by Helen Morrow from Paddlecraft Kayaks
In the paddling world, one of the biggest changes in the past few years has been the amount of paddlers abandoning their kayaks and jumping onto the more stable surf skis now being offered by many manufacturers. Whether it is the baby boomers shunning their sea kayaks, a mid life crisis or a looming 50th birthday on the horizon or a desire to get back into the forgotten surf of one’s youth, the newly engineered surf skis have found their ways into more garages and car ports around the world – and for many good reasons too!
Stability is not usually associated with surf skis, but the new entry skis now offered by most of the ski manufacturers have a width that varies from 520 – 550 cm at the seat area with wide side rails and a flattened hull shape underneath the seat area which has allowed most paddlers with some experience to transition to these new craft very easily. Being able to paddle these skis with out going for an unintended swim was unprecedented in years gone by! Different entry level skis have varying seat and footwell designs but all of them provide adjustable foot pedals and will suit low to high volume paddlers – a nice ski term to describe the ski’s weight capacity.
Ease of remounting the craft is another major benefit and safety consideration that has helped lift the surf ski’s popularity. Taking your first ski into a more challenging water environment is a thrill and having the ability to easily remount unassisted is a crucial element to that self-confidence. The open hull design also offers those paddlers, lacking the flexibility required for getting into the tight cockpit of a sea kayak, a competitive craft that can be paddled fast and in rougher waters. A bit of upper body strength and some technique & remounting practice will provide a great sense of self-satisfaction and contribute to your safety and well-being.
Lastly, but certainly not the least consideration, is the weight versus the cost of these crafts compared to their counterpart in the sea kayak world. At around a base cost of $2,600 and an average 16 kgs. weight, it is really difficult to find a comparable sea kayak that matches these features. The weight of the craft is often a key consideration for most paddlers that have to transport their boat on a car and need to be comfortable in lifting it onto a roof rack by themselves and with the added bonus and pleasure of paddling a lighter craft.
Most manufacturers have been racing to meet this new market and Stellar Kayaks have produced one of the most popular models available, the Stellar S18S surf ski. Recognising the appeal of these craft to the paddler transitioning from a sea kayak, Stellar has provided some attractive features including (2) dry storage compartments, bungee cords at the rear, carry handles and handy water bottle storage. The ski is also available in (4) different compositions and a signature range of colors selections. At Paddlecraft Kayaks, located on Pittwater in Bayview, we stock demo models of the Stellar skis, as well as, Fenn Kayaks & Vadja skis, and we are able to put customers on the water to trial paddle these skis to see what best suits their ability, stability & experience.
Stalwart sea kayakers who paddle multi day excursions and prefer the capacity and seaworthy ruggedness of their craft are unlikely to pack away their trusted companion. But for the many day-trippers who yearn for a more light hearted, lively and cost competitive solution, it is hard to turn away from these new sleek paddlecraft!