2017 Think Ion 3G Elite Surfski Review

I have a long history with Think surfskis dating back to 2007 when I purchased my first Evo 1G. Since then I have owned numerous Thinks in all layups including Evo 1G/2G’s, Uno 1G/2G, Legends, Uno Max 2G, Ion 2g/3g, Big Eze. There has been a Think in my garage with few exceptions since Think originated in 2007.

Daryl and I go back to 2007. This taken at 2015 Canadian Surfski Champs.

My Carbon Evo 1 and my Refurbished Evo 1.

Think Skis, Carbon Legend, Kevlar Legend, Original Uno

Why? The fit of the buckets and performance. Since day one, I have always enjoyed the fit, comfort and ergonomics of Think skis. I was very excited a few years ago when the Ion came out. The bucket was the same as the Evo 2 so I relished the fit, however, the Ion 1G/2G had too much rocker contributing in part to the excessive rolling, therefore limiting its use for most paddlers including myself.  Then the Ion 3G!

Same name but the Ion 3G is a totally different ski than the previous generations. Here is how Think describes it from their website:

2017 Think Ion is back as the high performance all-star! With a new rocker profile, new seat and footwell, and new low profile deck, the ion is tuned to offer great speed, handling, and efficiency.Whether in a howling downwind or on the mirror flats, the Ion is a true all-conditions advanced paddler’s ski. One of the very important aspects retained in this forward design is the increased stability compared to an elite ski. This increase in stability allows the paddler to apply full power, even when conditions get testing. The updated seat and footwell accommodate a greater range of athlete sizes, both tall and small. The seat hump is lower improving leg drive and rotation. The lower deck lines offer less windage and reduced weight. A DeBrito bailer takes care of any water in the footwell.” Length: 21′ 1″ (642 cm), Width: 17.5″ (44.5 cm). 

Warming up at 2017 Sharkbite. 1st time to paddle it and race it.

I agree. I have been paddling my Ion since May 13, 2017, here in my waters on Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet. Before this, I raced it at the Sharkbite Challenge in Dunedin, Florida in April after 30 minutes of warmup. For years the Think lineup has had a gap between the Advanced skis Uno 1G/2017 Uno 2G and Uno Max’s. Think attempted to fill that gap a few years ago with the Legend; a hard chine, hard tracking ski. Not as fast the Uno 1G but much faster than the Evo. Problem solved, not quite. While I loved the Legend as I have said many times on this site, I was the outlier. Most paddlers did not like the hard chine stability characteristics. It was a unique feel. I raced my Legends hard with success including 2009 time of 2:52:34 in Blackburn Challenge, 19.40 miles. Then in 2015 the first generation Ion came out, then a slight tweak for the 2nd generation. The Ion was again supposed to fill the gap between the Evo 2 and the Uno Max. Realizing the Ion had too much rocker, Think quickly redesigned it in late 2016 to its current version.  Mission accomplished this time.

Richard Germain in his new Ion 3G. Photo Chantale.

 

 

Think Ion G3 with Wesley Echols, SurfskiRacing.com from Wesley Echols on Vimeo.

Above video of interval work (1.65 miles) edited to get Tim Hacket(Evo 3G) in the frame from House on Rocks to Newport Bridge with Tim Dwyer(V10L).

2017 Think Ion 3G Surfski Walk Around with Wesley Echols from Wesley Echols on Vimeo.

 

So the Ion 3G is a totally new ski from the previous versions retaining only the name. All that rocker is gone and it was slimmed down too, with far less volume in the fore deck. The bow is a V shaped until it begins to fill out gradually. It retains some fullness all the way to the thick stern. It has a nice narrow catch with a fantastic bucket. More on the bucket later. With a 17.5 inch beam, it is an “advanced ski”. So expect to put your time in the bucket to gain confidence in it. Similar skis in width are the Think Uno 2G, Uno Max 3G at 17 inches, Fenn Elite S 17 inches, Stellar  SEL 17.1 inches, Nelo 560L/ML 17.5 inches and the Epic V10 at 17.7 inches. Having reviewed and/or paddled all these skis, they all feel quite different in terms of stability, speed, handling characteristics, and buckets.

When I first paddled the Ion 3G during warmups for the Sharkbite, I did not know what to expect. Within 2 minutes, I knew I loved the bucket with a lower hump. Any advanced ski takes some getting used to and the Ion was no different. My first 10 minutes, I thought I needed more stability but by the time the race began, I felt pretty confident for an 8 mile race in small Sharkbite conditions. As a precautionary measure, I did however, line up on the outside of most of the skis to avoid too much wash from all the skis. My race went well regardless of being in a new boat and being early in the season for a New England paddler.

Insight:

-With all advance skis, paddlers at my level and below need to be paddling them in ocean conditions at least twice per week to retain your stability. Many paddlers upgrading from intermediate skis fail to realize this learning curve.

-On the other hand, an advanced paddler in an intermediate ski in ocean conditions can get by easily get by paddling once per week.

-If you are using  your advance ski for flat water paddling, a minimum of once per week is required to maintain stability. These are general guidelines of course.

Ion 3G, Evo 3G, Uno 2G

Speed

With most of my reviews, I like to have raced the reviewed ski at least once, do some interval training with my training partners, paddle a ski in varying New England conditions, and time trial it a few times on my courses. So I have done all of this. The Ion 3G is a fast ski as I experienced in the Sharkbite averaging a race pace similar to my other races. I have done some 1.65 mile intervals with my training partner in Narragansett Bay, time trialed it on one of my Sakonnet 3.2 mile courses with a superb time averaging 7.7 mph and another 1 mile time trial averaging 7.7 mph.

I had one of my most fun paddles on the Sakonnet over Memorial Day weekend in 3 foot downwind seas neck and neck with Chris in his Nelo 560. Max, Olga, and Leslie Chappell joined us too. The following day Chris Laughlin in his Ion 3G and Chris Chappell(Nelo 560) and myself did the Sakonnet Race course (12 miles) at a good pace in mixed conditions unlike the day before which were picture perfect downwind.  At one point during the last mile, sprinting with Chris C, I hit 8.6 mph which is very difficult for me to do in any ski.  During one mile I also clocked another 7.7 mph chasing small waves with Chris. Often times experienced paddlers can get an initial feel for speed in various skis. The Ion 3G and even my Uno 2G, you need to have your GPS since you are are going faster than what you think you are. For perspective, anytime I average above 7.5 mphs on my Sakonnet time trials, that puts a ski clearly in the upper speed quadrant of advanced skis. One of the benefits of the cockpit ergonomics I am enjoying is increased leg drive the Ion 3G allows me so I am faster and more efficient.

In car terms, The Ion 3G reminds me of my BMW X1 Idrive 35i with the M sport package. Not as quick of the line as some other skis, but once up to speed in a several strokes, the Ion 3G settles right in, then easily carries that pace maintaining its excellent speed.  So the Ion 3G has speed compared to most advanced skis and will not disappoint. I feel confident racing it in waves or flat water making it a true all around ski just as advertised!

Stability

Time in the bucket solves many things, namely stability. This is my third week in the Ion 3G and each time I gain more confidence in it as expected. You learn the “feel”of it and how it responds to varying conditions, how much rudder input is needed, how to trust the secondary stability. We all know stability is relative to each paddler and I have written many articles on this. I thought it would take me more time in the Ion 3G to get used its stability but that has not been the case. I have paddled it in flat water, 3ft downwind wind driven seas, mixed sloppy refractory, swell over laid with wind drive waves on the Ride the Bull course, and small refractory conditions from Black point to third beach. Most advanced paddlers should have a similar learning curve. What is striking about the Ion 3G is that it is a smooth ride. It is like being in a Lexus, comfortable, reassuring, absorbing all the bumps of the road with ease. Once you get use to the predictable roll(no comparison to the previous generation Ions),the Ion 3G it comes into its on. This is extremely noticable going downwind. Just relax and enjoy the non jarring ride while catching one wave to the next.  What I have found is that I am tap bracing less in the Ion 3g compared to some of my other skis. Make no mistake though, it is an advanced ski, but the “feel” is one of smoothness.

Bucket

Contributing to the stability of the Ion 3G is that you feel comfortable in the bucket with excellent contact points. What is uniquely different about the Think skis is they have flared out the footwell at the calf area so you have superb contact with the ski while keeping your feet in place on the foot plate. Other skis may have a narrow footwell but their designs are different as it tapers to the footwell. The Think design makes you more stable and allows for better leg drive. I padded out my SES 1G for years in this very same fashion. The other area of the bucket that is uniquely Think too, is the area underneath your thighs. This area offers subtle support unlike other skis. Think of the adjustment in your car seat, you can raise or lower the angle of the seat pan to your liking. The newer Think models including the Ion 3G had less of this support compared to the previous generations but it is still there and is what I have always liked about their buckets. Think had to lower this thigh support because they lowered the hump trying to maximize leg drive for all paddlers. They did a nice job with this.  Don’t get the wrong impression though, other skis are extremely comfortable too, like the Epics and new Nelo’s and the Vadja Hawx comes to mind. These brands just went about their design bucket differently. The Ion 3G has a nice appropriately narrow catch without compromising stability.

Features

-Like the unique buckets, the micro footplate adjustment is super. No other ski has this. So you can get you leg position perfect. I mean perfect!

Insight: 

In all skis but particular advance skis since they are less stable, take your time to play with different leg length positions. One click can be the difference between being unstable/stable or having great leg drive but feeling too cramped leading to tight hip flexors in the long races.  I have seen many paddlers with their knees too low for too high for ocean paddling. Wearing different shoes can throw off this too. This is a big deal in advanced skis.

-Another good feature is the simple yet, effective barrel adjuster to adjust the toe pedal angle. When you first get your Think ski you may have to loosen the knot inside the adjuster, then retie it off, if you like a more relaxed toe pedal angle. But once you do this, you can easily adjust the angle by turning the barrel adjuster.

-I also like secure feeling of the rudder yoke attachment to the rudder shaft. Think uses a set screw(allen wrench needed) and pin system. While it takes more time to exchange rudders, you know your rudder is secure. Think also uses a plastic yoke now to replace the old metal ones. The rudder cap is tethered to the boat so less likely to loose it.

-Integrated into the ski is a tiny weed guard that Think has used for years. While it is a great idea and works for some parts of the “weedless’ world, it is too small to shred the clingy New England eel grass and weeds. So I have routinely saw off the weed guard and attached my longer Stellar weed guard. My other modification is  to replace the dual foot strap with a single foot strap. Think has always had a built in leash attachment and an inspection port with valve release in the bow.

-Think uses a rudder line that is superior to most other manufactures. It does not stretch or fray and is easy to tie off and allows for smooth rudder line movement.

-Debrito Bailers is now new on the Thinks skis. Mine have worked fine on both my Uno 2G and Ion 3G. They do take getting use to taking your foot off the pedal to kick the lever back and a little further back to close the bailer. So practice makes perfect particularly if racing not to miss a stroke. While most brands have gone to bailers, I still prefer venturis. The Think boats drained extremely well with the previous venturis. I find myself sometimes overly focused on if there is water in the footwell or not, open or close the bailer. Uh! I had the same problem with my Mohican, and V14, close or open. I do like the slurping sound when open though, its is reassuring in some way. Water drains exceptionally quick when open, seconds.

-Steering on the Think boats is smooth with a tension on the pedals that I really enjoy. It is like the weighting on the steering wheels of cars. Some cars have the numb feeling while others namely sports cars, increase the weightiness with speed to better the driver/car handling experience.  The Think rudders do not flop when not under pressure. This tension provides a nice responsiveness to turning with no sudden jerks or over steering. The Ion 3G is very responsive and you can put it any where on a wave with ease or make a tight buoy turn due this steering and boat design.

Summary

I am throughly enjoying my Ion 3G. So I now have two Thinks back in my garage, Ion 3G and Uno 2G.  The Ion 3G really shines in downwind conditions where it is smooth, maneuverable and carries its excellent speed from wave to wave. It is perfectly at home in flat water, small bay conditions or ocean that makes it a true all around ski. Like any advanced ski, it will take time in the bucket to adjust to it, but for many, they will realize the pay off. The cockpit ergonomics I have always liked and allows me better leg drive than some of my other skis. So when thinking about others skis in this range, the Ion 3G should be on your demo list for sure. Remember Smooth is the optimal word when thinking about the Ion 3G. Thanks to Elite Ocean Sports, Mark and Mark for all their help in getting me the skis.

See all my Surfski Reviews!

Think Ion 1G Review 2014

Wesley at finish of Nahant Race 2014 in Think Ion 1G. Big water that Day!

6 Comments

  • Bill Cirino says:

    It looks like the seat on the new Ion is a lot farther forward than the others.. is this true or just a trick of the camera?

  • Rob says:

    Thorough review, well done! One thing that I’m not clear on is the relative stability between the Evo II and the Ion 3G. In the text you say that it’s stable but you also go to some length about getting used to it!

    Presumably it’s a little less stable than the Evo II, but not as tippy as the Uno Max but which end of the scale does it tend towards?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks Rob.The stability leans more toward Uno Max’s than Evo’s. I wanted to make sure in my comments, that I did not over state the stability hence my comments about time in bucket. It feels exceptionally smooth and very planted in consistent regular downwind. In mixed refractory stuff, is where I find i need more bucket time. The bucket is forward so contributes to the smooth downwind effect and speed, similar the SES 2G where we moved the bucket forward some to achieve this. The trade off is less stability in the mix/confused waves. The Ion reminds me of the Fenn (advanced skis) with more stability, and less deep bucket then Fenns, with the Ion 3G having less initial acceleration on to wave compared to the Fenns, but once on wave carries it speed extremely well and has pinpoint steering and much fun in downwind.

  • david says:

    Can you comment on its upwind characteristics? (It is a ski that hops over waves giving a bucking bronco effect, cuts through them more smoothly, etc.?)

    Thanks!

    • No I have not noticed this. It has pretty neutral bow the does not bury excessively in downwind and is neutral into the waves. The original Huki S1X was famous for this and the V12 1G had this problem if you were a medium size paddler.

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