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.