Testing out a few skis - thoughts from a noob flatwater guy

3 weeks 6 days ago #30393 by Larry
I've been procrastinating around buying a first ski for over a year now, so in a bid to try and get myself moving I spent a few hours last weekend testing out a few boats with Peak Adventure in Port Melbourne - money well spent. Jarad suggested I write some notes down so I don't forget, so I figured that it wouldn't hurt to post them here so I can come back to them later and others might get some rather dubious benefit if they are in the same place as me. Hopefully this isn't too long and self-indulgent.

About me: 5'10" or thereabouts, just over 70kg and quite weedy. Probably an intermediate paddler - lots of past experience in a TK1 on flat water, but nothing on the ocean yet, so these reviews should be taken with an entire salt shaker full of salt. Looking for a boat for mostly recreational paddling, mostly on a river to start, but with the ability to take it out to the ocean when I'm confident and maybe doing some events in a non-competitive way. I'm a procastinator and prone to over-analysis, so it will be a small miracle if I ever get to the stage where I know what I want.

The conditions: mostly flat, with a light to mid strength breeze. Not really a good indicator for open ocean conditions I guess, so I need to be wary of overconfidence here.

The boats:

1) Epic V8 Pro I liked the fittings, and the bucket was quite comfortable for me, but it just felt too big all round compared to what I'm used to. I felt like I was sitting on the ski rather than in the ski, if that makes sense. Like a cork bobbing on the ocean. That said, it had a surprising amount of glide for something that felt like a barge to sit in, which was impressive. The cutouts helped me feel like I wasn't going to bash the side of the ski with my paddle, although I suspect they are mainly cosmetic.

2) Epic V10 Sport After the V8 Pro, this felt like a good step up. It still felt a bit 'dead' to me, like I was insulated from being able to feel the boat moving on the water, but it's quite possible that that is actually a good thing - I'm just not used to boats that feel that big and stable. The bucket and overall cockpit suited me really well - just the right size and very comfortable. I was surprised by how responsive the rudder was - I haven't paddled many boats with an understern rudder, so that was pleasant (and something to watch out for if I kicked the pedals too hard). Speed wise it felt faster than the V8 Pro and not too sluggish. It still felt big and bouyant, but the glide was impressive.

3) Fenn XT I thought this one would be a step back and I was right - it felt more like the V8 Pro, and I felt like I was way too small for it - the bucket didn't agree with me and I could feel my sitting bones, so I doubt that I would last too long in one of these. Probably suited to a bigger guy.

4) Fenn Swordfish S More like the V10 Sport, this one was the first one that I could 'feel' on the water and I liked that over the sport. It felt a little more responsive compared to the others and I could wobble it occasionally with a side wind, but not in a way that I felt like I was in danger of falling out. The seat felt higher than the Epics maybe (or the feet were lower?), and the deck felt bigger without the cutouts, but it was narrow enough to get the paddles in fairly well. Still more bouyancy than I'm used to. The bucket was very comfortable around the hips, but my knees did feel a little bit squeezed, without being too bad once I was used to it. Maybe a touch faster than the V10 Sport, but they would be pretty close I think. I liked how it seemed to sprint a little easier than the V10 Sport. My only beef was the lack of a handle to carry it - the glass version was fairly heavy and I struggled to grip inside the bucket to lift it, and I think this could be a problem after a really long paddle - I'm not that strong at the best of times.

5) Fenn Swordfish S (hybrid layup) Much lighter than the glass version, and when I picked it up I knew I want to be lifting something in this weight range onto a car rather than the glass boats. On the water it felt similar to the glass version in most ways, but maybe a bit more 'bobby' due to what I guess was the lighter total weight, and a bit quicker to respond to acceleration. I liked it, but as with all the skis I wondered if I was too light for it.

6) Stellar SEI (multisport layup) I liked the looks of this one the best (which doesn't really matter), but I was a little disappointed when I jumped in the bucket - it was too wide for me to feel the sides, and it felt like it was designed to lean back more than I liked. Shape-wise it was OK, just too wide, but I guess you could pad it out to fit better. Paddling wise, it felt like it should be a little quicker in a straight line than the other skis I paddled, but I was getting a bit tired by that stage and it was hard to tell for sure. Maybe not quite as twitchy and responsive as the swordfish so better stability, possibly even better than the V10 Sport but in a different way, but not too much of a barge either - really good glide for its size. The multisport layup was interesting - I like the idea of having both trailing and under-stern rudder options, but I wonder if you get the worst of both worlds - the boat probably handles like crap with the trailing rudder, and the trailing rudder hanging out the back might not be a good thing in waves. The hull would be quite durable though. Carry handles for the win.

I finished up there and had a chat - intermediate level skis are recommended for my level and Jarad didn't think I should be looking at elite boats - I tend to agree as it was pretty flat and despite the fact that I never once felt like I would fall out and I didn't have to brace, I have to stay mindful that this was flat water and you should feel that way on the flat. I want to cover stability first. One thing that did surprise me was that he suggested that the Carbonology Vault isn't in my range despite that being the boat that I had assumed was made for me - even though I felt like all the skis I tried were super bouyant and too big for me, he felt that the extra bouyancy is required in the surf and I would tend to bury the Vault on waves as I'm not that small. I'm still keen to try one though. It's quite possible that I just need to get my head around the feeling of paddling a boat with much more volume than I'm used to and stop trying to compare it to what I'm used to.

My ideal boat right now is something that glides like the SEI with the Epic bucket and the feel of the swordfish, and has the same stability without feeling so darn big (see above).

I still have a couple more boats to try - I guess a Think Evo is one I need to test out too, and I'm open to suggestions if anybody has other thoughts on skis I should be testing out or other thoughts to add.

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3 weeks 3 days ago - 3 weeks 3 days ago #30444 by AR_convert

I'd probably only add these boats to your list to try
Carbonology Zest (2cm wider than Vault and very similar to V10 sport stability)
Stellar SR ( shorter but again similar to V10 sport stability)
This site might be handy to identify which boats may be worthwhile looking at. Click the Stats button to see measurements for each boat. stability. surfskicomparison.com/

Current - Carbonology"Flash" Vajda "Supersonic K1" Previously ~Finn"Molokai Mk II"~Knysna "Vantage Pro K1' Carbonology "Vault"~Epic"V10L & Sport"~ [/b]Fenn"Mill Double" ~Spirit"PRS"~Finn"Affinity"
Always looking for the next boat :)
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3 weeks 3 days ago #30448 by Bitemekaos
Have been down this road myself and have owned or tested all of the ski's you have tested. I can recommend a Nelo 550 if you can get a hold of one, a beautiful boat to paddle in all conditions the only draw back is there a bit expensive but you won't be disappointed.
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