Swell Kayaks - About Swell

Why is the kayak produced in South Africa?

Bomb Proof

Poly2 plastic makes for lighter, stiffer kayaks.  It’s formed by adding a foaming agent to the polyethylene.

Celliers Kruger and the author at the Parys, South Africa factory.

Swell Watercraft is 100% dedicated to improving it’s products., the Scupper 14, has received tremendous user reviews online. The Scupper truly is different. It’s the first sit-on-top with the feet below waterline and utilizes an innovative, patented drainage valve.

Recently the scupper had the first “professional” media review of the kayak completed @GearJunkie.com. thrilled! The writer was loving the Scupper. He did list two ‘cons’ as real writers tend to do. The rod holders’ angle: easy fix. The weight of the kayak: we had no easy fix for that.

Another problem: back pain. At 71 lbs, It was possible to get them on and off a roof rack, but after doing it hundreds of times you find yourself dreading the experience. Gear Junkie was right, built in standard plastic the kayak was heavy.

A little research indicated the kayak was already the lightest rotomolded 14 footer one could buy. The Scupper was always envisioned to be a roof rack type of kayak. How can you lower the weight? Fiberglass was too brittle and expensive for most customers. Thermoformed plastic lack rigidity, which makes them flutter when paddled.

This is where Celliers Kruger from South Africa comes in. He’s a kayak designer from South Africa who has perfected a unique “Poly2” rotmolding that makes kayaks not only lighter but also stiffer. A thin outer shell is laid in, followed on the inside by a foaming agent. Kruger learned the process during a contract he had to make the world’s first roto molded surfskis. Later, he applied the process to Vagabond Kayaks, his own line of performance based sit-on-tops.

Kruger offered to make the Scupper about 11% lighter and much stiffer at his South African factory. From there, the partnership expanded. We are also the exclusive distributor of Vagabond Kayaks in UK.

So that’s why Swell kayak production is in South Africa. Lighter, faster, stiffer, better kayaks. UK distribution for Swell. Exclusive rights to distribute Vagabond Kayaks in UK.


Developing the Scupper Valve

 By Jim Marsh

Swell Watercraft set out to build a faster, more comfortable sit on top kayak. The big idea was to lower the footwells all the way, just like a sea kayak. The added performance would be a game changer. But what to do with the excess water that filled into the cockpit? We had a number of ideas, but our patented Scupper valve was the avenue we ended up taking. It utilizes a 1″ ball that keeps water from coming in, but drains the cockpit through the scupper hole when you paddle fast. This is our journey building our revolutionary valve.

#1 We built this rudimentary yellow valve out of urethane as a test of concept. We were pleased it drained, but it also leaked, making it hard to measure. Still, we decided to build another one even though we weren’t sure this would be our solution.


#2 We added a rim underneath the kayak that keep water from rushing in. Bingo! We likey. It works well. Let’s make a polished prototype!

Scupper plugs to fit swell scupper 14 , one laying on its side the other upright

#3 We decided to allow the Scupper Valve to push down so you can turn it off and on. This allows one to not have drag under the kayak, especially nice when launching and landing. The orange cord was for pulling it upward. The metal bar was for pushing downward. It was also determined it wasn’t draining as fast as we wanted so we immediately made another one (both are in the photo)that was 25% larger to flush water faster. We’ll just make our Scupper hole larger on the kayak to compensate. Ultimately, we wanted more drainage so we made major changes to get there

scupper plug for swell scupper 14

#4 Enter our masterpiece. Destined for greatness, this valve answered all our questions and solved all our problems. Perfect seal, great drainage, easy to operate. There was only one problem, when pushing the valve down occasionally the circular hole would distort and leak water. This took the air out of our balloon, but we knew we could fix the issue. So back to the drawing board.

scupper plug for swell scupper 14

#5 We added height, allowing the ball to move more freely. We thickened up the handle. We altered the shape of the drainage holes. We figured out a much better lip at the bottom, which creates the seal. Easy to operate, easy to drain, indestructible. We had finally achieved the level of performance we had envisioned in the first place!

Conclusion: It was Tim Niemier’s dream to lower the footwells to make the world’s most comfortable performance sit on top. In order to achieve this we had to take a journey of discovery to find our solution that would make this happen. This was more of a deep dive versus a quick dip. Thankfully Tim, Adam Bierschenk and myself had the time and energy to continue building and testing these prototypes.

Each step had value. The failure of #4 hurt our feelings, but it was very important to get us the level of performance we eventually got. We even had an injection molder alter our valves’ interior without our consent or knowledge. Unraveling that mystery, as irritating as it was, had immense value! We were able to understand the interior dynamics by comparing their version with ours and accentuate features that were obviously working. In the end, our own mistakes became our greatest teachers.