"450 Class" Surfski

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 07:13 | Written by  Jon Raggett
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"450 Class" prototype "450 Class" prototype Credits: Jon Raggett

[Editor: we quite often hear from smaller paddlers (especially women) that skis are too long and difficult to handle.  Is there place for a “450 Class”  in our sport?]


I am in the 65 to 70 year old age group and started paddling performance kayaks at the age about 60.  I am incredibly weak and slow, but do paddle for exercise and the fun of it almost every day.  I would like to paddle in some races, but find it difficult to do so now.  I have a K1, an old lifeguard spec ski, and a 13 kg Mako.  I absolutely love the concept of the "surfski" but have trouble with the execution.  I paddle the K1 fairly well, but there is little flatwater where I live (on the Monterey Bay, California, USA).  I can paddle the Mako in flat water, but can't in rough water.  It is light, so I can carry it, but it is a handful taking it out since the winds typically blow about 9 m/s (20 mph) when I finish paddling.  It is entertaining watching me take it to the car.  It is also just so big.  I can paddle my spec ski in the rough water, but the ski is so heavy.  Just to get it around I have glassed a handle to the bow and wheels to the stern.


450 Prototype

Paddleboards - 14ft and 12ft

The paddleboard community around here (not SUP) paddle unlimited paddleboards, a 14 foot (4.27 m) class, and a 12 foot (3.66 m) "stock" class.  For distance racing in the ocean, there are only "unlimited" surfskis.  What is needed is a "stock" surfski.  Apparently, in a typical paddleboard event, about 40% of the paddlers paddle unlimited paddleboards, about 20% paddle 14 foot paddleboards, and about 40% paddle stock ppaddleboards.  About 60% of all paddlers paddle the smaller paddleboards!  I'll bet there are others out there who would like a "stock" surfski.  I'll bet that if there were smaller surfski classes, the number of participants in surfski events would more than double.  Moneterey Bay is perfect for surfskis (big swell parallel to the shore) but only a few people have surfskis.  In Monterey alone, the only two surfski paddlers have switched to OC-1's.  Again, for me and I believe the entire surfski community, we need a "stock" surfski - so I have started a class - the 450 class.


The rules for the 450 class (other than it be a surfski paddled with a double blade paddle) are:

  1. that it be less than or equal to 4.5 m long;
  2. that it has no rudder: and
  3. that it be no lighter than 112 kg.

An unlimited paddleboard is about 18 feet long.  A stock paddleboard is 2/3rd's as long as an unlimited paddleboard.  4.5 m is about 2/3rd's as long as an unlimited surfski (6.4 m), so it seems about right.  I have specified no rudder just to keep the ski simple, light, and less expensive - and to make paddling it different from an unlimited ski - the 450 is not just a smaller and slower ski - it is a bit different.  I have specified that it be no lighter than 12 kg.  12 kg is pretty easy for anyone to carry, and it eliminates the need for exotic and expensive materials.  With these specs, any tinkerer can easily make a 450 (not so easy for a typical ski now).

Enclosed are a couple photos of my prototype.  I designed it in about a day.  I built it in my spare time over a three week period (up close it looks as though I made it in one week).  It weighs 12 kg, and it cost about US$250 to make.  Mine is a bit beamy (54 cm), but it is stable for the rough stuff, it is light, and it is small. It is ideal for me, and I think the concept of a small surfski class would be ideal for others too.  It is influenced by a Joe Bark 14 foot paddleboard more than by any existing surfski.  Now all I have to do is convince Fenn, Epic, Nelo, Think, Huki, and Joe Bark that there really is a market out there for a 450, and that they should produce them.

Contact Jon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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