Last week was pretty hectic and intense as I prepared to race the M22 Challenge and more importantly launch my first serious efforts to promote surfskis in Northern Michigan. Matt and Keegan Meyers at M22 were extremely gracious and allowed me to come to the M22 registration and display a boat and talk surfskis to anyone willing to listen. I had a great time at the registration, and there seemed to be a lot of genuine interest in surfskis. I received a lot of “that’s not fair” comments, to which I happily responded, “I couldn’t agree more, my guilty conscious got the best of me and that’s why I’m trying to bring surfskis to Northern Michigan”
I was white knuckling it through the week not actually knowing if my first order of Stellar surfskis would show up in time for the race. Luckily I was able to display my own personal boat on Thursday and the trailer arrived late Friday afternoon just in time for me to quickly unload the boats and throw a couple on the car to head out to Glen Arbor for race registration and boat staging.
I had some interest but was hesitant to rent any of my demo boats out for the race this year. The timing of the delivery and the fact that the boats were brand new, made me very reluctant to rent to anyone who had not paddled a surfski before. In the future I might consider it for experienced surfski paddlers.
I did however owe my brother-in-law Ryan a favor as I could not have gotten my shop in order without all the great work he did to clean up the pole barn and build racking systems to store the boats. Ryan started paddling last year in my old Valhalla spec ski so I was confident he could manage the Stellar SR that I let him use in the race. As it turns out, Ryan did awesome in the paddle leg and was blown away by the stability he experienced in the Stellar SR. He had an excellent paddle time especially considering that he probably only logged a couple hours of practice in the Valhalla before the race.
Stellar 18R Racing Sea Kayak
I also loaned out a Stellar 18R Racing Sea Kayakto my wife’s best friend Amy who drove 12 hours from Duluth, MN to do the race. Similar to Ryan, Amy has not done any paddle training and has only done very casual sea kayak paddling in the past. Amy reported feeling extremely stable and very fast throughout the course. She didn’t experience any stability issues even in the final push to the finish line where we had some small beam waves. The results definitely showed it. Amy won her age group, was 4th overall for women and had the 3rd fastest women’s paddle time. All that with a super heavy fiberglass touring paddle. It would have been scary to see Amy tearing it up with a full carbon wing paddle.
The Day Wasn’t Over Yet
Although my race was good, it really made my day to see Amy and Ryan’s smiling faces after having such great experiences with the Stellar boats. But little did I know, the day was just beginning. Following the race we headed over to Amy’s brother’s home along the shore of Lake Michigan. By that time, the wind was blowing a steady 12-15 knots out of the South and we had some nice wave action building and the water temps were plenty warm for swimming
I was excited to get Ryan out in the SR to see how he managed in the 2-4 foot waves rolling in. The SR did not disappoint. Ryan was quickly off and paddling and having a great time doing out and backs ¼ mile offshore. I then proceeded to put Amy’s brother, her Dad, and her all in the SR and they were all successful doing multiple out and back loops paddling the SR upwind, turning around, and getting in some surfing down wind. Amy’s family is all athletic and they have grown up on the water, but none of them have ever done any serious sea kayak paddling. It was simply amazing to see how they could manage a surfski in these conditions.
The SR Wasn’t Done Impressing
Lucky for us, Sunday was another blistering hot day and my wife was anxious to test out this new SR that everyone was raving about, so we took it down to our local beach. This time we were on the West Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan so the waves were much smaller, maybe 1 – 2 footers. Over the past 8 years that I have been into surfski paddling, my wife Kim has done some casual paddling for fun but nothing very serious. Last year we bought her a Think Evo which she paddled maybe 5 or 6 times. Her first reaction after getting in the SR was “OMG I’ve never had so much fun in a surfski. I didn’t think they could be this stable. I could stop and look around without feeling like I was going to tip over. I can now see myself paddling with friends and chit chatting along the way” Safe to say the experience was completely different than what she experienced in the Evo and on the Valhalla spec ski.
Beware of First Impressions
I have to come clean and admit that I demoed both the SR and Evo last year before deciding to buy the Evo. Honestly I had probably already decided in my head I wanted the Evo, but John Abrahams of Superior Surf Systems was kind enough to also bring down the SR. For me, having spent 5 years in an Epic V10 I wasn’t as acutely aware of the stability differences as they both felt extremely stable compared to what I was used to. Additionally it was just a 5 minute buzz around a small flat inland lake. I went with the Evo because the cockpit design was more similar to the V10 and matched closer to the look and feel of a surfski that I was accustomed to. For anyone coming from some of the other surfski designs, the size of the cockpit on the Stellars and specifically the width that they carry forward into the foot well takes some definite getting used to. But I can honestly say that this is the most stable surfski I have ever seen. Any hang ups you might have with the cockpit are quickly negated by the confidence and fun you’ll experience as a result of the stability and speed this boat has to offer, which is second to none.