Stellar Elite Low Volume (SEL) Full Review

Stable as V10 Sport Ultra, Fast as V12, not Quite but not Far off.

I know the above statement  for some will be hard to believe especially since I am the Northeast Stellar Rep.  However, my reviews have been substantiated across the world.  My advice to any paddler is get in the boat and paddle them and form your own opinions.  Keep in mind however, that my experience (skill level) has increased dramatically since I first started my reviews. Enough of the disclaimers. Read on!

In May of this year, 2011, I demo the first SEL and was impressed, but I did not know the full story until this week, August 29. Because May is the beginning of the full on race season, I put the SEL on the rack and switched to training and racing in my SES’s.  Now 4 months later, I have spent a fair amount of time in the SEL.  First let me make the distinction between the SE and the SEL.

The SE is 21ft 6 inches long (6.5meters), 17.5 inch (44.5cm) wide.  The SE is made for the big boys over 200 lbs. It has a lot of bow volume. I paddled the SE about 2 years ago and wrote a short review but did not go into much depth because it was too big for me.  I did not feel I could adequately review a ski that did not fit.  However, even then I knew it was an incredibly stable ski.

The SEL is the little sister to the SE. It is 21ft 6 inches long (6.5meters) and 17.3 inch wide (44cm), so slightly more narrow. While the same hull as the SE, the SEL has significantly reduced bow volume and is a full inch narrower at the catch which is great.  It is long and very sleek.  The footwell (not just the track) has been extended to accommodate even the tallest paddlers, even longer than the SE’s footwell.  A recent paddler, Brian, a professional sailor, at 6ft 5inches, fit with his knees at the proper height for an optimal fit.  It also helps the hump is low in all the Stellars skis.  He recently had bought a V10 but it was too short for him and too narrow in the bucket.  He was too heavy for the SEL at 235 but he relished the fit.

Click to View Stellar SEL Photo Gallery

Click to View Additional Stellar SEL Gallery


I have both layups in the SEL, the 31lb advantage and the 26lb Excel.  The day after the Double Beaver Race I paddled with Mike Tracy on the Sakonnet River.  The Sakonnet is more like a channel connecting Rhode Island Sound to the Mount Hope Bay. It is 2-3miles wide and 12 miles long and is a wonderful place to time trial skis.  I have GPS time trialed kayaks and skis since 2000.  This day with Mike we had some

great downwind conditions with perfectly formed 2ft seas.  Mike was in his Mako Elite and I was in the SEL Advantage.  We surfed neck and neck the whole time and it was then a HUGE light went off, this ski surfed great!  I had not expected it to be so stable and so fast.

So a month goes by and I suggest to Dave Thomas, co-owner and co-designer, of Stellar Skis and Kayaks that I would like to demo an excel version to thoroughly time trial and race.  So on Monday, August 29, day after Hurricane Irene, Big Wave Bill Leconte stopped by my house and we took a spin on the Sakonnet.  Bill has one of my old Legends.  We paddled upwind past Black Point and then turned to head downwind.  I got into a good groove and by the time we reached Sandy Point, I reset my GPS, and put the hammer down.  12 minutes and 12 seconds later and 1.62 miles, averaging 8.197 mph, I had my 2nd best time ever on this course.  My previous record was in my Ultra carbon SES on May 15th of this year, averaging 8.32 mph.

The next day on my 3.21 course which by the way includes the same course as my 1.62 mile course except I start at Black point, 1.5 mile further up the river.  This time I broke this record with a time of 24.23, average speed 8.152 for 3.21 miles.  Previously the record was in one of my all-time favorite skis, my carbon Legend, averaging 8.141 mph back on June 28th, 2009.  This time in the Legend by the way, was three weeks before the Blackburn Challenge.  I went on to PR the Blackburn Course in this Legend with a time of 2:52:32 paddling virtually alone for the entire race with just my Heart Rate monitor.  This year I broke that record in my carbon Ultra SES with a time of 2:49:55.

Yesterday, September 3, I was excited to be paddling off Sachuest Point in Rhode Island Sound where the conditions are much bigger than on the Sakonnet.  The Sakonnet River empties into the ocean at this point.  This has the best surfing in Rhode Island because the waves are smoother and better formed than say Beavertail which has a much different feel than Sachuest Point.  Mind you it is still rough for Northeast conditions. This is where Big Wave Bill Leconte seeks 3-7ft seas routinely in the summer/fall.

In fact, Bill just demo my SES Excel yesterday in the afternoon in conditions SSW 15-20knots, 5-7 ft. waves, 5 miles off shore.  Tim and I were paddling much earlier at 7:30 am in 2-3ft waves with 10knot winds and much closer to shore than Bill.   Bill clocked a max time of 13.3mph.  I digress some, but Bill said the nose of the SES rarely buries in these conditions, and surfs great, and is much easier to remount than his Legend because the secondary stability is great on the SES so you can just lean it on edge while remounting and it stays there.  He suggested a 9 inch or 10 inch rudder vice the 8 inch rudder for bigger conditions like these. He has a 9inch rudder on his Legend.

One of the reasons I wanted to take the SEL in these conditions (2-3ft) was to see how it responded with the 4 inch weedless flatwater rudder vice the 8inch rudder.  It did not disappoint.  The ski is so stable I can easily use this rudder if I think I need extra speed over handling in races.   Tim (V12 Ultra) and I paddled upwind for 30 minutes and then turn to go downwind.  We were flying!! I maxed at 11.01 mph. We paddled for 10 miles at a tempo pace with some pickups.   I also wanted to confirm the volume of the ski.  I weigh 178 and the bow only buried twice in this conditions.   I also wanted to know how wet the ride was with the low gunwales.  While it is a wet ride, it handled fine as it has in similar conditions, and draining was not a problem.

Click to View Garmin Connect GPS Track of  Sachuest Point

Click to View Garmin Connect GPS Track of Weaver Point

The above track is from this morning where I padded upwind/up current almost to Gould Island than I raced a sailboat going downwind in perfectly formed 2ft waves with white caps. It was a blast.  It took me almost a mile but I caught him!  I yelled over, waved, and caught my breath.

My other outing in the SEL was 2 days before the East Coast Surfski Championships when Reid Hyle and Rob Mirlenbrink and I paddled past the famous “House on the Rocks” headed toward Beavertail.  It was much more chaotic than the Double Beaver Race just a few weeks ago by far.  I was in the SEL advantage layup and brace only once or twice.


Leg Length

This ski fits virtually everyone in regard to leg length. My inseam of 29.5 inches is very short.  Brian, the 6ft 5 inch paddler, I mentioned earlier fit fine the SEL with low knees.  The trade off in the Stellar skis of fitting everyone is there is a huge space in front of the footplate, I mean huge.  Visually, I first was concerned but after testing, I did not find it to be a problem with water splashing over the low gunwales in general.  However, today paddling upwind in 12 mph/up current in short 2ft seas, I could have used a footwell cover. We are making a detachable footwell cover.  The cover will be also helpful for winter paddling, when I want my feet to be a dry/warm as possible.  I can easily fit my hydro pack here and most guys will be able to do the same.

Remember, this is a low volume ski by design.  If you are over 200lbs and paddling this in the conditions above what I have described, then you will have less freeboard and will experience more burying of the bow and a wetter ride. If you are over 205 or so then you need to move up to the SE or if you just want to paddle the SEL on flatwater than you would be fine.


The overall beam is 17.3 inches.  As you can see in the pictures, the measurements at the point the base of the cockpit slopes upward, it is 15.25 inches. The widest point in the ski is 15.5 inches where the hump begins. This is where I have padding for a personalized fit so I have hip rotation with about 1/8 separation from boat and me but I have contact with the ski when I edge it or in rough seas.  I also put some padding at the calves as another contact point and to keep my legs straighter for optimal leg drive (no splaying).  My calves do touch the padding slightly on extension.

For comparison I measured my Evo at the same points. It measures 15.5 inches at base of the back of the cockpit as it slopes upward. So it is ¼ inch wider at this point. The Evo like most skis begin to taper almost immediately hence it gets much narrower toward the hump.  The Stellars do the opposite and get wider at this point and then start to taper as you get into the footwell.  Basically the Stellars don’t taper much as they carry some of the width through to the footwell.  This possibly explains why the Stellars boats are so stable with the same beam widths of other manufacturers.   So with all the Stellar skis you have more room than other manufacturers in this regard creating a much different feel as far as the fit.  Some skis you feel you are too jammed into them as they taper depending on your size and your preference.


The SEL has excellent initial stability with no twitching.  The secondary is astounding.  You can edge the boat over like a sea kayak, hold the edge and paddle.  There is much less of a learning curve because the secondary stability is predictable and it literally waits for you to either hold the edge or edge it to capsize.  The point is it holds right there waiting for you to make a decision, similar to the “Stable class of skis” hence the reference the V10sport stability.  You could substitute the Evo as well.

But the real test was in the waters I have paddled in: flatwater, confused, 1-2 occasional 3ft waves, etc.  I am able to paddle it with a 4 inch flatwater rudder that also speaks to the stability of it.  Stability before speed is the mantra.  The SEL defies this; you can have it both, stability and speed.  I can paddle at full power almost never bracing because the platform is so stable.The SEL Excel is more stable than 30lb SES and is getting close to the V10sport ultra.  So I would put it in between the V10sport Ultra and the Huki S1X’s.


I had a PR in it as mentioned earlier and the 2nd fastest time, and another 8th best time this week as well. I am sure the more I paddle it and race it, more PR’s will fall particularly in the rougher and longer races.  Do not be lulled into the perception due to their stability you are not going as fast.  This is a common mistake.  Get your GPS!! This perception has been confirmed for me repeatedly from other paddlers of Stellar skis.  

I did notice my SES’s are slightly quicker to accelerate when jumping on a wave than the SEL.  The SEL is a foot longer and 1 inch wider in the beam than the SES’s.  The glide is not  quite as smooth on the SEL as in the SES, Uno, V12 or Mako’s.  In downwind conditions of 1-2.5 ft here in New England this boat surfs as well as any boat I have paddled.  I really enjoyed my Legend for true downwind where it was at its best, but the SEL is more stable, carves turns better, and is faster and easier to remount.  Upwind it goes over the waves and has some bow slap.  This ski is Low Volume and is best for paddlers 150-200lbs.  The 150-180 lb paddlers will enjoy the ski in typical New England conditions as I have described.   The 185-200 will enjoy the boat on flat water and up to 1 foot waves.

I will race in at the Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse next week hoping for a moderate to rough day. In the ocean, the SEL excel can hold it’s on with any other ski that I have paddled:  SES, Uno, V12, V10L, Legend, Huki, Mako 6, Huki’s.  In pure flat water the edge goes to the Uno, SES, and V12.  The caveat is that I will buying a full pre-preg carbon unidirectional (best in industry) Ultra SEL for next year to race in so I am sure it will be faster, have better glide, be  more buoyant, less stable than the 26lb Excel. I will be in this ski for the Blackburn, Double Beaver, and the longer races.

September 12 Update after my Lighthouse to Lighthouse Race

My race confirmed for me how fast and stable the SEL is in both flatwater and ocean conditions. The first 7 miles was flat, and the 2nd 7 miles was a mix of quartering and beam.   I place 5th in a highly competitive field and was beaten by my long time training partner by 14 seconds in a V12. We paddled within 3 boat lenghts of each other the entire 14 miles.  Three other excellent paddlers fell apart  when the conditions went from flat to very small beam, quarter chop in less stable boats for them.  Stability is vastly under rated when choosing a ski!!  That is what makes the SEL so unique.  Below is my Garmin track with Heart Rate and Speed.  I had my best time ever on this course: 2:03:06 for 14.10 miles.  See the L2L Race Summary for more details about the race.

As I have always done, I urge you to demo as many skis as you can to see how they fit, how stable they are, and yes, how fast they are in the conditions you will predominately be paddling in.  Be sure to see how easy/hard they are to remount.  Of all the aforementioned skis, the SEL is the easiest to remount so this farther increases you confidence.

So the design team of New Englanders Dave Thomas, Ed Hofmeister and others at Wintech Rowing have designed a ski/skis that defy the old design that skis have to be less stable to be fast.  We have seen this trend over the last few years in ski design so it is not surprising that Stellar has computer designed their models with years of experienced making and designing rowing shells.






 Click to View Stellar SEL Photo Gallery









  • ScottL says:

    Would you consider this ski to be a slightly more stable option (than the SES) while being less affected by wind (lower profile) for the average sized paddler? If so, seems like a win-win..

  • Wesley says:

    The SEL is more stable than the SES since it is wider. Both the SEL and SES are low profile skis and not really effected by the wind as you put it.

    • Gavin B says:

      Hi Wesley -Great review
      I am very interested in the sel but wonder if my 5.7and heavyish? frame(85kg/185lb)are too short and heavy for this boat! i have previously owned an se( Waaay too big and too slow to turn )and curently paddle an ses advantage -love it but a little too much time spent stabilising in perth w.australias’ choppy wind affected ocean.Its awesome on calmer days but would rather spend my time chasing waves rather than bracing!
      Our waves here are quite short faced and quick-will the extra foot of length be an issue ?Have thought of an sr advantage but would still like more speed
      Any thoughts /ideas would be most appreciated

      • Wesley says:

        Gavin, you are at the weight limit for the boat to be paddled in the conditions I imagine you are paddling in. If it were flat water, flatter ocean conditions, you would be rock solid in the SEL or if you weighed about 6 or 7lbs less, no problem. The length of the SEL is fine although there is always that debate if the 20ft boats fit more nicely in short choppy conditions vice the 21ft skis. I have had my SEL in everything and it handled as well as my SES’s. I just think at your weight the bow may bury too much for you if you often paddle in short/steep chop. Huge difference in stability between SES and SEL. At today’s race several less experienced paddlers tried my SEL and were shocked how stable it was compared to what they are currently paddling. Hope this helps. Wesley

        The SR is a great boat for what it is. It is in the same range as the Evo type skis.

        • gavin b says:

          Thanks for the feedback Wes,i think we have a month or so before the first sel shipment arrives in Perth;just enough time to run off a few kg!Less weights more running!Thanks Mate (great work on the site btw,best info around by far)

  • Gerard says:

    Have you any comments/opinion on the new surf rudder? I have the SES and love it, although the steering can be mushy and wondered how the new rudder rates before spending on one

  • Wesley says:

    You should upgrade. It makes a noticeable difference especially in bigger water. I have switched out all my skis and all the new Stellar skis now come with the newer “balanced” rudder. The rudder post is now much farther back so this rudder has a much better bite on the water.

  • bob moffatt says:

    the new surf rudder is a definate improvment,

    what I and other SES owners have done is to tie off the rudder lines behind the pedals and bypass the bungie cord.

    • Jim says:

      I bought an SES. I have not been out much. It fits my 5.7 body well. I do feel the SES goes to it’s secondary stability quickly. Rolls side to side. It does stop. I’m learning to tune out the play. Have others made this comment? You also mentioned how to improve drainage. Are directions on you site for this adjustment. I do really enjoy the leg drive I get with this boat. Thanks for your feedback:). I’m also considering the boats roll is my absence from five day aweek paddling to once a month:(

      • Wesley says:

        All the stellar skis now have large bullets that improve the draining time dramactically. If you have 2010 ski you can order bullets and just glue on. it takes 5 minutes. Go to U.S. Stellar site and you can order.

  • Wesley Echols says:

    Bob, the 2011 Stellar skis have a new steering tube that has improved the steering dramatically over the 2010 models. Like you in all my 2010’s models, I also had tied off the lines behind the pedals. Now,however, the steering being much improved and with the 2011 newer rudder, you don’t have to do this. Steering is precise as evident on my SEL.

  • Mark says:

    This is an excellent choice for someone under say, 185 lbs., or in more sheltered waters, if heavier, IMO. The amount of secondary stability is astounding-it builds linearly to the point where you can literally dip the gunnels in the water. It is deceptively fast, also. As someone else noted, due to its stability, it doesn’t give the impression of speed, but the GPS numbers don’t lie. It’s probably a bit off the top end of the highly caffeinated HPS choices, but ‘stability = speed.’ The steering is precise, and the ski tracks well. I’m very impressed.

  • Kocho says:

    How much wider is the SEL bucket compared to the SE? Also, is the foot plate/pedals the same height as in the SE (e.g. suited for large feet)? When are the SELs going to make it to the US shores (they are not even on the Stellar’s web site yet!)? How is the drainage too? Thanks!

  • Wesley says:

    Bucket is 1/4 inch wider on each side. The footplates on all Stellars now are the same size. The larger footplates on the 2010 SE’s have now been replaced with the standard Stellar footplate. Same as on the SES’s.
    Availability: The Red SEL in the pics was a special order. More are due in the June, July containers. If you want a color that is special order however we do have some coming in yellow in the July container. Drainage: I found the drainage slightly better on the SEL even without the bullet. The bullets increase drainage by 30%. If you are interested contact your local Stellar dealer. Dealers have been set up nationwide and worldwide. Our container delivery times are accurate and our customer service is responsive and accurate.

    • One More says:

      Wesley, I read your answer about SEL Bucket width as compared to SE Bucket width like this: “SEL Bucket is 1/4 inch wider on each side than SE bucket width”. But I have read other places that SEL bucket has thghter fit, which I would expect in a lower volume boat. On the other hand, SEL cockpit is the longest, and as SEL is a new model, redesign is possible. So:

      Between SEL and SE, which will provide best fit a paddler often feeling buckets to be to narrow for the hip bones?

      One More

      • Wesley says:

        Scroll through the comments section and Mark Ceconi mentions the differences. The SE will offer more room.

  • Kocho says:

    Thanks for the reply! If luck has it, I will test-paddle the Stellar SE tomorrow so wanted to draw some conclusions about the SEL from that…

  • Kocho says:

    Test-paddled the Stellar SE today for a few minutes. Too briefly and only on flat water to draw too many conclusions. However, I felt I had enough seat time to figure out some things. It is not a good fit for me ergonomically. Not sure if the SEL has a similarly shaped cockpit, but the SE had no support for the lower legs on the sides – to get contact with the ski through my legs I had to splay my knees sideways as in a kayak, which of course hinders good technique when paddling. Aside from the lack of good contact, that also makes the volume of the cockpit much bigger than necessary and would hold more water.

    The seat bucket shape was also somehow not a good match for my posterior – I felt I slid too much in all directions even though the width was good for me. I felt wobbly in the SE despite not having stability problems with it – the lack of contact and the poor seat shape (for me) caused the ski to tilt one way or another all the time. In contrast, the V10 Sport (which I thought was actually wider in the seat than the SE) somehow places me in the sweet spot and I stay centered in that ski without any effort. The regular V10 – perfect fit for me seat-wise (less stable than the SE). Think Evo II – great fit, excellent ergonomics too, just a smidgen narrower in the seat than I need. So if the SEL is even wider in the seat, it will probably be even a worse fit for me than the already wobbly SE.

    The other thing that struck me was how wide the SE is where my feet were. Did not measure, but felt considerably wider than even the 19″ skis I paddled that day. Did not like that. Lastly, steering was mushy, probably due to poor setup when we switched skis. But in addition to the vague steering, somehow the ski felt it wanted to continue to turn even after I initiated a turn in the opposite direction – kind of oversteer feeling akin to broaching in flat water if I can desctibe it this way: requires over-correction to get it to turn in the other direction. No such issues with the other skis I paddled today …

  • Mark says:

    SE vs. SE-L… Thee is a difference in feel between the two boats. The SE definitely feels like a bigger person’s boat. The volume in the nose allows it to move around a bit in the wind-the SE-L does not exhibit this. The SE-L feels pared down-the catch is narrower, and the lower side rails feel more open. The transition between the seat and footwells has a more pronounced ‘hump,’ which I actually liked more. The seat is a hair wider, but more vertical at the sides, as well as the back of the seatwell. With a Lincke pad, it was a perfect fit for me. The legroom is cavernous. With a 34″ inseam, I’m 2/3 way along the track. Drainage seemed adequate, even without the bullets. Water immediately come in (with the rubber plug removed, which pops out anyway), but begins to drain well once underway. About 3/4″ remained by my feet the entire time.

  • SS says:

    14 comments within a day makes it obvious Wesley – the readers want the reviews! Great stuff! Enjoy your Lighthouse race. We’re under fire from Hurricane Katia and the ocean is an unplayable massive washing machine around the island. Hope that was the last one for the season.



  • Pierre B. says:

    Hi Wesley,
    I wonder if you can help me with my conundrum.
    I’ve paddled a Think FIT for 3 years, felt very comfortable and safe in it, could do 10km in one hour on flat water but started to feel the need for more speed and being more challenged. Having practiced remounts with it, I was also worried that going in less calm waters could present some risk because it is not that easy to remount. I also paddled an EVO several times, on which i felt a little twitchier and didn’t have enough paddling time to get to the point where I put all my power in my strokes. But I could tell that I would have mastered it quickly, and also I liked that the remounts were SO easy, so I wouldn’t have been afraid of capsizing.
    I now have no more boats and I want to get one. I will not race, I will paddle alone on lake Ontario. I want a good workout, decent speed, enough stability that I’ll venture off shore a bit and try to learn to catch some waves.
    I thought I could never handle a fast boat so I’ve been thinking EVO or Stellar SR. But today I tested Stellar SE at Trailheads in Kingston (great store!) and at my surprise, I didn’t capsized and did not even get close to that. What a great boat! I did find that it has way too much bow volume for me, as I weigh only 170lbs, so I imagine that an SES would be better suited.

    Here is my question: given how these boats compare and give that I can have an EVO in good shape at a better price than a new SE or SES or even SR, how would you suggest I approach this? How would you compare all these boats, for a lightweight runner with some decent experience, who will paddle twice a week on a large lake and wants to be able to have a hell of a good workout, have some speed sensations and not be overly stable nor tippy?

    Thanks for any thoughts you would want to share!


  • Wesley says:

    First of all the Evo is an excellent all around ski with a comfortable bucket, very good handling and one of my favorites. I still have one in my garage and paddled it last week. The difference in the SES and SEL is the speed. Both the SES and SEL have the top end speed of any high performance ski and as you have experienced by demoing the SE, they are very stable. The Evo does not have the speed of the SES or the SEL, not even close. So if you want more speed than the Evo, either is a better choice. Based on what you told me, I would suggest the SEL because they are even more stable the SES and more similar to the Evo and will fit you since you are 170lbs. I am guessing the dealer did not have an SEL. The SES will be slightly more of a learning curve than the SEL because it is less stable. You must demo the SES to make sure the bucket fits you if you go this route, the advantage layup is closer to the stability of the Evo than the Excel or certainly the Ultra. If cost is more of a factor than speed, it is hard to argue with a nice conditioned Evo. Hope this helps. Wesley

  • Pierre B. says:

    Wesley, thanks a lot for your response. It’s in line with all the quality comments you have accustomed us to…
    Indeed price is a major factor right now, so I’ll most likely go with the EVO for 2012, but I will looking forward to replacingit with an SEL as soon as I can. After experiencing a hint of the speed offered by the SE, and feeling relatively in control when I thought I would capsize in the first minute, I would get addicted if I tried an SEL now…
    What do doctors say about addiction to surfskiing?

  • Pips says:

    Hi Wesley
    What a great review! I am currently contemplating which surfski to buy. I initially had the SES in mind as I am 140 lbs and 5 ft 3inch. Now that I have just read this review on the SEL I am wondering which would be the better option? Your review appears to compare the SE with the SEL, how would the SEL compare to the SES??

    cheers, Pips

  • Wesley says:

    Pips, the SES is the boat for you. It was computer designed specifically for padders 140-180. I sold one yesterday to a paddler 5ft 5, 150, and another 5ft 6 145, a few weeks ago. The SEL will be too big for you.

  • Simon says:

    Hi Wesley, have been reading your reviews for SES and SEL a while but not quite sure which one will suite me better…
    Am in Hong kong And have been paddled V10s for 2 years… winter we have windy condition(18-25 knots) and midium to big waves (6-10fts), can manage not fall in at all…had tried EVO and found it’s a very nice boat but too easy to manage compare to V10s, legend is nice too but not liking the hard chin and not feeling it’s that much faster than EVO( perhaps still getting use to the boat – rocking and bracing stuff)
    Anyway, really keen on trying the Stella but the rep here only has the SE as demo boat, what would you recommend if you’re me? Am 5’10 and 165..will really appreciate yout input!

  • Wesley says:

    Simon, the SEL will fit and if you are slim in the hips the SES will fit also. YOu would need to sit in the SES to know for sure though. It is designed for guy in you weight range. The SE is too big for you. If you got a advantage SES it would not be too far of the stability of the V10sport but much faster.

  • Ken says:

    Hi Wesley,
    I just read your review of the SEL and have a question. I am 150lbs, 5’10” and am an experienced kayaker/racer. I raced my home built 20’x20″ sea kayak for years and have done quite well, even against many of the skis. Your comment about stability being important really rings true for me. I have always done well in rough conditions due to the obvious benefit of stability that I have had. Much of my racing has been on San Francisco Bay.
    I am wanting to get a surf ski at this point and the SEL sounds quite seductive with it’s speed and stability. I was considering a more entry level ski, but don’t want to grow out of it to soon. I also don’t want to get a boat that is to tippy. I am confident that I will get the hang of a ski in a reasonable time but an overly tippy ski might send me back to my kayak! Based on what I have described, would you advise me to get a SEL or SES? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!


  • Alan says:

    Hi Wesley,
    Been following your reviews since changing from Tk1s to ski’s approx 15 months ago.
    From using your reviews as a guide I eventually purchased a Fenn XT then 5 months later moved onto the Epic V10Sport & am now very comfy in the sport.
    What would you suggest would be a good next ski?
    Paddling conditions mainly flat type water – rivers etc.
    Weight 180lbs 5’8”
    I’ve read your review of the Stellar SEL & it sounds like a good option.
    Are there any other boats you could add to the mix? I’ve paddled the SES & V12 a few times & stayed upright but both are probably a bit more boat than I am currently capable of getting powered up effectively.
    Thanks for your time & appreciate your comments.



  • Wesley says:

    I added pics of the Plastic Line Stoppers that Chris came up with to increase the responsiveness on our Stellars. We use a piece of plastic and drill 4 holes for the line to go through and then we tie it off like before. Using the stopper this takes out the play in the line that was there. The drawback is when you adjust the footplate, you have to tinker with threading the line to get the proper pedal angle. However, if you rarely let other guys use your skis, then once you get it set, you are all done. It takes about 10 minutes to adjust with the stoppers. Hope this helps. This is the most simple method. I have seen more involved methods with bungies to keep opposing tension on the pedals. I have suggested more than once to Dave/Ed that a better system could be done.

  • ken smith says:

    Hi Wesley

    now you have tried the sel and ses for a few weeks now how is the speed of the sel compared to the ses , which is quicker , i currently have a ses sport but looking for something a bit more stable in the rough without losing any speed on the flatter stuff

    thanks ken

  • Wesley says:

    Ken, it takes time in the bucket of any ski to get comfortable in rough water. Having said that, the SEL is significantly more stable than the SES. The SES is faster on true flat water, catches the bumps slightly faster than SEL. This is the compromise for more stability. The SEL is a High Performance Ski(HPK) with the speed in the range of the other HPS. I have an Ultra SEL(22lbs) coming in a month, so I can compare my SEL (26lb) to it and to my SES Ultra. I have now paddled the SES for 2 years now,which is the longest I have paddled any ski at one time, and I have paddled the SEL for 6 months now. I fully expect my Ultra SEL to be my go to ski for any races over 2 hours or more like the Blackburn. While I have raced the SES for the Blackburn the last 2 years, the extra stability in the SEL later in the race will help me clock even a faster time. Hope this helps. Be safe but keep paddling in conditions that are slightly out of your comfort area then move up to slightly more challenging conditions. Make sure you have the proper safety gear, and can remount in the conditions you will be paddlling in.

  • Steven Horney says:

    Your comments are right on! I just paddled my new Stellar SE yesterday; An awesome boat! Super stable, great ergonomics, and very fast! I couldn’t be happier.

  • luke says:

    Hi, was wondering what the max weight for the SEL would be ?

  • Luke says:

    Hi , what would be the max weight for the stellar sel? And why..

  • Wesley says:

    Luke, as I said in my review, the ski is very low volume with low gunwales. Since I wrote my review some other paddlers now have tried/bought the SEL around the world. Some of these paddlers I know are in the 185-200 range, paddling it ocean conditions. There are some guys in Australia, and I know of one paddler Dave Chambers in New Zealand that just got his. I know locally and in California a few guys in this weight range of 185-210 who also that have it. More weight lowers the ski in the water, thus water coming over the gunwales in bigger water if the angle is just right. I weigh 175 and with all my winter paddling gear weigh 185 and paddle it in all conditions. So I would say 200 lbs for ocean paddling, and 210 for flat water paddling. We now have a footwell cover, I have the prototype on my SEL that keeps all the water out, making it a very dry ride even in bigger conditions. In the upper weight range in steep chop the bow will bury more readily than if you weighed less. I have talked to a lot of paddlers about the SEL and most have found my review to be accurate. Hope this helps.

  • paul says:

    Hi Wesley
    Ive got a Green 7 pro 70 cork. When you talk about the stability of the Stellar boats because they have flaired side walls well the G7 does too it has a small flat bit underneath too and its 44cm wide. The G7 is fairly stable for me in small chop but in 1 to 2m chop Its bloody scarey, for me. On flat water its a plant. I paddle K1’s too.
    Im 80kg to 85kg 5`11`tall 30 inseam.
    Any idea the stabilty between the G7 and the SEL and SE. Also for ocean going stuff, not just down wind but including wind chop which would be the one for me to try.
    Im looking to get something better for what ive described but there isnt much about to demo. So I need to narrow my list, then get on a plane and try some. Then return on the plane so time will be limited.

  • paul says:

    Where on the stability speed graph would the SEL sit. The SE as well come to think about it.
    I hear the SE is getting some mods. Is this true and what are they. Would the changed SE be good for a 80/85kg person in choppy conditions?

    • superted says:

      Paul my opinion is that the SE is stable for someone in choppy conditions at 80/85kg but add a lot of strong gusty wind and it is hardwork, especially going upwind and side on. Downwind its great fun, but the SEL is better and will make you surf better.

    • Wesley says:

      Paul, your weight will be fine for the SEL. In the chop it excels since so stable. I now know guys who have bought the SEL at weight and they all enjoy it. Next week I am adding the SEL to the chart. It is the most stable high performance ski in the market, very noticeable by a margin, almost as stable as the “stable class/intermediate skis. I can’t compare to G7 since I have never paddled it. I had a older designed Red7 years ago.

  • superted says:

    For me (at 86-88kg) the SEL is pretty similar stability to EVO/ Sport beginner/ intermediate skis BUT being a 21.5ft ski it has the speed of other most 21ft skis. In 1-2m chop it is relatively dry unless you on purposely go down a hole instead of surfing across. I found that by simply leaning back a bit you can decide if you want to bury the nose a foot or not. Very predicable and fun ski to paddle. Paul you prob need to paddle a different ski to ask how it compares with the Stellars as majority have not paddled a Green7

  • paul walker says:

    Thanks guys
    I have paddled the Fenn Elite and it is quite a bit more nervous to sit still. In small river chop (only a couple feet high) I didnt like to do a U turn around, had to focus on the job. In a metre plus chop I wouldnt stand a chance of staying up on that ski. The G7 on the river dont really give it any consideration. Quite stable. But I need more stability in the ocean chop/wind, when its a 1 to 2 metres.
    When I look at the speed stability chart. Even the V10S doesnt look much more stable than even the V12 for example. So is the difference really marginal?

  • Wesley says:

    Paul, huge difference between V12 and Sport in stability, Mako 6/elite vs XT, SES vs SEL, Uno vs Evo. If you had trouble on Fenn elite you would have trouble on the other High performance skis as well with the exception being SEL and Huki S1X Special. These latter ones are more comparable in stability though SEL is the most stable of all the HPS.

  • Scott L says:

    Wesley – are you ready to put the SE-L on the chart yet? There are many of us out here waiting and wondering about the speed/stability of not only the SE-L – but also the SR!!!

  • Wesley says:

    I have updated the chart with the SEL, SR, Carbon Evo. I just have to forward it to Chris and have him do his magic and insert it in when he gets a spare moment from all his work stuff. So give us a few more weeks. thanks for asking.

  • Dave Chambers says:

    Hi Wesley

    I’ve been paddling my SEL Excel for about two months now. It is the most stable HPS I’ve paddled and your review of its performance is spot on.

    I have made a few minor adjustments to my ski. I have laid the pedals off so that they are in line with the pedal plate, I’ve put in padding for my calves to fill the void created on the side walls by shoulder mounted slide rails, and have put padding around the back of the seat. These tweaks help keep me centred, particularly when going downwind in confused seas. With such a wide hull under your feet it might seem as though the ski would struggle to climb onto waves, but its extra width enables you to paddle through the wobble zone and catch waves you might otherwise miss. With its width it runs on well coming off a wave and in small flatter swells it maintains its speed better than other skis, allowing better linking of runs.

    The more you paddle the ski, the more stable it feels, especially downwind – speed is your friend and its best to just keep the hammer down and don’t back off.

    I weigh 85kg (almost 190 lbs) and haven’t found the low volume nose to be an issue. I’ve buried it a couple of times but that was in short steep swells and it would have happened in any other ski as well. It’s nose volume would still be greater than a V10L.

    The ski is beautifully made with no resin droplets in the hull or other signs of lesser build quality. My only gripe, shared with a mate who owns an SES Ultra, is that the angle of the Stellar rudder plates is too shallow and should be steepened. It puts more pressure on the bottom of your heel than other steeper rudder plates. Something for the designers to consider for future production runs.

  • Oahupaddler says:

    Hi Wesley,
    Thanks for the great reviews! I wanted to know your opinion on the build quality of the stellar skis (vs epic, fenn, think, etc).

  • Wesley says:

    Below is the link to so you can view our construction. We are one of the only companies that show you how how boats are built. I included some info about Stellar as well that well be helpful. Of all the boats I have owned Stellar has been the best built. At this point I have owned more Stellars than any other surfskis. The quality control is excellent. If you got 10 boats from Stellar all would be the same excellent quality. Unlike some other manufacturers where if you ordered 10 boats, 3 of the 10 would not meet their standards.

    We used some of the highest grade materials, carbon, kevlar, nomex, in the industry. To my knowledge no one else uses pre preg unidirectional high modulus carbon like in our ultra construction. This is just one example. On the design end, out footwell is curved not at at right angles making it substantially stronger. Also our back deck is raised for added durability. We have the best footplate on the market(3 point system), integrated paddle leash, etc. If you have ever felt our boats, they are as stiff, strong, durable as any ski on the market. And of the boat you mentioned, our quality is better hands down. There is a reason most kayak shops in the USA stopped carrying some of the other manufacturers. How many times have other manufacturers switched manufacturing facilities from country to country or even within the same country. Each time you do that quality suffers dramatically. Go the below site and read about our plant. We are proud of our quality and how our boats are made.
    Stellar Company Information

    Stellar Kayaks & Surf Skis is a Global Company, striving to bring the advantages of advanced composites to paddle sports, producing some of the lightest and stiffest boats available today. Our design team hails from North America and Germany with input from paddlers World Wide. Combined, we have over 60 years of composite boat building experience and backgrounds in naval architecture, composite engineering and design and computer modeling and design.Through exhaustive research, design and innovation, our unique designs do not compromise stability, efficiency, comfort or aesthetics. Our team continues to spend a good portion of each year in China, developing new innovations and improvements as well as controlling QC issues that may arise. This research and development cycle, with continuous feedback from Stellar Kayaks’ worldwide sales force to the R&D team, is one of the foundations of our company’s growth.Stellar Kayaks are manufactured at Flying Eagle Boat Co., which has over 25 yrs of composite boat building experience, a global distribution network and an annual production capacity of 3,000 kayaks. Flying Eagle Boat Co., near Hangzhou City in China, is a subsidiary of Sino-Eagle Group, which produces Kayaks, Surf Skis, Rowing Shells, Oar, Paddles, Surf Boards & SUP’s, Sails boats, Luxury Yachts and more. A strong international presence has continually increased the quality of our products and advanced the technology of our manufacturing process. With a wide array of items being produced under the Sino-Eagle group, fruitful synergies allow for creative advancements and innovations in our kayaks. We also have the capability to customize your products and even develop products on an OEM basis.

    The development of Stellar Kayaks and Skis started in the summer of 2008 with intense research over 12 months receiving input and advice from a number of paddlers as well as surveying market trends from around the world. Ed Hofmeister and David Thomas have experience with a variety of water craft, but have specialized in Rowing Shell manufacture and design, working with several renowned Naval Architects. Their relationship with Flying Eagle and WinTech dates back to the spring of 2004 working closely with Klaus Filter, the World famous Naval Architect of WinTech Racing, 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.

  • Oahupaddler says:

    How do you expect the ski would do in Hawaii type swell- about 4-6 feet?

  • wesley says:

    We will know for sure in May. There are 2 guys paddling SEL’s for the Molokai. I suspect it will be fine. I know one personally. Guys have paddled in Australia, New Zealand in all conditions. With the cockpit cover, and the correct weight of the paddler, it will be a good choice. It is an excellent surfing ski and as stable as the intermediate skis.

  • Simon Fisher says:

    Hi Wesley,
    I got to test a SES Excel and a SEL Advantage. I was amazed by the stability of both boats and although the SES felt a little twitchy in primary the secondary felt as reassuring as that of my Legend, the SEL more so. It was hard to compare speed due to strong and gusty wind on the day.
    I noticed I was really able to get leg drive on the SEL by getting my pelvis to rotate, where on the SES and the Legend (the SES felt vey snug) I feel like by whole backside just wants to move back. On the SES I was at the full extension, and my knees were a little higher than I normally paddle with.
    My questions:
    I am not that big (6’2″, 180 lbs, 33″ waist) so I am in a dilemma. My weight would be more suited to the SES but my size might require the SEL. Do you think getting my weight to match the design displacement of the ski is more important than the feeling that my rotation is impeded or perhaps a little tight?
    I paddle mostly flat water and some tall, short period waves. When you are in the SEL in rough conditions, do you miss the nose volume, or deck height of the Legend?
    I have yet to try an SE but the agent is my size and uses one exclusively for big downwind conditions. Do you think an SE would be overkill for someone my size in normal conditions?

    • Wesley says:

      Simon, good questions. The SEL is now paddled world wide in all conditions. I have had direct reports from New Zealand from Dave Chambers, who is almost your exact size that the volume is fine in all conditions. You are really the perfect size for the SEL. Two Elite paddlers from Australian are paddling the SEL in the Molokai. When I reviewed the SEL, I wanted to exercise caution to potential buyers about the occassional burying of the nose. In those situations, you just lean back in the bucket like any other ski. I would go with the SEL based on the fit you describe. Sounds like the SES is too small for you. The SEL gives away only marginal speed to the SES in flatwater in comparing comparable layups. I only paddle my SEL with 4 inch rudder since it is so incredible stable. Our New England conditions rarely get over 4ft waves so the 4 inch rudder occasionally gets overwhelmed but it increase the speed by a significant margin. Interesting you have a Legend also. My Carbon Legend was one of my all time favorite skis due to cockpit fit, and wonderful surfing ability(tracking). The SEL reminds me of a faster surfing Legend with better flatwater speed, and more predictable secondary stability by far. No I don’t miss the deck height of the Legend. Remember, we have the cockpit covers for a drier ride with the SEL. Great you got to check out both skis. Hope this helps.

  • paul says:

    SEL speed stability graph update?
    When will it be updated? Or am I not looking properly?

    Do you think the Fenn Elite could be looked at too. Alot of people have them around my parts so having that ski up would help us figure out the differences to the SEL and SES.


  • Wesley says:

    I will be adding the SEL Excel and SR along with the SEL Ultra and the 18S once I get them and paddle them in a several weeks. The hump on the Fenn Boats are too high for me so that is the reason I have not bought one since my Mako 6’s. Only a few guys paddle them in New England and no one within 3 hours of me so it is problematic to get one. Is the hump lower on the Elite than the Mako 6??

    • paul says:

      No worries I just thought I was going blind as it was a while back when I thought it was to be updated with the carbon Evo etc.
      Also me is 5` 11“ 30 inseam 80/85kg plus gear small bum. I might be able to get a near new SE ultra for the price of a new glass SEL/SES. Would the SE be too big on me expecially if its windy choppy etc. Plus how is the speed on the SE compared to the SES and SEL? Cause if they are slow then maybe the heavier SEL or SES might be better. Need flatwater speed then out in the choppy ocean 2nd.
      Would a SEL match a Uno if the same weight?

  • Wesley says:

    I have had all the numbers for the SEL, SR, carbon EVO for months but decided just to wait and update the chart all at once with all the boats. So no you aren’t blind.

    The Hull shape is the same on the SE and SEL so the speed and stability is very similar.The catch is significantly more narrow on the SEL than SE. The bucket is slightly different on the SE, wider, and hump is more forward. Three of the best paddlers in our group,Chris(web master, this site), Francisco, Mark( all have SE’s, Ultra and Excels. They go 6ft 3,6ft 1, 5ft 11 respectively and weigh about 195-210 and have wide hips. The high deck is no problem on the SE for 2 of the guys and they paddle in all types of windy conditions. Speed of SE and SEL is almost that of the SES in comparable layups.

    On flatwater, the edge goes to the SES, but in conditions due to stability, I would give edge to SEL. While I had one of my best races ever in my 27lb SES in the roughest race of the 2011, I fully expect once I get my Ultra SEL, to do even better.

    Having said all this, I think you will feel the SE is too big for you regardless of price. It is a big boat for big guys. If you were 200lbs I would say go for SE Ultra and pad it out. There is huge difference in stability of between SES and SEL. The SES is the narrowest beam of any ski while being one of the most stable in this category. SEL as i have said repeatedly is almost as stable as the intermediate class of skis. My SEL Excel tracks better, has less movement, and more predictable than my Carbon Evo but I live the seats on the Think boats so I continue to own 2 EVO’s. The SEL does not quite have the overall stability but it is close.

    So I suggest you get an SEL Excel with the 4inch rudder for flatwater and the 8 or 9inch for big conditions. I always just use my 4inch rudder in anything under 3ft seas.

    I paddled a Kevlar Uno(28lbs) for 2 years. I love it on flatwater but in conditions it was alot to get used too even for me who paddles almost everyday. A carbon Uno is faster than a carbon SEL on flatwater for sure. I would probably give a slight edge to carbon Uno over my 21lb carbon SES in flatwater but the SES is light years more stable than Uno, and the SEL is 100 light years more stable than an Uno. I am talking about Uno not Uno Max. Hope this helps. Let me know what you decided.

  • Simon Fisher says:

    Thanks for the reply Wesley
    It looks like the SEL is the sensible choice though I have an offer to test the SE, which I will take when I have time, just so I know what it is like.

    I am curious, given that the SEL and SE have the same hull, how has the catch been narrowed in the SE? They looked identical to me except the cockpit length and fore deck height.

    Will those cockpit covers be available through Stellar agents in Australia?

    One thing readers need to keep in mind is where the relative positions of the skis would sit in the graph for them.
    I have paddled a Kevlar Uno for a short test and given my experience I felt like I could fall out in the flat due to fatigue. A great boat but one that requires attention all the time.
    As I can only paddle one or two days a week, I suspect the SEL would always be faster than an Uno for me even in the flat for any given layup.
    I think they have dropped this model for the the more stable Uno Max, which may say something about the size of the market for a boat that tippy. Not sure how the stability of the Max would rate compared to the Legend or SEL/SE.

    At your level, Wesley would the relative flat water speed of a SEL be closer to an Uno, than a Legend would be to the SEL? I ask because the majority of the people I paddle with are in Uno’s/Uno Max’s. .

  • Wesley says:

    SEL is faster than Legend in flat and ocean. If I had a carbon Uno, I would be faster on in it than SEL Ultra in flatwater.

  • paul says:

    Hi Wesley
    Any chance you can put up or send me some pics of the hull profile. Just would like to see what sort of shape it is. U shape, flaired U or flat bottom etc. On both the SEL and SES. Sort of like on the Surfski info site where they lay string on it so it makes it easy to see the shape.

  • Wesley says:

    Here are some of the SES from a few years ago.

  • paul says:

    Thanks Wesley

  • luke says:

    Pure speed for a experienced paddlers, which gets the nod ses,SEL or se?

  • Wesley says:

    Hi Luke,

    Ses. Has this been your experience with the SES?

  • Luke says:

    I’ve only had a quick paddle on an ses but lucky enough to have a SEL and find it very quick , was just thinking as I’ve never really got a good test on a ses to see how they go.
    Just looking for some opinions.


  • Watto says:

    Awaiting arrival of my new SES Excel here in Perth WA, having trialled the SE (Excel), SES and SR’s (Advantage) in a range of conditions on four separate occasions. As with all reviewers I’ve read I think the SES the fastest on the flat, the SE better getting onto runs in the bigger stuff and the SR slower but a classy boat all up. While the specs have the SES narrower and potentially less stable, this is not how I find it. I’m 6′ and 190 lbs (181cm, 85kg) 33cm waist and SES fits like a glove. Have been on the Swan River twice in very blowy conditions with one squall on the nose at 43knots recorded at the time by the Weather Bureau – GPS speed down from 7kph to 3kph for 30 seconds. I found both SE and SES ok (bracing from time-to-time for sure) with the SE a handful on anything less than dead into the breeze because obviously greater volume/height. SEL would lessen this. Significant point for me however was how slightly shorter and tighter-fit SES made for easy control in the rough. With twist of hips SES was very responsive while in SE I twisted more than the boat. I’m no skinny-arse but found SE much harder to control, less responsive vs SES which was a dream. Sure I ditched a few times in the SES but that was me rather than the boat – paddle blade too far behind hips down runs and going arse-up that way. While both boats may seem initially a bit twitchy, secondary stability especially for me in the SES is huge. Haven’t done enough big stuff in the ocean to comment but SES didn’t quite seem to get up onto those runs quite as easily; having said that the SE was in Excel layup and clearly the more responsive in comparison. Also found the SES fine to remount even in very blowy conditions. Having said that it was not long after my late afternoon squall paddle that I read of Todd Ellison’s death – I had a close moment out there when leg and paddle leash twisted under and around me as I ducked under the boat as I ditched to change remounting sides. Just got my head out of water enough for a desperate breath before untangling. My ineptness aside, the remount process whether side saddle or surfboard remount was okay, just a matter of pacing yourself and keeping a cool head.

    Read this classic – poor bastard!

    Hope the above helps.


  • Watto says:

    If you read the last post plus the link from Ratherbepaddling, it was on the very same day this dude was floundering off the coast that I was out on the river in the SES. That day was gusting 30 knots, fun in the river however ocean would have been savage, wind more than swell. I sympathise with Kijana Shenzi whom I don’t know, but unsure why they just didn’t raft up, even though it was blowing like crazy.

  • Ken Katz says:

    Hi All,

    I have had my SEL for a few months and am really enjoying it. I still need more bucket time to get the full benefits of the boat, but I am getting faster and more secure in it all of the time. A great boat in my opinion! I have done a few modifications that I thought I would share. Here are some photos.

    I wanted to add deck lines, a line running aft of the bucket for a leash to slide on, an emergency bungee in case of rudder line failure, an easier pedal adjustment system. I also added a footwell cover and wanted to cover the raw fiberglass edge for a nicer look as well as getting rid of a skin ripper waiting to happen (ask me how I know). I also cut off the pointy corners on the cover. The footwell cover is also a great place to mount a GPS. I used some of Heather and Brandon Nelsons suggestions for safety lines and a rudder bungee system

    Adding a tube in the bow for connection point for the deck lines is easy. It also gives you a great place to fasten a bow line when transporting the ski or a point to tow the boat with, should that be necessary. I have used this system quite a few times over the years on many kayaks I have built. Just drill a hole in the bow stem and epoxy a piece of fiberglass tubing in place. No end pour necessary. Give me shout if you want more details.

    For improving the look and safety of the footwell cover, I found door moulding at O’Reilly auto parts that looks like it was designed for this purpose. I didn’t like the Velcro mount that came with the cover and adding the thickness of the moulding made the Velcro useless. Using 3M Dual Lock is a better solution anyway. It has enough thickness to make up for the moulding thickness and is much stronger than Velco. I have used this stuff around boats for around 15 years and it is great. I added the GPS mount to the footwell cover using Dual Lock.
    I found the adjustment of the rudder lines frustrating. Having to untie and tie the lines seems like an unnecessary PITA. If you use a larger diameter line that has a little texture to it for a few inches in front of the pedals, a rolling or taut line hitch can be used. This knot can be slid in either direction and will not slip. It also works great for tying a bow line to the bumper of your car. I love this knot!
    I hope this is helpful.


  • paul says:

    5`11“ tall
    31 inch leg inseam
    Small bum

    Paddled Nelo large WWR, Uno Kevlar, Stellar SES excel and SEL sport.
    Nelo not as tippy as a K1, Id say pretty close to the SES Excel in the initial but the SES has a stronger secondary in comparrison. Nelo just rolls more but very predictable. Could I paddle it in the the chop, Dont think so. Could I paddle the SES in the chop, yea with some bracing.
    The Uno about the same as the Nelo both 1st and 2nd stability but the Uno is more nervous and twitchy. Nelo predictable in its roll.

    The Stellars
    Well I was impressed . Yes the SES is a bit more unstable than the SEL but nothing out of the ordinary and the 2nd stability is pretty good. Though not huge.
    The SEL, well what a surprise. it felt like a ski that fits between the Beginners and Intermediate levels. The bucket though on my skinny boney arse wasnt a good mix. I have a broken coxic so its very tender down there and hard to get a good fit, without padding.

    For me comfort and Im a K1 paddler so remember that.
    The Nelo is awesome, the way a seat and legs should be. Yes a bit cramped on the feet and calves but nothing to get too upset about.
    Next the Uno
    Then the SES, last the SEL
    All pretty good though.

    Now to my very unprofessional mid packer paddler effort at speed. GPS-ed them all on flat condtions. Though the Stellars it was shallower water.
    Flat out for a quick burst more than once.
    SES 16km/h
    Uno 16km/h
    SEL 16.5km/h
    Nelo 16.7km/h
    Mmm a bit of a trend there. Motor not exactly the best. This was done over the whole day so fatigue wasnt really an issue but I started on the Nelo Uno SES SEL so that shows nothing in the speed of the boats really. For me anyway.

    4km distance
    Up wind which was very slight just rippling the surface.
    SES 12.5km/h
    SEL 12.5km/h
    Uno 12.5km/h
    Nelo 12.7km/h
    Downwind same conditions no waves just ripples
    SES 13.0 km/h
    SEL 12.9km/h
    Uno 13.0 km/h
    Nelo 13.1km/h

    All boats on the 4k run I managed to vary from 12 to 13.5km/h. With the Nelo and Uno to only hit 14 on the odd ocassion.
    Nelo 14kg
    Uno 12kg
    SES 12 kg
    SEL 15kg
    The Stellars felt like they ran better but only slighlty. The Nelo was off the mark quickest and during the legs was easiest to surge forward. Then the Uno the next SES then SEL.
    So which was best for me.
    None of them.
    If I wanted a flat water boat only. Nelo, Uno and SES in no perticular order.
    For the rough The SEL SES . That order. The Nelo or Uno but dont think I could cope.
    For waves, up and down. SEL SES Nelo Uno That order.
    Remounts SEL SES. Nelo Uno about the same. In rougher water the Nelo and Uno would be a struggle.

    Which one will I get?????
    For everything (flat water, chop up and down wind)the SEL and pad the bum area.
    For flat water an the occasional trip to the coast SES SEL maybe Nelo or Uno
    For the flat and racing. The Nelo, Uno or SES
    Due to being on a budget
    Get the second hand Uno and a intermediate cheap spec ski for the rough, for the price of a new SES or SEL sport. All bases covered and wont have to have a ski that isnt quite perfect in every area. Though my wife wont be happy, more toys in the shed.
    Well thats my take on the boats, so please be gentle Im only an average old fart. I would love to hear how a great paddler (who isn’t sponsored by any company) finds the differences with these boats. As I realise I am far from being able to find the limits of these ski’s. I am the limiting part of the equation. Small engine!

    Though I was very surprised I couldnt really find a marked difference in flat out speed or long distance speed between them all to convince myself one ski was better than the other.
    Stability though is another factor. For the Speed I could ring out of them (I wasnt struggling for stability in any of the boats to limit my efforts)I was very surprised with the SEL. It is a versitile boat that has good speed. Over marathon distances may have different results.
    Has all this helped me decide on my next boat?
    No ,its just given me too much information to actually help. Speed nothing really in it, for me at this stage. Stability the SEL is great but will that stability limit me later, who would know?


  • Chad says:

    Just got an SE. Im 6’1 and 200lbs. I will be using it mainly in the river or lakes for the water leg of adventure races. I’ve paddled it about 6 times amd feel pretty stable. I think falling out of my old Vampire many times had shortened my learning curve. My concern is that I go down to 190-195 during racing seaon. Should I have gotten a SEL instead. I have a longer torso and shorter legs and long arms. Just looking for some feedback on the SE. Didnt see many good comments on it. Thanks.

  • Wesley says:

    Chad, You are a tweener that could go either way. the hull shape is the same for both boat however, The SEL has a more narrow catch, and is 17.3 inch wide while the SE is 17.5.Two guys I know well, Chris(webmaster for this site) has an SE ultra for over 2 years now, Chris is 6ft 3ft and 205-210. Francisco Urena is 6ft 1 and 220 and he has an excel SE for over 2 years, and is a sponsored paddler and will be in the SE ultra this season. Both paddlers do very well in their SE ‘s. The reason you don’t see as much about the SE is that it is for big guys and it is too big for me so I personally have not spent much time in it. If you don’t have a 4 inch rudder, I suggest you buy one and this will increase your speed by 5-8 seconds per mile, while sacraficing some stability but since you are on rivers, probably will not affect you much in terms of stability. So you will be fine in your SE. Hope this helps.

    • Chaz says:

      Chad it’ll be fine. Anything will be better then what you were in!!! ha ha. I use the SEL and think for the water we paddle it would have been a better choice but it won’t be that much of a difference either way. See you at Curwinsville?

  • Mark says:

    I’ve spent time in both. Both are excellent boats. The SE-L has a slightly snugger cockpit, tighter catch. The SE has quite a bit of volume, which really comes in handy if you’re in tight, steep wavesets where you’re burying the bow repeatedly. The SE-L is definitely a wetter ride, which may or may not bother you.

    Both boats are deceptively fast. I say ‘deceptively,’ as their stability imparts a feeling that you might not be moving quickly, then you glance down at the gps and, ‘Whoa! Look at that!” I would place their flatwater speed a hair or two below that of the other hps (Elite, V12, Uno, Nelo, etc.) However, you are only as fast as you are stable. I really like them in choppy, confused stuff-you can get aggressive and just power through. Remounts are easy. Go the 4″ rudder in the flatter stuff-the stability allows you to get away with it, and it does add quite a bit to the speed.

    I also have a long torso, and in the SE found that I liked the fit better sans a seat pad, or with something so thin that it was there more for a bit of friction, then to pad you up. Without the pad, you drop down deeper in the bucket, giving you an extra measure of contact around the hips. In any event, padding at the hips and calves will contribute greater contact with the boat, and thus, more control. Here, the SE-L is a better fit for me, but everyone’s different. Chris and Francisco go very, very well in theirs. 🙂

    Affix the little drilled plastic retainers behind the rudder pedals, and this will sharpen the steering response. I’m not a fan of any of the Spectra type cords in general-they all stretch. Stainless is painless, as they say-very precise, as per my Huki and Custom Kayaks Synergy Lite.

    While both drop in easily on a wave/swell, I feel the SE is a little easier in this regard, maybe because of the extra buoyancy due to the added volume (?). Both are extremely composed-you can just sit right on there, and lightly skim a blade, like the big dogs do in big water. Enjoy it!

  • Mihail says:

    Wesley (or anyone else): how does the seat bucket width compare on the Stellar SEL to the Epic V12 ski? As measured at about 3″ above the lowest point is important, where my hip bones would be widest and making contact with the sides if too narrow a seat? Can someone measure accurately, please? Just put something that is 3″ tall in the bucket and then measure on top of it how wide the seat is at that height…


  • Alan Williscroft says:

    I have an SEL, really happy with it and endorse all the good comments that other SEL owners have made.
    However I find the angle of the footplate to be too shallow, I prefer a steeper angle.
    Short of completely removing the bottom attachment lever , can anyone suggest a method for adjusting the foot plate to a steeper angle?
    Alan from New Zealand

  • Alan Williscroft says:

    Hi Wesley,
    I have been paddling ans SEL for about 6 weeks, really happy with it and endorse all the positive comments made by other SEL paddlers.
    However I find the foot plate angle a bit shallow, i prefer a steeper angle.
    Short of completely removing the bottom lever attachment, has anyone come up with a method for achieving a steeper foot plate angle??
    Alan Williscroft

  • Wesley says:

    Alan, when I had all my Fenns I wanted a more relaxed foot plate so I just added some stiff, tapered foam to the angle I wanted. I have seen other guys do this also. Have you tried this?

  • Alan Williscroft says:

    Thank you, that will do the trick.

  • Nigel says:

    Hi Wesley,

    5 ft 7 and 160 pounds – would the SEL or SES work better for me? Stability in the chop is more important to me than a small difference in flat water speed.

    Thanks for your sharing your knowledge on this excellent web site.

    • Wesley says:

      Nigel, The Ses should fit you better since it is made of the smaller paddler however, the SEL is considerably more stable. The cockpit you will have to pad out alot in the SEL. If you get an advantage layup the stability will be greater than the excel layup.

  • Mark says:

    Update on the SE-L Ultra:
    I love this boat.

    Since last posting, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time in the bucket in all manner of conditions, from glassy, rolling calm, to confused, washing machine jobblies. It is comfortable and predictable and goes like stink. Handsome, also, to boot.

    IMO, the Excel incarnation of this boat offers the best of all worlds. The Ultra is feathery light, and looks fantastic, but you do feel every little subtlety of the water’s texture and the roll rate’s a little quicker due to the stiffer layup/lighter weight. I’m at about 205 now, and it fits perfectly; the bucket is actually a bit wider than my Huki S1-R’s ‘wide’ seat. While at my bodyweight, I’m probably on the cusp of the move to an SE (which I’ve also owned), I don’t find the low volume an issue. I have buried the bow in some short duration, steep swells almost up to the Stellar deck decals, but it always pops back up, and doesn’t seem to leech speed from the run.

    The boat goes upwind extremely well, with a bit more bow slap than say, a Fenn Elite. It is wonderfully controllable; the amount of secondary (somewhat of an oxymoron in an elite class ski) is reassuring. Beam chop is similarly handled with aplomb, but where this boat really shines is in the sloppy stuff. It picks up a wave nicely, and carries its speed from runner to runner as well.

    Yes, there are items on my wish list. The catch could be narrower, and the steering response quicker and more precise. Also, the cavernous footwell carries a whole lot of agua (I’m working on filling the extra space before the pedals with minicell block that will also house my drinking system.), and the draining is merely satisfactory. But that’s it; the sum of its parts may very well make this ‘THE’ boat. This one’s well…Stellar.

  • Niklas says:

    Just want to say thanks to you Wesley and all others who have made comments on the Stellar SEL.
    I’ve been paddling a wider K1 and bought a Stellar SEL Excel without trying it or any other surfski just by reading your review and stability/speed chart.
    Been paddling it 10 times now in flatwater and haven’t fallen out yet, I’m amazed by the stability of this boat.

  • Kayaker Greg says:

    The Stellar SEL Excell is much more stable than my SES Excell, I was out in 25-35knots two weeks ago and felt great, wouldn’t have been very comfortable in my SES although this was in the upper harbour and the waves were not big. I haven’t had it out at Okahu bay yet although a friend from Australia (who has a kayak and ski shop in Sydney) was visiting and he took my SEL out and I took my SES out, it was a flat day but it high lighted the difference between the two skis. He loved it, he paddle lots of different kayaks and a Epic V10 Sport. Now he wants to get a V10 (he is an Epic dealer). He was taking photos during the paddle, if I tried that in the SES I would be swimming.

    I did notice that the SEL does not seem to catch a wave as easily as the SES so I’ve made a seat to move my weight further forward to help the trim, this also gives me more clearance over the hump which was putting strain on my hip flexors much like the V10L used too. I’m a little loose in the SEL even with hip pads, but I’m probably going to leave it as it is for now although it feels a little strange when I first get back into it after paddling my snug SES.

    I’ve been able to do things like fiddle around with my Garmin and not worry about cross chop etc which I could never do in the SES.

    It turns so much quicker than my SES, it might slow down a little once I fit the weed deflector. I’ve also got some new rudder lines for the SES which should help the steering which is a bit sluggish in comparison.

    So overall pretty happy, starting to look forward to doing a few races in the months to come.

    Problem is now if I leave it at Okahu bay and use my SES in the upper harbour I’m going to wish I had my SEL because it really is helping my paddling.

  • Adam says:

    Hi Wesley

    I currently paddle a kevlar Evo II (14kg?), and am fairly confident in small chop (not huge) water. I recently tried a demo SE excel here in Hong Kong and it felt great. Probably as stable as the EVO II, but a lot faster, and caught every bump.

    I’m thinking about getting an SEL, not to replace my EVO II, but something to use in flatter conditions, where the EVO can be a bit sluggish. Can you let me know if you think the SEL would be a good fit for me, and whether you recommend the excel or ultra lay-up (I’m looking for a canoe for flat water now, as I want to keep my EVO, but something i could use in bigger water later on as i become more confident).

    I’m 5’8″ and 190lbs


    • Wesley says:

      Adam,could not agree with you more since I still have an Evo in my fleet. I would get the SEL Ultra at 22lbs. The speed is almost on par with the other HPS and in rough conditions the margin is even smaller for most mid level paddlers like myself. The fit will be fine for you.The SEL feels much different in the bucket from the SE so it should fit you better. You will have the best of both worlds with an Evo and a Stellar SEL Ultra. Get the 4 inch rudder as well and experiment with both, the 8 inch for ocean and the 4 inch for the flatter days. The Ultra is much more buoyant meaning less stable than the Excel layup but the Ultra is faster.

  • Cush says:

    Does anyone know whether the catch on the SEL is considerably wider than, say, a Fenn Elite?

    I’m amazed at how many good reviews there have been for the SEL. I have to admit I’m skeptical but will try one soon and with luck hope to become another Stellar Zealot.

  • Wesley says:

    The catch is wider than Elite. I would have to measure to be exact. The catch on SEL is much narrower then catch on SE. While we all prefer a narrow catch, you get used to whatever you paddled.

    • Cush says:

      Thanks Wesley

      I agree, I paddle a Fenn Double XT from time to time and I have no problem adjusting to the wider catch. On paper the SEL sounds like it is exactly what I’m after, although I’m yet to paddle one. I’ve sat in one, just haven’t paddled it yet. I’m fairly big (93 kg – 205lb) but tall and small waist. Not too concerned the bucket is wider than comparable skis, but will be interesting to see whether my weight is OK. It sounds from the reviews that I’m just on the heavy side

      Thanks for your extremely useful and thorough posts – great info. I’ve consistently heard good things about all the Stellar skis but you’ve certainly provided the best detail by far!

      • gkd says:

        I weigh 96 kg and the weight in the SEL isn’t a problem. How can it be if it is the same hull as the SE. The only time weight will come into play is in the surf when the nose buries and the water goes over the hull seam and I’ve paddled a lot of boats with much narrower and shorter noses than the SEL and I can’t say it’s ever been a problem.
        I like to take the Wife’s SEL out occasionally and it is a good boat to paddle. Reasonably fast, reasonably stable, reasonably easy to paddle. The ony boat that I have paddled that is about as stable and about as fast is a Vault.
        Good value, well built, a little idiosyncratic, but nice boat to paddle.

  • wesley says:

    Cush, your weight will be fine. There are many,many paddlers that paddle the SEL at your weight.

  • Joe says:

    A beginner’s commentary on the SEL:

    I just transitioned from a Sea Kayak (CD Extreme) to a surfski (Stellar SEL), because, well, I want to go faster. I was concerned about stability in making the transition, even though the only water I have easy access to is flat with a fairly slow current (1-2 mph). I had initially purchased a Current Designs Speedster (“Tipster”) based on the brand recognition and the name. After a couple hours of seat time and multiple attempts I was able to make it about 500 feet before swimming, but I did get pretty good at remounts! Thinking that maybe surfskis weren’t for me, I later had the opportunity to sit in and paddle a friend’s Epic V10 Sport. What a difference! Immediately upon getting in I felt comfortable – not so much that I could apply full power – but enough that I didn’t continuously feel like I was going to swim.

    When I was ready to buy a new surfski I did lots of research, and quickly came across Wesley’s comparisons (Wesley: thank you!). I wanted something I could grow into, something that would only be limited by me, and something specifically for my size (6′ 1″) and build (200 lbs) on flatwater. Seeing the SEL review posted here really intrigued me, and I was sure that there might be some bias due to the affiliation. I was concerned about being near the top-end of the SEL weight capacity. And I was nervous about a brand that I didn’t really know anything about. All these concerns were unfounded.

    Ordered my SEL customized through the Stellar rep (Dave Thomas), and with fabrication/shipping it arrived in just over a couple months (well within my expectations). Build quality is phenomenal, and the ski is beautiful and just looks fast (everyone that sees it stops to compliment it). At 6′ 1″ I still have about 1-2″ of track left for the foot adjustment. Bucket size is ample for my 32″ waist.

    On the water there was no initial twitch, no instability, and I was immediately able to start paddling. The secondary stability really is good, and while I had a couple “balance checks,” my first 45-minute session did not require any swim strokes or remount practice. Even though I was paddling a bit timidly and still with pretty poor form as I accustom myself to the balance, checking the GPS and video I was moving quicker than I thought, reaching over 11 mph with plenty left to give.

    I found the stability in these conditions very comparable to the V10Sport, and in the flatwater had much more buoyancy than needed. So far I love this surfski, and look forward to its second voyage this afternoon, and the many more to come.

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