Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood

What: Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal
Where to buy: moosejaw.com, rei.com, amazon.com
Perfect for: gentle kayaking with kids and dogs
Tester: Elizabeth Harwood

*Note: No financial compensation was received for this review. The tester was asked to record her findings, positive and negative, when testing the kayak.

At OWA, the aim is to only publish reviews on gear that, after testing, is found to be beneficial for women outdoors. If gear is received from a company but does not pass testing standards, OWA submits the tester’s feedback directly to the company to assist with improvements. It is OWA’s hope that this process will help improve women’s gear across the industry as well as assist women in finding gear that stands strong in its purpose.

Testing Grounds

On a tidal river (Tomoka River) in Ormond Beach, Florida; the section of the river is in a slow wake zone behind Tomoka State Park. Weather included steady winds of 14-16 mph with higher gusts

 

Function

Weight loads + stability

I took my dog, a 60-pound German Shepherd mix, along for some adventure fun.

In regards to weight distribution: I initially tried putting my dog in the front cargo area, but with his weight in the front and nothing in the back to balance it, a portion of the kayak took on some water.

I had been concerned about him being too heavy for the kayak, but once I figured out that his place was in the larger cargo area in the back, we were good. If you plan on carrying significant weight (such as a large dog/~60-lb child) plus gear, you may want to use a similar set up: heavier in the back, lighter load in the front.

When we first got on the water, I was nervous because every time he moved I could feel it; when he stood up, sat down, or turned around the boat rocked. However, all I needed was some time to practice balance (he did, too!). In the end, it just took getting used to—once we did, it was a lot more stable than I had imagined a sit-on-top kayak would be.

With the stability and weight capacity at 450-lbs, the kayak  is perfect for bringing along your best fur friend or kiddos, and even some gear for the front of the kayak.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood

 

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben HarwoodManeuvering

The Malibu Pedal is easy for those who are new to the game. The kayak makes use of an underwater propeller—rather than paddles—to move, while the connected foot pedals control speed. Hand dials on either side of the kayak’s seat control the rudder (up/down and turning side to side), making it easy to turn left and right.

The Tomoka River’s current is slow-moving due to tidal fluctuations. However, my testing was during moderately windy days, with winds in excess of 16 mph. I had to fight the breeze in one direction, giving me an “upstream” scenario.

Despite the wind, it was easy to move the Malibu Pedal against the wind. Since one full cycle of the pedals equals twelve turns of the propeller, the kayak cruises along easily without requiring much energy to get (and keep) it going.

The steering is easy when you’re moving, but it can be tricky in tight spaces or when you’re moving slow as the rudder requires water movement to turn the kayak.

As for paddling environments, I would recommend this for gentle ocean waters and rivers (if you’re carrying live, precious cargo!), as well as lakes. Due to the depth of the propeller drive, in whatever environment you’re traveling, you’ll need at least 16 inches of water beneath you so you can run aground. However, if you do get in a low-water situation, you can lift the prop out of the water and use a traditional paddle, something that the company recommends always carrying in case the kayak’s pedals cannot be used.

Speaking of the propeller/pedal unit (PDL Drive), the unit is entirely removable. This is helpful as the weight of the kayak—coming in at around 100 lbs.— is pretty restrictive to moving it on land; I need a partner to help me carry it out to the water, as well as when loading and unloading from the truck. Removing the drive during this process makes the kayak lighter when going to and from the put ins/take outs and on and off vehicles—but it’s still heavy.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood

Features

Cargo areas

There is a front (smaller) and back (larger) “cargo” area. For my larger dog, the back cargo area was more comfortable while the front would be suitable for smaller dogs or lighter gear. Bungee straps are included with both the front and rear areas to help secure your stuff, and when they’re not needed—such as when you’re making room for a dog—they’re very easy to remove.

In addition to the cargo areas, I love the dry box compartments the Malibu Pedal has. There are two: a smaller box located within the propeller drive unit—great for protecting your wallet, keys, and phone—and the other (larger) dry box under the seat. The latter has enough room for towels and even a beach bag.  

There are also three cup-holders in case you’ve got a couple of kids with you instead of pups.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood

Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal Review - Photo: Ben Harwood

 

Seating

The seat is super comfy and adjustable. However, at 5’4”, I had to adjust the seat all the way toward the nose to reach the pedals and still felt they were still too far away.

This is a downfall in the design; I must fully extend my leg—and even slightly point my toes at mid-pedal—to complete a cycle. It is manageable but something that should be considered by the manufacturers; a few more adjustment stops so the sea