Comparing WSBS Thunderbolt to various 'skis

11 years 5 months ago - 11 years 5 months ago #4646 by Alan Gage
Hi all,

I've looked for some comparisons between West Side Boat Shop boats and surf skis but have found very little information and I'm hoping someone here can help me out.

I've been paddling my Thunderbolt for about a year now and feel pretty comfortable in it. I live in the middle of the mid-west (USA) so I'm a strictly flatwater paddler on small inland lakes and rivers. No surf but I do have to deal with wind and boat wakes. I also enjoy traveling around the area and racing during the summer.

While I feel pretty comfortable in the Thunderbolt on fairly calm water I get a little tense in the wind and waves, mostly because falling out means a 21 foot boat full of water. I can roll the boat easily but don't like wearing the skirt in hot weather, which also means waves dumping some water over the sides of the cockpit; which is very frustrating during a race since I have to stop to empty it out.

I've never had the chance to try out a surf ski but am very curious of the speed/stability differences in comparison to a boat like the Thunderbolt. So what can you members who have paddled both tell me? How does it compare to surf skis in the classes of a V10/Mako 6 or the V10 Sport/EVO?

As far as paddling ability goes I'm still on the steep end of the learning curve, lots of room for improvement. On a 6 mile flat course (no wind/current) I can average 6.5 mph in the Thunderbolt on a really good day, around 6.2 mph on most days.

Measurements are 6'1" and 165-170 pounds. 32 years old.



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11 years 5 months ago #4651 by deanjordaan

A surfski will be perfect for you. I live in Atlanta and although several hours from the coast, several paddling buddies have bought surfskis to paddle on Lake Lanier for the exact same reasons you point out - waves from boats, long swim if you fall out, etc. On a surfski a wave from a boat turns into a challenge to surf! They love it.

I can't comment on a Thunderbolt but based on your description an entry level ski is probably what you need. Fenn XT, Epic v10 Sport, or the Think entry model.


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11 years 5 months ago #4652 by nell
Alan, I think the Thunderbolt is pretty similar to the skis like the V10Sport, Think Evo in terms of speed and stability. The TRex and the other narrower westside boat is more comparable to the skis like the mako 6, the fenn elite, V10, V12, and Uno. At the speed that you said that you can average, you probably won't see much difference in speed from any of these boats because you're in that middle range of not going fast enough to benefit from the V12, elite, uno, top end, but clearly going fast enough to get the benefit of a "racing boat"like these.

Another thing to consider is that you can and will push the balance envelope a bit more in a ski because, subconsciously, you will learn that a capsize will likely be inconsequential in a ski - so you'll be less tense and will therefore likely progress more quickly with your skills. Balance skills are the primary determinant of which ski "class" you'll be best-off in. And balance skills usually parallels strength/speed/skill, but not always. Once you determine whether an entry level racing ski (like the V10 sport) or a tippier ski (like the uno,elite,V12) is what you want, it mainly comes down to comfort and ease of reentry - if you stick to inland paddling.

The best advice, obviously, would be to hook up with someone in your area and try their ski. MiPP yahoo group (midwest performance paddlers) might be a good resource for you to join.

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11 years 5 months ago #4654 by Alan Gage
Thanks for the feedback. It's good to hear that I'm not giving up anything in the speed department. For now I think I'll keep plugging away with the Thunderbolt and hopefully try out some skis at some races I'll be attending over the summer. The water is warm and it's getting hot out so I'll have to strap on the thigh straps, slip on my skirt, and go play around in rough water to gain some confidence.


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11 years 4 months ago #4707 by red_pepper
Hi Alan,

I should be able to help you. I've been racing a WSBS Thunderbolt for about a year and a half now, as well as more recently getting into surf skis (and started racing my V10L recently). I also live in the Midwest, am 6'1" and 200 lbs, and paddle mostly flat water, and I got into skis for the same reason (not wanting a boat full of water if I went over). I currently own an Epic V10L Ultra and a Think Legend Kevlar, as well as the T-bolt. I formerly owned a Think Evo fiberglass and had the opportunity to paddle an Epic V10 Sport in fiberglass for an extended period of time. I have some favorite courses I run quite frequently, using a GPS for timing.

It's hard to beat the Thunderbolts for speed. They're fast boats. My Thunderbolt (basic model; not the X or T-Rex version) is definitely faster than the Evo, V10S, or Legend. I think my V10L is slighly faster than the T-bolt. It feels like it has less resistance (and there's very little wake), and I seem to to run slightly faster in the V10L on similar parts of my courses. My times right now run pretty close on the courses I paddle. The Thunderbolt is slightly more stable, so I can crank a little harder in it, and it has an overstern rudder, allowing me to hug the shore more closely going upstream without worry of hitting submerged objects, both of which help offset the lower resistance of the ski. In deeper water going downstream or with limited current the V10L has the edge. I plan to set it up soon with an overstern rudder to reduce the possibility of damage (I hit the understern rudder on a submerged log in a race recently, causing me to head to shore to unbend the shaft and to reconnect the steering mechanism, moving me from 1st to 4th place).

The stability difference isn't much, and you could transition to a ski pretty easily if you're comfortable in the T-bolt. The T-bolts are more rugged than the skis, so I tend to use my T-bolt when I'm on rivers that have the potential to cause more grief to my boat.

Basically, you'll need to move into a V10/V12 class ski to see a performance increase over your T-bolt. As much as I enjoy my T-bolt, though, I have to say I think I like paddling the skis even better. I can pop in and out of the ski quickly in any water, and I like the open cockpit with everything easily accessible. The only downside seems to be limited space to place anything extra you may need to carry.

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11 years 4 months ago #4709 by Alan Gage
Thanks for the great info!

Did some (semi) rough water paddling in the Thunderbolt the other day and got along fine with it but it certainly was a hassle getting in and out in the waves and having to attach the thigh straps and skirt while trying to balance in the waves.

That's not the norm for me though so the plan is to keep learning in the T-bolt and to test out some skis whenever I get the chance to see how they compare for me.

Thanks for keeping me from spending a bunch of money (for now) guys!


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11 years 4 months ago #4823 by red_pepper

In preparing for a race I'm hosting Saturday, I've made several runs on the course over the past couple of weeks with my T-bolt and my V10L. First I laid down a fast run in the T-bolt as a baseline; I was less than a minute off my race time on the course last year, so I know I had a good run. Several days later, paddling the V10L, I was about 30 seconds slower, but it was an unusually hot/humid day (I nearly quit the run after I began feeling heat sick) and I had two boats come by throwing out wakes that slowed me down. So I re-ran the course yesterday in the V10L, when the weather was better (and I made certain to hydrate well before heading out). I just had one boat go by this time, and he stopped for me, leaving me only some reverberating wake to deal with. This time I was 36 seconds faster than the T-bolt, and within 16 seconds of my race time last year. Bottom line: I've concluded that the V10L is slightly faster than the T-bolt, but it's very close.

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11 years 4 months ago #4825 by Slime
Hi red_pepper,
Have you done any comparative runs between the legend and V10 and thunderbolt to measure times and/or GPS recorded speeds. How close is the legend in speed to the above boats?

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11 years 4 months ago #4827 by red_pepper
Hi Slime,

I have not run the Legend on the same course for time, but in my longer practice outings I seem to run about 0.1 - 0.2 mph (GPS) slower in the Legend than in the V10L or T-bollt when paddling at a higher output level. I'll try to run my Legend over the same course in the next two weeks to get a good comparison. I have a race the Saturday after this one that I need to train for with my T-bolt, but I'll plan to run the Legend over this course during the following week.

The course I've been running these comparisons on is 6.8 miles long with two bridge turns and a buoy turn, on a river with very little current and generally good water depth. My average speed over the course from last year's race was 6.9 mph (59 min, 16 sec) in my Thunderbolt.

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11 years 4 months ago #4832 by Slime
Thanks red_pepper,
I look forward to your comparison. I was asking because I have a glass legend which I love the comfort and quality of. I did not get a chance to paddle a V10 and only had a 15 minute paddle in a Fenn Elite so no chance of valid comparisons of speed. I am quite a bit off the pace of the Uno's, Red 7 surf 70 and even the odd Evo. Given that the Uno and V10L should be comparable, I am way more than 0.2 mph of pace in the Legend. I am new to paddling with a racing stroke, though have paddled sea kayaks for years. It would seem I am the weak link more than the equipment. Do ski paddlers work to a stroke rate like rowers do? My technique is improving I am told, but wonder if I should be focusing on stroke rate as well?

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11 years 4 months ago #4837 by red_pepper
Hi Slime,

I don't know of any racers or ski paddlers who work to a specific stroke rate (although I'm sure there may be some who do), but most of us work quite a bit on our technique and conditioning. Once you get to a certain performance level of boat, you'll only gain a very small amount by changing boats (and that's assuming you're comfortable enough with the stability and ergonomics to fully make use of the extra potential), but often you can make significant gains by improving your stroke and fitness levels. When I first jumped from my sea kayak to the Thunderbolt, I was disappointed to find my speed wasn't as fast as I had expected. When it was pointed out to me that I wasn't getting much rotation in my paddle stroke, I starting working on using my legs and torso to put more power and rotation into my stroke. Within a couple of weeks I improved my average speed by 0.5 mph! Since that time the improvements have been much slower and more incremental, but it showed me the dramatic difference effected by a proper stroke.

A great place to start, if you haven't done so already, is to head to the Epic website and get a copy of their Forward Stroke video. They also have some excellent info on conditioning.

At any rate, I'll try to get a comparision run in my Legend shortly.

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11 years 4 months ago #4838 by red_pepper
Just an update on the boat comparisons: we had our Three Rivers Festival race again yesterday (on the course I've been making my comparision runs), and this year I paddled the V10L Ultra. Last year I set the fastest time of the day (excluding a K-2) at 59:16 using my Thunderbolt; this year I also set the fastest time of the day at 59:29 with the V10L. Conditions were good this year, but somewhat hotter than last year. With only a 13 second difference in times, which could be attributable to the heat factor or personal variations (my primary competition was 23 seconds slower this year as well, using the same boat he paddled last year), I think I can safely conclude that the boats are very evenly matched. I do think as I gain additional experience in the V10L (and change to a smaller rudder), I'll probably see it gain a slight advantage (it seems to offer a little less resistance), but I definitely don't feel at a disadvantage wtih the T-bolt.

I hope to run the Legend this Tuesday and get back to you with the results.

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11 years 4 months ago #4839 by red_pepper
One interesting side note I forgot to mention: the V10L seems noticably less likely to pick up leaves and such on the bow than my T-bolt does. Apparently the small amount the bow sticks out of the water must help move leaves and debris around and under the boat, rather than clumping to the bow.

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11 years 4 months ago #4859 by red_pepper

I got in a run today with my Kevlar Legend on the same course I've been running the past few weeks with the V10L and the Thunderbolt. I couldn't have asked for better conditions today: no current, reasonably comfortable temps (low 80's) without much direct sun (late in the day with the sun lower),and just a mile breeze. Plus I felt good. As a result, I got in a very solid run in the Legend. My time with the Legend was 59:46 - about 17 seconds behind my best with the V10L over the 6.8 mile course. Not much slower! I've generally observed that I cruise 0.2 or so mph slower in the Legend, but when really pushed the boat will rise to the task.

In pushing hard in the Legend, I found that while it feels like it has more resistance (and the larger bow and stern wave would indicate such is the case), the cockpit setup and the stability at speed really help create a good environment for a solid forward stroke - plenty of leg drive and torso rotation. A better stroke can easily offset a little extra drag. On the negative side, I can't paddle this boat for much more than an hour - the seat just isn't comfortable for me on my lower back (but others find it very comfortable - I guess we're all built a little different!).

The bottom line is that you're not giving up much in the Legend against the V10's and such. I suspect the V10 will have more potential as I gain more time in the cockpit, but the Legend is a good place to refine your stroke.

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11 years 4 months ago #4860 by Alan Gage
Thanks for the great comparisons. Interesting reading!


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11 years 4 months ago #4861 by Slime
Thanks for your analysis. As I suspected it looks like I still need to find more technique before I realise the speed benefit of a narrow ski like the Legend, let alone the V10,V12, Elite or Uno.
I am lucky in that I can stay in the cockpit for more than 2 hours in complete comfort. I have no problem with stability even in moderate chop unless I am tired, then my stroke loses form.

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11 years 4 months ago - 11 years 4 months ago #4863 by AR_convert
Red Pep, again thanks for your posts :woohoo:

The more contributions like this the better for those of us moving up or thinking we need to move up ;)

From what I've seen, guys like Wes Echolls of surfskiracing who did flat water comparisons do a good job of comparing skis for outright speed B) .

Stability can be assessed to an extent in flat water but unless you are going out into big swell and chop you cant assess how well you can paddle the boat until in those conditions.

My thoughts on skis at the moment are like being taken back to dating, you just keep dating until you find what you think is the right one..... the bonus with this dating is that you can choose to end up with more than one...right one :woohoo:

Oh and Slime, I know what you mean by losing form as you get tired, on my last Monday night weekly ocean paddle which includes a few kms of cross swell/chop technical paddling I had kept with some fast guys through then difficult conditions but on the last 500m of a 12km paddle I was pushing myself to the limit in flat conditions and fell off trying to stay ahead of some fast finishing paddlers :lol: Of course my excuse was that I needed to cool off after beating them to within 500m of the finish :blush:

Always looking for the next boat :)

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11 years 4 months ago #4868 by red_pepper
Thanks, Guys! I can't help you much with the big water characteristics of the skis - I'm a flat-water marathon racer in the midwest USA. Lots of rivers and lakes, but unless I head up to one of the Great Lakes or carry a boat with me to visit my sons (on the east coast) or my parents (on the west coast) I'm not like to encounter anything bigger than a motor boat wake!

I e-mailed Wesley Echols before I got into the skis, asking his opinion on how the skis compared to the Thunderbolt (which I was then racing). He pretty much told me what I found out with my own testing: You have to get into a V10 or faster to equal or exceed the T-bolts. He said that he and his friends went to skis from the T-bolts for reasons of safety in the ocean, rather than speed. His opinion was that for river racing, the best boat on the market was the Mohican, but running right with it was the Thunderbolt-X. He said the Legend was a little slower, the V10L Ultra would be pretty comparable, and the V12 would be up there with the speed, but non of the skis would have the durability of the Mohican or the T-bolts (which are REALLY tough boats).

I'm awaiting the arrival of the smaller weedless rudder from Epic to retrofit the V10L; I'll have to make another run on the course with the smaller rudder (and hopefully cooler conditions) to see if I can break the 59 minute mark. With the USCA Nationals coming up, I need all the speed I can get! B)

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11 years 3 months ago #4950 by red_pepper
One more data point in the discussion: I just sold my Legend to a surf ski racer on the east coast (of the USA) who typically runs an Uno. He told me today that he ran his 3 mile time trial course in the Legend, and found that he was only 15 seconds slower than the best time in his Uno (and was within his top 5 times overall), and with the stability he could just plow through rough water and harly miss any strokes. He plans to use it for some of the tougher off-shore races.

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10 years 3 months ago - 10 years 3 months ago #7473 by kajakman
Has anyone compared the Thunderbolt X against the T-Rex?
I have owned and raced: Huki S1-X, Thunderbolt, T-Rex, V10L but not the Thunderbolt X.

Someone once told me that he thought the X might be faster than the touted as faster T-Rex because he felt that the T-Rex could not get up out the water, the hole, as well as the X.

Any thoughts?

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