RPM Murray 200 km – New Challenge Stellar SES

I am surrounded by kayaking, kayaks and kayakers. I run a kayak store in Melbourne. I store four kayaks in the lounge room. I met my partner kayaking.

I love the sport and wished I had been introduced to the sport as a kid. I envy K1 paddlers that make it look effortless.

Shortly after crossing Bass Straight in a kayak last year the surgeon advised – “No more long distance paddling due to blood clots.” Should I listen? For many of us paddlers, kayaking keeps us sane and life in perspective

I wanted to have a crack at the Murray RPM 200. It is the only one missing from the list- Hawkesbury Classic, Murray Marathon. So planning began, all focussed on Queens birthday weekend, 208 km, three days. It was going to be Very Flat…. NO Flow or Assistance. Trying to heed both the surgeons advice and the well meaning (nagging) advice of caring family members, I needed to make changes to satisfy everyone that this was achievable and safe.

The RPM attracts all types of crafts. K1 is the fastest craft on flat water and would zoom past me. I envy/respect their abilities to keep them up for 70km each day, but when the wind picks up or you need a drink or food the chances of falling in the drink in winter become very real.

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I can’t change the hereditary factors that contributed to the blood clots but modern medicine such as blood thinners could reduce the clotting, however they make me feel like crap. After my last long paddle the clots occurred in my lower calves. I choose the Stellar SES for a number of reasons but the minimal ‘hump’ means there is no contact with the boat during leg drive this reducing the likelihood of bruising and compression caused with the centre hump in most skis.

So how does the Stellar SES stack up .After 6 weeks of training in the lead up to the event, followed by the actual RPM, I can say I like it, a lot. The Stellar SES holds it’s speed but it’s a different beast compared to other similar level skis. The Stellar has a slightly flatter hull which gives it a bit more stability and confidence. The nose seems to lift quicker when you start accelerating onto a wave or chasing a runner. In previous long distance races I end up rubbing two holes in my lower back to such an extent that I’m accustomed to taping up the two point on my pelvis which I call bullet holes. The seating position in the Stellar is a lot different and because long distance paddling is about time on your bum – being comfortable is critical. The comfort level of the Stellar made a huge difference during the RPM.

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Melbourne can get bloody cold. I splashed out and bought the optional cockpit hatch. At first I was apprehensive. Many Multisport competitors are looking for a boat for a range of different events. Being able to add a cover to an Ocean Racing Ski is brilliant. I’m not saying it hasn’t been done by other manufactures but it really worked on the RPM especially in the mornings. On the first day it was 3 degrees, foggy, still and dark. In the afternoons when I was cold and wet paddling into a headwind I could feel the cold seeping in and I was thankful that the cockpit cover gave me that extra bit of protection. Contrast this to Hawkesbury Classic several years ago when it poured for most of the event and I was sitting in a ski in the dark, feeling the chill set it with no protection. Reducing the exposure from wind and rain by adding the cover was welcome feature of the Stellar .

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It doesn’t matter who produces the boat – Kayaks and Skis can fail on the seams. I like the massive seam tape on the Stellar and though it might be a minor point it gives me piece of mind that it’s not going to fail on the join line.

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Back to the RPM….it’s a fantastic event and well organised by the Marathon Canoe Club SA.

The Murray River from Berri to Morgan is stunning and different. The first checkpoint each day is at a lock. Entering the locks is a bit freaky for the first time and we wasted time each day on the bank getting cold waiting for all the paddlers to arrive. Waiting for everyone to arrive is a great time to load up on an extra banana before heading off again. The locks themselves are a pretty amazing engineering feet. We all paddled into the locks, heard the big doors swing shut behind us, and felt like we are sitting in a bath tub waiting for someone to pull the plug out. After the water level was reduced by about three metres, the front doors swung open and we paddled out.

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I was really impressed with the range of boats that had entered and it was great to see so many people having a go. Long distance paddlers are a mad bunch and I think it attracts someone a little bit crazy. It’s funny I’m always amazed paddling is the easy bit. Finding someone who is prepared to put up with driving to the next check points, put up with the kayakers requests for Lamingtons, Bananas, Vegemite and Nutella wraps and listen to them crap on about what hurts for THREE DAYS on a perfectly good long weekend – These are the champions. Thank you to the Organisers and the Support teams for making it happen.

So if you can organise a support crew from within your work/family/friend network then there are a few more fantastic ultra paddling races coming up. The Murray Marathon and the Hawkesbury Classic in October. The Hawkesbury is a cracker….. 110k in the dark, partly against the tide – It would be great to organise a bunch of Stellar Paddlers to have a go. So do some research and have a look at the New Stellar SR or even the Stellar S18S and come and have a go.

Regards

Andrew Melbourne Kayaks

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SEI(Stellar Elite Intermediate) Review by Wesley Echols

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A few weeks ago, I drove six hours round trip in torrential down pours to pick up the SEI along with my other Stellars. Few things excite me more than new surf skis! This one had the potential to fill in the gap in the Stellar line for an all purpose ski that would combine speed, stability, and universal fit for most paddlers. Many months ago I gave my input on what thought the SEI should include so I was very excited to see it in person. It has only been four years since the first Stellar surf ski hit the market. Now the newly designed SEI is here!

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Over these four years many new skis have come to the market which can make the choice even more difficult for some paddlers. However, ultimately, with enough information and hopefully a test run or two, paddlers are now rewarded with a choice of skis that meets their needs at their particular point in their paddling career. On the other hand, with so many choices, many paddlers own several skis based on how a particular boat meets their diverse paddling needs. Now we have different categories of boats from novice, intermediate, high performance skis and some that blur the lines between the classes like the SEL, Hawx, V10, Huki S1-XL, and now the SEI. The market demand and competition among manufacturers to design skis for every type of paddlers ultimately gets more paddlers into the market,drives innovation, and rewards paddlers with more stable yet efficient and better fitting skis. Competition never stands still among paddlers or manufacturers. If you are standing still then you are not moving forward as a paddler or manufacturer.

image012 Saddling up for the Ride the Bull Race, putting SEI through the paces! Nice Profile!
image013 SEI Ride the Bull Race
image014 SEI at start of Ride the Bull.
image015 SEI w/8inch rudder.

The SEI was designed to fit in between the SR and SEL in terms of speed and stability while adding a different(rounded) shaped cockpit and tapered footwell. So the SEI is 18 inches wide and 20ft long and fills this gap nicely in the Stellar lineup. It is called the intermediate but my experience is that it certainly has intermediate stability but its speed exceeded my expectations. If you categorize the SEI in the intermediate class then it would rank as one of the fastest. If you rank it in the HPS(high performance ski) it would be on the low end of this category. You can see how the lines are blurring between skis.

image016 Excellent Construction in Excel Layup(24lbs)
image017 SEI(left) and SES(right)
image018 SEI side by side to SES

Speed

Like most Stellars, the SEI retains the combination of excellent stability coupled with pleasing speed, and superb build quality. For example the SES is the fastest, slimmest beam of any true ocean ski with exemplary stability for the small to mid size paddler. My SEL Ultra has wonderful top end speed with outstanding stability. I think most paddlers will be surprised at the SEI’s speed. I put four GPS tracks on this review so you can get a sense of the speed. If you have been following my reviews over the years, you have proof of my speeds generated via races with my long time competitors/training partners, along with my GPS training runs for most of the skis I have reviewed. I also have a huge GPS data base of practically every paddle I have ever done in virtually every ski I have owned since 2003.

If you go by the name Intermediate, the SEI should prove to be one of the fastest boats in this class based on my time trials and the Ride The Bull Race. able to generate some excellent speed with the SEI and by comparison with my racing counterparts. So by design the SEI is much faster than the SR but not as fast as the SEL. Be sure when comparing skis to use comparable layups(weights) and rudders. If you have read any car reviews, they don’t review the base model. They review the top of the line model. Likewise I try to review the lightest ski. In the Stellar line the Ultra are 22lbs while the Excel layups are 24lbs.

Stability

Years ago I would refer to my abilities as in the mid packer class, but now my rough water skills are very good in just about all skis. So I am reminded of that in what I thought was unstable for me a few years ago is now stable. Having said that the SEI is very stable, no surprise here. Secondary is better than the SEL for those having paddled the SEL’s. Like all the Stellars the stability is very predictable and kicks in early so the learning curve is minimized for most paddlers. My first paddle in the SEI was in six foot swells that we rarely get with the 4 inch rudder. I don’t advocate going out with this small of a rudder in these conditions, however, I was surprised how stable I was. I did put on the 8 inch rudder for the Ride the Bull Race which was more than adequate for that day of mixed conditions of refractory, slop and chop, and some tiny bumps inside Mackerel Cove. Again the stability falls in between the quite stable SR and the most stable high performance ski, the SEL.

Fit

The bucket and foot well were designed differently than the other Stellars. The bucket width is approximately the size of the SR for the wide hipped paddler but is tapered nicely for a more ergonomic paddling position with your knees closer together and supported by the sides of the boat. The bucket is also deeper than other Stellars with higher gunwales while your butt is planted in the back of the seat pan affording no sliding. There is less volume in the footwell so practically and visually this is an improvement.

On my second paddle I did take five minutes and taped some pads in the hip area and in the calf area. Remember there are only two skis that I require no padding in: Swordfish and Vintage. My point here that the SEI has a universal seat to fits the wide hipped and heavier paddlers. The track will accommodate a 35 inch inseam. If you need more length, you could move the track forward almost an inch. The track was fine for me at a short 29.5 inches with plenty to spare for the short paddlers. If you are very short, you can move the track toward the bucket by an inch. For the smaller/mid size paddlers, the bucket shape is such that padding the bucket is easy while you still are able to enjoy the overall design of the newer bucket. The bucket to foot well height ratio is about the same as the other Stellars. With padding, I loved the fit. It maybe the best fitting Stellar boat I have. I recently paddled an Evo 2 and V10 both padded out for guys similar to me in size. Having said that, like any ski, you need to try it to make sure it fits you comfortably. The catch is similar to the SEL.

image019 SEI Cockpit
image020 Cam Locks make adjusting footplate super easy.

Summary

Pros: Speed to stability ratio is excellent. Intermediate stability with superb speed of a boat with these specifications. Newer shaped for Stellar,(tapered), and univeral seat to accomodate most paddlers. Less volume in footwell compared to other Stellars. Stellar build quality you can depend on. Lightweight at 24/25 lbs in the excel layup.Most manufacturers have increased their boat weights for durability. Stellar has some of the lightest, stiffest, durable boats on the market. Three point locking footplate with cam locks on the side rails for ease of use and super quick and incremental adjustments. One of the most secure leash attachment points. Three nicely shaped rudders, 4 inch, 8 inch, and 9 inch what fit on all Stellar models with the exception of the S2E. Worldwide distribution. Cons: Single venturi is a little slow to drain – I would go with the double. image021

S14S in the Spring issue of Adventure Kayak

Click on the image to view the wirte up of the S14S in the Spring issue of Adventure Kayak

Please note prices lsited in thsi article are US prices. Australian prices are as follows:

Ultra (Pre Preg Carbon) 4.36m 11.8kg $5,195.00
Excel 4.36m 12.2kg $3,995.00
Advantage 4.36m 15.5kg $3,295.00
Sport 4.36m 17.9kg $2,795.00
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Stellar Kayaks Performance Director

We are excited to announce that Wesley Echols, of Surfskiracing.com, is coming on board to the Stellar Team as the Performance Director. Wesley is known throughout North America and abroad, to be the source for information on surf skis and performance kayaks. His knowledge of boats has developed from a strong passion and enthusiasm in paddling and racing, where he has owned and tested innumerable boats. His eye and ability to translate the feel of a boat are unparalleled in the industry to compare and contrast the pro’s and con’s for different levels of paddlers.

A short review of his past boat reviews will show that it is nothing short of scientific in nature. His analysis and critiques are thorough and just, with countless paddlers verifying the credibility of his findings in his famous speed vs stability chart.

Wes’s passion for paddling extends well beyond the boat itself, as he also runs one of the most vibrant racing scenes in the North America, the Surfskiracing.com’s Series, with races taking place from March through October in the Northeast. It is hard to contain his passion for the sport and his willingness to pass on his knowledge and experience is consummate.

”After a one year hiatus, I have rejoined Stellar Kayaks and Surfskis as the Performance Director. I joined Stellar in 2009 and helped launch Stellar Surfskis in North America. I am excited to work again with the Stellar USA, the dealer networks and of course the current and future Stellar paddlers. I look forward to helping educate paddlers and growing the sport! If you have any questions concerning Stellar Performance Kayaks and Surfskis, please feel free to reach out to me.”

STELLAR LAUNCHES THE NEW SEI SURF SKI – AND IT’S A ROCKET!

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Stellar Kayaks has been making inroads in the surf ski market for the last two years here in Australia, from modest beginnings with the SE (Stellar Elite) being the first model on the market. The SES (Stellar Elite Small) followed after finding a need for a lower volume boat for lighter weight paddlers. The SR (Stellar Racer) came next and was the introduction into the entry-level market, and has proven to be one of their strongest sellers.

Stellar has never been afraid to widen its market range, initially with the introduction of a cross over ski/kayak, the popular S18S, mainly targeted at paddlers who were looking for option but only finding an Epic V8.

Stellar also launched the SEL (Stellar Elite Low), which fits in between the SES And SE boats. Stellar Kayaks had now put pressure on the other brands by having such a wide range, but if left a massive hole and a huge gap in ability to be able to jump from the SR to the SE range. This gap has seen loyal Stellar paddlers forced to cross over to other brands when looking for an intermediate option, but this is is now a thing of the past, as Stellar Kayaks has just launched the SEI (Stellar Elite Intermediate).

The Stellar SEI is placed in the market to take on the Epic V10 and V10 Sport, the Think EVO II and Fenn Swordfish, and after my first paddles in the SEI, the team at Stellar has not only met these boats head on, it may have just taken them out of play.

Since receiving my SEI Excel (Hybrid lay up, around 11.5kgs), I have done a couple of paddles in varying conditions. A10 km time trial in Sydney Harbour which had a bit of everything, a 3km slog into a 20 knot westerly in Botany Bay, followed by a heavenly 3km chop chase back, and the final paddle was some full on surf work at Sydney’s Maroubra Beach.

I feel there was enough there in all those three paddles to answer the main questions I have been bombarded with from paddlers all over. I am also in a great position to give my frank and truthful comments as I currently paddle the SES in the flat and in wind chop, but really struggle with it in good ocean conditions, especially when rebound comes into play. I feel secure in the SEL in all conditions, but still have the odd brace stroke and swim from time to time. I have been paddling my SR demo out in the ocean on our Saturday session with my training squad (Jimsquad) so I can improve my skills and learn to read the ocean better.

So the main questions I have been asked are: How does it go?; How does it compare to the Epic V10?; What are the main improvements/changes from the other Stellars?

For those of you that narrow your search to a ski that has certain measurements, this blog may not be for you, as from my experience measurements don’t make a ski fast or slow. There are only two things to consider, are you comfortable in the set up and can you keep it upright. The other factor is take your GPS with you, if you’re serious and you have been paddling for a while, you’ll know what speeds you pull through the water.

So, in my opinion, the answers to the questions are:

1. How does it go?

From the moment I unwrapped the SEI, and was able to see the little tweaks on design, I knew this boat was right on the money in its class. Over the 10km time trial in the first paddle, I punched into a solid 15 knot wind for 3kms. This wind abated and swung a little, so only got a little bit of assistance for the last 500 metres of one leg, then paddled about 2kms in side on wind and the rest was in dead calm conditions. I managed to pull an 11km/h average for the paddle. I was happy, I felt I paddled well, but it wasn’t until I dissected the data later and reflected on some of the paddlers around me was I able to say, damn this boat goes well!

There is no doubting it is a little slower than the SE range, it takes more effort to get it to that speed in the flat, I believe it is possibly up to half a km/hr slower boat than the SE range in the dead flat, but once the water moves, this boat comes into its own, it has more rocker than the SE range, and it runs the wind chop and swell better, this has also led to a huge improvement in the maneuverability of the SEI in bigger conditions.

My second paddle was on Botany Bay on a day only Captain Cook would of thought it would be a good idea, but for testing this ski out, I felt it was a good day. I punched into a solid 20 knot westerly with really close 1ft wind chops and found myself holding 9.5km to 10km/hr with no effort. I Think this was possible because the boat is so stable, so much more than the SES, I almost felt as stable in this as the SR. Once again the added rocker was in play and the ski was lifting a little more through the chops, where the SE range would of buried a bit more at time, this was also leading to a very dry footwell area. I turned and chased the runs, and the added maneuverability was amazing.

The SEI ran well, the wind chops were close together, so not the best conditions, but enough was there to get good boat run, cut across and link together. The GPS told the story – sitting solidly on 14.5km/hr.

After this I took it to Maroubra for some surf testing work and it was blowing offshore, with 3 foot waves on the bigger sets and glassy, but those that know Maroubra, know its a heavy break.

I played in the surf for an hour, heading in and out. I got snotted on a monster set heading out on one, but this was a good test as it covered two important items, the remount and the bucket drainage. Remounting any ski in the bubbling moving water of the surf is difficult, and I have issues getting back into the SES, usually taking more than two attempts. I was able to remount in a single move, with limited energy loss, even copping a couple more on the lap. Naturally this left the bucket and footwell area full, and if there is a weak point in Stellars, it is the slow drainage issue once full. I found the bucket cleared the water as fast as any boat on the market, and a lot faster than the rest of the Stellar Range.

I caught some gems back in, riding the peak and surfing until it closed out. I never skewed the ski, and a couple time I felt I was about to go, but I simply leant back and hit the pedals and the nose came back square. This something I could not do in the SE Range. In my opinion this is a ski that will cover the best part of the competitive market, it will be a winner in the ocean by far but has enough in the flat for those that only paddle in enclosed waterways of rivers and harbours.

2. How does it compare to the Epic v10?

Well, in my opinion, it’s tackled it head on and put it in the cupboard to rest for all round performance in the ocean and in the flat.

The Stellar SEI will also rival the Think EVO II for pure ocean racing performance. I’m excited about this as it’s the first ski that Stellar have produced that has better performance in the ocean than in the flat.

3. Build and construction?

As with the entire Stellar range, the SEI is already at the top of the charts in construction.

The 3-positioned foot plate is still there and leads the market in pedal design.

Increased rocker has lead to a ski that has improved its maneuverability immensely. The reduced foot well volume allows the bucket area to drain faster than other boats in there range.

Stellar has introduced small cutaways to allow narrower paddle entry on the catch, something Think and Epic have been doing for a while now. This SEI holds its width to well behind the seat area, and this has provided a boat that is so stable, but with great downwind running capabilities.

In short, this is the boat for the intermediate market. Stellar set out to tackle the market leaders head on, and they have done this with the Stellar SEI!

For a trial contact your local stellar dealer and for more information go to www.stellarkayaks.com.au

Yours in paddling,

Gavin Clark