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STELLAR LAUNCHES A NEW SURFSKI TO THE RANGE AND ITS A ROCKET!
Stellar Kayaks has been making in roads in the surf ski market for the last 2 years here in Australia, from a humble beginning with the SE (Stellar Elite) being there only boat. The SES (Stellar Elite Small) followed after finding a need for a lower volume boat for lighter weighted paddlers. The introduction of the SR (Stellar Racer) was there introduction into the entry level market, and would be there most successful boat. Stellar has never been afraid to widen its market range, the introduction of a cross over ski/kayak called the S18S was bought in to tackle the power in sales of the Epic V8. They also launched a SEL (Stellar Elite Low) which fits in between the SES And SE boats. At this stage Stellar Kayaks had put pressure on the other brands by having such a wide range, but if left a massive hole and a huge gap in ability to be able to jump from the SR to the SE range. This gap has seen loyal STELLAR paddlers cross over to other brands with no product available……………. this is now a thing of the past, Stellar Kayaks has just launched the SEI (Stellar Elite Intermediate). This ski is placed in the market to take on the Epic V-10 and the THINK EVO II and Fenn Swordfish, and after my first paddles the team at Stellar has not only met these boats head on, it may have just taken them out of play. Since receiving my SEI Excel (Hybrid lay up, around 12 kg), I have done a couple of paddles, and in varying conditions. a 10 km time trial in Sydney Harbour which had a bit of everything, a 3k slog into a 20 knot westerly in Botany Bay, followed by a heavinly 3k chop chase back and the final paddle was some full on surf work at Sydney’s Maroubra Beach. i feel there was enough there in all those 3 paddles to answer the main questions i have been bombarded with from paddlers all over, I am also in a great position to give my frank and truthful comments as currently paddle the SES in the Flat and in wind chop, but really struggle in good ocean conditions, especially when rebound comes into play. I do feel secure in the SEL in all conditions, but still have the odd brace stroke and swim from time to time. I have been paddling my SR Demo out in the ocean on our Saturday session with my squad (Jimsquad) so i can improve my skills and learn to read the ocean better. So the main questions I have been asked are How does it go ?, How does it compare to the Epic V-10 ? , What are the main improvements/changes from the other boats in the Stellar range? For those of you that narrow your search to a ski that has certain measurements, this blog may not be for you, from my experience measurements don’t make a ski fast or slow, there are only 2 things to consider, are you comfortable in the set up and can you keep it upright.The other requirement, is please take your GPS with you, if your serious and you have been paddling,you know what speeds you pull through the water. the answers to the questions are 1. HOW DOES IT GO? Answer: From the moment i unwrapped the SEI, and was able to see the little tweaks on design, i knew this boat was right on the money in its class. over the 10 km time trial in the first paddle, i punched into a solid 15 knot wind for 3km, this wind abated and swung a little, so only got a little bit of assistance for the last 500mtrs of one leg, then paddled about 2km side on and the rest was in dead calm conditions, i managed to pull 11km/hr average for the paddle, i was happy, i felt i paddled well, but it wasn’t until i dissected the data later and reflect on some paddlers around me was i able to say, this boat goes well. There is no doubting it is a little slower than the SE range, it takes more effort to get it to that speed in the flat, i believe it is possibly a .5 km/hr slower boat than the SE range in the dead flat, but once the water moves, this boat comes into its own, it has more rocker than the SE range, and it runs the wind chop and swell better, this has also led to a huge improvement in the maneuverability of the SEI in bigger conditions.My second paddle was on Botany Bay on a day only Captain Cook would of thought it would be a good idea, but for testing this ski out, i felt it was a good day. i punched into a solid 20 knot Westerly with really close 1ft wind chops, i was holding 9.5km to 10km/hr with no effort,i feel i was doing this because this boat is so stable, so much more than the SES, I almost felt as stable in this as the SR.Once again the added rocker was in play the ski was lifting a little more through the chops, where the SE range would of buried a bit more at time, this was also leading to a very dry foot well area. I turned and chased the runs, and the responsive turning was noticeable. I always had this feel that all Ocean skis re fused to turn immediately and talking to there paddlers on various brands, especially those used to responsiveness of a Spec Ski, that this was normal.The SEI ran well, the wind chops were close together, so not the best but enough was there to get good boat run, cut across and link and looking at the GPS sitting solidly on 14.5km/hr. After this i took it to Maroubra for some out and out Surf work, it was blowing offshore, it was about 3 foot on the bigger ones and glassy, but those that know Maroubra, know its a heavy break.I played in the surf for an hour, in and out and i got snotted on a monster set heading out on one, this was good as it covered 2 important items, the remount and the bucket drainage. remounting any surfski in the bubbling moving water of the surf is difficult, I have issues getting back into the SES, usually taking more than 2 attempts. I was able to remount in a single move, with limited energy loss, even copping a couple more on the lap. Naturally this left the bucket and foot well area full, and if there is a weak point in Stellars, it is the slow drainage issue once full. I found the bucket evacuated the water as fast as any boat on the market, and a lot faster than the rest of the Stellar Range. i caught some gems back in, riding the peak and surfing until it closed out, i never slewed the ski, and a couple time i was about to go, i simply leant back and hit the peddle and the nose came back square,this something i could not do in the SE Range. In my opinion this is a ski that will cover the best part of the competitive market, it will be a winner in the ocean by far, but has enough in the flat for those that only paddle in enclosed waterways of rivers and harbours. 2. How does it compare to the Epic v10? Well in my opinion, its tackled it head on and put it in the cupboard to rest for all round performance in the ocean and in the flat. The Stellar SEI will also be rivaling the THINK EVO II for pure Ocean racing performance. I’m excited when i word this, because it is the first ski in the SE Range that Stellar have produced, that has better performance in the ocean than in the flat.(my opinion) 3. As with the entire stellar range, the SEI is already at the top of the charts in construction, the 3 positioned foot plate is still there and leads the market. Increased rocker has lead to a ski that has improved it maneuverability immensely. the reduced foot well volume allows the bucket are to drain quicker than other boats in there range. they have introduced small cutaways to allow narrower paddle entry on the catch, something THINK and Epic have been doing for a while now.This SEI holds its width to well behind the seat area, this has given a boat that is so stable, but with such great down wind running capabilities. In short this is a boat for the market, Stellar set out to tackle the market leaders head on, they have now done this with the Stellar SEI! For me, its defining and Stellar has arrived for good! For a trial contact your local stellar dealer in Sydney Contact me at Slipstream Surf or Call 0418 442 515 and for more information go to www.stellarkayaks.com.au A big thanks to Fatpaddler for the picture, Dez from Blast for putting on the day and Matt O Garey from Wet fitness for putting on a clinic. yours in paddling Gavin