As we gather for our usual Saturday Morning Jimsquad Session on a chilly Saturday morning at Malabar, in Sydney’s Southeast, the normal grumpy early morning greetings are more along the lines of , “what is that you are paddling” as they refer to the Stellar 18S We enter the water for our usual session warm up and the taunts continue, the coach making a reference to the Storage hatches, not commonly found on a “Surf Ski”, another asking if i was doing a documentary for the Discovery Channel. All good banter and off we paddle. The conditions are from the South with 1 meter plus swell running, which we are going to head straight into for the first 40 minutes, this course takes us out of Malabar and left past the Golf course stretch of Randwick, The Coast and NSW and across the busy shipping channel that is Botany Bay. For those that paddle this area now it is a tricky stretch of water, sheer rock faces and shallow reefs cause tricky rebound and moving  water that can cause the best to use bracing strokes. Adding to this was a 1 foot westerly side chop, which made the conditions extremely tough.

3 position solid foot plate is common on all Stellar Surf Skis

The Stellar 18S was bought into the market to tackle the popularity of the Epic V8 head on, The V8 would be the highest selling Surf ski in Australia over the past few years. Stellar’s entry level boat the SR was always above the V8 in stability, so we found new paddlers not comfortable on the SR swaying to a V8. We also found a huge market for the cross over from touring kayakers, limited to the closed waterways. They can no longer miss out on the superior construction, stability and performance across the Stellar Range with the introduction of the S18 and the limitless destinations reached in a surf ski.

Sleek lines make this Entry level ski perform!

On the first leg into the Southerly Swell, i was keeping a good speed around the 10.5km/hr mark, this was surprising, i wasn’t exerting too much effort, I was concentrating on all my coach had been teaching me in the last 18 weeks with the Squad.Having paddled the Stellar SEL  for the all my time in an Ocean Ski, I found I was able to concentrate on form not stability, this was resulting in keeping up with quality ocean men. A comment that never leaves me and i repeat it alot is from Jimmy Walker,”the fastest boat is an upright one”. The bucket and foot well is very similar to the SR, The foot plate is the same that is across the entire range, the 3 point locking system is un matched and provides great structure to launch your leg drive. Being a bit wider at the catch than the SEL i paddle, i knocked my blade quite a few times, but this would be natural, the deck as been raised in this area and a cut away effect made, i would like to see this added to the entire range as it coped very well with the side chop and kept the bucket relatively dry in conditions that would of seen all boats take on water. As we headed across the open channel of Botany Bay, we were greeted with the brunt of the 25 knot and 1 foot side chop, this made for interesting times, i even saw the more experienced paddlers to my side struggling and brace strokes taken.I was able to concentrate on all things paddling and keep consistent boat speed. Check out my little video here Our last leg of yesterdays paddle was down wind, i knew this is where i would  want the extra length and acceleration of the Stellar SEL, but in saying that, this boat is for the entry market, i was left behind by the top end of the  mob in there high tech Carbon boats, but not far enough, the shorter fatter heavier boat was not embarrassed, it pulled runners well, the shorter waterline length in my opinion has an advantage on the runs at times in certain conditions, I could link runs and do all the things the bigger more glamorous boats could do.

added storage for the tourer at heart, or a packed lunch!

Check out Wesley Echols review from the other side of the globe As we turned into Malabar Bay, its a long flat 1km stretch to test the mind at the end of any hard session, this is honestly the only time i wanted my longer, lighter boat and it was noticeable. Yes i was tired, but i had to remind myself its an entry level boat and the boys were knocking me before the session. With all this Said and done i paddled the Advantage layup the build quality sheet has it at 16.4kgs,its 18 ft in length and 21 inches in width, i managed 12.3km in 1 hr:09 min in testing conditions, that’s an average speed of over 10.5km/hr. So on the data alone i would have been happy with those figures on any given session in my Stellar SEL. This boat packs a few little features not available on any surf ski on the market, the fwd and aft storage areas will appeal to the touring kayaker looking for a little extra, or as yesterdays demo later in the day,an old salt looking for something to get in , get fit, throw his lunch and a six pack in and head to a remote beach, read the paper and just enjoy being on the water.The S18 also has the flexibility of the installation of a flip up tail hung rudder in seconds, for the tourer at heart. It has front and rear carry handles fitted also. In addition to this it carries on the quality you have come to expect from Stellar in Manufacturing, and the 3 position foot plate locking system is just a comfort available only on the Stellar range. In conclusion, this boat is exactly what the team at Stellar needed, its a little shorter, its stable, its comfortable, it performs, it is the STELLAR S18! Yours on the water   Gavin Who am I? I’m a boat builder by trade who has designed and Built his own range of Australian Gold Medal winning Single and Double Surf Skis and Mako Surf Boat. I returned to Paddling with a group in Sydney called jimsquad run by founder and Olympian Jimmy Walker. I was never a good paddler, i could sit on a ski thats about it, I and am just enjoying the benefits from returning to a better health through paddling, my journey started in February this year when i peaked at 97.5kgs, i am now hovering around the 82kg mark and loving the water and life again. I hope you get something from my posts and i can get you in the right surf ski or on the right track to a better life!