Kicking Air

“Kicking Air”, a phase used in the shop for airing up a boat and seemingly forgotten once a customer leaves. As I sit at my desk and catch my breath from kicking air into the boats on the showroom floor, I thought it was worth mentioning that you need to add air to your inflatable boat.

Yes, even new boats need to have air added to them once in a while. Don’t expect to assemble your boat and think you are done with kicking air altogether. Before I venture out in my Bombard Commando I kick air with my foot pump until it won’t take anymore. If no air is needed on any chamber I stow my foot pump in it’s place on the boat and get underway.

Recreational boats and MILPRO boats alike need to be aired up, it doesn’t matter if its a French Thermo-bonded Strongan boat, a MILPRO Duratane boat, or some knock off brand made out of dubious P.V.C. composition. They all need air to operate correctly.

Every season we get several boats in the repair shop that are “leaking air”, that the customer wants fixed asap. Upon doing an airtest and leak check we find there is nothing wrong with the inflatable boat other than a lazy owner. It happens more that you would think. There hasn’t been an inflatable boat made that doesn’t leak down over time. My Zodiac Bombard Commando seems to never leak all year, but I still check it frequently, and add as needed.

Glued boats like those made from Hypalon/CSM leak more quickly than a French Zodiac with Thermo-bonded seams. Inflatable boats made in China (no name specials) leak the most out of the bunch.

If you start looking at the multitude of valves out there on the market, you’ll see there isn’t any real standard in the off brands other than being the cheapest for the manufacturer to make or buy. The valves will all bubble when you squirt soapy water into them with the caps off. The valve cap represents the actual valve seal, so when you have valve leakage clean or change your valve cap gasket or O-ring, kick some more air, and go have fun.

Zodiac has only used a few styles of inflation valves in it’s 100 + years of manufacturing inflatable boats, and most of them still exist today. Look to the other brands out there and you’ll see a dizzying multitude of valves that often are not the same from manufacturer to manufacturer despite being brand X. Trying to get caps or replacement valves that match in size, type or color can be daunting to today’s average online research specialist. It’s a condition of the knock off culture and there isn’t any end in sight either.

Running your inflatable boat under inflated will shorten its life span, so kick some air into it once in a while. If you’re out of shape, elderly or handicapped use an electric inflator with a gage and get it right without breaking a sweat.

The Zodiac Difference.

What makes a Zodiac inflatable boat different and why should you buy one?

These days everyone is trying to sell us boats made in China with brand names that sound like Zodiac models of the past. What sets the boats apart is not that they are made in China, but that they are made in one of the many Chinese production facilities that brands like Zodiac don’t use. Substitutions of fabric, materials, adhesives, fittings, etc. abound in the no name brands. Sure, they are cheaper to buy and can come with little to no shipping charges so why not save the $$$? While this model of sales and marketing is very attractive to todays’ shopper who can’t be bothered to look up from a screen it represents real problems when they experience the failure modes associated with this practice.

Since about 90% of the inflatable boat market utilizes P.V.C. in their construction, and substitute materials are the norm in knockoffs one doesn’t need to look too far to see issues.

Adhesive and fabric are everything when it comes to being safe and reliable. For example, one quart of proper glue can cost upwards of $250 U.S. dollars, but the cheap substitute glue can cost less than $10 U.S. dollars. Not having to spend the extra money on glue can be a real money maker for the counterfeiter.

Why would the online shadow manufacturer/seller be concerned with failure? They close out companies and models after each production run thereby leaving the would-be boater adrift with no support for their inflatable boat when it falls apart. When a boat from Zodiac has an issue, (never happens), there is a worldwide network of dealers to take it to for a warranty issue. Try shoving your online mystery boat back into your phone or laptop when you need service, it’s pretty futile.

Using a stabilized and thermally protected glue will get 15 to 20 years of use before the bonds weaken. The inventor and innovator of inflatable boats “Zodiac” has been working on their P.V.C. formulation since the 70’s, and as such has determined that it’s better to use the good stuff.

Speaking of P.V.C. fabric, one thing we see in the repair shop time and time again is fabric used on the wrong bias. While nesting patterns for the most efficient use of the sheet makes more money for the knock off brands, Zodiac has long understood the mechanics and structure of each model design. What this means in simple terms is that to approach a particular design element such as a transom overlay for example, one needs to cut on the correct bias to ensure conformal adhesion and strength. Zodiacs cost more to make for reasons not apparent to the end user at a glance.

Fabric is essentially the most fundamental part of an inflatable boat and using it incorrectly leads to failures of strength, rigidity, air keeping, durability, and longevity. Zodiac repair technicians must go to school and be certified just to be able to perform work on Zodiac inflatable boats, a requirement that is non-existent in any other brand. It can take years to become proficient at some inflatable boat repairs other than a simple patch. When it comes to the knock off inflatable boats, anything goes. Forget the environment, forget proper construction, forget anything that will make their cheap boats more expensive or take longer to produce. Human work hours cost companies money even if they are made in third world sweat shops.

Zodiac is environmentally friendly and always evolving material science and process engineering techniques since their founding in 1896. Maurice Mallet (founder of Zodiac) started out making balloons, airships, and airplanes of the highest quality because failure was not an option, then, or now. Cutting corners could cost lives and it’s this thinking that has prevailed for well over a century with the modern Zodiac Inflatable Boat.

Born from wartime necessity and transformed with the leisure movement Zodiac Inflatable Boats have endured to reach into the zeitgeist of today where everyone calls an inflatable boat a “Zodiac”. They’re not all the same, you deserve to have a better boat. You deserve a genuine Zodiac for your adventures, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing corners weren’t cut when you put yourself and your family on the water.

Get your genuine Zodiac Inflatable Boat from IBC by calling us (503)235-2628, stopping by our showroom 2041 SE Powell Blvd. Portland Oregon 97202, or online from

Bombard Commando Boat Series

Looking back through Zodiac’s history the Bombard name comes up again and again. His many contributions to boating and survival at sea could fill a small library. One of his achievements that stands out to me was his Commando line up. As a young man in the Navy I had on occasion come across his models whilst attached to Deep Sea Diving commands. (Hooyah Deep Sea!) We used them for just about everything a person working in remote locales needed. Personnel transport, diving operations, rigging, setting beach gear etc. it was all done by some of the saltiest and grittiest salvors in a “days work”. I didn’t think on it too much in those days, the head shed put me on so many different ships, boats, and submarines that it was just my job, my rice bowl as it were, and I looked forward to the next set of challenges a new day would bring.

Fairway Rock circa 1992

What’s that in the foreground a Commando? Pay no attention to HTC Hafer in the background!

Icey Bay early 90’s ARS50 Uss Safeguard

A young Mike on the USS Safeguard’s ARS50 fantail – Arctic Operations

Fast forward to the time where everyone has a computer in their pocket that makes calls and I’m still running the Bombard Commandos for work.

Inflatable Boat Center

The end of 2019 saw many changes in the Zodiac lineup and beloved models were being phased out. Once great boats like the Zodiac Classic, Futura, Commando, and Fastroller were headed to the proverbial chopping block. We couldn’t afford to save them all, but we could keep the stalwart Commando from fading away. We just had to order a goodly amount and wait thru COVID to keep the real French Thermo-bonded boat of yore in production.

I’m happy to say that Zodiac did not disappoint in the Bombard Commando. Real Duo-tex fabric, real Thermo-bonding, actual real Commandos! My only regret was not being able to make a larger production run.

The fabled Bombard Commando models move pretty well in a market dominated by Chinese built knockoffs. Boats trying to compete for the market segment can be found on Amazon, Ailbaba, Costco, et al. About the only category they lead is in being low quality garbage. We often find their cheap examples littering our beaches and landfills.

Ironically Bombard Commandos are used to clean up beaches and waterways!

The Rozalia Project hard at work with their Bombard Commando C3

Thankfully IBC still has the good stuff for the recreational and semi-pro user without breaking the bank. Most of our Bombard Commando users become lifelong Commando users. They rarely move into another model with the exception of maybe moving up or down a size.

While I make no claims to being the leading expert in the field, I have been doing this for a job since 1985. Captain Ron, our fearless leader, has been doing it since 1972 and still has his 1982 Bombard Commando C3 going strong.

If you’re a discerning boater, someone new to it all, or a salty shell backed salvor you’ll find everything you need and nothing you don’t in the Zodiac Bombard Commando range. To start your own adventure, give Inflatable Boat Center a call (503)235-2628 or shop online today. These models won’t be in stock for long and there has never been a better time to “Go Commando” than now!


INFLATABLE BOAT CENTER INC ( Bombard Commando C4 Black



Inflatable Boat Center 2041 SE Powell Blvd Portland Oregon 97202