Reviews Touring Kayaks

Venture Kayaks Islay 12 Touring Kayak with Skudder system Review

The Islay 12 offers the features of a touring kayak in a compact, lightweight package. A smaller version of the Islay 14, the 12 will appeal to people who want to explore smaller lakes and rivers but still want the option of taking along enough gear for an overnight trip.

The Islay 12 is ultra-stable and quick through the water, nimble on edge and fun to paddle. Offered with Venture’s innovative new under-stern Skudder® system.

Smaller and lighter paddlers will benefit from the fit and responsiveness of the LV size.

RRP: £629 (with skeg) £729 (with Skudder)
More info:


Length: 385cm
Width: 66cm
Volume: 266 litres
Bow Hatch: 22.8 litres
Stern Hatch: 66.9 litres
Weight: 22.7kgs


• Semi flat mid hull with a slight V:
• Full volume bow:
• Volume in bow and stern
• Rear weighting & upright stern
• Long water line
• Ergonomic cockpit position
• Removable pod
• Bow & Stern bulkheads
• Two large hatches
• Paddle park
• Deck Lines
• Deck elastics
• Fishing rod holder mounts, soft curve for easy mounting
• Skeg and Skudder® ® options

Paddler Verdict

There are a lot of kayaks out there that try to be all things to all men, but very few actually manage to achieve that. In the Islay 12 touring kayak, Venture has managed to hit that ambitious target squarely on the bull’s-eye. The beginners and intermediate paddlers we put in this kayak loved it. The experienced paddlers loved it. It’s a kayak that will be a fantastic vehicle for inland touring on rivers lakes and lochs and it will be equally at home exploring estuaries and coast hopping adventures. One of our test team joked that it was a small touring boat that thought it was an expedition sea kayak and we’d agree. It’s a real joy to paddle and the addition of the Skudder® is the cream on top of an already tasty cake.

We were already big fans of the Islay 12’s big brother the Islay 14 in both the full and low volume (LV) versions so we were pretty excited to take delivery of the diminutive 12 LV, especially as our test boat was fitted with Venture’s new Skudder® system. It was almost as if Mother Nature was as keen to see what the Islay 12 kayak could do as no sooner had it landed on our boat rack than the rain finally stopped falling and the sun began to shine. With some haste, we headed to the water as soon as possible, and then repeated that process as many times as possible in the following few weeks…

First Impressions

The Islay 12 touring kayak shares the same soft, but sleek, lines of its larger siblings and we have to say it looks like a boat that you just want to paddle. Onboard the outfitting is excellent providing comfort, support and a nice positive paddling position. It’s feature rich, and, with a stern hatch, day hatch and removable storage pod, probably more than you’d expect, or need, in a boat of this type… But then the Islay 12 is, indeed, more boat than it first appears.

On the Water

We were expecting a tidy, well-behaved, short touring boat for pootling about on a pond. And yes, the Islay 12 delivers in spades in the stability and tracking departments, making it a brilliant boat for beginners. Pop someone who has never lifted a paddle before and right from launch they’ll enjoy a great. fun, experience. The Islay 12 is very easy to paddle. When things got a little choppy, when we took it for a day at the coast, it coped with waves with ease and provided an impressively dry ride; it’s stability maintaining, and building the confidence of our less experienced testers. But, here’s where it really started to put a smile on our faces. It’s stability and tracking are thanks to a semi-flat-mid hull with a slight V to it, but its relatively long waterline gives it a surprising turn of speed for a short tourer. With a more experienced paddler on board the little Islay fair flew along the water racking up miles with ease and surprisingly little effort. It feels really smooth through the water with the bow wave nearly non-existent.

Suddenly the generous stowage space made sense. The bow and stern hatches easily swallowed enough light-weight camping kit to allow you to head out on multi-day trips and with careful packing with a mind on the boats trim really didn’t seem to affect its mile-munching performance. It’s nimble too, and it was a pleasure to explore tighter streams and backwaters. Once you finish your paddle many of our testers commented on how easy the Islay 12 was to lift on to a roof rack compared to some of the longer models that they’ve used in the past. A small point, but another tick in the box for this pint-sized performer none the less.

The Skudder®

As we’ve mentioned our test boat was fitted with Venture’s new Skudder® This innovative piece of kit blends the positives of both a skeg and a rudder to come up with a system that, in our opinion, is way beyond the sum of its parts. We have to say that it’s rare for us to get really excited over tech stuff, usually, it’s all about the paddling, but the Skudder® really adds to the on the water experience. In fact, it’s rather brilliant and gives you the very best of both worlds. You can use it like a skeg by dropping it only halfway and it locks the stern into place and increases the boats already excellent tracking. But drop it all the way and it becomes a full under-stern rudder, which means that you don’t have to waste any energy on steering and can concentrate on a super-smooth forwards stroke to power you along all day! It’s really well done and simple and easily accessed for maintenance. Another plus is that when you don’t need either the Skudder® sits up in its slot completely protected.

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