By Paul Lebowitz
The Diablo Amigo Paddlesport: L12' 8"; W37.5"; 75 lbs
Thomas Flemons walked his Amigo--Diablo Paddlesport's latest kayak / SUP hybrid and the first spun from forgiving polyethylene--into the Llano's insistent, shallow current. He hopped nimbly aboard dressed in his everyday best, a mix of hunting camo and river rat scruff, dug his scarred paddle blade in a couple times, then hung on as his boat scraped over stony ledges and bounced off rounded river rock. He was skidding as much as floating, yet within seconds he'd disappeared around a bend.
By the time I caught up at the first otherwise inaccessible deep pool after my own bumpy ride, Flemons was standing tall and swinging a long fly rod, teasing the bass hiding beneath the trees overhanging the bank.
Five years earlier, with his soon-to-be wife Megan and a couple other partners, he'd launched Diablo with the Adios, a unique take on the fishing kayak. Think aircraft carrier, with a broad, uncluttered walk-around deck. It was the first SUP-yak, but so far ahead of its time the term didn't yet apply.
The Adios is built of thermoformed ABS, lightweight, stiff and beautifully glossy--until you run it roughshod down a Texas Hill Country river as much rock as water. Doable, but cringe-worthy. From day one, Diablo's owners envisioned a rugged rotomolded version. It took a while.
"At a small company, sometimes you can't do things as quickly as you'd like," Flemons acknowledges.
The new friend was worth the wait. The Amigo is the spitting image of its older brother, just a little more subdued in color. It is two inches wider and longer and eight pounds heavier than the Adios, and less labor-intensive to build, allowing Diablo to shave $500 off the asking price.
Flemons says designer James Thomas made several subtle changes to the original's hull, a boat that went through a year's worth of prototyping to wring mid-size performance out of a plus-size platform. It's just as likely Flemons and crew were having too much fun in testing. After all, the product is a reflection of his hunting and fishing lifestyle. He's always in the field.
This go-round was much easier. Thomas shored up the boat's lines to add structure and a bit more bite to the keel for better tracking.
The deck was also improved in subtle but useful ways. There are molded-in recesses for accessory GearTrac and to secure the optional but popular Larry Chair. A stand-assist strap, paddle keepers, adjustable footpegs, tankwell bungee and bow hatch complete the outfitting. Just like the original, the boat is a blank fishing canvas. Rig it how you like. "You're not buying seating or rod holders that you don't need," Flemons says.
And you don't need much when you're scraping by on one of Diablo's native rivers. There's plenty of space to lay rods and tackle boxes right on the deck. The lack of clutter on our test model came in handy when the brush came close, and for quickly hopping off and then back on after a few casts from the bank or river bottom.
When the ride down the Llano's class II rapids grew exciting, the beamy hull felt confidently stable even while we sat tall on the Larry Chair. We snaked right through sharp curves. Only when we hit the wide-open waters of bass trophy factory Falcon Lake did we truly note the Amigo's preference for carving turns. The optional, retractable skeg helps the Amigo heed its course.
"Our goal was always to put big guys in shallow waters for hunting and fishing, on a boat that is comfortable to stand in and sight cast," Flemons says. Now they can do it on rivers of stone.