharp a long, long time.

So maybe you can imagine a scenerio with just a little current and split-second of inattentiveness and before you know it your into a downed cedar with stiletto-sharp broken branches that seem to be all pointing at you! And all it will take is for you just to scrape that sabre-sharp broken branch the wrong way (is there a right way?) and not only do you lose your inflatable through impalement if you aren’t careful you may wind up impaled yourself. An inflatable is just a bad idea all around, unless you use it in a lake or pond.

I live in Tampa, and even with the little I’ve been paddling, I wouldn’t recommend an inflatible for all of the reasons listed already.

In the salt water you’ve got the oyster bads, in the rivers you’ve got downed trees.

Get yourself a couple of Perception Swiftys. They’re only about 10 foot long, and Dick’s just had them on sale. They’re not the fastest or most agile yaks, but they get you into the water and you’ll have fun.

Even in an apartment you should be able to find room for them. In past postings they’ve shown how resourcful people can be to keep their boats safe and secure in the smallest of spaces.

Not living in Florida I’ll reserve comments on the suitability of an inflatable in those waters. But to suggest that they’re only good for “lakes and ponds” is a load of crap.

And that’s speaking as someone who actually has experience with them, in conditions a little more challenging than “quiet lakes and ponds”.

Hobie i14T…
I’ve seen these in person and they look very sturdy…

more $$ though.

stronger than you think…

– Last Updated: Oct-02-08 6:13 PM EST –

I live right below Tampa Bay and I own an Advanced Elements Convertible. I mostly kayak in fresh water, but recently went into some brackish water. The wife and I came across some oyster beds. I am 225 lbs and I can feel we were bottomed out on the beds. I had to use the paddle to get leverage to get off of them. I was sure I was going to see some cuts in the boat, but when we got back there were barely any scratches. They are a lot stronger than you would think.

I agree with you

– Last Updated: Oct-04-08 6:48 AM EST –

I have paddled just about every where in Florida and for many many years, and if I didn't have access to my kevlar kayak, I wouldn't hesitate to use a inflateable one over oyster bars or in any rivers.
If caution is used, it is no different than me getting out of my kevlar boat, before the bottom scrapes on the bars.
Use common sense, know the tides where you will be paddling and don't let the boat scrape bottom, and you won't have any problems.


These are good folks to order from…

– Last Updated: Oct-05-08 9:08 PM EST –

I bought my Advanced Elements Advanced Frame from them. They have good prices and great service. I originally purchased the larger Expedition, found it too heavy to handle and they took it back and sent me the Advanced Frame, no questions asked. They didn't even wait to get the Expedition back before sending me the Advanced Frame!

So if you know what you want then you can just order from these folks, Chuck and Holly.

The AE boats are quite nice. I still use my Advanced Frame for smaller streams but I leave it inflated now that I have a kayak trailer. I found that inflating and deflating the kayak every time I wanted to go paddling was just a pain but I have no quarrel with the boat itself. It's a very high quality inflatable that tracks nicely and is easy to paddle. The people at Advanced Elements are top notch too. They will answer whatever questions or concerns you have and stand behind their product.

Here's their forum and a link to their website:

I don't know about Florida, but I've dragged my Advanced Frame over logs, rocks and gravel in the Pine Barrens and never had any problems. In fact, the inflatable's bottom is a lot less scarred and scratched them my Capella's is!

But again, I have no idea what oyster bars are so you might want to do some research.