Introducing the All New, Oscar Chalupsky Infused, 2017 NELO SURFSKI Lineup

This Nelo review is intended to be a general introduction to the full 2017 Nelo line up of surf skis. In doing a little research I realized there isn’t a lot on the web that is targeted at the US Market. There is a very good review and 9 pages of comments and dialogues posted about the 560M on I would highly suggest having a read through this for extensive details on how the 560M compares with the 560, etc.   Additionally there is a very good and detailed review  review of the 560 multiple generations of 560 at  Performance Paddlers

I had the opportunity to paddle the full line-up of Nelo boats, but it was a whirlwind of wake riding, small run surfing, racing, and instruction from Oscar, so I can only provide first reactions in this write up.

A bit of context first.   I am very close in size to Oscar including height, weight, hips, and feet.   I have spent the last two seasons primarily paddling an Epic V10GT which I absolutely love. Most recently through the winter months in Michigan I’ve been in the Epic V8 Ultra on open water and the Legacy XXL K1 (Olympic sprint kayak) for flat water paddling. Historically I’ve spent a good amount of time in the 1st generation Stellar boats and very limited time in a Think Evo II and virtually no time in any other boats.

Common Attributes of all the Nelo Surfskis

My first impression consistent across all the Nelo boats was the “Needle Nose” feeling while looking forward over the bow. It is  narrow and well rounded providing a great catch. The seat position feels higher than most surfskis  providing a definite  K1 Sprint Kayak  feel.   This of course is no surprise owing to Nelo’s strong heritage as the undisputed king of the K1. Most would agree that the ergonomics of a K1 are the most optimal, but to get manageable stability for the ocean we have to compromise.  Nelo seems to have found a sweet spot where the boats still feel a lot like K1s while still having solid stability.


The Nelo boats are all a bit shorter than the competition’s comparable models. I get into this in detail with Nelo CEO Andre Santos on a podcast I recorded with him a few weeks ago. Suffice it to say, there is a rapidly growing argument that shorter is better in many cases. Some of the benefits include:

  • Less wetted surface, leading to less drag which counters speed loss from less water line
  • Shorter boats will be comparably lighter in all layups
  • Easier to store in your garage
  • A little less to manage on top of your car
  • Easier to manage off the water
  • More maneuverable on the runs, especially smaller stuff
  • Faster acceleration (especially for lighter paddlers)
  • Arguably faster overall for paddlers under 100 kg

Needle Nose

For me, this just feels right. So right away I’m more at ease in the boat. But there is a lot of hard science around the benefits of a narrower catch. It has been noted by some that the narrow rounded bow pierces through small waves with less loss of speed than a larger volume bow

Minimal Hump

Maybe because of my long legs, but i have never noticed an issue with the hump in any of the surf skis I’ve ever paddled. That said, many paddlers who have come from boats with formidable humps in the cockpit, have really appreciated the almost non-existent hump in the Nelo boats. The efficiency of cockpit bailers has improved tremendously and essentially made the need for a hump to displace water volume in the cockpit obsolete.

Shallow seat / low gunwales

The hugely effective bailers combined with wave deflectors to prevent water from entering the cockpit have also enabled the designers to go with shallower seats and lower gunwales in order to make remount exponentially easier. Having watched paddlers struggle to remount boats, this feature cannot be overestimated. As Oscar says, if you really think about it, if the cockpit is going to get swamped with water, it will get swamped. The higher seat walls and gunwales aren’t typically going to make a considerable difference.

So to net it out, the evolution of surfski design is starting to show that while shorter/lower volume boats, with minimal humps, and shallow seats may be a wetter ride in certain conditions, when you consider the full spectrum and most common paddle conditions for most paddlers, the pros outweigh the cons, and more so when you consider the efficiency of the bailers and the bow defectors working together.

Additional Features and Functions of the Nelo 2017 Surfski Lineup

  • Inset V in the rear center of the seat – I’ve never seen a surfski bucket that has this inset V in the middle back of the bucket, but I’m really excited about the potential benefits it may offer. Like many paddlers, no matter how much I work on technique, I still have days where I’m pushing hard on flat water and I chafe my back end just above the tailbone. This can be quite a nuisance and certainly makes for a painful post paddle shower. I didn’t do enough hard core paddling to confirm that the V has absolutely eliminated this issue, but I can say I didn’t have even the slightest chafe during the three days I spent paddling the Nelo boats.
  • Adjustable Footrest Angle – I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this may be another first. Nelo has designed the center footrest such that the angle and height can be adjusted to meet the paddlers preference. This is a great new feature and I know from experience that having just the right angle can make a huge impact on stability and leg drive
  • Adjustable Rigid Foot Strap – Another new feature for surf skis, the Nelo boats all come with an adjustable, but rigid foot strap, which also includes a mounting dock for a waterproof cell phone case or GPS unit. Anyone who has ever battled a flopping foot strap in the surf zone or during a remount will appreciate the benefits of this. It does take a bit of adjustment to get it right, but once you do, it comes in very handy.
  • On the fly adjustable pedal angle – Another new feature for surf skis, this design allows you to adjust the angle of the foot pedals while paddling. Great when you want to either add a lot of responsiveness or tone down the steering input. Also very helpful in the tandem boat to either engage or disengage the steering in the front or rear cockpit
  • Inset Handles in the bucket – I’ve heard from a lot of paddlers that they have gotten their hands stuck in the handles while doing remounts. This is no longer an issue with the inset handles now on all the Nelo surf skis.  These provide just enough purchase to get a good grip on the boat while remaining completely out of the way so as not to be an obstacle.
  • Foot operated bailer – This isn’t new for surfski, but definitely a must have for any downwind paddler. The 3 position bailer can very easily be operated with the foot and there is a bright indicator to quickly and easily remind you if it is open or closed. The bailer is very effective. I don’t know exactly how it compares to the Epic bailer, but I would guess very similar
  • Custom fit Bow Deflector shipped with every boat – This is a very simple implement that has offered a massive improvement for downwind paddlers. The bow deflector plays a huge role in minimizing water in the cockpit when paddling upwind in choppy conditions and when paddling downwind on steep waves.  You won’t see many pros paddling without these anymore.
  • Spectra Rudder Lines – All 2017 Nelo Surfskis will now ship with Spectra rudder lines.  Spectra/Dyneema is widely regarded as the optimal rudder line for surfskis
  • Custom Color Schemes – With Nelo you have the option to custom order the color scheme of your choice. For the WWR/4 layup you can choose the hull color, front and rear deck colors, lines that outline the front and rear decks, and an optional visibility package. Use this link and go to the Color Scheme tab to play around with the configurator and see what is possible. I’ve also included a few designs below for reference. For the SCS/7 layup you can provide a specific design/print of your choice. Google Nelo Images to get a glimpse of what is possible.
  • Rear Cockpit Steering in the Tandem – This is certainly a first in tandem design.   The SS2 600 is designed to be the ultimate instructional boat, and along those lines, Oscar felt it was critical to have steering in the back for two reasons.  First the student in the back can feel the rudder pressure/movements being applied by the instructor in the front.  Second,  the instructor can steer from the back allowing the student to see where and how he is pointing the boat onto the runs.

Bringing NELO SURFSKIS into the Great Lakes Region

We aren’t yet ready to fill a container, so will be air freighting some demo boats to Michigan in order to have them in time to kick-off the summer season.   If we have enough demand, we will work hard to get a container order placed and on the way to Michigan.  Please let us know ASAP if you are interested.   We are super excited to bring these amazing boats to the Midwest / Great Lakes Region