Review – Honcho Guru

Saturday, 07 November 2009 12:35 | Written by 
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We frequently receive emails from readers asking about beginner's surfskis, and until recently we haven't been able to reply with the benefit of personal experience...  but in the last couple of weeks I've had the opportunity to paddle some new skis aimed directly at the beginner's end of the market.

(All photos by Rob Mousley,, unless otherwise indicated)

Honcho Guru - First Looks

Andrew Fyfe, owner of Honcho, has a long history in fiberglass manufacture - and it shows in the construction quality of his products.

Honcho Guru side view

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Honcho Guru top view

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Honcho Guru rocker

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I paddled an early version of the Guru some months ago and found the cockpit uncomfortably wide.  I knew that Honcho had modified the cockpit and I was interested to see what difference it had made...  well, the new cockpit is much more comfortable and it's made a huge difference to the feel of the ski.


The Guru has an optional 20l dry storage compartment in front of the cockpit - this is the closest thing to a touring ski that I've seen so far.

Honcho Guru

Paddler's view


Set up

The footplate in the single footwell has horizontal tracks - and is very easy to adjust.  The rudder pedals self adjust and I was ready to go in a few moments.

Honcho Guru Footplate

The Honcho's footplate assembly 

Paddling the Guru

My original intention was to get a bunch of complete beginners together and have a shoot-out, comparing a couple of beginner's skis... but weather and other commitments meant that the plan didn't come together so I ended up paddling the ski in Dawid Mocke's Seadog Races in Fish Hoek...  The motto of the series is "never cancelled" and I paddled the ski in a variety of conditions.

Honcho Guru

Racing the Guru (Pic: Meds Martin)

Cockpit drain

The drain comprises a single massive scupper that sticks out of the bottom of the cockpit a couple of cm...  As we started the first race I went out through a wave that broke over the front of the ski and filled the cockpit to the brim. The water disappeared at an acceptable rate.

Flat water paddling

A short, wide ski is never going to have the same hull speed as a 21ft racing snake - but the Guru seemed to have a reasonable hull speed on flat water.

Honcho Guru

Rounded hull forward of the cockpit

Honcho Guru

Flat bottom behind the cockpit

The rudder seemed to be a little ineffective - but ski manufacturers often put smaller rudders onto beginner skis to reduce the roll moment induced when turning.  Andrew Fyfe confirmed that this was his reasoning too and said that there were bigger rudders available that could be substituted for the one supplied with the ski.

Honcho Guru rudder

Small rudder

Honcho Guru rear deck

Rear deck bungies

Downwind Paddling

One of the Seadog races that I paddled in the Guru was held in a stiff Southeaster.  The longest leg of the lap course was aligned with wind and waves.   I found it quite hard work to accelerate the ski onto the runs but it behaved well once it was up to speed.  Again I found the runner somewhat ineffective and I'd recommend that anyone working on their downwind paddling should upgrade the rudder to something with a little more bite.


This ski is extremely stable.  A couple of older (even older than me) paddlers were at the club one afternoon, saw the ski and asked if they could have a go.  None of them came close to falling out.

And that's probably the single most important feature in a beginner's ski. 

Things I like

  • The cockpit: while it's still fairly wide, the shape centers the paddler and enhances the feeling of stability.
  • The footplate adjustment: Really easy to use, set up in seconds.
  • The stability: I think this surfski would give first-timers a gentle introduction to the sport.

Things I don't like

  • The drain/scupper: The scupper sticks out the bottom of the boat like an inverted periscope.  It works reasonably well and that's what's important, but jeez it looks ugly! 
  • The steering: Arguably unimportant for a total beginner - but I'd recommend putting a bigger rudder on the boat, especially when you start experimenting with downwind paddling!


The Honcho Guru is definitely worthy of consideration for beginner paddlers - it's an easy to use, gentle entry to the sport and with its storage capacity can be used as a touring boat. 

I'd hazard that it would be a good boat for sea kayakers to cut their teeth on as a first surfski.

More Info

Honcho's website is at

Layup Choices

Glass/polyester 17kg/37.5lb Sprayed Gelcoat, 200g plain weave glass cloth, 1mm soric core hand laminated, closed with another layer of 200g plain weave glass cloth
Vacuum bagged glass/polyester 15kg/33lb Stronger core material, only needs 100g glass cloth to close.
Carbon 12kg/26.5lb Carbon, Airex core, 100g glass cloth.

A smaller storage compartment can be installed that will hold essential safety gear only.

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