The feature that makes a sit-on-top whitewater kayak an absolute winner is that you can fall off and easily climb back on because the kayak floats when it capsizes.

For novices, the Usutu opens the door to whitewater kayaking. Learn how to take effective paddling strokes, master ferry angles and easily catch eddies with the confidence that you can attempt a roll or easily get back on if you capsize. Experienced paddlers benefit from improved confidence and the opportunity to try moves they would hesitate to attempt with a sit-in kayak.

The Usutu has good speed in whitewater, it tracks on flatwater and it is super forgiving. The hull design is based on the Vubu hull, but with more stability added. It is a real whitewater hull that handles rocks well and can boof drops.

The sculpted seat is beautifully shaped and comfortable. Thigh Straps keep you in place and give you greater control in rough water. If you do capsize, your knees can easily slip out from under the straps, or you can roll the boat back up if you have a decent roll.

If you’re in the water, you’ll appreciate the strategically-placed handles that make it easy to grab the kayak and to get back on; they’re also useful to fetch swimmers when you paddle to their aid. The big volume stern is both for buoyancy and storage space for multi-day whitewater trips.

The Usutu is the perfect kayak for whitewater novices. In addition, it is also great for fair-weather paddlers, vacation-only paddlers, weekend warriors, river guides and rescue kayakers.

Length: 305 cm / 10′
Width: 75 cm / 29.5″
Height: 42 cm / 16.5″
Weight: 23 kg / 51 lb
Ideal paddler weight: 55-90 kg / 120-200 lb
Max. carrying capacity: 100 kg / 220 lb


To get older children and teens into whitewater kayaking, the Usutu is your best choice. They can develop skills and confidence without fear of being stuck in a kayak; if they fall off, they can climb back on. The Usutu is too big in size for smaller children. For them, go with our children’s kayak, the Kwando, which can easily handle rivers with small rapids.


Yes, small-sized dogs – like water-crazy Jack Russells – can easily sit between your legs.


As rivers are not all rapids – there are always flatwater sections. The Usutu tracks beautifully and moves swiftly to get you through open stretches.


For multi-day whitewater trips where there are lots of rapids and not too many miles of flatwater, the Usutu is a great kayak. It is easy to pack your stuff in the stern of the kayak, which has huge volume and lots of space. It is important to keep the weight as close as possible to the centre of the boat. It is advisable to clip your drybags to the rope loops underneath the hatch.


Nope, this whitewater kayak is not designed for fishing.


Like you, the Usutu enjoys beach holidays. But the Usutu is definitely more at home on rivers.


Designed to be able to surf in rapids, the Usutu can certainly handle surfing waves at the beach. If you plan to spend more time at the coast, get our Dumbi kayak instead.


It is on rivers and in rapids that the Usutu is most at home. For beginners, Usutu allows you to play and learn as you develop whitewater skills and confidence. If you fall off, just climb back on. For experienced paddlers, you’ll enjoy the freedom of this sit-on-top and the opportunities it opens to test and stretch your skills without worrying about taking a swim. If you have a solid roll, you’ll be able to roll the Usutu.



I am a firm believer in the use of sit-on-tops in whitewater. It has obvious benefits for beginner paddlers, such as stability and the ability to just climb back on after a swim. Paddling a sit-on-top is a great foundation to learn to paddle rapids and to learn different strokes and techniques.

It also offers advantages for more experienced paddlers. I have seen reasonably skilled kayakers become a lot more confident when they got onto the Usutu.

For a safety kayaker, it also offers many advantages: easy to rescue swimmers because of the range of movements possible; easy to carry swimmers because of the extra volume in the stern; and easy to jump off and back on when needed.

All these benefits are only possible if the sit-on-top is well designed, of course. Most whitewater sit-on-tops are designed by either whitewater kayak designers who don’t really understand sit-on-tops, or by recreational sit-on-top designers who don’t really understand whitewater. Unfortunately, this has led to a general opinion held by many paddlers that sit-on-tops don’t really work for whitewater.

It is my mission to change this perception.

A few years ago I designed a range of whitewater sit-on-tops for my previous company, which I still consider to be some of the best ever on the market. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating my own past designs as well as those of competitors. There are a few good designs out there.

My aim with Vagabond is not to make more of the same. I will only launch a new model if I’m sure it is substantially different and better than anything else on the market. So, when I started working on the Usutu design, I wanted to make sure it would be on a different level.

The easiest way to summarise my priority for this design is: instead of being a sit-on-top that handles whitewater well, I wanted it to be a real whitewater kayak that happens to be a sit-on-top. Makes sense?

The Usutu hull has the same basic characteristics as the Vubu and Pungwe hulls: lots of stability, good speed in whitewater, great edge control, and above all, it is super forgiving. Even though it is wider than a normal whitewater kayak, once you’re on the water it doesn’t feel like it. I managed to create a hull that simply feels like a real whitewater kayak. The pivot point is the same, the way you lead your moves with your head is the same, the way you connect with the boat feels the same.

Nothing makes a sit-on-top behave like a barge like when tens of litres of water are dumped in the cockpit when punching through waves. To compensate for this I’ve put some really big scupper holes through the boat to make water drain instantly.

To protect the bottom edges of the scupper holes from impact and abrasion, I put grooves in the hull. Generally, grooves in the hull of a whitewater kayak are not ideal, but I decided to put these grooves to good use. The size, curve and placement of these grooves actually assist in the control of the boat when catching eddies or doing ferry glides.

I combined this great hull with a cockpit that really keeps you locked into the boat, without the risk of getting stuck if you decide to go for a swim. There are enough contact points between your body and the cockpit to have direct control of the boat. The thigh straps are positioned to keep you in place in rough conditions, but when you want to bail, they won’t hinder your effort of abandoning ship. You can, of course, use the thigh straps to roll the boat too.

I gave the bow some good volume and a peaked deck to ride through and over waves, and to resurface quickly when submerged.

I gave the stern even more volume for great stability in rough water. It is also great for rescuing swimmers as the stern won’t submerge when you pull a swimmer onto the back deck. The hatch and large volume of the stern also mean that multi-day whitewater trips can easily be done with the Usutu.

Finishing off the design, I gave it a bunch of strategically-placed handles. These handles help a lot when dealing with swimmers in a rescue situation. They also help if you take a swim and need to grab your boat to get back onto it.

To get back to my stated goal with the Usutu design… This is a real whitewater kayak. It just happens to be a sit-on-top, with all the benefits that a sit-on-top generally implies (most importantly, it floats when capsized!). It is a whitewater kayak as much as the Vubu and Pungwe are whitewater kayaks.

Celliers Kruger, designer of Vagabond Kayaks

The Usutu whitewater sit-on-top was designed in the style of a creekboat. It is very forgiving, has good speed in whitewater and it tracks well on flatwater.

The stern has big volume for buoyancy and storage for multi-day trips. The Usutu is perfect for learning to ferry glide, catch eddies and to surf rapids. If you fall off, you can just climb back on.

Kayaker: Hugh du Preez (he is around 6’7″ tall and weighs over 100kg)

A benefit of paddling a whitewater sit-on-top is that if you capsize, you can just climb back on again. This makes Vagabond’s Usutu perfect for kayak schools, beginner kayakers and also those who lack confidence, cannot roll a sit-in as well as paddlers who enjoy whitewater but don’t often get to paddle rapids. The Usutu makes paddling rivers and rapids accessible and enjoyable.