This review is going to cover both the Malibu 2 xl and the Tarpon 130T; two comparable boats for around the same money. Both are large tandem sit on tops capable of taking two adults and a child or extra luggage on board.
I have just got back from a couple of days in the Gower with three others and we have given both boats a thorough testing.
The fours of us are:
Me: keen white water paddler and a reasonable amount of sea kayaking.
Simon: Plenty of white water experience although it was a while ago plus keen surfer
Rachel: Little bit of white water kayaking, mostly flat water recreational paddling.
Zoé: Very little experience of kayaking ever.
So we had a good range of abilities and viewpoints from which to look at the boats.
On day one we took in a paddle to the top of Worm’s Head and back. We had a few little surfs on the way in the 2 foot swell with Me and Rach in the Tarpon and Simon and Zoe in the Malibu 2 xl.
From the off I found the backrests on the Tarpon very supportive and although there is no padding under the seat, the boat was very comfortable. The storage on board is excellent too. We had a dry bag strapped to the stern with cags, shoes, lunch and t-shirts for everyone! We also had a couple of bits in the easy to use storage hatches.
The boat rode out through the waves very confidently and once we were out back cut effortlessly through the still water. After about 45 minutes we reached Worm’s Head and were greeted by two seals, this turned to three, then four, then five and so on! A couple of them came within 3 metres of the boat and one even followed us for a few hundred metres as we paddled up the headland. What a fantastic experience, one that has happened virtually every time I've paddled at the Gower and West Wales!
On the paddle back we swapped over. Simon and Zoé immediately commented on how comfortable the back rests on the Tarpon were and despite have the Ocean Comfort Pro Backrest attached to the rear of the Malibu which does give great support, it can’t compete with the hinged back rests on the Tarpon.
Both boats seemed to paddle efficiently through the water though the Tarpon looked more composed. This was a help as Zoé’s lack of experience kayaks meant she was getting quite tired and Simon was very grateful of such an efficient boat to keep up with Rach and me.
I was impressed with how well the Malibu performed. It lacked some of the poise of the Tarpon but was still very efficient through the water. There is definitely more space aboard the Malibu and I found I was able to take longer strokes using my torso more than in the Tarpon where I sometimes hit Rach in the back with my paddle. The seating position is not quite so roomy as the Tarpon but I think this is due to the fact there is genuine space for a child on board. The deep moulded footrests were supportive through.
We had a few more surfs and swapped around boats a bit more. The general consensus was that the Malibu was happier to turn and carve whereas the tarpon was happier in a straight line.
The next day we headed out into the surf. The girls were both too tired and fancied sun bathing so Simon and I decided to take the Malibu out together. What a blast! We spent two hours in the 3.5-foot surf and by the end we were having long rides along the line of the wave, carving back up and dropping in again and again! Other surfers looked baffled by this and I can honestly say the Malibu exceeded all my expectations in its abilities on the wave!
A trick Simon and I also worked out very quickly is if the front person crouches and jumps just as you paddle over a wave they are flung 15 feet into the air! Great fun!
Both these kayaks are fantastic and I think most people would be happy with either. However both do have their strengths and weaknesses. The Tarpon 130T is definitely the most comfortable and efficient for covering longer distances. It also has more useful storage. The hinged seats are incredibly supportive and really help reduce fatigue.
However the down fall of these is you lose the flexibility of the Malibu 2xl and when I wanted to have a go in it on my own I simply moved the seat to the middle and away I went. This isn’t an option on the Tarpon without buying another backrest. Also there is more space on the Malibu for a child. The Malibu also excels in the surf.
Basically there is no ‘better’ boat here. For touring and carrying kit for two, the Tarpon 130T gets my vote. For all round versatile use and surfing the Malibu 2xl wins.
Ross Tiley

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