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First Looks: FLOW Kayak’s Superstar

Thursday, 14 June 2012 15:25 | Written by 
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Flow-Kayak’s new Superstar ocean surfski, turning heads ‘down-under’. Flow-Kayak’s new Superstar ocean surfski, turning heads ‘down-under’. Credits: Flow Kayaks, 2012

What do you get if you take a tiny South Pacific Nation, mix this with a (borderline obsessive-compulsive) national fervor for all-things-adventure-sport, add a pinch of tight exchange-rates, stir in a very precise quantity of hi-tech engineering prowess, and ladle in a generous dollop of gutsy, dogged determination to out-perform countries 10 times their size (and budget!) on a world stage?

The answer is quite possibly Flow-Kayak’s latest offering, the long awaited Superstar!

The Boat:

CAD.jpg

The new Superstar in profile: Shorter, less-rocker, good secondary stability, centre-of-gravity further forward

Still warm out of the mold, the pics of the long overdue Superstar graced Flow Kayak’s Facebook page an hour ago, as I write this. 

  • Length: 5.95m
  • Width: 48.9cm
  • Weight: approx. 12kg
  • Construction lay-up: Carbon/Kevlar Epoxy

Make no mistake: this is not a ‘plug’ of an existing boat, tweaked to cover copyright risk. This boat has been designed from grass-roots-level upwards, with the blank cut on a 3-D shaper with state of the art modeling software, meticulously tweaked and honed with every prototype released, so the finish is robot-perfect, with none of the tell-tale signs of a hand-shaped or adjusted plug. As are the Flow wing paddles, which are made with the same care.

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A well finished, well thought-out intermediate to advanced level boat.

The Design:

The design for this boat has been a long-time coming. A series of prototypes have been crafted, paddled and tried and tested over the last 1 and a half seasons. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Sharpski 6.5 prototype, one of the forefathers of the Superstar, which I have fallen completely in love with. There are many common features but the Superstar has been further developed off this concept and tailored to suite the fast-growing intermediate-to-advanced paddling world. Unlike South Africa, but like many other world markets, New Zealand has a non-discriminating mix of estuarine and ocean paddling conditions: many races may start on a river, head out through an estuary and end up with a romping downwind section in big surf. The Superstar caters for this versatility with 2 options for self-bailers: the ‘bullet’, or manual Anderson style. Additionally, the optional under-steer rudder or flip-up over-steer rudder on the tail adds a whole new dimension to the versatility, making the boat suitable for a significantly wider range of paddling conditions than any other ski. The design of these rudder options make these easy enough for our support-crew to swap over at a transition in a multistage race!

“That’s what I’ve found from the races I have done in Sweden. There’s a HUGE market for a cross-over-boat, and there is nothing on the market like this.” states Richard.

The under-steer rudder is located further forward from the tail (85cm) and the cockpit is significantly further forward than most other contemporary ski designs. This has the effect of allowing the boat to drop down over the run beautifully. I have found myself dropping down runs I am unable to catch in other boats. I am so conscious of this now in my prototype that I make sure I tie my juice-bladder in front of my feet, as the extra weight behind me can be felt when paddling for the runs.

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This boat appears to have a refreshingly versatile, all round performance integrity, with easily interchangeble over-steer flip-up tail rudder, or understeer downwind rudder

Small Bottomed?

The arse-end of this new Superstar appears to be padded out a bit to stop the nose rising out of the water when accelerating or pulling over the wash, which is something I am noticing more on the prototype (see above comment re weight of juicebag). And speaking or arses, I find that I really feel like I am wallowing around in the Elite or Epic seat buckets compared to this seat bucket, which is much narrower, and tighter. (I do have a small bottom, and some of the bigger boys have moaned that this seat has taken some getting used to, right Jeremy Kuggeleijn?)

Tough!

My lovely wife (who likes my small bottom by the way!) drove into the garage the other day with my beautiful prototype ski still on the roof of the car. Long story short, the garage roof beam was munted, as were my roof-racks, but thanks to the super-strong carbon-kevlar lay-up my surfski is still perfect. Note – this is different from a carbon/Kevlar honeycomb sandwich lay-up typically used on other 12kg carbon surfskis, which once bruised is not easily repaired… almost like my marriage following this little altercation! My opinion – you will do well to get a tougher sub-12kg carbon ski.

paddling.jpg

Flow-Kayaks is the love-child of Richard ‘The Crusher’ Ussher, (above) and Andrew ‘Master-Crafter’ Martin.

The Sportsman: Richard ‘The Crusher’ Ussher

Richard has amassed an impressive resume of achievements, including such varied disciplines as Adventure/Expedition racing teams, numerous individual Multisport events including the famed Coast To Coast self-professed World Championship Multisport race, traditional triathlon racing Iron distance events and the off road formats, and even representing NZ in the Men’s Moguls skiing event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. What stands out for me is that the one year Richard is winning the Coast to Coast for the (3rd year in a row) and next he clocks a 3rd placed Quelle Challenge Roth Ironman event in Germany with an impressive 8 hours, 2 minutes and 15 seconds, making him the fastest Kiwi ever over an Iron distance course.

The Carbon-Craftsman: Andrew Martin

Andrew has been designing boats for over 20 years and through his expertise and skill has designed and built a range of boats with a superior reputation. After only a few years of living in New Zealand, through no conscious design I found that I personally possessed an entire range of carbon boats hand-crafted lovingly by Andrew in his shed in Nelson. My K1, Sharp2 Adventure-Racing Double and SharpSki were superior quality boats in finish, construction and design. Andrew has been racing kayaks for 30 years and has represented New Zealand many times, including in the down river racing team that won the 1995 world championships.

Conclusion

Like everything, try before you buy. This boat appears to have a refreshingly versatile, all round performance integrity. I eagerly await the arrival of the first container in Melbourne to gauge the feedback from others, and see if my bottom is still as perfect a fit (the seat bucket has been modified on the Superstar compared to my boat), but I am convinced you will find this boat quite different from what is available on the market at the moment. Flow Kayaks are already close to finalising the advanced boat, which will be slightly longer, and very similar to the prototype I am paddling currently. This has proven to be a very popular design in New Zealand, and will be improved upon by the team at Flow.

Reviews Information

Ocean Surfski

Superstar

Flow Kayaks

Nelson, New Zealand

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