Anyone who played with lite-brite as a kid is about to be pretty excited. Paddling at night is always ethereal. There is heightened awareness, added use of our senses, and it really kind of makes us feel a little like rebels. So with all of that in play, you figure having lights for safety is key. But also, why not have some lights on for fun? That can go underwater? Well the Nocqua Spectrum P2 light system introduces a whole new level of paddle craft lighting. Check out the review below to see paddle illumination in a whole new light (yea we just wrote that).
So, lights are required by Coast Guard regulations when we paddle at night, regardless of our craft. Ideally we need to follow navigation light standards, and you should read this article that explains everything "Navigation Lights When you Paddle - Time to get it right (and Left)". But the system here takes a different approach to lighting. Instead of just meeting minimum requirements, it makes it part of the fun. Completely waterproof. And extremely well engineered and high quality parts. Why not double the time we can safely paddle by adding some dark hours into our possibilities?
What you get
- (2) Rigid light bars. Each contains 60 bright LED lights in a line.
- (2) Straps as part of their patented adjustable harness ssytem to go around your SUP, hull, iako or whereever you find on your craft. Heck you might even find a way to attach it to your surfski/kayak paddle shaft with some creativity and thoughtful placement.
- (1) Rechargeable water resistent battery
- (1) Nylon batter sleeve
- (1) Battery charger, with battery charge indicator
- (1) Switch button unit to control on/off, the colors and mode.
- (1) Padded travel case for everything
Pick from 7 colors based on your mood or board color or heck even match your outfit. You can choose from:
- Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Teal, White (meets Coast Guard white lamp small craft requirement)
- Solid Color (you cycle through to the color you want and it stays on solid)
- SOS Mode (dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot of chosen color)
- Disco Mode (we call it this, as it cycles through all of the colors one by one.)
The amount of quality and thought in this product is pretty mind-blowing. In fact there isn't anything missing or something that appears cheap and likely to break. Everything from the carry case to the screw-on water-proof attachments on each electrical connection is high-quality and well thought out. They have grooves on the connectors to align them properly. The on/off/mode button has a small light near it to help find it in the dark once connected to the battery. The battery lasts 3.5-6 hours. Even the battery charger has a charge indicator to show your charge level when you plug it in.
When we paddled out to our local weekly night workout session the first time, we aren't going to lie. EVERYBODY saw us coming and said, "whoah check you out!" or something to that effect. I was illuminated, and judging by the comments, looking pretty fly. When I showed everyone the various colors, the ooo's and ahhh's were pretty sincere too. But when we went into disco mode, that was when folks started cheering and hollering. We had just made a hard interval workout super fun.
But here is where things get even cooler. These lights are waterproof! And designed to even go underwater beneath your craft and illuminate the whole water around you! So imagine everywhere you paddle being aglow! Yep, that is possible, and really makes for a cool water show. So you can have the lights above water, or underwater and really impress the fish!
The lights from a safety standpoint were super effective. I paddled solo that night around Mission Bay for my warm-up and fishermen, crew boats, and all others on the water and land saw me and gave me a nod as I went by. There was no risk of getting lost in the night, and clipped by a wayward recreational rental boat as I often fear. Or having a fishing line accidentally cast into my path. and when the lifeguard boat happened to come into view, I made sure to have my white lights on and they gave a salute as I paddled by. [ Missing from the different modes is what I acknowledge would be very hard from a tech standpoint: having the two bars offer independent colors. Notably Red and Green so they can be placed on the craft as navigation lights. ]
Setup and Ease of Use
The manufacturer has anticipated kayaks and SUPs to be the primary users of this light system. Using the harness system you can easily strap them on above water, or underwater based on what you are looking for. Having them along the rails, under the craft, or above. I just would be careful with my stroke to not hit them with my paddle when on SUP. They are pretty tough, but why be careless with your changes and risk damage. But while SUP and Kayak both are fun why not also paddle them on an Outrigger Canoe? I took some time on land to really figure out a good system when I paddled out. My workout was based on being fast so I did not want any added drag to my canoe. So I strapped them to my rear iako bar, like I would a spare paddle. And away I paddled. Earlier on my warm-up, I was not worried about speed, so I strapped them onto my hull to illuminate the water. There was added resistance when I paddled as you might expect. But nothing nearly as detrimental as a handful of seaweed on my rudder, or a leash/rope wrapped around the hull for resistance training which I often do. My speed drop was roughly 0.05-.10 mph under same effort in very non-scientific testing f having the bars and straps around the hull. The weight of the units with Battery is about ~3 pounds.
Changing between the setups for a canoe requires going to the beach in my opinion. I might be able to do it in the water but not worth the risk of flipping or dropping something in my opinion. Changing placement on a SUP or Kayak would be much easier on the water in flat conditions, but still might be worth heading to the sand to really dial it in.
Once it is setup and strapped as you want, you simply have to press a button to cycle through the colors and press and hold the button for several seconds to change modes. The only problem I came across was when I wanted to turn it off real quick, I had to cycle through all the colors and disco mode before they turned off. If I needed to be dark really fast, (i.e. sneaking up on a pirate boat) that could be a lot of clicks and time.
OC6 clubs would certainly be able to get this installed as well, and I plan to try it out on a surfboard at night soon as well and see how the folks on the beach like the light show.
So the price of the unit I tested is not cheap. Currently on sale at West Coast Paddle Sports, it runs $249.99. When I priced out simple nav/stern lights in the past with batteries, it was more in the $50-75 dollar range. However, those had some problems over time that made the investment bigger when having to rebuy every year etc. The cheaper lights I have bought tended to have the batteries corrode inside, or just stop working after a few months. Some would even fall off and float to Davey Jones's locker. Being a budget-conscious person myself (i.e. tight wad), this is certainly a fun add-on to my paddle quiver, not a requirement. But I feel compelled to reiterate that the Nocqua Spectrum P2 Light System is so much more than nav lights though. The quality and head-turning reactions I got, as well as the safety benefits and fact it can go under-water and light up the area all around you, really impressed me. If Santa were asking if I 'wanted' something, not just needed it, this would be on my list. Especially since paddling at night is something I really enjoy. Heck, it doubles the time of use for my very expensive paddle craft investment. More use and more fun are something I am always looking for. And the quality means it will have a long life.
Final Thoughts and Where to Buy
We really like this device and will continue to use it for night workouts and explorations. After wearing a headlamp for several years and not liking that comfort-wise, and using the suction cup navigation and stern lights a few times as well, and losing one to the fish (sorry guys), this was a high quality option to light my craft when alone or among friends. Adding in the party factor and ability to have them underwater to make you feel like you are flying, really created a fun experience and mood. And paddling is meant to be fun. We also really liked the thoughtfulness in all the accessories they include, and the quality is off the charts. When you pay upwards of $2000 for a board or $6000 for a canoe, we certainly understand you might need to be careful about taking more costly accessories. Then again, when compared to the craft cost, its actually a small fraction to expand on its time of use, provide safety, and make all your friends hoot and holler like crazy!
This unit was provide to us by West Coast Paddle Sports to test out and share our findings with all of the paddle community. They are a great storefront and online resource for all your paddle needs. You can get the Nocqua Spectrum P2 online with more specs and pictures at https://westcoastpaddlesports.com/products/spectrum-p2-lighting-system-nocqua-sup-kayak-outrigger.