1st Glance of the New 2018 Stellar 2nd Generation S18S Surfski
It has been almost five years since I reviewed the Stellar S18S 1G as you can see from my review at the end of this post. Now the S18S 2G has landed with more coming on the February 2018 container. Dave Thomas, Co-owner/designer along with Ed Hofmeister have promised me the excel layup version in the finished production model some time in the spring for a full review. I saw Dave at the East Coast Surfski Championship(L2L) in September where Stellar has been the major sponsor for years. I asked Dave if any new models were coming out in the near future and he said the S18S. So naturally I agreed to a review. So a month ago Dave stopped by to deliver the prototype demo and take a quick spin himself at McCorrie Point, home of SurfskiRacing.com. See the short clip below.
The current ski I have is the prototype without side handles and a forward hatch and weighs 35 pounds in the advantage layup. Below are the design changes by Stellar.
2018 S18S G2 Design Changes
The new redesigned Stellar 18′ surf ski (S18S) has increased its speed by increasing the size of the cutaway’s and narrowing the bow sections. The S18S rocker has been tweaked along with the trim to optimize the ski for efficient paddling and catching waves. All done without losing any stability and staying within USCA fast sea kayaks regulations. Other changes made for the S18S paddler are: DeBrito bailer for dry starts, paddles and rapid water removal; streamlined carbon handles at each end; and a large oval hatch in the stern. The comfort, under-stern/over-stern fittings, convenient cockpit handles, water bottle holder, leash attachment, and deck bungees still come standard on the Stellar S18S.
My Experience Thus Far
While I have had limited time to paddle the S18S due to work, winter New England conditions, it has left a very favorable impression on me. Dave told me it was a fast ski and indeed it is. We often don’t think of this class of ski as speedy compared to the high performance skis, however design changes are a constant these days and the Stellar design team aim was to improve the efficiency of an already very capable surfski.
The first thing you notice about the hull as I viewed it sitting in my V-Bar, is that the front half of the ski is shaped like a high performance ski; narrow, very narrow. This view is also relevant from the paddlers position. You get the visual effect of paddling a high performance ski. From the leash attachment back it widens dramatically with very low freeboard. The lowest amount of free board is at the narrow catch, helping paddlers bury their blade more quickly upon entry. This narrow bow, and low freeboard increases the speed though delivering a wetter ride while at the same time offering extremely easy remounting since you don’t have lift your chest much at all to clear the gunwales.
The cockpit is more narrow than the 1G and tapers dramatically compared to the 1G providing superb contact with you calves. Stellar has gotten better with their shaping of their cockpits to accommodate most paddlers with one bucket shape. Larger paddlers should fit due to the low side walls as well. While the cockpit is not as rounded as other skis, I found it comfortable without needing any padding in the hip or calf area which is great. The heel to seat ratio remains similar to the 1G as I remember. My preference would be to put a small pad to elevate me slightly for a personal fit.
I did not know quite what to expect of the 2g as I was setting it up. I have not paddled a “novice” ski since I paddled the Stellar S16S when it launched a year ago or so. I did paddle the Epic V8 Pro almost a year ago as well. I certainly have not paddled a ski over 28lbs in many, many years. This one is advertised in the advantage layup at 35lbs. All of the skis in my garage are in the range of 22lbs to 27lbs. There is HUGE difference in the amount of effort/power needed to move a 35lb ski from a 25lb skis. I asked Dave to provide me with 2 rudders, the 4inch and the 8inch. I have only used the 4 inch thus far. Nevertheless, I was taken aback how fast this 18ft, 35lb ski is. I time trialed it in my short pier to pier several times and on my longer 1.63 course on flat days. It is an impressive how fast it is.
If you open up the above November 15th Paddle and look at 2 of my splits for the Pier to Pier time trials, one I clocked a 2.27 time, (6.4mph) and the other 2.31(6.1mph) for the .26/.27 miles. Keep in mind, on my last comparison time trial post of the three intermediate skis, I clocked times between 2.04 and 2.10. or 7.2 to 7.4 mph. So I feel pretty confident with a 7 pound lighter excel layup, I can increase my speed to approximately 6.6 to 6.9 mph consistently on flat water which is exceptional for this class of ski.
So you can see why I am excited to get the 28lb excel and put it through the paces in conditions and downwind. All these paddles have been done with the 4 inch rudder. To date,I have not paddled it in any substantial conditions but hopefully in the next 2 weeks I will, since I will be off from work. Nevertheless, the speed was so impressive, I was thinking in this ski, I could possibly do exceptionally well in the SS20 class in next years Blackburn if I chose to race this class. I would still have a very good overall time in comparison to all my other 15 Blackburn finish times that I have done with intermediate or HPS skis.
Now just a few thoughts on stability. Obviously, it feels stable for me since I routinely paddle and race much narrower skis and this one is 35lbs. Having said that, it feels more lively than what I remember the 1G feeling like even on flat water. After all, it does have a much narrower profile from the low hump to the bow. So more to come in a few weeks when I paddle it in Jamestown in rougher waters.
The quality of the Stellar skis is superb. The bailer worked great. The finish is flawless and if you look inside the hatch, it too is smooth and finished. The hatch cover on Stellars Kayaks and S18S has always been extremely secure.
In summary, the S18S 2G has exceptional speed for this class of ski, has a note worthy narrow catch and has attractive lines as well. The fit of the cockpit is more narrow than the 1G and the 2G tapers nicely into the footwell and offers excellent contact with the ski that contributes to an excellent paddling ski. So more to come in a few weeks when I update this post with my rough water thoughts and in a few months once I get the Excel layup. Hopefully it will have a snappy blue racing stripe with a white hull and deck.