Surfski Reviews – January 2014

by Wesley Echols

Blackburn 2011, my best time ever, 2:49:55

Blackburn 2011, my best time ever, 2:49:55

This is a comparison chart based on 12 years of paddling surf skis with GPS recorded time trials with all the 25 skis listed on the chart over the same four courses since 2002 as explained below. I added 10 new skis to the comparison chart since last time I updated it. Before I started paddling surf skis in 2002, I was an advanced sea kayaker certified by the ACA and BCU. In 2002 I began paddling surf skis (XT), and then in the summer of 2002 I bought my Huki S1X and my quest for the perfect ski began. My search like most of yours, is a dynamic search. Paddling and racing surf skis in ocean conditions requires competency in five key areas: balancing skills, paddling technique, cardio, strength, and seamanship along with a proper fitting bucket so you can put all this together.

With more bucket time, these areas improve often at different rates.  So trying to match the most appropriate ski  for these skill areas has been a fun pursuit.  While my skill set has evolved over time, so have the surf skis over the years. The choice of surf skis today is vastly different from 2002. Now there is a surf ski that matches your skill set no matter where you are on the learning curve. This chart helps you with that. When I started out, there was no place for good information on surf skis and certainly no one had compared this many skis and ranked them for everyone to see. This site since 2009, has helped many surf ski paddlers make a more informed decision about their purchase of a surf ski(s) or at the minimum stimulated questions to be asking yourself when purchasing a ski.

As a 54 year old, 5ft 9in, 178, who paddles 3-5 days a week all year around, I have owned,paddled,raced all the skis listed on the surf ski review chart for at least two months and as long as four years with the exception of the Uno Max Ultimate that I purchased a few weeks ago at the time of this posting. Like most of you reading the chart, I paid fair market value for all my skis except for my Stellars that I bought at cost while I worked for them from 2009 to August of 2013. I have logged all my training paddles and races and have extensive data over the same measured courses (GPS). I paddle primarily on the Sakonnet River, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Sound and the majority of the races in New England. My four main measured time trial courses are my 3.2 mile course, 6.4 mile course, 11.6 mile course (Sakonnet River Race), and 6 mile course, which are all on different segments of the Sakonett River with some over lap.

Click to download the Sakonnet River Race Google Earth Course

Sakonnet River. This is also the race course of the Sakonnet River Race. If you head North, that is my 6 mile flatter time trial course.

Where I live is a perfect place not only to paddle surf skis, but to review skis since I have access to many different types of water from flat, to bay, to ocean, all within minutes of my house.  The Sakonnet River is a misnomer. It really is a 2-3 mile wide channel stretching 11 miles while getting wider and wider as it opens into Rhode Island Sound. On the other end, it narrows to one mile across as it connects to Mount Hope Bay.  Different sections of the Sakonnet offer varying conditions from flat to refractory waves, to some excellent 1-3 ft nicely formed waves.  Since 2003 I have also raced and paddled with the same group of New England racers and training partners and can chart my race times compared to them in the various skis. This offers another  excellent point of reference beside the GPS time trial data. Another benefit that I have over some paddlers is that I am sensitive to the nuances of skis and think about them often.  Since I have anywhere from 6-10 skis in my garage at any point, I go back and forth between on a regular basis depending on the conditions, training partners, and my energy level. I also make a point to try other skis at races that I have not tried or owned.  With so many connections across the United States and the world, I often ask competent paddlers their opinion of the many skis we have in common.

Like any review or comparison, your experience may be different for a myriad of reasons: brand loyalty, skill level, improper fit, unavailable ocean conditions, limited point of reference, weight of your ski, your body weight, different rudders, improper technique, improper paddling position, limited time in a particular ski, just to name a few.  We all have biases, and I am no different, but I have tried to minimize mine or at least disclosed them in reviewing the skis over the years.

So at this point in my paddling career, I am fairly competent in the 5 key areas, balance, paddling technique, cardio, strength, and seamanship and I certainly know what a  proper fitting bucket is. So for some years now, optimizing the boat(s) for my skill level with a particular race, has been a top priority for me. In other articles I have laid out the 12 or 13 questions you need to ask yourself when buying a ski. At the top of the list is “What is your Goal?” My goal is performing well in the races.  If you look at any of the race standings, my group of racers, is only separated by two minutes or less at any give race.  So boat choice makes a difference in the race standings.  Once you have maximized all the key areas of surf ski paddling or at least progressed as much as you can based on your particular circumstances, then boat choice makes a difference.

Observations on the Chart.

I chose to rate the skis 1-6 in the different categories vice 1-10 because using 1-10 scale would magnify the differences between the boats too greatly. Where you see 1G or 2G next to some skis, that means 1st Generation or 2nd Generation of that model of ski. We sorted the data in the table based on Overall Speed and added another category Cockpit Ergonomics. 

There is one notable outlier on the chart and that is the Ted Van Dusen, Mohican. The Mohican is a nuanced ski for pure flat water paddling.  If the chop or waves are over 8 inches than you are better off paddling a light weight high performance ski with a small rudder. While the Mohican is rated the same 6.2 as the V14 in flatwater, the Mohican is not designed the ocean so that brings its overall score down. The speed of the Mohican is comparable to the V14 with much,much greater initial stability but has very limited secondary stability. I included it on the chart since many paddlers asked me to include it. It remains my favorite ski for pure flat water.

Some skis are clearly more stable, faster, and comfortable than others. Some perform better in downwind conditions while others perform better in the flats. Having said that, over the past four years, surf skis have improved greatly in virtually in every facet from design, to build quality, to comfort, to better combinations of speed and stability.  In viewing the chart keep in mind each paddler may place a different emphasis or weighting on each of the categories. If your goal is racing, then you obviously are looking for more speed. If you paddle primarily in ocean conditions than you may prefer a more stable ski so an emphasis is on stability vice speed. If you paddled in the San Francisco you may put an emphasis on steering and stability since the water is faster and bigger than here on the East Coast. These are just a few examples.

Also pay attention to the weights of the skis. The lighter the ski, the faster it is, end of story; provided you have to balance skills to paddle a lighter ski. Just as a point of reference, the difference between a ski that is rated as a 6 for overall speed and one that is rated a 5.8 is very significant, probably around 5-8 seconds per mile. So in a six mile race that could be as much as 48 seconds, the difference between first place and a fourth place finish in my races.  We are all products of the water we train in. While in New England we don’t have the swift, bigger water that they have in San Francisco, but we have a lot of chop, wind driven, messy stuff and many variations ranging from flat to 4 foot seas.  My point as it relates to reviewing skis, is that most boats but not all, have the similar handling characteristics rather in 2ft seas or 4ft seas. These differences often become magnified as the conditions get bigger. For example is a particular model of ski is slow to turn in 2ft seas, then in 4ft seas it will be even slower. This a general rule of thumb. A good example of this for me was the V10L. It handled nicely in flat to 2ft regular seas but once the conditions became bigger and more irregular than it became noticably unpredictable and less stable.

There is no easy perfect way to compare skis with so many variables. That obviously has not stopped me. I am not searching for perfection, just on water, real experience, in the conditions that are available to me with my GPS, Heart Rate monitor, time trial data, training partners, race partners, races, mix conditions, and a sensitivity for the performance of skis. I have been in pharmaceutical sales for over 20 years so comparing pharmaceuticals by weighing the risk/benefits comes easy and reviewing skis is similar for me. I am also fortunate that I can fit in virtually every ski comfortably so I am not restricted by bucket size as some paddlers are.

Show Me The Data: The numbers are from July 2002 to  December 2013.

I have logged the below stats for my 4 main time trial courses, hours rounded off:

  • 3.2 mile course, 174 times accumulating 408 miles in 61 hours
  • 6 mile course, 154 times accumulating 871 miles in 140 hours
  • 6.4 mile course, 291 times accumulating 1677 miles in 275 hours
  • 11.6 mile course, 105 times accumulating 996 miles in 165 hours

 

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Current Surfski Reviews:

67 Comments

  • Dom says:

    Great work Wesley – thanks for sharing this data.

    Would it be correct to interpret results for the SE as being (almost the) same as for the SEL?
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they share the exact hull design below the seam?

    Dom

    • Wesley says:

      Yes, you are correct, hull shape below seam is the same. So as for as speed/stability the SE is very similiar to the SEL. The main difference is the deck volume is larger in SE and has 1 inch wider catch than the slimmed downed SEL.

  • Ken Katz says:

    Wesley,

    Thanks for updating your charts. Are you planning an evaluation of the Fenn Swordfish anytime soon?

    Cheers

    Ken

    • Bob Heacox says:

      How about evaluating a Van Dusen Mohician too?

      • wesley says:

        Bob, Chris and I will be reviewing the Mohican. I have owned 3, Chris has 2 and has paddled his extensively over the past 2.5 years in races, training, against K1’s, etc. So we should have it up in the next month.

  • Wesley says:

    I don’t know about the time frame of adding it to the chart, but I am aware of 1 Swordfish coming to our NY/CT area so I hope to get a chance to put a few miles and hopefully more to add it to the chart. Don’t expect this to happen soon though due to logistics of where the boat is located.

  • paul says:

    Thanks for the chart update trying SEL out this weekend if all goes well with the organisation.
    How about a Nelo Large? Ever tried one of those? Comparo? Obviously the Name is a draw card, Afford one, not likely. Keep dreams going though.
    Paul.

    • wesley says:

      I tried the 2011 Nelos last year. comfortable buckets but you sit up very high compared to other skis so stability will be an issue for all but the advance paddler in true ocean conditions. They have nothing over the the other skis on the market. However, improvements have been made on the 2012 versions to correct this, but I have not demo one of these.

  • Simon Fisher says:

    Thanks for updating the chart Wesley. I have my sights set on a SEL Excel, though an agent/coach wants me to try an Evo II and Carbonology Vault before I commit. He says their length is more suited to the wave length where I paddle.
    I am curious about where a glass Legend would sit on the chart because I see you have the Kevlar and Carbon Legend as having the same stability, whereas for other ski’s the construction affects both stability and speed.

    Simon

    • wesley says:

      The 33lb legend significantly slower than the 27lb kevlar, 25lb carbon. 30/31lbs skis are at the threshold for performance as it relates to SPEED. In my opinion once skis are over this 30/31lb than the speed suffers significantly in comparison to lighter weight skis. Let me know once you paddle the Vault, and Evo 2 what you think. Both these are intermediate skis in speed/performance while the SEL is a high performance ski with the stability of intermediate skis.

  • Tony says:

    Your chart is really helpful
    Absolutely new to ski paddling so jumped into an Epic V8 because I am a big fella and feeling the need to change skis after only a couple of weeks. Where would the V8 sit on your speed and stability axis lines compared to the Sellar SR
    Ay info much appreciated

    • Kocho says:

      Tony, do take these charts with a grain of salt. They depend on the paddler’s prospective a lot. For a larger and heavier paddler many of these skis stack-up differently than they do for Wesley. For instance, I know several people that find the Performance V10 Sport more stable than the Evo II ski (we are all average to large). I’ve read that smaller paddlers find the V10 Sport considerably less stable than heavier folks do.

      So try for yourself. Speed is another misconseption – while there is definitely a good deal of it in the ski, the paddler matters a lot more. I’ve been competing against someone locally a couple of times and we both paddle the same layup V10 Sport (Performance). Both our skis are under 30lb (below the manufacturer’s rating by a few lb). He beats me and many paddlers in “faster” skis on flat water by a large margine as he is in great shape and while I may have similar technique on the flats, he is faster. On bumps he swims though and I laugh and manage to hang-in with the fast skis -;)

      I think, coming from a V8, you will find a V10 Sport right-up your alley, so to speak. You may challenge yourself and skip the intermediate skis and go to the elite ones, but only if you plan on really persevering and avoiding really rough stuff for a while. Having not paddled the SR I can’t compare to the V10 Sport, other than, again, say the paddler will make much more of a difference: I’ve beaten SRs on my V10S and SRs have beaten me… So, choose any ski in the “right” range for your skill that fits you best. It probably won’t be your last either -;)

  • Wesley says:

    Tony, glad you found the Chart helpful. The V8 would be the most stable of any ski on the chart by far. The SR is the most stable in the intermediate class of skis. Now with the V8,Eze, Stellar 18S, we have a new “Novice” class. The speed of the SR is charted. The V8 would be the most stable and the slowest of the boats on my chart. The 18S is faster than the V8 as well not as fast as SR but more stable the SR and less than V8.

  • Russ says:

    I noticed that the Stellar SR that is on the chart is of the pricier Excel layup that is almost $1000 dollars more expensive than the heavier Advantage layup. It is the Advantage layup that would probably be the most commonly sold to the first time ski buyer because of it’s combination of strength, weight and affordability. It is also the layup I personally would probably purchase.

    Judging from the speed difference between the two Epic V10S models you have listed- the Performance and the Ultra- it would seem that there is a very good possibility that the Stellar SR, in an Advantage build, would end up being the second slowest ski of all of the beginners skis.

    Have you paddled the SR Advantage, and if so, where in your opinion will it fall on your chart.

    Also, the Advantage layup is about 7 pounds heavier then the Excel. Would that extra weight significanlty add up to slightly more stability ?

  • Wesley says:

    Russ,
    All good observations and questions. Weight difference in skis like any other piece of equipment: Lighter is faster. You rarely ever see any of the Elite paddlers in the heavier layups of any brand they paddle because they have no stability issues. So if you have the skill level, lighter is faster. Their goal is speed and to win races. I always ask paddlers what is your GOAL?

    I gave a lesson last week to a 6 month surfski paddler and his goal is to be competitive in the local races so he at some point will be buying a lighter ski. In the group of paddlers I train and race with, my goal is to win, so I paddled the lightest ski for my skill level. Another paddler I know bought an SR Advantage a year ago. I tried to get him to buy the Excel layup knowing he was competitive. Now a year later, he wishes he had bought the excel layup because he would now place a few places higher in the rankings.

    So if your goal is fitness paddling and you don’t particular care about racing, then a heavier ski is appropiate. Heavy skis are noticably more stable and 7lbs is HUGE in surfskis. My rule of thumb that I have mentioned for years, is 4lbs is the threshold for skis. If you the ski is over 4lbs weight than the ski will be noticably more stable and slower particular in RACING. Under 4lbs difference not so much. Remember the perfect weight for a ski is 26-28lbs for racing, training, fitness etc. if you can only have one ski. The caveat is if you need more stability due to your skill level or the conditions you primarly paddle in than a 30-32lb ski maybe appropiate. Anything over 32lbs is Heavy!

    So yes I have paddled the SR advantage. When I do my reviews, it is better to review the lighter(ultra) to mid weight(Excel) skis, so paddlers get a true sense of the speed since weight has such a negative impact on speed. In comparing the intermediate skis(evo,sport,swordfish,XT,SR,S1R, the speed differences are not quite as great because most every one does not have stability issues in these boats(this is the whole point) so they can paddled at full efficiency contrast that to the HPS(high performance skis where stability is a concern and correlates to speed for all but the skilled paddlers in ocean conditions.

    So yes I would rate the SR marginally slower than the other boats in this class due to design since it is by far the most stable of these class of intermediate boats as mentioned above. The V8,18S,Eze, are in the novice class of skis. Lastly, while my extensive data is helpful, it is a guide and if nothing else is a reference point for discussion. Keep in mind that my skill level and my weight 175lbs is relative to all my reviews. Some boats are more stable with heavier paddlers. Hope this helps. Try as many skis as you can before you buy and fit is key as well.

  • Russ says:

    Wesley,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to give such a detailed response and advice. It is genuinely appreciated.

  • Eddie says:

    Wesley,
    Thank you for the charts, they are awesome. I am a beginner and live on the west coast. The information on Stellar Surfski”s is very limited. Do you believe that the SR and the S1R are twice as fast as XT and 15% more stable? Please advise

  • Wesley says:

    Eddie, no way twice as fast. 15% more stable maybe, but while being stable the handling characteristics are different on these boats. The XT is one of the oldest designs skis with some updates. The S1R has a new design which if an improvement over the previous model, should be an excellent option as well. My reviews were based on the older XT and S1R models.

    The SR is the most stable of the intermediate class of skis. I just had my new Ultra SR(22lbs) out last night in downwind(12mph) 1ft waves with new moon tide, with 4 inch rudder on one of my short Time trial courses and I average 7.98 mph for the 1.65 course. Not bad for a 19ft by 19in ski. So the SR has plenty of speed for the fit paddler and of course for racing, lighter, carbon boats are faster so don’t expect these kinds of times with the Advantage or Sport layups. Stellar has been out for 3 years now. More info can be found at the Stellar Website for USA and Australia, and on the Stellar Facebook page. The paddlers in Australia have alot of experience with the Stellars and the paddlers in Durban, South Africa are paddling Stellars now since they are there as well now. Stellar has worldwide distribution. Also more info in the forums on Surfski.info.

  • Loic says:

    Hello, could you add Fenn Elite, Elite SL, Think Uno Max into your surfski comparaison chart please .?
    Your job is incredible !! Thank you.

  • Wesley says:

    Loic,

    Glad u enjoy the chart comparison. At some point when I purchase an Uno Max I will add to chart. I don’t see myself buying Fenn Elite or SL for review purposes. All the time and work done on this site by Chris, Mark, and contributors is in addition to our paid professional jobs. Thanks. Wesley

  • Joseph Hezinger says:

    Hi

    My question is the K1 or the skis are fester?

  • Wesley says:

    K1’s are faster with a skilled paddler in the conditions they are designed for. A light weight high performance ski with a flat water rudder is more stable,very versatile, and fast for all types of paddling.

  • pierre says:

    Wesley,
    I have been paddling an EVO (the original model) this summer on lake Ontario. I feel OK in it, but I paddle only about twice a week and I still don’t feel stable enough to be comfortable and happy, and I almost never apply much power because I have to focus on fighting low primary stability. I used to paddle a Think FIT and was a lot more comfortable on it.
    I am considering switching to a FIT, or the new derived EZE ski, or a Stellar SR. Are you planning to test a Think EZE anytime? Or have you ever paddled a Think FIT and how would you compare its primary stability to that of the Stellar SR, please?
    Thanks
    Pierre

  • mitch says:

    Hi Wesley,

    I was wondering if you had a chart showing all the actual dimensions for all the skis?

    Based on your assessment why would anyone not by a SEL Excel over a v10 Sport every time? How does one interpret the speed numbers? Presumably a “6” is not twice as fast as a “3”, so how do the speed ratings translate to actual speed differences?

    Cheers,

    • Wesley says:

      Mitch, I don’t have a the dimensions. They can be all be found on the the individual manufacturers site. You are correct in looking at the chart that the SEL is faster than the Sport and as stable.The SEL is in the HPS(high performance class due to speed) while the sport is in the intermediate class of skis.What you are missing is the fit component. All this skis fit differently. The sport will fit virtually everyone in all weights while the SEL design up to 210 roughly. As far as the rating scale: you need to paddle a few skis so you have a baseline or reference point and the chart will have more significance to you. The biggest difference in speed is between the two classes of ski: High performance and Stable, now since the chart was done we have a novice class made up of the Stellar 18S, V8,and Eze. The chart is a guide based on my extensive time trialing,racing and ownership. For the most part it has been confirmed by others paddlers worldwide. I assigned the value based on all my GPS date, race data, time trialing, and comparison to other paddlers I train with over the past 9 years. Like most CONSISTENT racers, they can tell your what they typically average as far as speed.

  • Steven Horney says:

    Pierre – this may be too late, coming several months after your comments, but between my wife and I we have owned the Think Evo, Think Fit, and Stellar SR, and I’ve paddled a Think Eze. My wife sold her Fit to a friend and we bought her the SR a little over a year ago. The SR has slighly less stability than the Fit, but more than the Evo. Most paddlers who are comfortable in the Fit find the SR an easy transition, and the SR is a noticably faster boat than the Fit. I’ve put sea kayakers in our SR to race and play on Lake Michigan without any problems. The Eze is an interesting boat. It’s very stable (feels more stable than the Fit to me), but Think seems to have departed from their prior cockpit design (at least it feels different to me than the Fit, Evo, and Legend that we’ve owned). The cockpit is quite snug for bigger people – very reminiscent of the SES cockpit. I’m 195 lbs, 6’1″, and have a 34″ waist. I can fit both the SES and Eze, but both are tight on me at the hips – not boats I would want to paddle for more than an hour at the most. If you’re a smaller guy, the Eze might work for you, but if you’re able to paddle the Evo comfortably in calm water you should find the SR very comfortable to paddle in most conditions and it would be a definite upgrade over the Fit.

    • Pierre Ballester says:

      Hi Steven,

      I happened to find your comment today only but I still very much appreciate. I have been paddling the EVO for quite a while now and I fall only if I go in water I know ahead of time is too challenging for me, so the boat doesn’t really ever deceive me, I now understand it well enough. However I still find it twitchy, it’s always “shaking” around its position and I remember of the FIT of having a stability that allowed me to put way more power into my stroke without fearing anything. With the EVO I’ve still never had a 100% sprint, with the FIT I had them all the time. I’m curious to try an SR but I’m also curious as per why there is no real tangible review of the EZE anywhere…

  • Robby Cook says:

    Hi,
    I currently paddle a Stellar SE. I am very happy with its build quality and with its flat water performance. It is a much better ski than I am a paddler. Have done heaps of miles in it on flat water and haven’t fallen in in ages, but I completely lose all technique when it gets rough. I have been racing on flat water and finishing fairly well but middle of the pack. I want to race open water but I find mysely struggling at the back. I would persist in the rough stuff if not for the seat. I am wide across the hips and need a seat pad to fit. Its not comfy after an hour or two.
    I was looking to replace the SE with am Epic V10 Sport, but a mate gave me a link to this page and has suggested an SR. I’m now concerned that they will both be slow. How much time will these skis lose over say 6 miles for the average paddler? And, given I don’t fit into most of the faster skis, are there any other beamier skis that I might fit in that go at a resonable speed?

  • Wesley says:

    The SR has a wider seat so I am guessing it will fit you without a pad to lift you up for width. In comparable layups the V10sport and SR are comparable in speed with edge going to sport but not by much. The SR however, is extremely stable and much more so than sport. So if you are struggling in SE in the back of the pack, then you will move up in the pack in the SR in conditions. The SR is way more stable than SE so your confidence and stroke technique/power will improve in SR. The SR is a wonderful rough water boat for even guys like myself. I have paddled my Ultra SR w/4 inch rudder in some very big conditions. If you were equally competent in both SR and SE, the SE would be about 10-12 seconds per mile faster in comparable layups and rudders. Hope this helps.

  • slim white says:

    I am interested to purchase a Zedtech Dominator XL (sport quality) 620 x 47 and I should like to know your opinion in comparative table with Fenn XT, Think Evo and V10 sport . Especially in stability primary and secondary, comfort and speed in flat and in rough water.
    I wonder why there is not any review of the Dominator XL because seems a very interesting surfski, produced in Portugal with a very awesome quality.
    Somebody says that the Zedtech Dominator XL is similar to the V10 (supposing for the measures) but I do not think the shape of the hull is exactly equal, consequently must be more than one difference in between the two boats.

    • Wesley says:

      Some of the less well know brands are country specific and even regional within country if shipping is costly or distibution is not set up by the manufacturer. So the Zedtech is not available in USA therefore not too much info is known about it. Sorry I can’t help you out. Did you try posting in surfski.info or searching the forum. I think I did read something about it months or years ago. Wesley

  • Pierre says:

    Wesley, do you ever intend to test a V8 and a Think EZE?

  • Bob says:

    And a V14, a new V10, a Nelo 550ski, a Nelo Ocean ski, etc., etc. These companies really should just send you skis to demo since you do such a good and thorough job of it and then you can put them in your garage sale so we can get great buys on them. Everybody will sell more surf skis in this country so long as you and your buddies keep churning the pot with more and more info.

  • Aijiro Suzuki says:

    Where would you put the Vajda Hawx in your surfski comparison chart?

  • Rob Raucci says:

    I’ve been paddling an Epic V8 for over a year now. I also have a Think Evo, and got the V8 for some longer river races. I have done time trials and several short 5k (3.1mile) races in the V8, and I think the boat is pretty fast. My fastes 5 mile time trial time was 46:20 at a 6.48 mph pace (10.43 km/hr). My fastest 5k time in the V8 was 27:51 at a 6.72 mph pace (10.82 km/hr).

    I have also recently test paddled the new redesigned Epic V10 Sport and held a 6.90 mph pace (11.10 km/hr) on a 5 mile course. Since paddling the new V10 Sport, I have decided to sell my Evo and get the new V10 Sport. The V10 Sport has much better initial stability than the Evo in my opinion. I really like the Evo, but I love the new V10 Sport.

    p.s. I’m 5’10” and weigh about 215 pounds (97 kg).

    • Bill Cirino says:

      How are you feeling about the V10 sport now? I’m trying to decide on a new intermediate ski and the Sport and Evo II are in the running.

  • Bob says:

    Wesley, Thanks for up-dating your chart and for your recent comments. The information you provide is invaluable and, from my limited experience with several of the skis on your chart, I would say your comparisons are spot on. Keep up the good work.

  • Owen says:

    Thanks for the updated detail. Following your past advice I purchased a Stellar SR (Advantage); loved it and 12 months later updated to the Excel layup. Although fast closing in on 70, I’ve been racing my SRs very successfully (and sometimes beating blokes 50 years my junior). My wife paddles a Stellar SES (Excel) which she is doing extremely well in in her class/division, but I find it a bit too skinny for me. I now intend to do a modest update and have narrowed my choice down to the Stellar SEI (Excel) or new Epic V10 (Ultra). A few of my mates have the Epic, but my inclination is to stick with Stellar. As your chart shows very little between them in performance, my choice remains a dilemma.

  • Aero says:

    Wesley, how would you compare the Huki S1-XL to the new V10 in terms of primary and secondary stability?

    • Wesley says:

      S1xl has significant secondary stability, has the best steering, very narrow catch, faster, with excellent cockpit and surfs great though Initial stability is less. Bucket will fit virtually everyone. Both good boats but handling much different and much different feel. If u paddled a huki u know what I mean.

  • Steven Horney says:

    Thanks again for the updates, Wesley! I’ve appreciated these charts and your help over the past few years as I’ve cycled through qutie a number of boats. I must be an odd duck, as I’ve ended up finding a V12 in the Performance layup is my favorite boat; I’m faster, more comfortable, more stable, and more confident in it than any of the other “elite” skis I’ve owned or paddled (which includes most of the boats on here – including the Kevlar Legend, Carbon SE, Advantage SEL, Advantage SES, Ultra V10L, S1-X, and Mohican – except that I was a little more stable in the SEL). I’m sure the made-to-fit-me feel and exceptional amount of secondary are a big part of it, along with the excellent paddling ergonomics. The extra weight also probably damps out some of the motions. I always look forward to paddling it! Keep up the good work!

  • Hans says:

    Wesley,
    Any thoughts on the Think ION?

  • Hans says:

    I know you don’t like to pass judgment until you have fully tested a ski but what would you say your expectations are for the ION based on the hype and others opinions you may have heard? My percentage of ocean/bay/flat water is just about the same as yours but I will be limited to one ski. I’m seriously considering the ION but will need to make the purchase well before April so I can start training. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  • Wesley says:

    Hans, since the Ion has the same bucket as the Evo 2, I know for sure I will love the fit. I also talked to both Think dealers on the East Coast who are friends of mine and both said the the older version is about 30-40 seconds faster than the Evo 2 over 10k. The new one with less rocker and more narrow catch should be faster than the older version. So for me, I am looking for a big water ski that is comfortable and has more speed than the Evo 2 for when I race. I don’t need all the stability the Evo2 affords me so I am hoping the Ion will fit this bill. My paddling position on all the Think boats suits me perfectly so I know I can maximize leg drive in the Ion like I can do on the Uno Max and Evo2. Unlike you I have many skis so I can pick and choose the boat for the particular race or race conditions on that day. The other advantage I see the Ion for me is the ability to remount in any conditions without fear. While I can paddle my SES in most New England conditions and remount it and rarely capsize if at all(but you never know), in big chaotic conditions, my anxiety is laid to rest with skis that are have more beam. For all these reasons, I am looking forward to my new ION. If I like a lot,I am sure I will tempt myself with the carbon version based on that color scheme. Orange is my favorite color!!!

  • Muzzle says:

    hi Wesley, great ski reviews & comparison data. thanks.
    I was all ready to order a SEL Ultra when I see that compared to the SEL in Excel layup, your experience is the SEL Ultra has very little extra speed for a big (relative) loss in stability. Seems more common comparing layups (V10L Perf/Ultra, SES Excel/Ultra, Legend Kevlar/Carbon), to see a better speed/stability tradeoff. Appreciate your comments before I splash the cash! thanks

    • Wesley says:

      The Ultra’s in the Stellar line up are much more buoyant than the excel layups so they ride higher, couple that with carbon layup and lightness 22-23lbs and you have a very noticeable difference in speed and stability even though the weight between the Ultra and excel layups is only 2 or 3 pounds. The difference is more noticeable in the Stellar Ultra and Excel than other brands, so it is not just a weight difference but a layup difference between the carbon boats of different brands. Not all carbon boats are made equally. So is paying $1200 more worth it for 5-8 seconds speed difference per mile and less stability? Depends on you budget and how competitive you are. For me yes.However,the best value is the Excel layup. I wrote about this in a post a few years ago on this site where the threshold for me is a 4 pound difference in most brands. My Ultra SES and Uno Max Ultimate are the fastest ocean skis in the garage both at 22-23lbs. Lighter is faster is you have no stability issues,the money and are competing where boat choice can make the difference on the whole of 1-3 minutes depending on the length of the race. If you don’t care or can’t maximize the speed difference based on you skill level with a lighter ski, then the obvious choice is the Excel layup.

      The difference is obvious if comparing the older models of V10L Performance at 32lbs vice 24lbs or 26lbs vice 32lbs in the new models. 6-8 lbs is a HUGE difference in ski weights leading to more significantly more stability and slower speeds. Hope this helps.

      • Muzzle says:

        that makes sense Wesley. thanks. I guess the reason the Ultra/Excel stability is very similar in the SES is because it’s a lower volume ski, so body weight is more effective in the 90 kg capacity SES than in the 130 kg capacity SEL. I’m about the same weight as you, but too wide to fit comfortably in the SES unfortunately.

  • Mark says:

    I’ll toss my hat in the ring here, as I’ve owned both the Excel (fairly briefly) and the Ultra layup in the SEL. More than anything else, what’s noticeable in the Ultra is the stiffness of the body structure-you feel every nuance of the water-the hull communicates everything back. If your bodyweight is approximately Wesley’s, you might find the Ultra a bit too buoyant. I’m over (comfortably) 200 lbs. and sat the Ultra lower in the water. Speed was roughly similar, but the Ultra is much easier to accelerate. It just goes…now. Glide is admirable in both boats.

    I had zero issues with stability with the lighter layup. To the contrary, the carbon layup is ridiculously light and stiff. It’s at its best when being hammered across chop. It’s extremely stable and not at all ‘grabby,’ like other boats that come to mind demonstrate. The lightness is exceptional-two quick strokes and you’re dropping in on a run. In strong crosswinds, the Ultra layup can be very sensitive to turning. Here, heavier is better.

    I do think the Excel is the most cost effective layup, with the biggest payoff available. The extra cost of the Ultra definitely brings with it upper echelon performance, albeit at a much higher price. Awesome boat; I miss its composure in the rough.

    • Muzzle says:

      thanks Mark. very useful comments. Excel layup may be better for my weight, but we’re all emotional beasts & the acceleration of the Ultra sounds awesome!

  • Peter Potter says:

    I love pouring over your perfectly presented information…….Thank you so much. I have a Bluefin (vac. glass) and a 18S ( in excel) Orange top side…..The Bluefin seems to be more stable so far, but i’ve had it a year so maybe I’m just used to it.
    Can you comment on the Bluefin for me? And where it might rank with the sr…the v8…the eze……and did I read you say the S18 has the same hull as the SR ?
    Thanks again.Peter

  • Wesley says:

    Hi Peter, I have not paddled the Bluefin, but I imagine like you have experienced the Blue Fin is more stable than the 18S. The hull is of the 18S surfski is the same as the 18R(kayak) not the SR. The SR is faster than the 18S, V8, and I I assume the Eze and the Bluefin though I have not paddled that either. Those skis, V8,18s,Eze,Blue Fin, are grouped together as far as stability and speed. While the SR is at the lower end(speed) of the intermediate class that includes the Evo 2, V10sport, Swordfish, Vajda 46.

  • Max says:

    Hi Wesley, I enjoy reading your excellent reviews and find your site to be exceptionally well laid out and detailed. I’m looking for a second opinion on what soon will be my first purchase and foray into the world of surf ski. I live in Canada’s PNW and currently paddle outrigger, kayaks and dragon boats. I’ve tried several ski’s and have decided to settle on the Stellar SR which you’ve expertly reviewed. I’m 5’8″ and 175lbs and my dilemna is as follows:
    Do I buy a 2010 SR Advantage layup demo model asking price $2500 CDN (sounds pricey); or
    Do I buy a 2014 SR Excel layup for $4K?
    Obviously money is a factor but I’m more concerned with paying too much for a used boat than shelling out top dollar for a new hull which is lighter, comes with a warranty and might be faster in both flat water and bumps.
    Is the excell layup worth the roughly $1k increase in price? Also, has Stellar changed or improved the hull/fittings much in 4 years? I know that the footboards are now quick release and a bullet was added to the venturi to improve drainage. Am I missing anything else? Bottom line, I know you prefer a lighter hull but would I ‘feel’ the difference or would it be negligible?
    Thanks in advance, Max

  • Wesley says:

    Max, I am not associated with Stellar anymore, but to my knowledge those changes were made and an upgrade on rudder lines that happened last year. I suggest the Advantage layup since you are just getting into the sport. The majority of paddlers by their 1st ski and then get curious about all the other skis once their skill level progresses. Then they either by a lighter verision of their current ski or test the market for faster, stable, lighter, or want a better fitting ski. I would not by the 4k SR being a novice unless you are very certain you keep it a few years or you have trouble(injury, etc) loading a 32lb ski on you car vice a 24lb ski. As far as price, you only have to look at our classifieds to get a since of the “market value” of skis. Do some research and see what a new one goes for in your area.

    Thanks for the compliments on our site. Greatly appreciated!!

  • Max says:

    Thanks Wesley for the prompt and informative reply. I used your classified section to gauge the price of used SR’s and I get a feeling that perhaps the demo model I’m looking at is listed slightly on the high side. I’m not sure what is considered fair depreciation on a ski since the classifieds are littered with many entry and HPS’ at a decent value. I suspect largely because many people tend to buy more ski than they can handle or as you suggest, we paddlers are constantly looking to upgrade in search for the perfect boat.
    Based on some of these attractive used prices, I’m wondering if shipping a boat across the country would be prohibitively expensive?
    Thanks again for your sage advice and good luck paddling this season, Max

  • Ed says:

    Wesley,

    Just curious where you would put the Epic V12 Performance on the graph? I figured it would be a little more stable than the V12 Ultra but maybe it’s top speed would be slightly less.

  • Hi Wesley,
    I read your blog post on the SEL and wondering how the speed of the ‘advantage’ compares with other surfskis. How much slower is it then the excel layup?

    Thanks!

    • Wesley says:

      John, If you compare comparable layups, the SEL still remains possibly the best combo of speed/stability. Comparing an Advantage SEL to an Excel SEI and I will take the SEI every time. 24lbs versus 32 is a HUGE difference in speed, easy 10-15 seconds slower per mile for the 32lbs ski versus the 24. This holds true in most conditions except if you were doing nothing but downwind then the margins can be smaller. Contrary if you paddle mainly flat water, the margin can be even more over distance. This applies acrosss all brands. Generally speaking if you are concerned at all about speed, buy the lightest boat you can afford. My limit on lightness is 22lbs for skis. Lighter than this and they feel too light. Another example if you are comparing a 32 pound Evo 2 or Epic Sport versus a 32lb SEL, the SEL is still the faster ski. Hope this helps. Wesley

      • John McCarthy says:

        Thanks Wesley!
        I do want to buy the best and lightest boat but with a baby on the way, I have to be careful not to dip into my diaper budget. One other comparison. I have an older West Side Exceed. I find the SEL much more comfortable but do you think the ‘advantage’ layup will also be faster?

  • Wesley says:

    John, about the same on flat water provided you have the 4 inch rudder for the SEL.

  • Pat Grause says:

    Wesley
    Any thoughts or comments regarding the Think Ion Im assumong you have had the ski a whole based on previous posts.
    Pat

  • john Kavanagh says:

    HI Wesley, Would love to see the Ion on the chart. Having a lot of difficulty getting feedback as there seem to be so few around.
    Great site.

  • paul says:

    Hi
    I’m curious
    You have listed the Think Uno as being nearly as fast as the V14. Which also shows the Uno and the V14 being faster than the V12 and SES Ultra. On Flat water.
    In the past the V12 and SES were indicated as being faster than the Uno.
    Why the change?
    Also your description of flat water speed.
    Is that over a long distance or just a quick sprint?
    Cheers
    Paul.

    • Wesley says:

      First don’t get confused on between the Uno(1st generation) and the Uno Max Ultimate and the Uno Max Elite. When I add a ski to the chart, I review all the data on the chart and may change a skis numbers in relationship to the boats I add, since the chart is a comparison chart. Also as I paddle the boats after my review I may change the numbers based on future paddling. Take a look at my GPS data on the Sakonnet for the 1.63-1.65 course or my Island Park course on the Sakonnet. This are 1.63 to 6 mile courses on the Sakonnet River which is like a small bay with flat to 2ft seas. I also use the Narrow River time trials or races too. They are never sprints. So I paddle all the skis in various conditions(flat to ocean(2-4ft) as my skill level allow. Hope this helps.

  • paul says:

    Thanks for your reply.
    So am I correct when I read the Uno which is listed 2nd behind the V14 is the Uno (1st Gen)?
    You still stand behind the Uno (1st Gen) is still No2 on dead flat water
    Cheers
    Paul

    • Wesley says:

      Paul, I don’t time trial them on dead flat water. Having said that yes, V14, Mohican(pure flat water ski), Uno, etc.

      • paul says:

        Well its sort of funny really. After all these years, flat water speed sounds like it hasn’t really changed.
        The Uno is what 5/6 years old and its basically the same speed as the new V14. Having the same motor on board :). I would have thought the Uno having the flatter hull with the sharper edges on the side of the flat hull would have slowed the boat down due to the slower ability of the water to being able to get to the surface quicker as apposed to a rounder hull. Or put another way the squarer edge under water would cause drag?
        Plus the Uno yes its narrow in its width cross section but it doesn’t really narrow down under water even in front of the feet till quite close to the nose. So it isn’t that tapered. I have no idea if this is relevant but it just doesn’t look as it has great water cleavage.

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