Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Which Surfski for Me?


Surfski paddling on the new breed of ocean racing skis, has moved very quickly in recent years from the exclusive domain of elite surf lifesaving athletes, to one where even the most modest of recreational paddlers can now enjoy the rush of chasing a wave in these sleek boats.


The turning point, without question, was the breakthrough Epic V8, released in 2010 & offering a super stable ski, and genuine performance for paddlers entirely unskilled in the sport of ski paddling. The attraction was easy to identify. These craft are light in comparison to most kayaks in the same price range, simpler to paddle with a very responsive rudder, with the advantage of hull speed for fitness, and stability for the fun part of the sport on open water. If you're not looking to journey or develop kayak-specific skills, they're a very uncomplicated & accessible craft.

Other manufacturers have followed on with their own more user-friendly designs, so the picture for a prospective buyer is now much more clouded, for anyone attempting to weigh up the relative merits of different skis, in different stability & performance categories.

To simplify, but by no means comprehensively define these different skis, we've put together a guide to the boats we have both paddled enough to gain a good appreciation of the attributes of each, and also sell as part of our stable of skis from the leading brands Epic, Fenn, Think & Carbonology. We have demo boats on hand for most of the designs summarised below if you'd like to give one a try in live conditions.

photo by Alan Coker (www.allancoker.com)
Note, our impressions of these boats are based on our own paddling. Both Rob & I consider ourselves competent enough on each of the skis listed to paddle them well in moderate conditions, so we're not speaking from the perspective of elite ski paddlers, more for the viewpoint of enjoying the skis in the conditions for which they were designed.
We have coached & instructed scores of paddlers over the past couple of years specifically aimed at making them competent enough to enjoy open water in their ski, as opposed to shaving a few minutes off their race time. In many cases our views vary slightly from the manufacturer's own spiel; we're attempting to simplify this at-times confusing market place with a simple statement about how each ski differs, from our brand-neutral viewpoint.

The sorts of typical conditions I enjoy paddling are summarised in the short video below, to give you an idea of where we paddle these skis & the kinds of adventures you can have! It's not a race, it's not scary, it's just great fun, accessible to all with the right boat & a bit of dedication.



Broadly, the sport has evolved into four categories; Entry Level, Transition, Intermediate, and Elite:

Entry Level Skis

With the starting point that surf skis are designed for moving water, each of these ski designs combine varying degrees of glide and 'run' in the following seas in which they excel, with stability to allow the less experienced paddler the opportunity to get to know the dynamic environment of the ocean.


Carbonology Cruze
Exceptionally well made, stable, reassuring, well priced and light. Probably as good a combination of qualities for either a new ski paddler seeking more stability, or a more experienced paddler looking to enjoy the ocean free of anxiety. 
Length 550cm
Width 53cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 60-110kg
$3300 (Glass Epoxy- 14.5kg) $3900 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon Foam11.5kg)

Epic V7
The new Epic V7 sets a new standard for rotomold performance. It is lightweight, extremely efficient, and easy to handle. The V7 is outfitted with the same high quality fittings as every surfski in the Epic lineup, including the carbon fiber footboard and pedals and the hugely popular Epic designed bailer. In addition, it features an aft storage compartment with a lightweight hatch. 
Length 520cm
Width 54cm
Weight 20kg
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$1990

Fenn Bluefin S
A super stable, heavily rockered ski designed to catch waves & run on the sea. If you're looking for the perfect boat to get you out into rough water & actually riding waves, there isn't a better boat on the market to inspire confidence & do what a surfski is supposed to do. You can see a video of the Bluefin in action HERE
Length 590cm
Width 53cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2800 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3350 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3800 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon 10kg)

Think Eze
Unquestionably the best entry level ski on the market for smaller framed paddlers. Short, nimble, light & quick for it's length, with Think's renowned disciplined seating position. 
Length 520cm
Width 51cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 50-85kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)

Think Ace
Along with the V8 the base line ski in the market, designed to be easy to paddle for even the greenest paddler. Features carry handles, and also the lightest ski for the price. 
Length 522cm
Width 53cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 75-110kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)

Epic V8
The ski which single-handedly broadened the sport of surfski when it was introduced a few years ago. Stable, solid on the water, and built to Epic's exacting standards. The easiest surfski to paddle on the market. You can see a video of the V8 in action HERE. 
Length 549cm
Width 56cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)


The Transition Skis
A recent development to the genre, skis that have a bit more to burn, yet retain a level of stability the an ambitious beginner can live with.


Think Zen
The latest arrival into the transition genre, more nimble than it's rivals at 5.6m long so an excellent one for garage storage, and designed with stability in mind. This is a ski we're excited about, we think 560cm is a great length for most paddlers ability. 
Length 560cm
Width 52cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 60-100kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)


Epic V8 Pro
Bridging the gap between entry-level and intermediate, this is Epic's latest ski & it sits on it's own in a sub category.If you've been wondering about a step up from your V8 to the V10S but haven't quite been able to make the leap, then this boat is such a logical step. It feels like a V8 with a lot more glide, and as such requires way less effort to push through the water, and as far as ocean paddling goes it also turns more instinctively. You can read a review & see a cool video of the ski in action HERE. 
Length 570cm
Width 50cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Carbonology Boost
The Carbonology Boost is welcome addition to the 'ambitious starter' genre. It's 5.95m long, 50.5cm long, super manoeuvrable and predictable in the runs & only $3300 for the 14.5kg layup. If you're getting into ski paddling & wanting to have a crack, or looking to come back down to a design more manageable in the rough stuff, this should be in your list of boats to test. 
Length 595cm 
Width 50.5cm 
Weight See Below 
Paddler Weight 60-100kg 
$3300 (Glass Epoxy- 14.5kg) $3900 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon Foam11.5kg)

Intermediate Skis
Intermediate level skis by definition should look after a paddler with good technique, allowing them to get the boat out into more challenging water and enjoy it, rather than dread it. Fast enough to ride ocean runners but without the sheer glide of the elite skis, these are designs that are sympathetic enough to allow a good percentage of improving paddlers to graduate into.

Fenn Swordfish S
A dynamic, nimble, surfing ocean ski in the Fenn tradition of producing skis that are meant to be in waves. Now with an improved seat & 'hump' position, manufactured in South Africa. The Swordfish is a unique ski, with performance just below the true elite level, whilst maintaining stability to burn. You can see a video of the Swordfish in action HERE.
Length 610cm
Width 45cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2800 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3350 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3800 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon 10kg)

Think Evo
Probably the fastest intermediate ski, with almost universally approval for the intermediate paddler looking to progress to the ocean. Blessed with above-average glide, and all of the extras that come as standard on Think surfskis. HERE'S a short video of the Evo running along in Botany Bay 
Length 625cm
Width 48cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-100kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)

Epic V10 Sport
Like the V8, a trailblazer into intermediate skis when originally it was an elite ski or nothing. Now even more stable, big & buoyant & as reassuring in the rough stuff as any design ever was. 
Length 600cm
Width 48cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 75-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Elite Skis
As the classification suggests, elite skis for paddlers with an elite attitude to developing & maintaining their rough water skills. Nowadays almost universally stable enough for an average paddler to handle on dead flat water, but require dedication to master on moving water, let alone in the dynamic environment of the sea.

Think Uno

The Uno is the elite ski for the taller or smaller paddler that does not need the volume of the Uno Max. The new Uno is designed with lighter paddlers in mind.
Length 645cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 50-85kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)


Think Uno Max
You only have to sit in the Uno Max to appreciate the pinpoint ergonomics, this boat just feels fast. As stable as any of the elite designs, with an incredibly disciplined feel on the water. Sea Rice's craft of choice as he powered his way to the World Championship.
Length 645cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg

$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)

Think Ion
A buoyant and dynamic ski which feels light on the water & accelerates beautifully. Sits with the Epic V10 just below the stability & ability of the true elite skis, now remodelled with extra stability. 
Length 642cm
Width 44cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3495 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4595 (Elite 12.5kg)

Epic V10
The ski which popularised the ocean racing genre, with plenty of glide, predictable, stable for it's minimal beam & designed for the rough stuff. An icon with a new configuration, bailer, and shape. Probably the most user-friendly elite-level ski doing the rounds. You can see a video of the V10 in action HERE. 
Length 650cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Epic V10L
A stable elite ski for lighter paddlers, reconfigured to drop off the wetted area & increase overall acceleration. A very different animal to the original V10L, hugely popular with smaller-framed, skilful paddlers. 
Length 615cm
Width 44cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 50-85kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Epic V14
Along with the Think Uno Max a true elite ski for elite paddlers. Used to great effect in flat water races like the Hawkesbury Classic where it can generate K1 speeds with higher comparable stability, but in the purest form an ocean racing performance beast for paddlers with advanced skills. 
Length 640cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)


Epic V12

Revamped in 2016 to overcome the previous model's shortcomings in cross chop handling, the new V12 is a downwind ski if ever there was one. In big water, buoyancy is your friend & this ski has it in spades, with plenty of stability for papers with above-average skills in the rough stuff.
Length 640cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)


Epic V11

Continuing the trend recently to shorter, more nimble surfskis, the V11 irepresents a real break from Epic's tried & tested models. The V11 at 5.79m has been designed to carefully balance length and stability with boat volume, to optimize this boat’s proven surf characteristics and not lose its racing edge. The V11 cockpit and seat design continues the Epic tradition of optimizing comfort and leg drive. This is not a small person's ski...
Length 579cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)
Fenn Elite S
A surprisingly stable elite ski with the well documented Fenn surf ability exemplified by a narrower hull and longer waterline. The seat is further forward making the ski sit flatter in the water. The rudder is further forward making the ski even more maneuverable than the older Elite.  The hump between the seat and footwell has been reduced and the footwell is lower. There is some volume taken out of the nose.
In essence the Elite S has all the re-known surfing characteristics of the Elite while bringing in the flat-water qualities that the Glide offer and lower volume Spark offer.The head-turner at the moment at the pointy end of the sport.
Length 644cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$2800 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3350 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3800 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon 10kg)
Fenn Spark

An elite ski for lighter paddlers. Mates who handle this ski well in the ocean are unstoppable, it's got very little in the way of hull resistance & has some genuine speed.
Length 640cm
Width 42.5cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 55-85kg
$2800 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3350 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3800 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4500 (Carbon 10kg)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Tiderace Evoke - Rob Mercer


Some thoughts on the Tiderace Evoke, and a video of him surfing it on some fun waves last week.

"When tiderace themselves described the Evoke as offering: "world class rough water handing and light touring in a compact ruddered format to sit nicely at the professional end of the recreation market." there was none of the usual jostling at EK Central to be first in country to jump in this cute, short, wide boat.

After all words like "recreational" teamed up with the overall dimensions we would usually associate with a fishing kayak had us thinking of the Evoke as a reliable and seaworthy little ruddered boat best suited to entry level paddlers; a valuable niche but with nothing much to offer us personally. Eventually when all the other new toys had been passed down the line and my regular favourites were out on test paddles I decided it was time to give the Evoke a run.

Not surprisingly I found it was an easy boat to push along at sea kayak cruising speeds and very capable at catching runners. When you look at the plumb bow it probably has one of the longest waterlines for any boat in its class and although it seems heavily rockered for a cruiser this doesn't seem to slow it down much in open water and waves, and the hull just feels efficient. The big surprise however, happened for me when i finally pulled up the rudder to catch some small surf and suddenly found myself in one of the loosest tracking but responsive and lively sea kayaks I have ever paddled. 

Since then I have surfed it, paddled rock gardens in it and covered some decent miles in the company of fast tourers up to a metre longer and not found the boat lacking. At 85kgs and almost 1.9 metres tall I was expecting the boat to be a squeeze and i am certainly on the longest setting for the foot pedals but I could still pack light for a few days without overloading it.

For a lighter paddler with a moderate load this could do some serious sea miles and do them in rough water and in great style. If you are in the market for a short light efficient tourer/day tripper that turns into a dynamic play boat with the simple haul on the rudder line then you should give it a try, but please let us know well in advance because these days it never seems to find its way from my place back to the EK warehouse!

Rob Mercer, April 2015.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

New to the EK Store – The Big Face Paddler Mirror


When world ski champion Sean Rice visited last month for a training session with the Dolls Point Paddlers, one of his mantras was to relax, let your jaw stay loose & controlled, in order to stop yourself tensing up when paddling.

It reinforced something that I have been long advocating in both sea kayaking & ski paddling, the importance of relaxing, staying calm & enjoying your time on the water. Sometimes it’s only when you point out that a jaw is clenched, shoulders are hunched, does the person alongside you in the water actually realise how tense they’ve become, especially in rough water.
Sean Rice - "Relax that jaw...!'
So how to stop this detrimental activity in the first place? Often you can see it when you play back a video of yourself paddling, many a time I’ve thought ‘bloody hell, even though I’m looking pretty damn good there, I am a little tense, if only I’d realised’.

Whilst nutting out the final engineering on the Big Foot Plate system last month, I asked our manufacturing whizz Herschel how hard it would be to mount a stainless mirror onto a Ram suction cup. He worked his magic over the next couple of hours & came up with the Big Face Paddler Mirror. Better than a GoPro because the imagery is in Real Time without the need for batteries or electronics, impossible to doctor up in post production with stabilising software, just pure, brutal honesty-on-a-stick, showing you just how well you’re doing.


Oscar & Boyan testing out the mirror at Tarifa

We thought it would be a good idea to have the mirror big enough to reflect an accurate picture of your face from forward of your legs, and wide enough to act as a rear vision mirror as an extra safety consideration. It had to be made from the same tough marine-grade aluminium as the Big Foot, yet still light enough to be a minimal inclusion onto an expensive super lightweight ski.

The optics on the mirror had to be sharp, and we went for the same mirrors used on Tuna boats in the mid-Atlantic, treated with a Rainex-like anti fog to stop water forming ugly streaks and ruining your view of yourself.

The result was our first prototype, finished about 3 weeks ago, and since then we’ve sent out demo’s to test at the Tarifa ski centre, and even had one tested in the recent King of the Harbour race in Auckland, where feedback was brilliant. Oscar took the prototype for a run when he was here in Sydney recently & had this to say:

‘Fantastic instant feedback, a great instruction tool, and the optics even made me look very passable. I think I could probably make one 35% better than this, but for now this is really excellent!’.

Herschel has the first production batch of 50 finished, and they’re now for sale through our ONLINE STORE for $79.95, with $10 from every sale going to the Derek Zoolander Center.

These first Big Face Mirrors are essentially designed for surf skis, where so far the demand has been incredibly strong, outstripping what we could even have thought possible for something as simple as a full-time mirror pointing back at you. We’re working on a range for sea kayaks, where obviously the mirror will need to be mounted a little further aft to compensate for the general eyesight limitations of the slightly older demographic.


Get in fast to grab yourself a Big Face, and lose the tension…..!