Choosing your first surfski can be a mine field. It can seem like an impossible decision to make. We all know that person who bought their first ski, then hastly changed it a few months later! So how do you avoid that? Do you go light? Do you go narrow? Do you go fast? Do you go cheap? So how do you choose the first ski perfectly?
To begin with you have to ask yourself important questions, where will you be paddling? Will you be in the Ocean or in a Canal with no swell? Are you a complete beginner? Do you have some experience with paddling? But why all the questions, well the answers are important to what you should buy (over what you want to buy).
We know that everyone always wants to be fast it would be easy to go in at the top, but really buying an ultra elite ski may not be the answer, after all how many people buy a ferrari after passing their test?
What is important in surfski paddling is that learning correct technique will make you go alot quicker than learning 40 re-entries in an elite boat. The only way to learn this technique is time in the bucket, so ideally the first thing to look for is stability. You will go faster if you are stable, an idea that can be used for SUP paddling! So with this in mind here is a guide to 6 entry level surfski’s that promote stability and that will lay the foundations for a long and fast surfski career.
The entry level ski in the Epic range is the V7. Measuring at 520 cm and 54cm it is certainly stable, however at 22.8 KG it is heavy. The V7 is a rotomould construction that makes it durable so a few bumps won’t fracture it. The hatch is there for a cross over touring idea. The hull of the V7 is alot higher than other surfskis. The bucket is wide so it can accommodate all sizes. The epic V7 is an extremely stable boat and surfs effectively in downwind swell and in waves.
The next boat up the Epic V8 can be seen as a compromise between this and a lighter model, it blends speed, high stability and a performance oriented deck & outfitting into one ski.
The entry level in the Nelo range is the Nelo 510, this is a rotomould construction, measuring 515 cm in length and 52 cm in width. Ultra tough construction, but this means it weighs in at 22 KG. The nose construction is a lot lower than that of the V7, giving the illiusion of a sleeker boat. The bailer is operated by the foot, thus being able to empty to the foot with a quick flick. The foot strap is easy to move. Manufactured in Europe means it is a bonus for those not wanting to wait for boats coming over from South Africa. We ve all seen the Big O test the nelos to the limits, so we know how they perform!
The next model is the 520, which is alot lighter, slightly longer, and but still very stable, this is definetly the boat to start the ocean charging. Next is the 540 still offering stability, but at the same time pushing into the relms of an elite racing boat, slightly more unstable but nibby all the same!
Revo is a relatively new brand that has come out with the an entry level ski.It has an Innovative hull design that allows hull micro air collection, reducing whetted surface area. There sticking less to the water. The hull promotes stability measuring 48 cm yet it still has similar characteristics to a ski between 3 to 4 cm wider. The Revo has a tool less rudder system so that you can change the postion of the rudder. The high sides also means that there is no wave topping. It also has a non contact footplate giving clearance to allow for a fast bucket drainage.
The design is slightly different to that of others, but what does that mean? If this is not enough there is the R2 model which is aimed at the intermediate and advanced paddler.
Everyone knows the Think range. They have seen recent success in their elite range. But down at the other end we have the Think Ace. This surfski at 56 cm wide is the most stable ski of the Think range, whilst maintain the speed of a performance ski.
The length at 550 cm length means that it is highly maneuverable. It is longer than the most of the other entry level skis. The design of the gunwale is low beside the seat, making remounts easy, and the integrated carry handle makes off the water handling a breeze. The performance boat weighs in at 15.5 KG, whilst the elite (kevlar construction) weighs in at 12.2KG. The beauty of this entry boat is that you can get it in a choice of four different constructions, depending on how deep your wallet is! The next one up the Think Eze, then Zen the more popular choice, becoming more of a performance ski. After that is the newly launched Think Six, the boat for most intermediate paddlers who want speed without comprimising on their stability.
The Swordfish is the entry or intermediate level board. It is extremely stable (The extreme beginner boat being the Mako XT). This is the boat the brand claims 90 percent of all paddlers should be in. It is a good all round boat with good speed in surf.
The Swordfish offers a middle ground between a complete beginner boat and a sleek high performance design with added stability that comes with its beam width, this is the boat that is the nex step up from the Fenn XT. Measuring 610 cm in length and 45 cm in width it is slightly thinner than other entry / intermediate level boats. The swordfish fibre glass model weighs in at 17 KG, with the carbon model at 10 KG, so you can chose your construction. Next model up is the Fenn Elite, this is the popular choice among many, stable, responsive and fast.
The Carbonology Boost is aimed at entry to intermediate paddlers who are looking for a ski that offers great run-riding capability, speed and handling without compromising its stability. Measuring at 595 cm it is a long entry entry level boat, but the length makes it competitive out in the water. The width is 51 cm making it extremely stable out in the water, plus it has the advantage of weighing in at 12 KG. So it comes in at the lighter end of the scale. It has a broad seatwell but the footwell is comfortably narrow.
Adding to this thinking is a higher than average hump under the knees which contributes to minimising the area that can take on water and removed via the bailers. The bailers are a pair of the super-efficient bullet bailers which is now the industry standard. The Carbonolgy has a high quality finish, and is one to be considered, especially word champion Hayley Clark and European champion Esteban Medina are involved in the brand!
Here are six choices of surfskis to start your career off, it is important to understand that there is the perfect surfski for you, the only way to find out is to sit in the bucket and test it!