EPIC V11 Elite review

April, sunshine, the beginning of what was to be the most awesome summer ever recorded in Norway. Magnus from my Norwegian EPIC dealer wrote to inform me that my V11 Elite 2018 had arrived on time. Surprised, as I have learned from experience that in general surfski containers never arrive when they should. So I rushed to the store and picked it up!

p001But that’s not very difficult dad!

First impression was wow! The finish is really good. I’ve had a lot of EPIC boats including Elite boats, even a pre prepeg V14 Elite and a prepeg V14 GT. The new Elite sits somewhere between the GT and the old Elite in weight, but clearly outshines the GT and is more stiff and solid than the old Elite. This is not a thorough technical review about nuts and bolts, but just a few of my personal observations about paddling the ski this summer along other of my surfskis.

p002Finish is great! Ready to go with flip-flops mounted in front.

I’ve been careful with the V11, but have bounced the boat around a bit. It doesn’t have a scratch, ok not deep scratches anyway – actually the black finish will get a load of hairline scratches, just like a black car, live on, or get another layup. After 500km in it there’s nothing indicating that it should be prone to soft spots or structural issues. Maybe 500km is not a lot compared to it’s life expectancy, but compared to the V14 GT that came with soft spots, this is just another league.

p003Looking good!

It looks good. It’s short, but proportions look good and the white interior gives it a smooth feel and looks very exclusive.

p015A crisp bright green spring rapidly turned into the warmest ever Norwegian summer

I live 1,5km from the beach and used to have a little wagon I could strap my skis to and push them down to the beach. This winter was fierce, rubber tires and ball bearings froze and the little wagon broke down after rolling 2000km. So now I carry my boats to the beach and welcome the very light V11, lighter than my Swordfish S carbon and my Think Uno Max 3rd  Generation Ultimate. Light enough for the beach hike to be a breeze.

p004At the burnt off beach

Ergonomics: On the water ergonomics feel a bit like the new V12 (that I had along two older V12 Ultra/performance). The seat should be the same EPIC said. It’s not, there might be a slight difference in the mold as the V12 pinched my but a bit, not the V11. I could literally use it a my desk chair.

p005Wake coming up!

I for one know how difficult a good fit can be and have had many frustrations with later Nelo and NK models to mention a few. But if like me you’re comfortable in the bucket of a V14, V8pro, old V12, Fenn Swordfish, most older Nelos and all things Think I’m sure you’ll like the seat of the V11. I did not like the gen 1 V10 though. Try your boat before buying…

p014Einar Kjerschow testing the V11

Handling in chop: Out there it’s very different from the new V12, much more responsive, easier to turn. It just feels more lively and fun. When I posted the first images of the boat Uli Gwinner wrote that he really liked in in chop. I wondered how much better than me he must be, as I came from the V12 and initially found the V11 way more twitchy in the rough. It is. After a few rounds though hips started recognizing the movements of the boat. It feels rock solid in chop as long as you follow its movement.

p006Choppy day

The short version is: I totally love how the boat handles. This is THE boat for me at my current level. It seems fast, I LOVE it in the short Oslo runs and the summer power boat chop – meaning 1-2-3 ft intersecting waves from all directions all summer + wind waves reflecting from steep cliffs. Being nimble is important in our steep choppy waters, and the boat is! Turn, accelerate, go!

p007Windy surf

In late summer we’ve had  a lot of good winds, ranging from 9-20m/s mean wind speeds. On a few occasions I’ve been surprised on the water as the wind suddenly kicked in. Normally I’d head back and opt for my Swordfish or even my V8Pro for these forecasts, but I was surprised to learn how the short V11 just sailed on. It rolls, but you get used to it, and I’ve had some fun days in it.

p009Early morning paddle

All this is a personal issue and might be little value to others, so I’ll try to compare the experience to other boats: The Oscar-era Nelo560 I owned was much the same, lively, fun, fast and wild but not too wild, but destroying my buttbones. Perhaps the Nelo is a bit more twitchy – but only by a few points.

p010My wife prefers her own ski

My old love the great THINK Uno Max is a paddle bus, a fast bus for sure, faster on flat and in small chop. When conditions get big I can’t enjoy it as much as the V11. The V14 (of course) is a tad more unstable, but the biggest difference though is that it’s much more easy for me to manoeuvre the short V11 in waves – letting me catch rides and runs moments after I see them

We get short steep waves in Oslo. I wasn’t too fast in my V12 in Oslo, but I was very fast in my V12 when I got home to the long fast predictable runs in windswept sandy Danmark. The V11 is an Oslo / Sune boat and I love it.

p011Cooling off with my wife on one of those 35C Oslo summer days

I like it so much I’ve ordered the new V10 Elite 3rd generation as well. Did that a long time ago, and sometimes I wonder if I really need it now that I’ve become one with my V11.

I’ve owned 27 surfskis, I’ve liked quite a few, fell in love with maybe two or three, but it’s the light nimble V11 that I want to paddle when I get home from work these days.

So is this useful for you? I don’t know. For reference I’m 44, started paddling at 37, at 38 Boyan told me my technique probably couldn’t get worse even if I tried, at 40 I went to Fish Hoek to paddle Millers run with Nikky Mocke in +15ft  (figure rising every time I tell the story) swell and waves and loved/hated it. Normally though I paddle anything from flat, small runs and lighter downwinds at 10-26kt winds in Oslo and Denmark, and paddle 5 times a week for fun, fitness, friendship and sometimes for competition.

p012Ready to go!

Downsides? Yeah, but not too many. The paddle bangs against the sides of the boat now and then, and the lid on the rudder house expands in the heat and gets stuck. EPIC has informed they’ll fix that though. The hairline scratches are not pretty on a jewel like this – but inevitable.

Now that our awesome summer is ending or has ended, the autumn winds are slowly brewing and I’m looking forward to comparing the V11 to the new 3rd Gen V10 in the months to come!

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I’m not suggesting that you rush down to your dealer and buy a V11. You might be way past my skill level or you might find the ski way too much to handle. All I’m saying is that finish and construction are first rate, the ski is very light and solid. I find that it handles very well in short steep confused as well as larger runs and surfs very well. Feels rock solid on the runs and doing good upwind despite being light, although it surely doesn’t have the directional stability that my Think Uno owns.

Biggest difference being that the V11 turns on a dime making paddling downwind while picking between emerging waves very fun. Don’t know if / dont think that it’s faster than speeding on a straighter line in a V14, but you get a very satisfactory feel for the water in the V11. Haven’t tested it in fast long runs where my Think rules though. But – it’s surely an Oslo / Sune boat for now!

Sune Wendelboe, Oslo, August 2018

http://www.surfskipaddling.com

 

 

 

 

Surfski paddling safely through winter

Updated January 9th 2017

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Winter upwind February 2016

First of all – thank you very much to everybody who kindly sent their own winter paddling safety tips in preparation of this post – greatly appreciated.

Putting your hands in ice water for a as long as you can is an old party game and a medical pain tolerance test. It´ll sting, bite and make you scream within one minute, it´s a scary test for a paddler, and not one you´d want to repeat with your entire body hundreds of meters into the waves.

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Proper winter downwind February 2016

Every year several Scandinavian paddlers will drown or become comatose during a winter paddle due to hypothermia. Getting out of the water fast to avoid loss of dexterity is a key feature to survival, so easy reentry is key and this just makes a surfski the perfect winter paddling craft.

 

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Christmas fun

Remount
Remount is paramount. But loss of manual dexterity comes fast. Don’t think you get five chances in choppy 0ºC/32ºF waters. Do your remount training in summer and check your skills in full winter gear.

 

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Winter remount drills December 2017 in a V14

Hypothermia
Cold water sucks out your warmth 25 times faster than cold air, if you move to keep warm in the water this rate actually increases as you´re constantly exposed to fresh cold water instead of heating the layer next to your skin. At 0ºC/32ºF you get about two minutes before you loose manual dexterity – depending on your clothes . Very important that you get out of the water. But once you’re submerged cold shock will hit you with a very direct and scary physical response as explained below. To a degree this even happens when you’re in a dry suit. Know this and try this in safe settings so you can deal with it as a routine thing and wont panic and start flailing aimlessly about loosing the warmth that you need to get out.

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Nice day for a time trial in the V12

A fall into cold water 0-15ºC/32ºF-59ºF (!) in normal clothes will do this to you:

Cold shock
On falling into cold water, cold receptors in the skin cause immediate physiological responses, the first of which is a “gasp” reflex. If this happens when your head is under water, you are in deep trouble. Next, you begin to hyperventilate, within seconds, your heart begins to race, and your blood pressure spikes. Hyperventilation may make it difficult to get air into your lungs, leading to panic and further hyperventilation. These symptoms can trigger cardiac arrest in susceptible individuals. Even healthy individuals will have difficulty keeping their airways above water without a flotation aid while undergoing these major physiological stresses. The effects of cold shock normally peak within the first minute and stabilize very soon thereafter.

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Shoveling the ski

Cold incapacity
After a few minutes, the muscles of your limbs are affected. Neuromuscular activity slows and body fluids literally congeal in the muscles. You feel the effects first in your hands and fingers. Then the deeper tissues in your arms and legs cease to operate properly. It becomes more and more difficult to perform any tasks requiring manual dexterity, such as using flares or other survival equipment. Survivors have reported that after a few minutes it was impossible to open a package of flares or to tie a knot in a line. After ten minutes immersion in very cold water, your arms and legs will no longer respond to your will. Even experienced swimmers have difficulty co-ordinating breathing and swimming strokes; short swims may be impossible. In heavy weather you have difficulty keeping your face out of the spray and you may not be able to avoid inhaling water. You will certainly have difficulty keeping your airway above the water without the assistance of a flotation aid.”

(from http://www.shipwrite.bc.ca/Chilling_truth.htm)

Chilling to say the least

winter009Deck icing over

Dry or wet suit
I´ve paddled through a Norwegian winter in a 7mm wetsuit and can´t recommend it. It´ll keep you warm, but moving around gives you more resistance than you need, a bit like being wrapped in latex resistance bands.

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Get a good light flexible dry suit. Your speed will drop compared to summer and rotation will not be as easy. But its the beast way to actually be paddling through winter and enjoying it. Check the latex wrist and neck seals often, they tear and if they don’t fit tight they can send a bucket of ice water down your spine when you fall off.

LatexNeckSeals

Be aware that holes render the suit useless and are dangerous. Fall off and water will be pressed through any holes and the water settles towards your feet giving you heavy legs that you just can´t lift out of the water. You´re now wearing an anchor!

winer004

 Minus 8ºC/17ºF is not a problem in a good dry suit. This is a heavy Kokatat. Update: In 2017 I´m spending most time in a very light Ursuit, even when -11ºC. Tears easily, but flexibility is most important.

Yes it does get warm from time to time if you misjudge the temperature and  intensity vs. warm layers under the suit. But remember that you have cold water at hand. Try a remount drill to cool off.

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Update 2017: Under armour
This is not specific to surfski in winter, but specific to all winter activity. Wool on skin is highly recommended by my fellow Norwegian paddlers and friends on cross country ski. I do not like this. It´s itchy so I find a good technical substitute and add a full body fleece. Full body to avoid too many seams that´ll rub skin.

Dealing with ice
Ice is dangerous. Period. Update 2017: Check the video above.

It´s mostly a very solid object if you hit it with your carbon boat or paddle. Might not do more to your gear than a few scratches, but as you have nothing to hold on to it´ll tip you over as easily as a rodeo bull would, especially if you’re going at any speed.

Tempted to take this short cut?:

winter005

I was, but as I shot this image the left floe 200m x 100m x 2inches  started gliding with no sound and hit the right floe crushing the edge until the left floe went under the right like tectonic plates. I should’ve known that the thick pieces of ice on the edge didn’t get there by coincidence.

winter0006

The very best scenario if I had gone this way is that the ice two inches thick would have broken my boat. Always asume that all ice moves.

Even thin ice will drift and stack in wind and can catch you and send you drifting away as well. Having a small boat at hand to break a path for you is a luxury I got today, so I got away with just some scratches in the gel coat. Not that it was dangerous at all but the line is thin so be aware of the dangers around ice.

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On thin ice

On cold windy days ice breaks up, but as soon as the wind lessens ice can form around the shore in under and hour and will do so if water temperatures are close to 0ºC/32ºF. Blocking beach access or the strait you need to go through. You can´t paddle through it, can´t hack with a carbon paddle, can’t ram your light boat through it but only up on it making you fall off, you can´t swim through it, it can’t support your weight. You need to find another landing if you can.

winter00011

 No way back to the club

Just don´t mess with ice.

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Phone
Always bring a phone. Remember to fill the bag with air so you can use it when droplets stick to the plastic and would´ve confused the touch screen. Update 2017: iPhone 7 home button is good, but not in a bag, it just doesn´t work. I´m leaning towards an old dumb-phone.

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Surfski Design
Some surf skis have a bailer that doesn´t close. Clearly indicating that the manufacturer never thought people in temperate countries would want to try this wonderful sport in winter.

When it´s -10ºC/14ºF a closable bailer is such a nice thing and actually the only thing that’ll make you able to take a rest without freezing your feet and butt off. It wont freeze.

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Many – most – surf skis don´t have space in the foot well for good winter boots or even socks in neoprene shoes. Some do and among these are the ones that figured out the bailer thing.

Choose a stable ski compared to your skill level and the conditions. Update 2017. I only paddle my V14 in winter now, all other boats are too heavy to drag through the heavy winter water, but that is only because I know my remount drills in this boat very very well! Exception is after dark, stability is needed when the horizon goes away.

winter014

 

Paddles
Viscous drag increases dramatically with falling temperatures. You can almost sense how the viscosity and density increases during winters as water goes still and heavy like quicksilver.

This might mean that a smaller blade and shorter paddle is better. Winter paddling clothes will restrict your technique a bit also pointing towards smaller blades.

But most importantly go with a paddle that you’re totally familiar with, knowing exactly what it will do in and out of the water.

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Gloves
You get pogies, neoprene five fingers, toaster mitts, latex covered neoprene, open palm mitts etc…

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Controlling your paddle and knowing its position and the rotation of the blade is key to your stability and not something you want impaired by stiff slippery neoprene gloves.

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Pogies

For the same reason lots of people prefer pogies. I don´t do pogies when it’s freezing as you´d loose dexterity very fast when taking them off to fix something or even remounting. If you feel tippy don´t consider pogies.

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Gloves that has the palm cut out are good too if you need a lot of control, but mostly for autumn as they’re too cold.

In any event hand protection is probably the most personal choice you´ll  have to make.

I have a whole mountain of gloves and try to go as thin as possible. These thin NRS hydroskins are good for down to -4ºC\25ºF, maybe not really god for my skin, but better for maintaining good technique. Update 2017: They´re just too thin, read on…

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Update 2017: You´ll loose heat with split fingers. Try mitts like this. It´s clumsy off the water but will give you loads more warmth and control on water, much more like paddling without gloves. Bad for photography of course…

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Test different gloves.

 

Other safety measures
I´ve had many suggestions in preparation of this post. Like bringing an ice pick to avoid getting caught or a knife to cut a fixed rudder from fishing nets or lobster pots. Personally I don´t like to many gadgets around me on the water, but do what you find safer. Don’t need to mention pfd or leash.

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However I think it´s a very good idea to think through what sort of safety redundancy your winter paddling has. What if the hull suddenly leaks at sea – if you hit a reef. What if the rudder lines freezes – (you can work them free by continuous small left/right jerks). What if you loose your paddle?

A phone seems to be a good choice to keep some redundancy when one system fails. Maybe even a PLB or a flare especially if doing winter downwind. And if you do, bring a buddy!

winter011

Going to the beach

 

Test your gear
It is cold I know and a bit scary. But do get into the water where it´s not too deep and see for how long you can avoid shaking and can keep manual dexterity. I aim at 15 minutes. So thats my window for remounting or getting to the shore. Swimming is not effective in winter gear at all, try it and don’t rely to much on doing it in an emergency.

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 How long can I stay here?

While I’m basking in the water people often shout at me or approach me, sort of nice to know that people care, but also tells you that this is a bit extreme. Do do remount drills. It’s more heavy and difficult than in shorts and 20ºC/68ºF but not much, and surely beats falling out off and remounting a kayak.

In an emergency remember that if you lack the strength to pull yourself completely clear of the water, any amount of your body removed from the water will extend your survival time.

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Winter training -3ºC/27ºF with Einar Kjerschow & Mats Grov

Dark
If you want to train outside weekends and have an average 8-16 job you´ll be dry paddling in a gym or paddling in the dark.

Don´t get a head lamp as the reflections from the boat will blind you so you loose the feeling of the level horizon and then you get wet.

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Snowblind

Your eyes get used to the dark, try it and take your time. This works especially well if you have a touch of city lights or moon light handy. This is enough, but stay away from the rocks and reefs at the shore that you can see in daylight, but not too far away. If there’s a risk of dark invisible ice be aware, as hitting ice in the dark at 12km/h isn’t going to end very good. Use non-blinding lamps on the boat, shoulders or head as boats can’t see you. In most places the law requires you to use lights.
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Swearing
Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in England, has published a study where students stuck their hands in cold water.

After their fingers and hands had returned to their normal temperature, the students were asked to say a profanity of their choice over and over again while their hand was immerged the cold water again. Less pain was experienced and on an average the students were able to keep their hands in the icy water 40 seconds longer than they did when they were not swearing.

This one is optional!

 

Enjoy!
Winter paddling is a special feeling, it makes you feel close to nature and is way better than going to the gym. Take your precautions, stay safe and you’ll have a lot of fun fitness!

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Paddling with the boys

 

Icy roads ahead!

icy roadsI´ve been asked a number of times how winter surfski paddling can be made safe. Next friday January 9th I´ll post an article on this. Dry or wet suit. Key factors in Surfski design. Gloves & boots. Dealing with ice. Remounting in winter. Hypothermia… Any good tips that you have and would like to share are very welcome!<

Surfski Film Festival 2014 – Sweden in the lead!

Surfski is taking off, no doubt about it. Nowhere as fast as in Sweden.  But without enthusiasts nothing takes off. This is just what they’ve got in Sweden. Namely the surf ski community “West Coast BAMF Surfski HPG Luck-lovers” headed by Trent Victor.

Two other VERY active members of this society are Emma Levemyr (European SS Silver Medallist, Swedish SS Gold Medallist) and Evy Lantz (Swedish SS Bonze Medallist) and many other enthusiast are found here too.

Wind and cold waters are perfect for surfskipaddling too. So Emma’s, Trent’s and Evy’ home – Kungsbackafjorden – near Gothenburg just has it all and is is THE cradle of cold surfskipaddling. And more on this later.

Now Emma, Evy  and all these creative forces have created the annual Surfski Film Festival. The world’s first & only Surfski Film Festival? What a really great idea. Here´s the trailer. Enjoy! #Entrepreneurship