Stellar Introduces New 18S Surfski, 18R Performance Sea Kayak

18S Surfski

Review Update of 18R by Joe Zellner, Winner of the Dakota 72 Mile Race.

 June 1, 2012

Here are my thoughts on the S18R in Excel  layup.  When I first saw the boat all I could think was “Wow, what a fast, pretty boat. I always liked the color orange. Going over the boat, the gel coat was perfect, both top and bottom. The inside was also perfect with no fiberglass slivers in my hands or any limbs. Setting the foot pegs was fast and easy. Your three point hook-up is one of the best in the industry. I like the way the heel plate comes all of the way down to actually hit your heels, most just have a bar across and your heels don’t really rest on it. Your system makes driving the boat that much greater in the 18R.

 The seat is okay, since I have a small bony butt I have to run pads. I have had other people sit in the boat and they liked the seat, – hence, bigger butts. The back band does its job. I don’t use it much it just holds my back in place.

 The deck lines and bungees are set fine for my use. The hatch covers are fast and easy to get into. Since I haven’t had much experience with rubber covers, I hope they hold up over time.

 I have taken the handles off because I didn’t want them getting caught in a wave as I was surfing and I don’t need them because the boat is light and easily handled.


 My first training run was a 10:20 mile run with 6 to 10” waves and a 10 mph wind. My GPS had me at 1:33:58 for time with a 6.5 avg. and a max of 7.1. The boat didn’t seem to want to jump out of the chute fast but it did get up to cruising speed quickly.

 My second run time was 1:34:49 with avg speed of 6.5 and a max of 7.0 with the same milige, and wind conditions. It bothered me that the boat wasn’t much faster than my 18X but it is a much more comfortable boat. I have issues with the X, especially with the foot pegs.

I then started playing with weights in the front end to try to trim the boat out. On my way out to South Dakota Challenge, I was talking to John Abrahams and told him my concerns about the trim.  I got a call back from him and he told me how to move the seat forward. Most people don’t care or don’t know about trimming a boat so that you get the maximum speed out their boat. I was hesitant to change anything on the boat because I knew how the boat handled the way it was set up. I did end up changing the seat and will say that it was a real pain to do but after I did that and finally got the pegs set again the boat gained another .1 mph in speed. I haven’t done a training run with the boat trimmed this way so I can’t give you the speed yet. By changing the seat the boat seemed to come alive and the handling seemed much better.

 Now we’ll get to the best part. I entered the South Dakota Challenge, a 72 miler on the Missouri River. The race had 170 participants with about 50 to 60 boats in the competitive field. In this field it ranged from OC2’s to double K1’s ,single ski’s to racing canoes both singles and doubles. The field was all over the place.

When the gun went off, I jumped out front and lead the pack out. The current at this point was mute as we had a head wind of 20 knots. The wind never let up for the next 72 miles. For about 50 miles you had to search out the faster water. The river opens up with sand bars everywhere. The last 20 miles was more channelized and had a little faster water. In this last part there were also a lot more motor boats, most of them were big cruisers with more wake. The boat literally just ate the waves; it seemed that when it saw a wave it charged them. The performance of this boat is phenomenal. My time for this race was 8 hours and 50 minutes, with an avg. speed of 8 mph and a max of 10. I beat the old record by 1 hr. and 16 min. The next boat was an OC2 and they were about 1 hour behind me.

 You guys have done a superb job with this boat. The way the boat handles and performs is fantastic. You also thought of the little things that that most overlook.

 My only complaint at this point is the seat. As I said earlier, I have a small bony butt and have to find the right set of pads to keep me from getting sore and to stop me from moving. Moving the seat was a pain but you only need to do it once so it really isn’t a huge issue. The last thing is the cockpit rim needs to be just a little wider as some of the waves did sneak under the skirt. Maybe just add a ¼ of an inch would help. This would also help the skirt stay on better. These are very small issues that can be worked out in time.

 I can’t wait to get the boat out in some 4 to 6 foot waves and see how it handles surfing Lake Superior water.

 I will be doing the MR340 again this year and am just pumped about the boat. I already have a target on my back but with this boat they won’t even be able to catch me, Period!

 I’m not one to sugar coat anything, but all that I can say is “its one hell-of- a boat”. The S18R will be the boat to beat!

 Thanks’  Joe Zellner

Joe Zellner

553 CR. 6

Grand Marais,MN. 55604


18S Surfski, 18ft X 21 inches




18S Surfski


Initial Review.

Stellar announces the New Stellar 18′ Surf Ski (S18S). This boat is a
cross-over and promises to have broad appeal to those aspiring racers and
surf ski paddlers and those who also want the versatility and capacity of a
touring boat. The S18S is designed to be an entry level Surf Ski, yet still
a capable racer if so desired. The hull of the S18S is the same to that of
the S18R, so it is a very fast boat with great secondary stability and
compliant with the USCA Fast Sea Kayak rules. The S18S comes standard with
an under-stern rudder, but is also outfitted with steering and rudder tubes
to accept and over stern rudder for those who paddle in shallow waters.

Several weeks ago I time trialed the brilliantly designed 18R sea kayak on one of my
time trial courses, 10.8 miles. My last 5.5 miles downwind leg, I average
7.026 mph. That is screaming fast in a sea kayak and an excellent time even
compared to some of my skis on this course. I have done this GPS course 243
times mostly in skis. This was after paddling upwind for 5.5 miles. I was at
84% of Heart Rate for the entire 11 miles. This was my first time in a sea
kayak in many years so as I get it dialed in I will be even faster. This
prototype model did not have a full footplate in it. The production models
will have the a full footplate for excellent leg drive and greater speeds.

The Stellar 18′ Surf Ski (S18S) has the same hull shape so will be just as
fast or faster than the 18R sea kayak. I will be time trialing the 18S in
March. It will be available in the 4 layups that Stellar offers from
27lbs(12.5kg), 28.7lbs, 35.3lbs, and 36lbs. Now Stellar offers 6 different
surfski models(SE,SEL,SES,SR, 18S, SE2) along with the lighting fast, 18R which is the next generation performance sea kayak.

Stellar 18R Next Generation Performance Sea Kayak


18R at McCorrie Point


18R Time Trial on Sakonnet River





  • Scott L says:

    Dave and Ed are really going to put a crimp into the V8 sales quotas with this baby!!

    Uh-oh! I feel my hand reaching for the VISA card!!

  • Mark smith says:

    Hey guys,

    Great looking boats. They will be big sellers! Way to go Stellar.

  • Mark says:

    Wait…it has hatches? Curious if there are bulkheads for the rear one. I could never figure out why more manufacturers don’t just include a hatch for minimal storage of keys, wallet, party dress, etc. My Huki has a 6″ that’s perfect for everything from the aforementioned to placement of a drinking system. Looks like the front would serve that purpose well. Now you’ve a stable ski that satisfies all that AND enables something more than a few hour outing? Pretty darn good thinking…

  • jhstevens3 says:

    How does the 18S surfski compare in speed & stability to the SR?
    Is the Epic V8 that much more stable than the SR that Stellar needed to fill that gap to get more beginners into their boats?

  • Wesley says:

    Not paddled 18S yet since the 1st one arrives in a few weeks. The SR is the most stable INTERMEDIATE skis of the V10 sport, Evo, S1R, Swordfish, etc. Albeit, the SR is the most stable of this class, so for some advanced sea kayakers they can skip the Novice class and go to the intermediate class and tease out within this class the best boat for them based on fit, goals of paddling, stability, speed, quality, layup options, accessibility to skis, price, customer service. The V8 is much, much, much slower and more stable than the SR. The SR surfs and catches bumps exceeding well by design.

    The V8,18S are a true NOVICE skis designed so novice paddlers will not be turned off if they paddled the intermediate skis for the first few times. The 18S will be more stable than the SR based on its dimensions. The hull design of the 18R which I have time trialed several times, which is the same hull as 18S, leads me to believe it will exceed the speed of the 18R with guys like me who like the ergonomics of the superior paddling position of skis, who will be able get every ounce of power in every stroke in any conditions. The 18S will not be faster than the SR but will be more stable and offer the hatches for endurances races, long outings, etc. Both 18S and SR are extremely easy to remount so some will find them safer than the 18R sea kayak since they will not have to fuss with rolling, paddle float reentry, etc.

    All manufacturers are trying to expanded the market. There has been an explosion in the market over the last few years with Stellar leading the way designing boats with significantly more stability while maintaining speeds and superior quality. It is easy to build stable boats, the trick is to design them with speed and stability and quality. Stellar in just 3 short years had done this. Unlike some manufacturers that take years to come out with a new rudder for an existing boat, or new model, Stellar is extremely responsive to the market and are able to respond due to its expert design team, and production facilities.

    Now you have Novice, Intermediate, and High Performance Categories. There are many more sea kayakers than surf skiers. Now with the 18S,V8, Eze existing sea kayakers, and people new to paddling can EASILY transition to surf skis or just start their paddling careers on one of these boats and totally skip the sea kayaks. Then they can continue the search for the right combination of stability and speed for their skill level at a given point of time as they progress or they can stay put with their current level of skill and boat based on all the factors I mentioned above: fit, goals of paddling, age, etc.

  • Matt says:

    Will the sea kayak fall into the SK or FSK class?

  • Wesley says:

    FSK. It is the fastest performance sea kayak on the market excluding the Westside EFT which is in the unlimited class.

  • Doug says:

    Will the new 18S Surfski and 18R Performance Sea Kayak fit in the USCA sea kayak class? Will it be competitive and similar to the Epic 18X?

  • Dave says:

    I sat in an 18R kayak on land to test its seating position, and the back deck is much too high for the basic layback roll. You will need to be able to do a C to C or front finishing roll to be safe in this boat in conditions.

  • Scott L says:

    This kayak can still be rolled with a layback, Dave – as most folks never really lay down on the back deck anyway. I found if I just raised my tush a couple inches it worked fine – but naturally use more of a “screw roll” than a C-to-C or Layback now. Very easy boat to roll.

    I found this boat to have less stability though than many others with the same specs – and when I looked closer it seems that the seat sits up above the keel more than other kayaks. Is this a “design enhancement” rather than a design flaw to get your seat above your seat? Just curious..

  • Scott L says:

    sorry – I meant “seat above your feet”..

  • Scott L says:

    Doug had a great question above for the classification of both the S-18R and S-18S boats – but not sure he is asking about “Sound Rowers” classifications or not. I am hopeful these boats won’t get grouped into the HPK class, but would get into the FSK class.

    Can anyone answer this question – especially because Stellar stated that these boats have a “narrower and longer waterline” than the S-18?


    • Webmaster says:

      Hi Scott,
      I have a S18S on order, should arrive in the next couple of weeks and will have one of the CARC (Cape Ann Rowing Club) members check it with the jig we use for the Blackburn Challenge to see which class it is in. Will definitely post the results. I think its going to be real close if HPK or FSK… Also updating the CARC web page to better explain how this is done, thanks to fellow paddler Kirk Olsen


  • Doug says:

    How about the fit on the 18S Surfski and 18R Performance Sea Kayak? I am 205 lbs and wondered about the fit in the hips. I have a think Evo and the bucket in snug or narrow.

  • Wesley says:

    Bucket is much larger than your Evo. You will have no problem with it being too snug. I found it very comfortable with no padding without being way too big for me. It is a nicely designed seat. At a demo day in May I put 25 paddlers in it of all sizes and not a one complained about the seating. Hump is low also like on all Stellars. I have one coming in next week also. The 18R? Hard for me to say. The seat is more narrow in the 18R. I will call one of the dealers to get their opinion since they have demo and have put different size paddlers in it and I will update this comment.

  • Webmaster says:

    Hi Doug,
    I’m 210lbs, 35.5″ inseam, wide hips and fit the S18S fine. I can not fit in the Evo, Legend and pretty much all HP skiis due to hip pinch, but no problem in the S18S I sat in for 20 mins last month. We have one coming next week for our family so will definitively have some more paddling experience in it (if I can get it away from my wife and kids…) If you have any other questions, please let me know and I’ll get back to you after I have a chance to paddle it.

    • Jan Gunnar Moe says:

      Chris: You say you fit in S18S. Do your hips fit in Stellar SR?

      I have wide hips, there is pinching at hip bones in HP Stellar skis, the seats are wide enough on top, but gets too narrow towards the bottom. I do fit in the seat of first generation Epic V10 Sport, but want a more stable ski have not tried seat of new model. I just wonder: Will my wide hips fit in Stellar SR?

      Digession, if Stellar people read this:
      By the way, I find the cockpit of Stellar 18S “more beautiful” than the one of Stellar SR, would like Stellar to redesign the one of SR to look more like the one of 18S.

      Jan Gunnar

      • Webmaster says:

        Hi Jan,
        Yes, I can fit in the SR…but need a very thin pad if I am wearing anything but thin shorts. I can paddle the SR for hours in just compression shorts with no pad, but if I go to thin neoprene or drysuit, I just add a small pad, about .75 cm and I am just fine. I do like my fit a bit loose so I can easily rotate like in my ICF boats. So I would say with my hips, a .75cm pad in the SR is the same as the S18S with no pad…but that is my hips 🙂

        I did own a first gen V10 Sport 4 years ago, and fit my fine, but did have to pad out the sides. I did recently paddle a new V10 Sport and fit fine in the seat with no seat pad. I would say you definitely should try the SR and V10Sport in similar conditions if you can. Both are good boats, but you may find the SR has a bit more primary stability…depends on what boat you are coming from. I found both boats seemed similar in paddling up wind, but did find the SR was noticeably faster paddling down wind for me (but not quite apples to apples since my SR is 10 lbs lighter than the Sport I tried) Overall the SR seems to be more stable to me, but you really need to decide that for yourself. So much depends on how you feel in the boat. I would say the V10 Sport seat was more comfortable with out any pad, but when I use my thin gel pad they seem very similar. I also like the SR footplate better because you can adjust in smaller increments then once you lock down the side and bottom rails the footplate is rock solid…no flex or squeak.

        Good luck and please let me know if anything else I can try to answer. Hopefully you can get a chance to try both!!


        • Jan Gunnar Moe says:


          Thanks a lot for your informative answer.

          Reality is: You do strengthen my “pre belief” that “the Stellar for me” will be the 18S, if I am to buy one. I understand seat of S18 is a bit wider than that of SR. Also:

          I already do own the first generation Epic 10S I was talking about, but it is a bit too unstable for my albilities. And; The wind generated waves where I paddle often are a bit short, so the shorter S18 may in fact provide “some fun advantages” even if slower than the SR. Speed on flat water and upwind is not important for me. Fun downwind is.

          Choosing Excel rather than Advantage layup may, I think, help acceleration and ability to catch some runners. Next summer, may be 🙂

          Jan Gunnar

  • Steven Horney says:

    Doug – the 18S and 18R will fit the USCA Sea Kayak rules (I’m on the kayak committee). From the 2012 USCA Competition Rules:

    Sea Kayak: any single kayak, sit-on-top or surf ski with a maximum overall length of 18’ and a 4” waterline beam of at least 8.5% of length, 40 pound minimum weight, bulkheads plus hatches fore and aft with the exception of pre-year 2000 models, in which case they may have airbags in lieu of hatches and bulkheads. As of 1/15/11, surf skis do not required hatches or bulkheads.*

    I tested a demo 18R we have in stock yesterday. It’s been awhile since I paddled a sea kayak, so it felt like a barge compared to the SE I normally paddle, but one of our racers currently paddling a Think Fit really liked the boat and thought it felt good and fast. He’s planning to pick up an 18S when they become more available. This particular 18R has the Sea Line peg/pedal system which works well for touring, but not as well as a foot plate for perfomance. Nevertheless, I found the hull speed to be fast for this type of boat. The seat didn’t fit me well and my rear hurt after a couple of hours, but a Bumfortable seat would cure that!

  • Ron says:

    I just picked up a S18R excel this past weekend and am very pleased. I’m new to paddling but spent lots of hours (about 200 since the end of April) in an Epic V10L ski. I’m training for an Everglades Challenge and that is why I purchased the Stellar. Quality is excellant and it came in under spec at 34.4 lbs. I havent done any time trials yet but I like the combination of stability and speed. Mine has the footbrace/pedal ski style combo and it’s great.

  • Bob says:

    trying to research everything I can before purchasing a boat + have a question about the 18S and what I read above. In Steve’s post it lists “40lb minimum weight” for the sea kayak class; but none of the layups for the 18S are that heavy. will it get bumped up a class due to its’ lighter weight?

    • Wesley says:

      Bob,not sure on the weights and the classification. For you,I would get the lightest I could afford unless you are very hard on boats.

      • Bob says:

        Thanks Wes. I’d like to try your 18S. Maybe this weekend or next. being honest, i won’t have the $’s till March or April; but have really gotten back the “DESIRE” to paddle that I had before. There are several aspects of the 18S that I like, and I think are right for me, over other skis of this ilk. definetily would be getting the over stern rudder for fresh water, with the under stern for the ocean + bay. I’m not hard on boats at all, but then again I want them to stay perfect for a long time too. (didn’t like it when I tightened down the straps on my OC1 and later saw the impression of the strap in the boat.) I think the one you showed me, would be the layup i’d want to get. anyway thanks again + I hope to see you out there this SAt.

  • Bob says:

    Wesley, I’d like to try the 18S this weekend, if it’s possible. Sat or Sun whichever is best for you. let me know. I’ll keep Tim in the loop so maybe all three of us will go together.

Comments are closed.