Quite Possibly the Best Boat Ever for an Athletic and Inspired Beginner
Inspired by discussions with Boyan, I recently pulled myself away from the V10 GT to spend some quality time in the Epic V8 Pro. For those who have not heard my podcast with Boyan, one of the topics we discussed was how much time he spends paddling a V8, and his experience that it isn’t much slower than the elite surfskis. More importantly, paddling a heavier and wider boat than you normally paddle in downwind, drives you to be more thoughtful and efficient.) The combination of stiffness and lightweight of the GT enables a lot of “cheating” and the ability to power onto and over runs without truly leveraging all the momentum of the waves.
An additional benefit of training in a more stable boat is that it allows you to use a smaller rudder than you normally would, which helps to develop better use of body weight leans and paddle strokes and braces to turn the boat. Essentially less dependency on the rudder. As Sean Rice recently explained in his clinic, hard turns on the rudder create a lot of drag that slows down the boat. Additionally there are times when the rudder is out of the water or overwhelmed and simply can’t do the job. For these reasons, leaning the boat on edge and leveraging either paddle strokes or braces (equally strong on both sides of the boat0 are critical boat handling skills to have, and they are much easier to develop in a stable boat.
The V8 Pro is the slimmer and more agile cousin of the flagship and best selling Epic V8. It has exactly all the same features, comfort, and ergonomics, but is a foot longer and an inch and a half narrower. Because I’m accustomed to the V10, when I paddle the V8 it feels a tad bit bulky, however I didn’t get this feeling with the V8 Pro. With regard to stability, my sense is that the V8 Pro is closer to the V10 Sport than it is to the V8. Certainly more stable than the V10 Sport, but definitely not as stable as the V8.
Epic’s goal with the V8 Pro was to build a boat that was faster and more nimble than the V8, while still offering enough stability for those who couldn’t quite bridge the gap to the V10 Sport. They definitely succeeded in this. Having spent several years now in the more advanced boats, I felt completely bombproof in the V8 Pro and confident that I would take it out in any conditions and be very relaxed. The V8 Pro demo that I have is a Performance model, and at 35 lbs, it is 15 lbs heavier than the V10 GT I normally paddle. I certainly felt this additional weight when trying to accelerate and power onto runs in a downwind. But that said, once on the run, the V8 Pro surfs like a champion. I had an awesome 12 mile downwind in 4 foot waves with the V8 Pro.
Recently Sean Rice was in town and I had a chance to do a short six mile casual paddle with him. While heading upwind he was very casually holding over 7 mph in the V8 Pro. There is no doubt this boat can move with the right engine. Here are my thoughts on who may want to consider a V8 Pro:
- Experienced paddlers who want something rock solid stable for bigger and colder days, or simply for training in downwind to improve boat handling skills and hone in on leveraging the momentum of the waves
- Paddlers who currently paddle a V8 and want just a bit more speed on flat water, but still something they can manage in bigger downwind conditions
- Inspired beginners who want to buy just one boat that will keep them competitive in all range of conditions for at least five years
- Multi-sport athletes who need the extra few seconds per mile of speed that the V8 Pro will offer over the V8, but still want something they can pretty quickly get comfortable in out in waves and that is stable enough to allow them to develop proper and powerful technique on flat water.
Anticipating that the V8 Pro would be the ultimate boat for an athletic and competitive multi-sport racer, I had a couple pre-configured at the factory with a kick-up rudder. Similar to the V7 and V5, these boats can use either an under stern or over stern kick-up. The kick-up can be a huge advantage in the shallow or weedy conditions often found in multi-sport races.
This past weekend, Sean Rice was in town and if I had any chance of watching him from behind, I had to be in my V10. Paddling the V10 felt amazing after training in the V8 Pro. My skills were a bit more honed, and when I needed to power up and over a run it felt effortless. It certainly wasn’t enough to keep up with Sean, but I did manage to clock some of my fastest miles ever. I can’t attribute it all to training in the V8 Pro, but it certainly helped.
The Epic V8 has been nothing short of magical when it comes to creating happy, relaxed, and confident paddlers. I am certain that for those are ready for just a little bit more, the slimmer cousin will do just the same!