What a Houhah - Spotlight on Hou Canoes

Hou do you think you are?

Canoes are the most versatile of small craft, the same boat can carry one, two or three people, it can be paddled, poled, sailed or motored, it could be used for a couple of hours on a calm morning or evening, for a day trip, a weekend trip, or a month-long expedition. It could be paddled on flat or moving water, on rivers, canals, lakes, lochs, bays, estuaries and even the sea.

This flexibility alongside a growing interest in all things paddlesporty has led to a surge of interest in open canoeing and consequently, where there used to be just a couple of UK manufacturers there are now several homegrown brands, one of which is Hou.

About Hou Canoes

Who? Hou, that’s who. From the Polynesian word for ‘new’ and with personal family links to the Pacific, Hou was the obvious name for Hou Canoes, a new brand which landed in 2014 and have been producing boats in the UK ever since. (The Polynesian link is a great story by the way; the Great Great Great Grandfather of Justin Snell, the founder and owner of Hou was one of the mutineers aboard HMS Bounty who settled on Pitcairn island after the ship was scuttled and burned.)

Hou Canoe ranges

Hou set out to make their canoes the canoeist’s canoe, combining function with style and good looks. They produce two ranges, the polyethylene boats and the Armerlite Brooks.

Polyethylene The hulls are made of a three-layer high density polyethylene for light weight, strength, and rigidity, the gunwales are vinyl (with wood trim as an option) and the outfitting - the seats, thwarts and carry handles are ash or ash and webbing where the seats are concerned. There are two main styles: the classic Chestnut Hou Prospector design which is traditionally around 15 and a half feet long although Hou make shorter and longer versions and the modern Hou 15, Hou 16 and 17 with slightly flatter hulls and outswept ends rather than the recurve of the Hou Prospector.

Armerlite Brooks

The Hou Brooks range is made from Armalite a woven fabric infused with polypropylene which offers rigidity, strength and very light weight at a manageable price once you factor in the longevity of the material. PE models fall around the £1000 price mark making them more amenable to the family pocket and crucially what they gain in weight they do not sacrifice in quality - indeed we all paddle a Hou Prospectors at SCC ourselves as does Lyndsey McPhee, one of the SCC team paddlers and an ambassador for the Hou Canoes brand - which is quite appropriate, since we are the Hou stockist for the south coast.

Hou and South Coast Canoes

We always have Hou Prospectors in stock - although we can get any of the models with a few days’ notice - and we stock those because we like them so much ourselves and find them to be ideal for all the paddling we do down here in the South; mostly a mix of open water and flat water paddling on the south coast harbours and rivers with trips down to Dartmoor for white water adventures and occasional, longer expeditions to the wilder corners of northern and western Britain.

In fact, although I’ve paddled lots of open boats I’ve only ever owned Prospectors, I’m on my third now and the Hou is definitely my favourite, the weight and stiffness are perfect and I find it the most predictable and responsive of the boats I’ve paddled.

Over the past few months, I’ve taken the Prospector out as often as possible in as many venues as I could reach easily in a day and in a range of weather from calm and sunny to windy and wet - more suited to sea kayaking. I’ve paddled it both solo and tandem, I used it for an overnighter loaded with camping gear, I poled up the Stour above Wimborne where the river is shallow and the riverbed is firm, I sailed it across Poole Harbour in surprisingly lumpy conditions and I paddled it along the Basingstoke canal in heavy rain and it has performed superbly in all cases.

It’s a really comfortable boat whether sitting or kneeling, especially as I’ve lined it gunwale to gunwale with SCC kneeling pads which also make a great, grippy platform for poling (they won’t stop you falling in though).

I’ve outfitted it for white water, sailing and tripping with lacing, gear loops, air bag covers, deep dish yoke, sailing seat, and kneeling thwart.

If you fancy trying canoeing for yourself, being shown around some of our local, less visited backwaters or developing your skills give us a call on 01202 914224- we always have Prospectors available for demo.