In the Summer of 2016, I tried Chris Chappell’s (FastPaddler.com) Nelo 560L after a training paddle. I knew then Nelo’s second attempt of producing surfskis was headed in the right direction under the new guidance of CEO Oscar Chulupsky. The first attempt was a disappointment. Nelo has a storied history of making K’1 is by far the world leader. When I heard in 2009 Nelo was now making surfskis, we all assumed they would get it right and with world wide distribution, would grab some of the market share/future share held by Epic, Fenn, Think, and Stellar. Not the case.
The first Nelo skis hit the USA in 2009, the Nelo Ocean Ski(different size buckets), the Vintage(more stable) that looked wonderful in different colors. I owned a yellow and blue banded Vintage that is still being paddled by Josef in NYC. Chris bought a Vintage that I reviewed on this site. Mark McKenzie paddled his 1st gen Nelo for over a year or more. Below is my review I did on the Vintage.
Paddlers wanted to like the Nelo’s but knew they were unstable, very comfortable, fast and beautiful. I clock my second fastest time ever on an average day on the Sakonnet with a small rudder. I was flying! I also remember vividly a training interval on the open section of the Narrow River with Tim with the wind behind us and 6 inch wind driven wavelets. I had a tiny rudder and dropped Tim in 20 yards on our way to our a mile interval. I was flying then also. What Nelo did not know at the time but quickly found out through limited sales, was that the bucket was too for forward(the most of any ski) and the rounded hull was too rounded for all but the elite paddlers or the committed paddlers like Chris, Andrius, Mark McKenzie and myself to name a few friends who owned them. Andrius paddled his Vintage(truly vintage now) in the most recent Double Beaver Race last week and it literally wore him out. Kudos to Andrius, his balance is superb! So sales remained flat, construction was sometimes poor, and service was all but non existent in the USA. It seemed the only people paddling them was Michele Eray and Tim Jacobs both sponsored Nelo paddlers.
(Copied from Fastpaddler.com)
“In 2015 Oscar Chalupsky joined Nelo as CEO of Surfskis, bringing his long history of success in both surfski racing as well as surfski design and manufacturing. Nelo has offered Surfskis since 2009. While they were very fast with great ergonomics, the low stability allowed only truly elite paddlers to take advantage of their high end performance. Oscar’s goal is to revamp the Nelo surfski line, designing and producing boats that work with a broader level of paddlers while keeping the Nelo tradition of providing high performance, ergonomic boats. The 560 family was the first Nelo Surfski to be redesigned, followed by the new 520, 600 double, 510 and soon to be released 550. Anyone who has paddled the 560 and 520 can testify that Oscar’s work and Nelo’s renewed dedication to the surfski market is definitely on track!!”
My Nelo Paddling Experience
Thus far I have paddled the 560L, currently own a 560M, paddled the 550 twice, and had on order a 560ML. What is the running theme with all these skis as far as design? shorter length, not much rocker, low bow volume, low gunwales, narrow catch, adjustable footplate, colorful graphics, great ergonomics if you fit in the bucket, and great rudder tension. That translates to the paddler experience as best in class acceleration, power via leg drive, slalom like handling, and more subjectively, stability. I saved the best for last. The FUN Factor! These boats are fun to paddle.
My flat water experience was so overwhelming positive with my 560M that I sold my beloved #3 Mohican, the top of the charts flat water racing machine. Not because the 560M was faster, but because my paddling experience all comes together when paddling the 560M. Put another way, I feel in sync and fluid. So I am willing to give up some speed for the total package.
While I have limited experience with the 550 thus far, I am getting that same Nelo vibe. This weekend I Paddled the Nelo 550 on my home waters. After paddling 7 miles easy with Chris, Max, Leslie, and Olga, I hopped in the 550. After I adjusted the footplate(I need the extension for a perfect length, but had good enough leg drive), I broke my record for my Pier to Pier quarter mile time trial with a time of 2.04 minutes and 2.06 for second interval. Typically I range from 2.10 to 2.15 over the years in all my skis. I also had my best buoy turn ever whipping the 550 around like I was doing a slalom gate. The 550 reminded me of my 560m but way more stable and just as FUN. Meaning it handles like a go cart, picks up tiny tiny wavelets and acceleration is super. Hard to believe so much stability, speed ,comfort in an 18ft by 18 inch ski.
Just a note on the bucket size. The overall width ideally is too wide for me in this ski, however, my butt is planted in this ski and does not move around. I would have no problem padding my 550 out some. By design these buckets will be able to accommodate a wide variety of paddlers. I heard however, there could be two bucket sizes in this model to refine the fit even more.
Andrius having more fun in 550 than last weeks Double Beaver Race in his Nelo Vintage.
Andrius Facebook comments after his 8th place Blackburn finish.
“It was hot, humid, a lot of weeds but…. everyone had same conditions. It’s done. Congratulations to Craig Impens Racing for taking gold. It was my second Blackburn (did once in a double with David Vandorpe) This time took 8th place in surfski class, 16th over all (out of 300+ boats) considering it was just 5th time at the ocean this year, I can’t complain. Special thanks to Mark McKenzie from EliteOceanSport for letting me race in that new amazing Nelo 550. Stable, but very fast boat it was my first time on the ocean in this boat – love it. Nice and narrow at the catch zone, a bit wider behind the cockpit. If you still didn’t try- you should. It’s a perfect boat for New England conditions.”