Video Cast 8: All about Ocean Skis

By Jim on Monday, December 19, 2011

Picking the right ski is such a hard thing to do when you are new to the sport of paddling. Take Westley, for example, he is 50 years young and only been paddling for 2 years, one solidly, he is a smaller paddler and wants to go faster then people who have been paddling for 20yrs or more.

My advice to Westley was to take in some things that are important when choosing the right craft.

Here are my suggestions to Westley and anyone else looking to buy a Kayak.

Make sure it's the right craft to match your ability.  To often learners look to see what the fastest guys paddle then buy that. Those boats are usually too tippy when learning to paddle.

Remember 'the fastest ski on the market is the one you can paddle upright'.

With all that in mind you must be comfortable, this will help you get the most out of each stroke:

Allowing more power. Power = Speed.  This can only happen if you have your balance in the boat.

Must be in your price range.

Think about the ski that matches the conditions you are going to race in and train in.

Most of all you must want to keep paddling it time and time again.

Westley is our video cast producer, site manager and a senior member of JimSquad.  He is an over 50 paddler in a hurray to be the best he can be.  Recently interviewed Jude Truzinski from Huki Kayaks during his research on what ski should he get when he updated.

Here are Westley thoughts on buying a new ski and the video cast he produced....

I did it!  After months of speculation and research I actually made a decision and bought a new ocean ski for this season.  The final decision?  A Stellar SES.  So how and why did I come to this conclusion?  
I have been paddling pretty solidly for 2 years now, training several times a week and getting some great advice from Olympic coaches and World Champions.  All of this has meant a fairly rapid development in terms of understanding technique and understanding the sport.  I have also done some intensive interviews with world class boat makers on features that make designs work.
Finally I have paddled many different craft during my regular travels around the planet.  
Currently I paddle an Epic V10L which is a boat designed for shorter paddlers.  It is fast but not the most stable.  I certainly still struggle in large bumpy conditions in the surf, in particular around headlands during the Ocean Series or Fenn Cup.
As I am an more matured paddler (over 50) I don't have a lot of time left to be competitive so was fairly keen to find a boat that offered the best combination of speed and stability improvement.  My Kayak Coach, Jim Walker, advised me to get a much more stable boat as I would see a marked improvement in speed with the added stability.  With that advice I searched the world for the best solution for me. (see also Stu's advice in 'Choosing the right craft')
Taking Jim's advice, I tried the Think range but found that, whilst the EVO offers great stability (even more than the SES,) the loss of speed would have frustrated me after the impressive speed on the V10L.  In retrospect the EVO is probably where I should have started, although, had it been possible to get one in Australia, I would probably look at the HUKI S1R.  Think's UNO has incredible speed but the only place I can paddle that one is in my dreams.

When I was in San Francisco I came across Jude from Huki kayaks.  Very impressive.  They are an incredibly well built boat and the custom options are amazing.  I think their stability and speed is second only to Stellar.  I loved paddling the S1 X special under the Golden gate and felt pretty comfortable for a first up run in testing conditions. The problem came in trying to get a Huki to Australia.  This proved a little difficult so the search continued.


When I was in Chicago I met Tim Flentye  of the ShoreLine Marathon Fame and tried the Epic V12.  Loved it and it was certainly the fastest boat I had paddled.  I took it out in the excessive bump of Lake Michigan. The huge amount of volume upfront bounced me (a small paddler) around like a cork, whilst I felt fairly stable I am sure the bouncing would make me lose speed.  Great boat but maybe not for a smaller paddler.
On getting home I tried the V12 again in flat water and it went like a rocket but alas I just don't have the weight nor stability to control it in the bump.  Next the Fenn elite.  Fantastic speed in flat conditions and brilliant in waves but once again but very unstable in the bump for someone of my ability.  I felt that the V12 was slightly more stable in the rough and was leaning towards that.
It was at that point that I read a tweet where my old mate Gavin Clark from Slipstream Surf who had become the NSW agent for Stellar Kayaks.  I was particularly keen on trying out a Stellar after having read the fantastic reviews on Surf ski Racing and also seeing where Wes Echols placed them on his ski comparison chart.  I asked Gavin if I could give one a try and SES - yes! got one for  a week.
First up I I tried it on the flat when I trained with JimSquad.  Unbelievable, fantastic speed with an immediate improvement in performance over short to medium distances.  I was consistently way ahead of two fellow paddlers that I have previously struggled to keep up with.  Nice.
Next the bump.  I took the boat our in fairly flat surf conditions on the first round of the Ocean Series,  The previous week I had finished 6 mins behind my arch rival over 14kms.  This time having missed judged the finish, I was only 30 seconds behind.  
The following week out again in the second round of the Ocean Series, this time big bump in the Lion Island challenge.  The result, I beat my rival by a good minute.  Unbelievable 7 mins gain in three weeks.  
The big difference.?  The boat is everything Wes Echols described.  In my opinion he is not exaggerating anything in his rave reviews.  This boat is way more stable than anything else within the same speed range.  As a result I could relax in the ski and concentrate on technique.  The boat fits me like a glove.
The SES is a boat that is built for the smaller paddler not a modified version of a larger boat.  I feel very secure, the secondary stability is truly awesome and gives me the freedom and confidence to apply my technique without fear of falling in.  The ski really takes off quickly reaching good boat speed.  I love the nose which reminds me of the V12 only less volume and therefor less bounce.  The front of the cock pit is similar to a Fenn allowing the paddler to get in nice and tight and have a good straight blade entry.  The seat in amazingly comfortable with the quality fittings throughout that match Huki. The one time I did come out (and that was very wild conditions) it was an very easy remount.  This boat is a quality build all round.
For a person of my ability and size, the Stella SES is a step above everything else I have tried.  It is really that good. I feel that it won't be long before the others manufacturers will have to respond in order to stop Stellar from taking the entire market but for paddlers who are not quite yet able to paddle the most unstable of craft but still want very competitive speed nothing, in my opinion, currently compares with the Stellar SES for my specific needs.  The combination of speed and stability that have been captured in the Stella SES if perfect for the experience mid to high range paddler.  I look forward to a big improving season. 

The results will show if I am right or not.