Is the New 2016 Stellar SEL really that good?

4 years 7 months ago #25597 by [email protected]
According to other reviewers the new SEL has been lauded as having the stability of an intermediate boat and the speed of an elite level boat.

Well after testing a 2016 SEL-Excel back to back with 5 other boats, Carbon Fenn Elite, Swordfish S Hybrid, Swordfish Vacuum Glass, Performance V10 (new version) and a Carbonology Flash in a variety of conditions including a 23km 20knot downwind I can confirm some of the hype is true... but there are also some glaring drawbacks!

Firstly, there is no such thing as a perfect ski... if there was, we would all have one and no other skis would exist. In truth, there is however a perfect ski for each person in typical conditions where they normally paddle and that can be a very different craft for each paddler!
The SEL for me has been a perfect example that you have to demo a ski in the conditions you normally paddle in.

The first time I paddled the new SEL was in still, flat conditions on the river. The stability definitely puts it up against the Swordfish and V10. In a word, it is fantastic! A mid packers dream. In fact in every outing I had, I didn't have a single brace stroke.
It's cruise speed is high, maintaining 12 kph for the first km in the boat followed by sprints up to 15.5 with 30 seconds rest each time. This is pretty much identical to what I train at in my Fenn Elite and are speeds that leave me shattered if attempted in my glass Swordie. Catching boat wash was a piece of cake and it picked up the wave effortlessly but did want to swing the tail around if you tried to ride the face of the wave.
My next paddle was still in sheltered waters, but the wind was blowing 20 knots and there was spray coming off the whitecaps when the wind was gusting. The bow slap from the SEL was a bit of a concern but catching the small 1-2 foot waves downwind was an absolute joy. It picked up the runs easily, linked runs just as easily and I had a great time... could this be the boat for me?

The next two paddles were a week later and back at home in my normal conditions. I couldn't wait! Saturday was blowing 30 knots in the bay so paddling upwind was always going to be a slog. The fetch is only about 10km where we were paddling so the waves weren't big, only around 2 feet, but they were steep and moving pretty quick. Going upwind in the SEL I have never been more disappointed in any ski. The Bow and tail slap was relentless, the fore and aft pitching almost making me sea sick! It was on this day that we had 3 Paddlers swapping between the 6 boats listed above. When it was my turn on the SEL, I was gob smacked to be overtaken by Tony and Eddie on the swordfish pair while they chatted and laughed. I was working my butt off. The SEL was absolutely flogged by every other boat upwind. It didn't matter who was on which boat. Everything thrashed the SEL upwind! All other boats were pretty similar in speed and it usually came down to the stronger paddler who was quickest.
Downwind was a bit of a mixed bag with the Elite and Flash being the fastest, but the Swordfishes were easily the most fun in these conditions, carving up waves with ease. Their only difficulty was trying to climb over the wave in front. The newer Swordfish S is better at this than the older version. The SEL with its high flat water speed had no trouble climbing over waves and linking was relatively easy but it was still at the back of the pack on GPS data along with the MUCH heavier V10. After 90 minutes of swapping boats and logging runs, the new SEL was by far the least favourite boat for all 3 of us. The upwind effort really was that bad! If any prospective owner doesn't have a shuffle bunny for downwind runs you can stop reading here! this is NOT the boat for you.
Day 4 was a 23km downwind in 20 knot conditions from Forrest Beach to Dalyellup. This is my favourite run and speeds are usually as good (or better) than the famous Mandurah Cut Run. The shape of the coast just seems to produce fast clean waves. Today was a little messier than normal as the wind kept gusting from the South rather than the usual SW, but that's still fairly typical. I do this run a lot and normally gap Tony and Eddie pretty easily. Today I was on the new SEL, Tony was on his Swordfish S and Eddie was having his first proper downwind on my older Swordie. With waves averaging 4 foot and some good white cap spray hitting us in the back it should have been a great paddle. Once again I was underwhelmed by the SEL. How can a boat that feels this stable, where I can always get the power down and with easy speed to catch pretty much any wave be so slow?
The Answer: Where both Swordfishes were catching every single wave and having 60-90 second runs without the paddle in the water, I was paddling as if it was a flat day. The new V10 suffers from this as well to a certain extent, but that is a MUCH heavier boat (I'd like to try the ULTRA or GT versions in these conditions). Yes I caught lots of waves, and plenty that the Swordfishes had no chance of running down, but it is still really demoralising to be on a decent wave, paddling to maintain momentum for the next link and a beat up old swordfish catches you, overtakes you without paddling, and the mad bugger on board grinning from ear to ear shouting out "How awesome is this?" In these conditions I am normally on my Elite and I stop every 5km for the others to catch up, often paddling back upwind for a few minutes because I've lost sight of them. Today, on the SEL, I was the one working my butt off and twice Tony had to wait for me. He finished the run fresh and relaxed. I was knackered.

In smaller conditions I can totally believe all the favourable reviews and comments the new 2016 SEL is getting. The finish on this boat is absolutely first class. The footplate is fantastic, the seat is much more comfortable than previous Stellars and it is super stable. Any intermediate paddler will feel comfortable, and it is really quick in light conditions. On the flat it is easily a match for my old 2010 Fenn Elite, but that's almost expected as it has a lot less rocker.
In a proper downwind however the SEL is probably the slowest of the intermediate boats I've paddled. And for the record I have paddled a lot of different boats. I currently have 14 in the shed (hopefully the wife doesn't read this) including Clint Robinsons carbon V10 that still holds the record for the Rottnest Doctor race and have owned more than 40 in the last 10 years. A younger fitter bloke might like the SEL better, but I'll stick to the Swordfish. for racing. The lack of outright speed isn't a huge disadvantage when you're getting so many rests.
Not everyone paddles much upwind, but I do. Local conditions and my nearest paddling buddies living 25km away unfortunately make it pretty common for me to paddle 7-10km into a 25 knot wind for the solo down wind run back to the start. For this reason alone I wouldn't consider adding the SEL to my current fleet. Some boats are a pleasure upwind. The Oceanbuilt, Zeplin and the new V10 are brilliant at it, even the Custom Kayaks Synergy was a joy upwind. Most boats however are simply tolerable upwind for the joy that comes on the way back, The SEL for all 3 of us that day of up and backs was horrible. There was always going to be a trade off for that brilliant stability along with flat water speed. Once again proving - There is no perfect ski for everyone.
The following user(s) said Thank You: robin.mousley, zachhandler, cheeseman, Fath2o, kvort, crallan, grasshopper, Mike Blake

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25598 by Scode
Fantastic review. Im a massive fan of the new Sword S, its the best boat by a long way for me.

I haven't tried as many boats as you but have tried the new V10, new V10S, Evo2, Ion and Fenn Elite S and still found that overall I was happiest and most comfortable in the new Sword. Downwind its just so good and lots of fun. Downwind is predominately what I paddle.

Thanks again for a great review.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25599 by grasshopper
Interesting read..

I've previously owned Evo1, Synergy, Elite, SES and SEI and currently have the 2016 SEL.

I find the new SEL great downwind and have recorded my fastest times with, seemingly, less effort.
However it has been some years since I've paddled some of the other skis, haven't paddled them back to back to compare as you have done.

Would be interesting to try the Swordfish to compare. Also the Elite S sounds interesting, would love to hear from somebody that has tried Elite S and 2016 SEL as I hear the stability of the Elite S is much improved over Elite.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25600 by Dicko
Pete is paddling the S this arvo.
Hope he writes a review.
Paddled the S this morning and currently have an elite in both carbon and glass.
I find the elite pretty stable, especially downwind. I feel more comfortable in the carbon elite than the glass.
The S we have borrowed is about 10 and bit kilos. It is significantly more stable than the old elite. It is also faster
than the old boat. Waiting for Eddie to bring it back and the seabreeze to pick up so I can have another crack.
I haven't bought a new boat in a long time as I tend to buy boats secondhand, but if I can find the money I will buy one of these.
The following user(s) said Thank You: grasshopper

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25603 by cheeseman
yes Dicko did enjoy that S this morning .Will have to take it on the Yallyelup run this weekend .Have to agree on the SEL ,If you like downwind paddling and don't like paddling your guts out get a swordfish (or elite S ??)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25605 by [email protected]
Have had my first paddle on the Elite S. Unfortunately the wind dropped off from 15 to only about 5 knots fairly early in the downwind run. Have some interesting observations to make, but I'll save them until I can get the boat into some decent 4-5 foot waves to see how it stacks up.
Oddly enough, today would have suited the SEL to a tee and it would have easily beaten my swordfish and probably also my old Elite.... But not the Flash

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25606 by zachhandler
Thanks for the great review on this new SEL. One thought on the downwind performance is that different boats need to be paddled differently and it can take a long time to figure it out. For example, it seems like it took Jasper Mocke almost a year to figure out how to make the V14 move well for him. Maybe with more practice in the SEL you would figure out how to make it go downwind. I don't imagine there is much you could do about the poor upwind manners however.

My only other comment is 60 - 90 seconds on a wave without paddling? That is pretty damn impressive. did you have a stopwatch on it? Here is a Video of Boyan going just over a minute:

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25611 by [email protected]
I agree totally with the need to get used to the boat. It took me years before I was comfortable in confused seas on the Elite. It was however immediately comfortable and fast where I normally paddle.
I pretty much always have my Garmin at my feet, so the 60-90 second waves is easy to keep track of. Not all of my boats will do this in these conditions. The swordie is shorter with more rocker and catches the waves where I live with ease and seemingly forever. My Elite, green 7 and carbon V10 will all be faster, but with a LOT more paddling. I'll elaborate more on the typical conditions we get here in my review of the Elite S.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25621 by wesley
I certainly think the SEL 2G that good.
See the link for my SEL 2G review complete with disclosure, pictures, GPS data, video, race video and of course my disclosure working for Stellar USA, and SurfskiRacing.com. I also just updated my Surfski Comparison Chart adding 10 new skis that I had previously done a written review and now added them to my chart.

2016 Surfski Comparison Chart. Not all skis are on the chart since graph is limited my space and wanted to avoid some clutter.
www.surfskiracing.org/surfski-reviews-updated-march-2012/

SEL 2G Review
www.surfskiracing.org/2015/11/new-2016-s...-year-quest-is-over/

In the next month or so, I should be receiving the SEL 2G ULTRA, Stellar's pre preg carbon that we have been making since 2010. Since it will be a few pounds lighter and stiffer it will be even faster than the excel version.So we now offer Stellars in 5 layups including the new multisport layup.

I am really excited paddlers are trying the SEL 2G and offering their opinions. With the SEL being shipped this year to even more dealers, more paddlers will be able to try it and see if it meets their needs. We also will have the SES 2G in the Ultra layup as well and even more to come from Stellar in 2016 including the S16S surfski, Apex Trainer, and more coming! Wesley Echols, Stellar USA, SurfskiRacing.com

Wesley Echols
SurfskiRacing.com
#1 in Surfski Reviews.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25632 by TaffyMick
Really interesting review.

Being an intermediate paddler and more into paddling in sheltered waters (I also love small wind swell runs in the 1' to 3' range) I have tried and owned a number of intermediate boats over the past several years including a full carbon Swordfish, a performance Epic V10 and a Stellar SEI in excel layup. Will agree that the Swordfish is the by far an awesome sea boat and can pick up a run effortlessly. However, for many of us (the great unwashed) it is not all about downwind and catching runs. It is about what suits and fits us as a paddler.

For me Stellars tick all the boxes in that I can paddle the bloody things for hours and they are supremely comfortable... for me. No more numb bum, leg cramps or pins and needles that I suffered paddling Fenns and Epics.

Now I have read a lot of reviews and ideas on this forum over the years on improving comfort and fit to improve your paddling technique, but l will be buggered if I am going to spend time fart-arsing around installing blocks of foam to wedge me in or other adjustments to improve my comfort. If you cannot buy a boat that fits you to a T and are comfortable with and only buy it so it is faster in such and such conditions, paddles better in such and such conditions, etc, etc... go for it, outlay oodles of cash and build up your quiver (if you have the room to store them all).

Again, a very interesting in-depth personal review and in fact, actually makes me interested in trying the SEL 2G out ;) :)

Mick

Stellar SEI, Fenn Bluefin S, Sladecraft Comet Long Rec & Vajda K1

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25633 by [email protected]
Glad to hear it Mick. Some people probably think I was simply bagging the SEL, but this isn't the case. I fit in it great and it's stability vs speed relationship is as good as it gets in modern ski design. I wish other manufacturers would adopt the carry handles, foot plate design and integrated bottle holder as they are all simple, strong and beautifully executed.
If I still lived in the foothills of Perth I would seriously consider one.
The following user(s) said Thank You: TaffyMick

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25634 by TaffyMick
No worries lots of numbers at facebook person :laugh:

Nah mate, could see you were not bagging the Stellar. It is a good, honest review from your observations and experience.

Personally I consolidated my Stellar fleet from an S18S and SEI to the 2015 SR because it was the "perfect" ski for me in all conditions. Most of my racing in recent years has been in the PaddleNSW Marathon Series (First race of the season in Canberra a fortnight Saturday ;) ) where I have used skis. Now I am racing a multisport long rec racing kayak (6m long) and keep the SR for inshore and small offshore conditions.

Yep, the cockpit layout on the new Stellars is great. Comfortable seat, double venturi, water bottle holder, that awesome footplate design with the practicality of the carry handles fore and aft. Good to see Epic are also following suit on some of their range too.

Mick

Stellar SEI, Fenn Bluefin S, Sladecraft Comet Long Rec & Vajda K1

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25635 by [email protected]
Yep... I hate the new username!!!
My old login is peterpav but I wasn't able to reset my password as it's linked to an old email address. The only way I could post the review was by logging on via Facebook. No idea why it's using the numbers... Very weird!

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25636 by TaffyMick
I shall name you......


Peter....

Stellar SEI, Fenn Bluefin S, Sladecraft Comet Long Rec & Vajda K1

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25637 by Dicko
The problem Mick is that this site was originally designed for folk that liked to paddle downwind. Over the years it has been somewhat highjacked by folk that like to paddle surfskis in everything but the ocean. This isn't necessarily bad, it just diverts attention away from the true purpose of a surf ski.

I have probably bought 3 skis following Wesleys reviews on speed, stability and remountability. The only ski I still own is an old SEL that my wife paddles. While Wesleys reviews hold good weight with regard to empirical data, Robyn Mousley saying a Carbonolgy Zest is good downwind holds more weight where we paddle.

Just about every race in this state is a downwind race and even the races on the river tend to turn into some sort of downwind affair cos the wind blows a lot here. This is fairly true I would imagine of most traditional surf ski countries. A good honest review of a boats' true ocean abilities is refreshing, especially from a bloke who does lots of downwind paddling and has a wonderfully eclectic collection of skis. Green7, black carbon v10,
standard v10, Fenn elite, Swordfish, Zepelin, couple of plastic things that no one cares about, some of those things you sit in that no one cares about and some orange Carbonology Sswitch with the rudder in the wrong place that broaches insanely when it gets paddled downwind. Hence noboby cares about it.

Now on another note, I have 2 mates who have both owned and paddled 2 SR's, 3 SEL'S, one carbon. and a carbon SEI that they both paddled. They both now own Zepelins in 17kg glass version. They are both SIGNIFICANTLY faster and more stable in this boat in any conditions, than any other boat they have owned. This is the best and hardest boat to find on the market if you are a big boned larger gent. If you find one try one.

[email protected] more power to you.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago - 4 years 7 months ago #25638 by Mike Blake
My take on the SEL is that stellar might not be designing boats for downwind performance. My guess is that most of the American market doesn't experience these conditions, and Stellar are designing their boats to be good in what they do get. I could be wrong but that is my general impression.
I don't think that it is just coincidence that the boats that our local group are finding that perform the best downwind are all South African.

The Zeplin is fantastic and has really helped me to improve my paddling. It is one of the few skis out there that can handle my large body frame with comfort and surfs runs better than my skills allow it to. If only it was a little lighter, and perhaps a bit better looking ;) . It really should be more popular here in Straylia than it is.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

4 years 7 months ago #25641 by TaffyMick
Zeplin eh? Never heard of it or seen one until now (just googled it).

Sorry fellows, the jury is out on this ski until such times as I take one for a test paddle. That is, if there is a distributor in the Sydney Basin area. "Big Boned"... that is me... fluctuate between 110-115kg!

Anyone in the Sydney area who has one and is willing to let me try it out...send me a message :)

Mick

Stellar SEI, Fenn Bluefin S, Sladecraft Comet Long Rec & Vajda K1

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

2 years 6 months ago #31065 by cogdoc
Very interesting insight, thankyou for your thoughts. Apologies on dredging up an old thread, but as an owner of the new SEL for several months now, and starting to venture into the world of downwind / bigger surf conditions, I was wondering why I am struggling so much on a ski that otherwise suits me to a T. I'm only a mid pack average paddler, but have a fair bit of paddling experience, and bought the new SEL based on Wesley's great reviews. It is a fast boat on the flats, and even as mid pack as i am, I'm happy with my flat water, moderate surf and river efforts on this ski. The biggest bonus is I rarely get numb legs in this ski, which is why i got rid of my past more surf orientated ski, and I do enjoy the primary tippiness this ski has, making me work on my technique in calmer conditions. The legendary secondary stability is beyond amazing, I've actually yet to fall out, and i do give that a good go. In the ocean, off a point, in messy waves it can be a handfull, with that primary tippy feel constantly keeping you on your toes, but so too it's reassuring to know that secondary is there when you really do get knocked off balance. Thing is upwind, even on simple 2 minute efforts with my mates, I get absolutley smoked, whereas in calmer conditions I can indeed almost keep up with the fitter people. Downwind is just a huge nightmare, and the boat feels like it is constantly wanting to swap ends, and keeping on track is just such a mission. I figured it was me, most likely is, and the fact I'm not a very good downwinder, but when guys and gals go past you, on much wider boats, who you normally smash on the flats, well it gets pretty soul crushing. Seems to me I can either stick it out and improve on my ability where the SEL won't hold me back in moderate conditions, but I'm beginning to wonder if it will ever be a particularily good downwinder - for me. To be fair I'm still on the ( absolutely crap finish ) stock rudder, and have been told the 9" makes a good difference, it certainly doesn't feel like the rudder does much at all in both turning and downwind, but again it could all just be me. A mate who is lighter bought the new SES based on how well built my SEL is, but he has tended to return to his V10L, and tells me he is faster on that despite supposedly being a "slower" boat. I get you can't have one boat for all conditions, but unlike some of you guys I have neither the storage space or the money tree to have multiple nice skis, so this review, and my own challenges with the SEL for my ability and where I paddle gives me much to think about.

Now: Stellar SEL Gen 2

Prior: Ozflyte R21, Competition Kayaks Fireblade K1, MaxKayak Clever X K1, numerous SLSC Spec Ski's.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

2 years 6 months ago #31066 by Fath2o
Just because you can paddle an elite ski in rough conditions doesn't mean you should. It may be inconvenient, but, you might consider picking up a relatively cheap used Fenn XT. You may well be surprised how fast a "slow" stable ski is in good downwind conditions.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

2 years 6 months ago #31067 by cogdoc
Yeah no doubt, and that may be the answer. The light excel layup in my SEL is a handfull in the wind too, but awesome for roof racks and shed storage! I guess my whole point was to find out if anyone has stuck it out with the new SEL and is having success in rougher conditions, hence giving me hope, or is it an uphill battle and like you say, I go to a more intermediate ski. I've no doubt whatsoever I'd smash it downwind in an SR / V8 type ski, but I always like to pick a ski a bit beyond my ability and grow into it, rather than play it safe straight up. Guess I should stop complaining then on re-reading that statement!

Now: Stellar SEL Gen 2

Prior: Ozflyte R21, Competition Kayaks Fireblade K1, MaxKayak Clever X K1, numerous SLSC Spec Ski's.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Latest Forum Topics

Cautionary tale from an expert (3 Posts)

6 hours 40 minutes ago
wesley's Avatar

Epic Gen1 V8 Double vs Nelo 600 Double (2 Posts)

1 day 8 hours ago
EK Sydney's Avatar

Video thread (440 Posts)

2 days 17 hours ago
Protected by R Antispam