Pedalling Hobie’s svelte Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight down a narrow canal on the west coast of Florida made me chuckle with delight, especially when I hooked a small snook. When I cranked on the pedals, the iTrek 9 skimmed over the water rather than pushing through it.
Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Specs
Weight: 37 lbs
Capacity: 350 lbs
iTrek 9 is Featherlight and Fearless
Despite the little boat and small fish, there was nothing minuscule about the fishing trip. Tropical storm Eta had just blown out of the area, and the wind had calmed to 25 miles per hour.
As I pedalled the hybrid standup paddleboard and pedal boat past the end of the sheltered canal and entered an exposed bay, the blast of wind nearly blew off my hat, but the iTrek 9 held its course in the sloppy chop, impressive for a short, flat-bottom inflatable boat.
I made my way to a low bridge connecting Matlacha to Little Pine Island. Snook, redfish and tarpon frequently fin this mangrove-framed flat. Thanks to Eta, conditions weren’t exactly fishy.
I planned to tuck behind the leeward side of the mangroves in hopes of catching something worth a shoutout. To enter protected water, I had to limbo under a low bridge. I reclined the seat, held my rods parallel to the deck and cleared both lanes without a concussion.
Hobie iTrek 9 Stays On Course
I had trouble getting my head around the iTrek 9. The nine-foot, SUP hybrid was somehow able to handle rough conditions and take me places a kayak couldn’t reach.
According to Steve Fields, Hobie’s director of international strategic development, the iTrek 9’s command of the water is due to the unique craft’s light hull weight, only 20 pounds, and a long rudder.
The removable rudder reaches deeper into the water, giving this compact craft better control in wind chop. Combined with the iTrek 9’s flat bottom, the rudder allows the boat to pivot on a strand of seaweed.
I prefer to stand when I cast. The first time I stood up, I worried about the short waterline. But 40-inch beam kept the nine-foot board stable. I confidently stood up from the elevated frame seat and then sat back down. I repeated the performance over and over, casting and then maneuvering into a new position.
The deck between the MirageDrive GT pedal system and seat is completely clear, with plenty of room for my feet. I caught several fish, three small sea trout and a ladyfish, without a hint of tipping.
To further improve the small boat’s go-anywhere attitude, Hobie’s Mirage Drive GT fins pop up when it hits an underwater obstruction. After the drive clears the rough stuff, it pops back down ready to go.
One downside: the MirageDrive GT fins do not reverse. That worried me when I needed to kiss the mangroves to retrieve a lure, but the iTrek 9 swivelled back toward open water without crashing into the tangle of roots and limbs.
I did notice that if I turned the rudder quickly, it acted more like a brake. Instead, I moved the control lever slowly and the rudder engaged to turn the boat. For tighter maneuvers, the iTrek 9 comes with a three-piece SUP paddle.
Ultralight Package is Ultra Portable
Upon returning to the dock, I effortlessly lifted the little kayak off the water. That’s when the possibilities for the iTrek 9 occurred to me, I could take the boat anywhere.
“Hobie made the kayak lighter by removing hard fittings and gluing on the extras,” Fields says. “If you live in a city, where the car parks are low, preventing roof racks, you can throw the iTrek 9 in the car or in a closet in your apartment.”
While Fields expounded on the potential for urbanites, I had another take. I live in the mountains and love to hike with my fishing rod to remote mountain lakes. The Hobie iTrek 9 opens up acres of new water.
I’m not strong enough to lug 70 pounds of float tube, fins, waders, tackle and other necessities five miles into the backcountry. The iTrek 9 weighs just 37 pounds fully rigged and comes with an airplane-friendly bag, but a more portable backpack is available.
The iTrek 9 Ultralight is a single-chamber inflatable. This makes the boat lighter and easier to pack, but if I puncture the hull I’m sunk. The heavy PVC material is almost impervious and Hobie is using new construction technology that is tougher and more reliable.
For a more robust inflatable hybrid, Hobie created the new iTrek 11, which is two feet longer and has three chambers. The company has also implemented a number of less obvious but important design elements that give the iTrek series better durability and performance.
To improve stiffness, which improves performance, Hobie upgraded the glues, increased the overlap on the seams, and went with a diagonal stitch instead of a linear stitch. The latest generation of inflatables handle expansion from heat and a higher PSI. Fields explains, “We’re trying to replicate a hard body out of something that’s not hard.”
Expand Your Horizons With Hobie’s iTrek 9
Look, if you load up with accessories and electronics, the Hobie iTrek 9 isn’t your boat. There are bungees on the stern, but hardly enough room for a gear crate. But, if you only need a couple rods and a couple hours to catch a couple fish in sheltered waters, even during a hurricane, then you can’t beat the iTrek 9.
This article was first published in Kayak Anger Issue 44. Subscribe to Kayak Anger and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos or browse the digital archives for your desktop here.
Small boat, big smiles. | Feature photo: Courtesy of Hobie