Epic V14 Review
I was recently in Charleston, SC over spring break to pick of a few boats and try to sneak in some warm weather paddling. Unfortunately the warm weather continued to elude us, but I did have the chance do demo the very latest Epic Speed Machine, the Epic V14.
As it turned out by coincidence my wife had booked us at the Wild Dunes resort on the Isle of Palms. This was only 2 miles away from where Eric Mims of Epic is currently living. Eric was gracious enough to take me out paddling when he got off work.
When I first heard about the introduction of the Epic V14 my initial thoughts were that it would be only really manageable by the elite paddlers. Eric gave the me the option of any Epic boat I wanted, and my initial sense was to go with a V10 Sport since I hadn’t paddled in three months and would be out on the ocean in unfamiliar territory. A steady off-shore wind had created some of the calmest conditions of the year along Isle of Palms and Eric rightfully prodded me just slightly to try the new Epic V14. I agreed this was a great opportunity and I did really want to try the Epic V14 (just would have preferred a warmer day : ).
Leg length and bucket
The temps were in the high 40s when we set out for our paddle along the coast. Not knowing what to expect I played it safe with the V14 and set the footboard out a little longer than I normally would to have some added stability. The first thing I noticed in doing the adjustments is that this boat is definitely built to accommodate us tall guys. I’m around 6’3 with a 35/36 inseam and even with an extended low knee leg position I had three notches left. My sense is that this boat would easily accommodate someone up to 6’6” or even taller. It definitely has considerably more length than my Epic V12 where I have it maxed out and still feel that my legs are a little more bent / knees higher than I am accustomed to. The length compared similar to the original V10 and the Stellar SEL
As with all of the Epic boats, the bucket design and fit was nothing short of perfection. I have a 34” waist and the bucket felt perfect. I was well connected but not at all tight. There was no need for any padding or tweaking anywhere in the cockpit. This was my first paddle in three months and we covered approximately 8 miles and I didn’t have single bit of soreness/rubbing at all. I definitely consider this a testament to the exceptional design of the boat.
While I didn’t pay much attention to this while we were paddling, I noted after we were done that I never once banged my paddle against the boat, which I typically do on at least few occasions almost every other boat I’ve paddled. I believe this can be contributed to the very narrow catch and possibly the positioning of the bucket.
Although the conditions were pretty calm, the air was cold and the water wasn’t necessarily warm, so I definitely wasn’t in the mood for a swim. The V14 I was paddling was an Ultra and was configured with the 4” weed less rudder setup. All this had me a bit on edge when we set out. My nerves quickly settled as I realized that at least in these conditions the V14 felt every bit as stable as my V12. I had a few occasions in the first mile where the boat would roll a little further/quicker than I anticipated, but in each case I had plenty of time to correct it. Similar to the V12 what I quickly realized is that if you take charge and “own” the boat with a strong forward stroke, good cadence and the proper short stroke moving wide and away from the boat, then stability is really not an issue. It is only when you hesitate and/or compromise your stroke and three balance points that you get into trouble.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my Garmin running on this paddle but I suspect that even if it was, it would have been difficult to get good statistics as we had a lot of current and strong offshore winds working against us almost the entire paddle. So until I have a chance to try out the Epic V14 on flat water I’ll have to rely on others who have accurately tested the speed of this boat.
While I didn’t get any detailed GPS statistics, I do firmly believe the narrow hull, narrow catch, and bucket ergonomics all come together to make the Epic V14 an extremely fast flat water boat for all of us and a phenomenal open water boat for experienced paddlers in most Great Lakes conditions. Before paddling the Epic V14 I assumed it would be too advanced for me. But now after my experience, I’m quite confident I could manage it well in most of the conditions I paddle in and I’m anxious to get out and see the benefits of that narrow hull knifing through the short steep chop.
An additional note:
My first paddle on the V14 was also my first paddle with my new Mocke PFD. As all the reviews have shown, this life jacket is phenomenal. Once you pull it on, you really don’t even realize you are wearing it. There is absolutely no hindrance of your paddle stroke. The massive and simple pockets both front and back are awesome for storing all your safety supplies, and a hydration bladder if needed. And of course, the visibility of this PFD is as good as it gets ensuring you will be easily spotted on the water.
The weather was unusually cold in Charleston while I was there (as it was across most of the eastern half of the country) but I’m definitely excited to go back. The Isle of Palms is a great spring paddling destination for those of us in the frigid Upper Midwest and I look forward to getting back there again.