How good are Stellar skis

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12 years 8 months ago #3783 by nell
Replied by nell on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
If you copy a ski by making a mold from an existing ski, that's bad enough. But if you're using - "stolen" - molds to build the copies, that's way over the edge in my opinion.

I know that I can buy a car stereo on the street for pretty cheap. I can buy cameras, gps's etc from back-alleys for much less that it costs for a new one. We all (hopefully) put our ethics above our ability to purchase cheap stolen goods on the street. It's not the manufacturers responsibility to drop prices to be able to compete with the stolen products on the street, correct? I would think the same would apply here.

The V10 is not really long in the tooth. Isn't Tim Jacobs winning races on the V10?

ERik

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12 years 8 months ago #3784 by adman1
Replied by adman1 on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
I paddled the Stellar SE Excel(11.5kg) today.....
Puting all the political and business stuff aside just for one moment and lets look at the ski, and in particular how it paddles?

In a word Impressive!!

In my opinion it has the speed vs stability factor spot on.
The hull feels quicker through the water than a V10.
Apparently it has a reduced underwater profile to that of the V10, which gives the primary stability a responsive feel and a very solid secondary stability.
I paddled in a 15 - 20 knot cross breeze and although it was lively, the ski was handling the conditions very well.

In terms of quality finish it was possibly the best I have seen.I personally don't think it looks anything like a V10.
The bow is shaped to a fine entry, the stern has a fenn appearence, the venturi is different and the rudder pedals are easily adjusted by a cam lock rail system on the cockpit floor.

All in all great looking ski that performs well...

My advice would be to paddle a Stellar if you get the chance and make up your own mind

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12 years 8 months ago #3785 by StuartXpat
Replied by StuartXpat on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Rob, as you point out, it would seem that Epic made their own paddle moulds so let me rephrase the "copied from" to "inspired by".

As far as the ethics of copying go, it would seem that there is little control shown by consumers as I pointed out earlier. You will find people who are brand loyal and then there are others who can't afford to be. As I mentioned before, K1s seem to be exempt from all the anti-copy sentiments.

Nell, I think we need to hear both sides of the story before we can accuse Stellar of stealing the moulds. They may have a perfectly legal claim to them. An no, I don't go around buying stolen electronics or items that "fell off a truck" but there are times when I will buy a no-name brand instead of a Sony, Canon etc when the circumstances dictate. And I think Tim Jacobs would win in a 1980s Oscar Ski - the boat he paddles is irrelevant.

Good little discussion going here - I wonder if the original qurestion was a marketing move by Stellar?:ohmy:

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12 years 8 months ago #3786 by postal256
Jim is right, it is very easy to have something probed (scanned) on cnc and create your own cad files. It takes all of 3 seconds to scale1D in Rhino to make your hull 1cm wider and maintain a smooth shape. I would assume if someone was willing to steal a design, they wouldn't be worried about the slight change in hydrodynamics this would cause. Then again, if someone were to steal your molds, I doubt they would go through the trouble of making a new one in the first place.

Comparing buying copied boats to mp3 players is just ridiculous. The iPod was not even the first mp3 player, so the fact that it now exists and that there are cheaper, completely different alternatives to it means nothing at all.

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12 years 8 months ago #3787 by Dicko
Replied by Dicko on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
I think we need to be careful about using the word stealing on this site. You can't tell me there aren't a dozen naval programmes that will design a hull in half a day, then create a plug in the afternoon. We are being too precious with the whole design concept. We all know the magic figures are 43cm wide and 6.5 metres long. You add a slight flat spot under your bum and hey presto you have a fast boat. You type those numbers into the computer and it will give you the displacement, bouyancy, projected hull speed etc, etc.
No one cared when epic's new boats were the same length and width as fenns 2 best selling boats. The v12 looks like a red7 pro with Picassos' nephew charged with the task of deck design. The rest is just tweeking and styling. I know nothing about hull design but I know enough about computers to design a boat that will be ball park fast enough given the right technology. If it looks fast it probably is fast.
The design is easy, making the thing is difficult and the Chinese have this down pat. The Stellar may well be a new boat.
If the Courts decide the moulds weren't stolen or the designs are significantly different it may be prudent to temper our accusations....cos we may get into trouble....especially those who use their real names.

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12 years 8 months ago #3788 by postal256
Good points. I was speaking in general, and didn't mean to speculate anything about this new ski or its maker/owners.

I don't have a clue about any of those guys or the company and it could certainly be all original stuff. My point was that *if* someone, for whatever reason, had possession of someone else's mold or hull, it is easy enough to make an exact copy (but if they were to stoop to that level, they probably wouldn't bother to rebuild it or tweak it..).

I, for one, hope everything's on the up and up. More competition in the surfski world doesn't hurt anything and helps keep prices in check and grows the sport.

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12 years 8 months ago #3789 by nell
Replied by nell on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Yes, innocent till guilty beyond a reasonable doubt - and all that stuff. I think we all agree that a rowing shell company making V10-like skis in the same factory as where the Epic molds were "held hostage" at least seems fishy. Rob's probably digging into it as we speak and hopefully we'll have a feature article on Stellar.
ERik

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12 years 8 months ago - 12 years 8 months ago #3790 by robin.mousley
I found out a little more about Stellar.

There are two websites: stellarkayaks.com and stellarkayaks.com.au

Stellarkayaks.com

The company officers are listed as:
  • Frank Xiong, Managing Director, also happens to be the CEO of Flying Eagle.
  • Ed Hofmeister and David Thomas (US Distribution and Sales). They are also listed on the Wintech website as Chief Engineer and R&D respectively - of Wintech Racing. Their Wintech bios indicate that they spend several months every year working with Flying Eagle building and developing the Wintech racing shells for rowing.
  • Drizzle Yang "Intl Dept." Yang also works for Flying Eagle - as an interpreter.

Stellarkayaks.com.au

The Australian website states that the company was founded in 2008 by Ian and Gordon Club, "working with a global team based in the US and China". No mention of Frank Xiong but Ed Hofmeister and David Thomas are described as the designers of the products.

Wintech Engineers

According to the Wintech Racing website, Ed Hofmeister and David Thomas have been working for months at a time at the Flying Eagle company since 2004 i.e. almost the whole time that Epic were there.

Timeline

2004: Ed Hofmeister & David Thomas join Wintech Racing. Wintech Racing builds racing shells and oars. They don't build any other kind of craft - no kayaks, no sea kayaks, no surfskis and no paddles. From now on the two engineers spend months every year at Flying Eagle.

2005: Epic Kayaks contract with Flying Eagle to build their range of skis, kayaks and paddles.

End of 2008: Epic file suit against Flying Eagle to recover their moulds, materials and completed boats that Flying Eagle refuse to release.

2008: According to stellarkayaks.com, Flying Eagle's MD, Frank Xiong, Ed Hofmeister and David Thomas "conceive" Stellar Kayaks and Skis that will manufacture Kayaks, surfskis and paddles.

2008: According to stellarkayaks.com.au, Gordon and Ian Club found Stellar Kayaks and skis "working with a global team based in the US and China"

2009: Stellar surfskis arrive in Australia.

So...

Until 2008, none of the guys in Stellar had ever been involved in surfski, kayak or paddle design. David Thomas and Ed Hofmeister are rowers and do not even paddle kayaks. Ian and Gordon Club are also rowing specialists.

Flying Eagle does have plenty of manufacturing experience however, having built Epic skis, kayaks and paddles for several years.

Flying Eagle still have all of Epic's moulds - including the paddle lock moulds, pedal moulds, paddle moulds, etc; copies of all their drawings (some of which were actually done by David Thomas), some of their completed products.

Between 2008 and 2009, the Wintech engineers, despite not being paddlers (or even marine architects - Wintech's shells are designed by Klaus Filter), manage to come up with skis which, according to Stellar Australia's website, are "completely new designs".

Flying Eagle are manufacturing the "completely new designs".

Which all begs the question: Why didn't Epic have a restraint of trade clause built into their contract with Flying Eagle?

We've approached David Thomas and Ed Hofmeister for comment. No reply as yet.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...
Last edit: 12 years 8 months ago by robin.mousley.

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12 years 8 months ago #3791 by Boyan
Replied by Boyan on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Hi Guys,

I work for Epic Kayaks and would like to share what I think from my perspective knowing a bit more about our products. After you read this you could come up to your own conclusions. I am not going to say anything about designs or copies I will just tell you why someone would go for our products instead of a look alike:

1. We left Flying Eagle Factory for many reasons the most important of which was that the quality of the construction wasn't up to standard and we had to spend a lot on warranty claims some of which I am dealing with as I am writting this comment. Yes, some other boats look "shiny" but when you paddle in a 10 ft waves you need more than just a "shiny craft".

2. Winthech Racing didn't want to go for "Stellar" kayak project because they had and still have many quality issues with Flying Eagle Factory which they prefer to get resolved instead of getting involved in something they know very little about (I have this information first hand). There is a great challenge when someone is trying to be an expert in everything. I know that from experience having to compete with specialized kayak manufacturers for every department of our production - sea kayaks, surfski, ICF Racing, Paddles. I couldn't imagine to get involved in Rowing for example knowing how much work we put in to make sure we improve the standard all the time. If we had to start making rowing shells then for sure the quality of both - kayak and rowing boats would suffer.

3. There are already so many changes done to our designs, parts, finish and construction that you could say that our boats are nothing like the "old" construction we had in Flying Eagle Factory. How we did that - our team is at almost all major surfski, ICF and sea kayak races and We, the team on ground constantly collect feed back from our customers and top athletes improving little details or making bigger changes literally every week. We work with the best paddlers in the world but we also get feed back from the beginners and get to deal with some of the most demanding clientele. We have no choice but improve all the time.

4. We provide support, we are there for our people at races with spare parts, rental boats, safety gear and everything else to make sure they didn't travel 5000 km to a paddling event for nothing.

5. We support our customers and make sure their custom needs are looked after. In 2008 and 2009 we traveled 75 000 km around Europe introducing surfski paddling to a large number of elite athletes, kayakers and novices who didn't know anything about the surfski sport.

6. In 2009 and 2010 we are opening 4-5 test and training centers around Europe where our customers could go and enjoy paddling at a new location without having to worry about bringing a boat and they get to paddle the same model as what they use at home.

7. Most of all we take pride in our work and stand behind our products. We are also very passionate about paddling. We love water, we love the Ocean, we love Nature. There is more that I could say but maybe it is better to leave it for latter...

I would like to say THANK YOU to all Epic Kayaks customers for choosing our products and would like to let them know that this is just the beginning. We have great plans for the up coming year with new exciting Surfski models to come up.

I am OK if someone wanted to go for a look alike boat, it is just a pity that they would never get the experience of being part of our Epic team.

Best Regards to everyone
Boyan
(the Epic man in Europe :)

Epic Kayaks Europe
Regional Manager
Marketing and Distribution

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12 years 8 months ago #3792 by YBA/Jim Murray
So then, will there be any race and racer sponsorship by Stellar this year?
Jim

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12 years 8 months ago #3793 by richtlr
This thread is getting more and more interesting, I look foreward to seeing what Flying Eagle and/or Wintech are going to say in reply to what has been said so far, when or if they want to get involved?

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12 years 8 months ago #3794 by Dicko
Replied by Dicko on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Its fantastic that epic sponsor races, run clinics etc,etc,
but the bottom line is, that is their marketing strategy. It allows them to have a huge market share and presumably the bottom line is healthy. At the least it affords lifestyle opportunities most of us dream about.
This comes with a premium, and a cost is associated with every ski that epic sells so they can afford it.
Stellar skis are $1000 bucks cheaper than an epic ski. That is their market strategy. Whether it works only time will tell. That's the bit I find interesting. In life some people buy daewoos and some porsches. They both do the same thing.

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12 years 8 months ago #3796 by AdamV10L
Dont be fooled by the cheaper price.

Stellar's own web site lists their top line carbon layup as 11kg. Epic's elite V10 carbon ski lists at 9.5kg and the Kevlar lay up is 11kg. As a side note the V12 kevlar lay up is 10.5kg

Even at the lower price end there is a diference. Stellar glass layup is 18kg, Epic is 15kg.

So to compare the skis of the same weight between both manufacturers you probably need to go up at least one level of Stellar to Epic negating any price difference and posibly tiping the price in Epic's favour.

Just some food for thought.

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12 years 8 months ago #3797 by Hiro
Replied by Hiro on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Light weight = better ?
My Fenn Mako6 is 18kg... and it's bombproof ! I wanted to buy a V10 but I didn't because of durability issues. A ski is expensive where I live. I want to be sure it will last a long time...

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12 years 8 months ago #3798 by AdamV10L
Hiro,

Not for once am I saying that a lighter weight ski is best for everyones application.

I am however comparing two "similar" designs in the same material lay up and arguing against the point made by dicko about one being cheaper and suposedly doing the same thing. With the differences of weight in mind it is not that clear cut.

If durability is your biggest concern then research the qualities of each layup and perhaps ease of repair as nothing is totally bomb proof.

Personally with racing and general use in mind I paddle an Epic and would not chose a Stellar for many of the reasons listed by Rob and others earlier and to top it off the fact that weight does make a difference in ski performance.

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12 years 8 months ago #3799 by richtlr
AdamV10 is correct that lightweight is always better as long as the boat is strong enough for the conditions you are in at that time. My V12 Elite is the most comfortable and possibly the fastest ski I,ve tried but I would not use it for 'ILS'type racing through surf and back to the beach, thats why when buying a ski consider what conditions it will be used in and get the construction that will handle those conditions.

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12 years 8 months ago - 12 years 8 months ago #3809 by robin.mousley
Just a follow-up...

I've sent emails to the two Wintech guys, both at their Wintech email addresses and their Stellar Kayaks email addresses.

They haven't responded, which in itself is interesting. Assuming that they are legit, I'd have thought they'd be keen to set the record straight.

Apart from the possible ethical issues of Stellar building skis while still in possession of all the Epic designs and moulds, it might be advisable to wait before buying a Stellar ski.
  • I'm told that Epic left Flying Eagle because of quality issues. If this is true, why should Stellar have any better luck?
  • Given that no-one at Stellar seems to have paddling experience or surfski design credentials, the designs may not be optimal in terms of strength on the ocean. On the basis of my current knowledge of the company, I certainly wouldn't trust them with my life on a big downwind run.

Buyer beware!

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...
Last edit: 12 years 8 months ago by robin.mousley.

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12 years 8 months ago #3836 by johnorr
I have just sold a Fenn and bought a Stellar and I believe it is the fastest boat I have paddled. In my opinion, it doesn't look or handle anything like the Fenn or the Epic and it has a very attractive price. Look out!

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12 years 8 months ago #3839 by robin.mousley

I've sent emails to the two Wintech guys, both at their Wintech email addresses and their Stellar Kayaks email addresses.

They haven't responded, which in itself is interesting. Assuming that they are legit, I'd have thought they'd be keen to set the record straight.


Shortly after I wrote this, I did in fact receive a comprehensive reply to the questions that I put to David Thomas and Ed Hofmeister.

Dave Thomas responded:

Dear Rob,
Thank you for the enquiry regarding Stellar Skis. Our apologies for the delay however both Ed and I are involved with WinTech and Stellar Products. As such we spend considerable time on the ground working with Flying Eagle as well as in the US working on Design, Research and Development, Quality Control and Communications with WinTech and Stellar Reps.

We understand the arrival of Stellar onto the market will be attached to a high level of interest as well as perhaps some controversy so let me answer your questions as best I can:

  • Flying Eagle was approached by Epic late 2006 to move production from their South African factory to China as an OEM operation.
  • Due to a number of disputes the arrangement between Flying Eagle and Epic was terminated. As a number of issues remained unresolved flying Eagle has refused to release a number of molds until legal arbitration is finalized. This is not uncommon in these situations where parties are in dispute.
  • Flying Eagle retains no drawings relating to the FE/Epic venture choosing only to retain the Kayak molds, which are today quarantined and sit idle.
  • Ed and I have been intimately involved with the development of Stellar Kayaks and Skis over the last 12 months receiving input and advise from a number of elite paddlers from around the world.
  • As I am sure you are aware many of today's designs and technologies have been built by people with a close association to the sport not necessarily as leaders in the sport - this is common in sailing, rowing as well as surf skis and kayaks. The important thing in R&D and Design is the understanding of Marine Design plus the working with professionals in the specific areas. Ed and I have experience in a variety of kayaks (sea, touring and white water) and spent significant time on the Epic / FE venture at the start of the relationship. We both spent considerable time with Oscar and Greg from Epic around specific boat characteristics. We have also worked closely with Klaus Filter, the Naval Architect of WinTech Racing, for 5 years absorbing much on boat design and theory at the elite and Olympic level. Klaus was trained in Naval Architecture at the prestigious University of Rostock and has over 50 years of knowledge and experience being involved in many arrays of human powered and wind powered boats - with a focus on rowing shells. It is not uncommon to see technologies and design developments in one sport cross over into another and we have taken this opportunity when developing the new range of Stellar Skis and Kayaks.
  • We believe that by understanding the unique characteristics of different styles of surf skis (understanding the drawbacks and advantages) we have been able to dissect the ski into various parts (such as the seat, foot well, stern deck, rudder, foot stretcher and hull design) to come up with a formula which we believe has delivered an innovative and successful design. We have relied extensively on feedback from elite paddlers from around the world to end up with a boat that has great primary and secondary stability, speed and comfort.
  • As a professional and long standing organization we believe the protection of a company's Intellectual Property is important - as I mentioned earlier once people take the time to explore our range of skis and kayaks they will see (and feel) the difference. Whilst we understand that some in the industry may want to draw conclusions or propagate rumors in this area we believe the boats themselves and the professional feedback from paddlers experienced in Epic and Stellar speaks for itself.
  • The design of any boat is a lengthy process which starts with much research, in depth surveys, professional feedback. Critical in any design is finding the happy medium between comfort, balance and speed. Knowing the general size of the paddler we are designing for we set about designing a ski on the computer with the beam, length, depth, freeboard etc. to a level we determine suitable. We use the construction water line for the set length and width and fair the shape to ensure the line is a smooth curve. Then we move to the maximum cross section creating all other construction cross sections of this one - a significant amount of time is involved getting the waterlines and the sections fair in all directions. Using hydrostatics software we are able to calculate the displacement and the stability and are able to make modifications as required... ...when it comes to speed we strive to get as close to a cylindrical hull cross?section as we can while being able to keep the boat upright. In the end our SE Surf Ski has a very low wetted surface area below the water line yet good secondary stability from the increased volume above the waterline.
    As mentioned above the program we use to design the boat includes Hydrostatics, which gives you many different ways to analyze the shape of the hull including wetted surface area, stability, volume, center of floatation etc. Knowing that computer models are not 100% accurate, we then make a fiberglass shell off of our new hull plug and test this to confirm whether or not the floatation was indeed along the intended waterlines. This enabled us to theoretically place the person in the boat and double check the accuracy with a real person in the water.
    For the cockpit we used a 3D drafted body and proportionally scaled it to the maximum and minimum size person that we were targeting for the Stellar SE Surf Ski. We then were able to figure out the general ergonomics of the cockpit for the initial design. Once the plug for the cockpit mold was roughed out to these dimensions, we were able to physically test out the comfort and fit. We then were able to modify the seat pan and cockpit length etc. to what we thought was perfect - the feedback to date has indicated our work in this area has been very successful
  • No Epic drawings were ever used or referred to for the design of the Stellar Ski - nor was Epic's IP ever infringed or copied. Neither Ed nor I were part of Epics design crew - we have never seen Epic's Surf Ski drawings and had nothing to do with their ski design. Ed Hofmeister did however design an Epic rope guide which Oscar saw on our rowing shells. As an original design from Ed, used on WinTech for more than 5 years, he modified the rope guide to work on Epic's boats - we are currently using our rope guide on Stellar Kayaks as it was our innovation.
  • We have used a lot of the composites technology that has made WinTech Racing so successful in the rowing shell market. This implementation of High Temperature pre-preg materials is unparalleled in the surf ski market. In fact Epic borrowed this technology from WinTech because they saw the advantages in weight savings and increased stiffness. In the cockpit we also found room for improvement over the standard 2 point foot brace in surf skis. These tend to have a soft feel and often damage the cockpit, so we decided to connect the heel to the foot-well to stiffen the entire system providing a more stable platform enabling a more powerful stroke.
  • Although we have not tank tested any of our Kayak or Surf Ski designs to date, we have extensive had extensive tank testing on our line of rowing shells. I think that this is where some confusion might have arisen, but will soon be clarified with the implementation of a universal Stellar website.
  • With the confusion around Epic versus Stellar some of our agents may not be clear in expressing the differences between these two designs when offering comparisons. We believe that our design principle was to create a boat as fast or faster as the fastest ski on the market, yet more stable. The way we did this was by keeping the wetted surface area low to reduce drag, yet give it greater secondary stability through a flared hull above the water line. This additional stability provides more stability, similar to a recreational ski, yet the speed of a racing ski.
Rob, thank you very much for your interest in Stellar Kayaks and Surf Skis. As an organization Flying Eagle takes pride in terms of the quality of its products and the high ethical standards we enforce. We believe this is important as a global supplier of Rowing Racing Shells, Surf Skis and Kayaks whether it is for Olympic competition or recreational use.
We look forward to being a contributor to your web site along with the many Stellar Kayak users around the world.
Sincerely, David Thomas

In my reply, I pointed out that according to Epic, Flying Eagle in fact retained ALL the moulds for ALL the boats except the V12, including all the small part moulds, as well as a number of completed boats. So, had they wanted to, Stellar could have viewed/measured/modified the Epic designs.

I then asked him if, given that it's fairly easy to measure the profiles of hulls, he'd give us an unequivocal statement that Stellar never used any of the Epic moulds, plugs or boats in their designs. He replied:

We did not and will never use any Epic plugs, molds or finished boats to design our boat boats.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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12 years 8 months ago #3840 by Dicko
Replied by Dicko on topic Re:How good are Stellar skis
Seems reasonable to me. A new ski for $1995 is a bargain.
Maybe we will actually see some cheap skis coming out of china now. Not everyone is sponsored and buying a new ski is actually a fairly major purchase for some of us. Price sometimes dictates the ski you end up buying. It will also make the second hand market more interesting. Why buy a second hand ski for $2300 when there are cheaper new ones available.

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