Epic V8 Launch – Interview with Greg Barton

Friday, 22 October 2010 09:53 | Written by 
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Epic V8 Launch – Interview with Greg Barton

Epic Kayaks just launched the latest in their stable of surfskis, the V8.  We interviewed Epic CEO Greg Barton.  Here’s what he had to say about the new ski, and about Epic in general.

The Epic V8

In a nutshell, the V8 is:

  • Based on the Epic 18X, Epic’s popular sea kayak hull
  • 18ft (5.48m) long x 22in (55.9cm) wide
  • 15kg (Sport) or 17kg (Performance) layups.

Epic’s press release is here:

http://www.epickayaks.com/news/news/introducing-the-new-epic-v8-surfski.

Some more information on the specs may be found here:

http://www.epickayaks.org/epic-v8/

Epic V8

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Epic V8

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Epic V8

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Greg Barton Interview

Greg Barton

Epic CEO Greg Barton - Island Shamaal 2010

Tell us about the thought processes that lead to the development of the V8.  Why this boat, now?

We see the sport of surf ski growing rapidly worldwide. It's exciting and many people want to do it. However, one of the limitations encountered by many new ski paddlers is with stability - they are frustrated trying to paddle tippy race skis and spend their first several sessions capsizing, attempting to remount and potentially give up before mastering the sport. The V8 allows paddlers to feel comfortable immediately and start enjoying the sport.

What weight paddler is the V8 suited to?

The V8 suits a wide range of paddler sizes. We looked at paddlers in the 60 to 100 kg range, but it can easily accomodate those down to 40 kg and over 150 kg - although it may require a wider seat for really big paddlers.

I understand the hull is taken from your 18X sea kayak.  What changes to the hull did you make, if any, for the V8?

The hull is based on our 18X Sport sea kayak which Freya Hoffmeister successfully used to circumnavigate Australia. When I originally designed the 18X Sport, I borrowed many features from our ski designs because I felt that most conventional sea kayaks were based on outdated technology. I wanted to draw on the knowledge we'd gain from surf skis to make a better sea kayak. So now we're doing the reverse - taking the ski based sea kayak and making it into a real surf ski! Most of the changes were done to the cockpit and deck. We copied the paddle cut away design from our V12. We removed the Trackmaster Plus rudder used on our sea kayaks and opted for a conventional ski rudder - primarily to simplify and keep costs down.

V8-cockpit

Will the ski take an over-stern rudder for river racing?  Will you have river-suitable layup with, for example, kevlar in the hull?

The V8 does not come with an over-stern rudder, but one can be retrofitted. Our Perfromance construction is relatively durable and can take hits in a river, but not intended as a river construction. We may consider bringing back the Trackmaster Plus rudder as an option or river construction in certain markets, but only if we see adequate demand.

Will people be able to race this boat, or is it intended to be more of a cruising type of craft?

Yes, they can race it! While elite paddlers will find it slower than the full on race skis, many beginners and back of the pack racers may find themselves actually going faster in a V8 because it is so stable and allows them to paddle with confidence & good technique. I hope this will spawn novice classes in races where beginners (or those who aren't fortunate enough to spend several days per week on the water) can race competitively against each other.

A common complaint from lighter paddlers (especially women) is that skis are too long and too heavy to handle comfortably both on shore and on the sea.  Will the V8 be the answer to a maiden's prayer (so to speak)?!

The V8 is about a meter shorter than many skis, so will be easier to handle and store from that standpoint. However, it weighs about the same as our other skis because of the extra width for stability and volume to accommodate heavier paddlers.

When the V10 Sport came out, Oscar said it was the best beginner boat around (and I have no doubt at all he'll be saying the same thing about the V8!)  Would you now say that the Sport is more of an intermediate ski?

Yes, the V10 Sport was an intermediate ski from the start, but because there weren't many (if any) options even more stable, the V10 Sport became the boat for beginners. However, the V10 Sport is also a high performance ski as shown by Danny Topfer's top 15, sub 4-hour finish against a competitive field in Mauritius. I understand that you had one of your fastest Miller's Runs in the V10 Sport - so it's not just a beginner boat by any means.

With the V8 some might say that you have the perfect line-up - V8 for beginners; V10 Sport for intermediate paddlers; V10 and V12 for the elites.  It's easy to distinguish between the V8 and the V10 Sport.  How would you describe the difference between the V10 and V12?  What factors should a buyer take into account when trying to decide between V10 and V12?

The V10 and V12 are much more similar to each other than our other skis. The V12 is slightly faster and has the added benefit of a bailer that can be closed to reduce drag on flat water (I used Erik Bornes' tennis ball idea and raced 98% of the Mauritius race with the bailer closed). The V12 is marginally less stable, but some paddlers feel as comfortable if not more comfortable on the V12 compared to the V10. The two boats handle differently in big water and some paddlers prefer the V10 in these conditions. I personally prefer the V12 in all conditions, but it's a personal choice. We offer different models so paddlers can pick the boat that best suits them and their paddling styles.  

What do the computer models say about the speeds of the V8, V10 Sport, V10 and V12 given a paddler of equal ability?

It depends on whose ability you are talking about! An elite paddler on perfectly flat water may find a 2 to 3% speed improvement going from V8 to V10 Sport, another 2 to 3% improvement going to V10 and then a 1 to 2% improvement with the V12. However, an upper mid-pack racer (B grade in SA terms) in rough water may find the V10, V12 and V10 Sport to all be nearly the same speed. C grade racers will be fastest in the V10 Sport and D grade paddlers in rough water will likely be the fastest in a V8. That's because the computer does not know how to correlate pure drag data with improved power & confidence from better stability. Further, the resistance curves are not linear. At high speeds of 12 to 15 km/hr, the extra length of a V10 or V12 really pays off because the elite paddler has the horsepower to take advantage of it. For mere mortals paddling at 8 to 10 km/hr, a shorter boat such as the V8 with less wetted surface area may actually be faster.

What are your thoughts on the weight v strength debate?  Some critics of light skis maintain that there should be a legislated minimum weight for a surfski, for example 12kg.  Would this not allow manufacturers to focus more on the stiffness and strength of the skis, rather focusing on a never-ending quest to build the lightest possible ski?

It's a complex question that doesn’t have a simple answer. It's hard to say if a weight limit would significantly increase the strength of skis or not. Some of our strongest skis ever were the 8.5 kg Super Elite's, but they were very expensive to make. Adding a weight limit may allow some manufacturers to use really cheap (and weak) materials to hit the 12kg mark and result in an even weaker ski. We've added some material to our skis to make them stronger (and marginally heavier) compared to a couple years ago based on customer feedback. We're continuing to look for ways to increase the strength and durability of our boats and expect to have some new innovations coming out in the future.

Finally - what's the status of the court case in China?  Are you any closer to resolution of the case?

We've been told that there may be a decision by the court very soon, but don't know how long that could be. Being outsiders (from China), we don't know what to expect, but hope they will have some sense of fairness.

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