ski stable light vs. heavy ski tippy?

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9 years 4 months ago #18519 by wesley
Since you guys like the numbers, I have practical experience not just formuIas. I have as much GPS data on the same course in the same model boats of different weights as anybody dating back to 2004. I wanted to tease out this issue since I have owned all these boats. I was curious just like you. I wanted to optimize my performance just like most guys reading these post.

On one course I have paddled it
158 times for 364.2 miles, 54.49.03 hours and that is just the short course. My other 2 time trial courses are on the same course just longer distances where I paddle one
288 times for 1666.18 miles, 274.03.47 hours, and the longest course for
103 times for 985.58 miles, 163.34.15 hours.

The New England Racing market demonstrates that racers overwhelmingly paddle lighter boats. This is the market that I am most familar with so I will stick to that.

The top end and mid packer paddlers that I know prefer lighter boats. I assumed because they think they can go faster in a lighter ski where stability is less of an issue.

Most manufacturers have settled on a 27/28 pound boat weight for one of their options of layups since that weight is a great all around weight for training, racing, durability and cost.

Lighter is faster if stability is a non issue. 10lbs is a HUGE difference in weight. If it was not, why would manufactuers try to consistently get their weights down or at least offer 2 to 4 choices of weight. It is not just about durability and cost.

Could all the guys I race with and prefer lighter ski be misinformed? I don't think so.

Most of the races I do with the same pack of guys, the differences between places is roughly 1-2 minutes. I do know very strong guys that can push heavier boats fast. I was one of those guys years ago. I paddled my 31lbs Huki S1R and broke 3hrs in the blackburn. I know many other guys currently that can do this but for most paddlers the weight of the ski effects there performance. Again the caveat is the balance issue.

Your formula states 26 seconds. I said 5-10 seconds in my earlier post with 4lbs being the threshold. If you look at the options of boat weights by manufacters,most offer a 23lb, 27/28 lbs and a 30-34lbs option roughly a 4 pound difference in weight depending on the manufacturer. Coincidence? I never stocked or sold the heaviest Stellar layup when I was selling for them for over 4 years.

Why, no one wants a heavy ski to paddle or load on their car. This is the New England and US market I speaking to, not other parts of the world where heavier layups are more common due cost and durability issues of going out thru surf, etc.

Most manufactures want to produce a lighter built ski if they can produce it with the quality standards the market demands. The markup on skis of different layups is not that much different if it was just about making more money on the lighter more expensive skis.

Excellent topic, I just want to offer a counter opinion based on all my experience. Sounds like yours is different in theory and the boats you have raced.

Wesley Echols
SurfskiRacing.com
#1 in Surfski Reviews.
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9 years 4 months ago #18521 by red_pepper
Hey Wesley: I was kind of wondering when you would bring up your experience, since I know you've done a lot of back-to-back testing on the same course. :) You stated a 5 - 10 second difference per mile; 26 seconds over a 7 mile course is just under 4 seconds/mile. As a lighter paddler, I could see where you might realize 5 seconds/mile. Being heavier, it's probably less for me - probably more like 3 seconds/mile. I still like a lighter ski; it's far nicer to hoist a 24 lb boat on my car or through a portage than a 34 lb boat (although it's probably good for building muscle!), and it's easier to pop in the shallows (where you're essentially accelerating onto a self-generated wave) and to accelerate onto a wave in bigger water.

I will say, however, that a bit of extra weight seems to tame some skis that have a more challenging reputation. Several people with lighter V12's told me in the past how the ski was "nervous" on-center and somewhat challenging. I've found the Performance layup V12 I purchased recently is simply a joy to paddle, and I'm faster in it than I am in my carbon SE or the Ultra V10L I had previously (and no stability problems with either ski in my normal waters - I don't have enough big water around to be very skilled in bigger waves). Of course, other factors come in (such as ergonomics and hull design), but if weight was a huge factor (within the very defined limits of this thread) I don't think I would have worked this way. I also previously ran the V10L Ultra against the Think Legend Kevlar I owned and a Thunderbolt I also owned on a course I run regularly with very predictable conditions. The T-bolt was the heaviest of the three (at probably just under 30 lbs), but the fastest in my hands (and all three were within 45 seconds or so of each other on a 6 mile course).

As for why people buy lighter boats: They are much nicer to load/unload, they feel livelier, easier to accelerate in waves, there is a certain "cool factor", and there is some gain in speed; if you pick up 30 seconds to a minute on a longer race, that may make a big difference in how you place. Some may be mental as well; as an avid road cyclist, I remember when some cyclists were spending $200 for a carbon seat post. I don't think the few grams saved would have been noticed even by Lance Armstrong!

At any rate, this is a good discussion and I love to hear all opinions/data.

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9 years 4 months ago #18569 by Wiggie7
While not exactly "on thread" I have a question that is closely related to this topic. That is, how much influence does paddler weight have on stability? The reason I ask is that I am currently thinking about switching to a ski from a "fast" sea kayak--(Kayakpro Namu) that weighs just under 40 lbs and feels extremely stable. I can maintain approx. 5.5 mph over 5 miles in the Kayakpro. I've been paddling the Namu for the last 12 months having exclusively paddled whitewater kayaks since 1980. The idea of a faster lighter vessel (I.e. a surfski) is very appealing. I weigh about 150 lbs, height 5ft 11in, and am reasonably fit for my age (61). I also do a lot of sailing, mountain biking, yoga and standup paddle boarding, so my sense of balance is reasonably good. Having observed young kids in kayaks it is obvious that they are way more stable in an adult sized boat than an adult in the same boat with no paddling experience.
I am now getting to my real question. Being on the light side of the range of adult male paddlers (150 lbs) can I bypass one step and go straight to a relatively narrow ski (the Stellar SES for example)? Or would the consensus recommendation be to start with a stable intermediate ski (eg Stellar SR, Huki S1X or Epic V10 Sport)? On the one hand I don't want to bite off more than I can chew, but there is something to be said for getting something that I would be happy with for several years as opposed to growing out of it in one season. To begin with at least I will be paddling mostly on protected water, with some wind waves. I am not intending to get into serious racing, but then I have said that and eaten my words in several other sports over the years!
Of course I would like to try all the above boats, the question is where? I live in NW Florida and the local Epic dealer doesn't stock skis. The main market around here is SUPs and plastic sit on tops, so understandably that is what the shops stock.

One more question. For the same paddler, does a lighter boat allow a faster paddle rate (cadence) because you have less resistance against pulling the boat forward? And is that what allows lighter boats to be faster?

Many thanks for any advice.

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9 years 4 months ago #18570 by mckengmsurfski
Wiggie,
Sounds like you need to try skis in the different ranges and come to your own conclusions. I certainly don't think being smaller has much, if anything, to do with being able to 'skip a step'.
I also understand that trying skis in the US is not easy simply b/c of the limited availability in a lot of areas. When I was first starting out I purchased several boats without trying them; sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't...
Eliteoceansports carries Think surfskis and the Vajda Hawx surfski and we have demos of all models available. You should consider a trip to our area (SE South Carolina) where you can demo a variety of boats. We are sponsoring a race the weekend of November 9th, The Northshore Cup on Lake Marion SC. We will have skis available to demo, and there is nice variety of skis that other racers bring that I'm sure you could try. You could come up, do the race, demo some boats, and come to your own conclusions.

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9 years 4 months ago #18571 by Kayaker Greg
Its a big jump from a sea kayak to an elite level ski and having good balance does not really factor that much as that good balance you have is on your feet. Many have good balance from other sports then struggle for a long time in a elite ski. A sea kayak does not really develop your core fitness that much as the sea kayaks are so stable. No doubt if you try to jump the stability level into an elite ski first off you will struggle for a couple of years, best to get something intermediate to start with and enjoy your paddling, you will be faster than struggling with an elite ski and being lighter you will find that the ski does not sit down in the water and will be less stable.

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9 years 4 months ago - 9 years 4 months ago #18572 by zachhandler
Wiggie - It is an interesting question but I dont think that being light is why kids are stable in a grown up boat. It has more to do with the fact that they are short and therefore have a low center of balance. An elite level ski is worlds tippier than even a narrow sea kayak. In my experience a young fit sea kayaker in their 20s or 30s would take 2 seasons to become proficient in a high performance ski just on flat water, and maybe another year after that before they are comfortable but still no good at rough water. At 61, you are going to learn more slowly than a young man in his prime. If I were you I would not want to waste many good years struggling to balance a tippy boat. The reality is that you are not likely to be faster in a tippy boat than an intermediate boat. An elite boat might be 1 or 2 minutes faster than an intermediate boat over the coarse of an hour, assuming that you have no issues with stability and that you are going quite fast (over 7 mph). Based on your kayak speed I think you would padde a surfski in the mid 6s. At those speeds frictional drag is more important and wave generation less important, and thus the benefit of having a narrow boat is overcome by the drag created by having a longer boat. I think with a an elite level ski you risk wasting many good years to master (or fail to master) a boat that is not going to be any faster for you anyway. Moreover, if you have issues with balance, it is impossible to work on technique or wave reading ability, and you cant even get in a workout because you cant apply power to the paddle. Look for an intermediate of the type you mentioned. I guarantee you will not outgrow it in one year or even 3 years. Odds are you will never outgrow it. It is a safe investment.

Current Skis: Epic v10 g3, NK 670 double, NK exrcize, Kai Wa’a Vega, Carbonology Feather, Think Jet, Knysna Sonic X
Former Skis: Epic V12 g2, Epic V12 g1, Epic v10 double, Nelo 550 g2, Fenn Elite S, Custom Kayaks Synergy
Last edit: 9 years 4 months ago by zachhandler.

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9 years 4 months ago #18573 by chriswalkeralive
I owned a swordfish carbon, sold it and bought a swordfish vacuum glass, sold in and bought a swordfish carbon ... Why? At first I thought the extra cash for the carbon was unnecessary and I wanted to own 2 skis .. An elite for harbour and an intermediate for going it alone "outside." So, why go back to a lighter ski after getting rid of one? I like the feel of a carbon ski.

I have no idea why and lack jargon to explain it. I have not real genuine interest in flat water boat speed, I'm rarely in flat water. I am motivated by how the ski feels under my butt. The lighter carbon ski feels more "connected" - I lack the technical skill to write this as a high end boat performance review but how I feel on a particular ski is really, for me at least, the most important personal element.

I also paddle an Evo11 and just tried the Think Ion, and again the weight difference in layup isn't for me about speed, the lighter layup boats feel great to paddle. I have also been advised that given I launch off the South end of Bondi, where it's a bit unfriendly with dumping surf the heavier ski -glass- might survive longer.

So far the old carbon Fenn elite I launch and dismount from regularly at Bondi is doing fine in spite of some seriously unpleasant wipeouts.
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9 years 4 months ago - 9 years 4 months ago #18574 by Wiggie7
Many thanks to those who responded to my question. Your answers provided me with a valuable reality check. (By the way I meant Huki S1R not S1X).

I am going on a quest to try as many several entry level/intermediate skis as possible to find one that is right for me. Any suggestions of possible venues for trying different skis in the southeast USA or Gulf Coast would be most appreciated. I am hoping to be able to get myself to the race in South Carolina that Mark mentioned in his post.
Last edit: 9 years 4 months ago by Wiggie7.

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9 years 4 months ago #18575 by Dicko
Remember to check if you can remount the ski. As you get older, this gets harder. Some skis are a piece of cake to get into. Some of the deeper seated models require a bit of practice.

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9 years 3 months ago #18576 by Ric
... exciting posts all round ... :woohoo:

Is it too late to come in with a dumb question:
  • Why do the pros use such light skis?

I don't think it has anything to do with throwing them onto the car - but I do think it makes them faster.

I've only read this thread once, so I'm probably making flamebait of myself - for that I apologise in advance and will accept any retorts thrown. Or maybe I'm just missing the point - its hard to see since this thread has gone places.

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9 years 3 months ago #18577 by nell
Ric wrote: "•Why do the pros use such light skis?"

Because lighter skis are indeed faster.

The debate is in how much faster, and in how much faster - when?

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9 years 3 months ago #18581 by Jmuzz
I dont think anyone would deny that lighter is at very least a little faster.

But with the weight steps being almost $1000 per step here not everyone is made of money.

Plus, is the boat the best place to be spending that cash when the "engine" is the area which is really lacking in performance?
Which is faster in most cases, a lighter boat, or a heavier boat with a paddler who has spent the extra $1000 on good coaching?

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9 years 3 months ago #18586 by Ric

nell wrote: The debate is in how much faster, and in how much faster - when?


Great, so I can chime in properly - recently I've been using 2 skis interchangably (both borrowed):
  1. Genius CLK glass vacuum @ 15kg (beginner, light, stable)
  2. Custom Kayaks Focus glass demo (many extra layers) @ 20kg (intermediate, heavy, tippier)

I am 100% comfortable on both of these in any conditions less than 30knots & 2m chop. I'd have to say for me, its condition dependent as to the fastest boat. So at the risk of boring us all....

Downwind, or with chop, or just surfing at Muizenberg - Focus - its just faster on a wave, can get onto a 1ft wave even. Only problem comes when wallowing, because of the extra weight its harder to get restarted. If in any doubt about that, consider how much harder it is on a downwind when you get a couple of litres in the cockpit and walloe.

Upwind - Focus - the CLK catches the wind more, and gets blown around more easily due to lower weight.

Into chop (2ft or so), no wind - CLK - the Focus just feels heavy after an hour of slogging over the chop. Paddling UP the chop is hard in the heavier boat.

Acceleration - CLK - its lighter and MUCH easier to accelerate (to a point). The Focus requires longer, slower strokes until it is up to speed. If I were stronger, that would change...

Flat - Focus - once up at speed, it is easy to keep it there in the flat.

Longer distances 15km and up - CLK - after some distance my arms eventually get too tired to move the Focus.

Shorter distances - Focus - I'm strong enough to keep pushing the heavier boat for 1 hour.


Incidentally I have also paddled a Synergy II @ 19kg and even though it is heavy, and a faster hull, it is just TOO tippy for me to even use properly - it is slower in all conditions for me than either of the other 2 boats. This should be borne in mind, that there is an upper limit per paddler where this thread no longer applies.

Overall, I'd always recommend the lighter stable ski. Can be used in more conditions, more fun, easier to cart around, easier to get better technique. Especially since most people who ask this question are relative beginners where these points become more important.

...my 20c...

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9 years 3 months ago #18593 by Dale Lippstreu
The best ski I have ever owned was an Epic V10 Ultra Elite. Before that I had a standard V10 and the general characteristics of the glass version (stability, manoeuvrability etc.)were essentially the same but the carbon version was a rocket by comparison. I think the difference is largely due to the greater stiffness of the ski (less rocker) and reduced inertia. If you think of each paddle stroke as an energy pulse which accelerates the ski back up to the speed lost between strokes it is easy to see the benefit of less weight/inertia.
But not all skis work well in a carbon layup. I paddled a glass Red Surfpro for a long while and was very happy with it. Rob & I tried the same ski in a carbon layup and we both agreed that it was the most unstable ski we had ever paddled (to the point that we could not maintain a reasonable speed in a chop). A very noticeable characteristic of the glass Red 7 was that it was incredibly flexible with the result that it developed a lot of rocker under load on the water. Without this rocker it was a very different ski.
The characteristics of some skis vary very little in different layups. The best example that springs to mind is the Fenn Elite where the characteristics vary only slightly between layups. It is interesting to note that the Elite has a relatively large amount of “inbuilt” rocker.
My conclusions are that a light carbon ski is the way to go but this does not apply equally to all designs. Also as much as I loved my V10 Ultra Elite I would not go for the layup again because the fragility renders it impractical for regular use. I have opted for an Ultra layup in my new V10 as a practical and affordable compromise
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9 years 3 months ago #18596 by red_pepper

Dale Lippstreu wrote: If you think of each paddle stroke as an energy pulse which accelerates the ski back up to the speed lost between strokes it is easy to see the benefit of less weight/inertia.


Except that to a certain extent, greater boat intertia will help maintain glide between strokes, partially offsetting the easier acceleration of the lighter boat. The hard part is quantifying how much. :) I was fascinated to watch a much lighter racing friend (60 lbs lighter) in his much ligher ICF boat racing against me in my Mohican. You could watch his boat literally jump forward and up on every stroke, and then settle between strokes, whereas my boat would just glide along very steadily (Unfortunately for me, his power to weight/drag ratio was superior and he still kicked my tail in the race).

The best way to quantify the difference ski weights have on performance would probably be to have two fairly consistent paddlers with two identical skis but different weight layups run the same course (with consistent characteristics) over a number of days, alternating boats each run. The times could be placed in a spreadsheet and averaged out to determine the performance delta. If some manufacturer wants to donate a couple of boats to the cause, I would be happy to be one of the volunteers. All in the name of science, of course. :)

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9 years 3 months ago #18598 by fredrik
red pepper, this is exactly what wesley has presented

My take is also that, when in a race and competitor(s) move it is good to have a reactive boat which promotes staying on the wake, and to reduce the need for numerous catch-ups. Worst case you lose the group and fall into hellish "no-mans land" or down to the next group. Faster or not - lighter is better for races - in my mind

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9 years 3 months ago #18599 by red_pepper
Fredrik: sort of. Wesley has done a huge amount of ski comparisons on the same courses, but I can't recall seeing two identical boats with different layups run back to back (which would help remove variations due to conditioning, etc. that could factor in if you run the boats months or years apart). I suspect he would be the best person to run such a comparison, with the number of boats available to him and his training partners.

I won't disagree with your statement about lighter being better for races; I just think the difference in actual times may not be as great as we sometimes think (with a whole host of factors coming in to play).

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9 years 3 months ago #18612 by Dale Lippstreu
"Except that to a certain extent, greater boat intertia will help maintain glide between strokes, partially offsetting the easier acceleration of the lighter boat. The hard part is quantifying how much".

Very true but intuitively the effort should be greater over time in the case of a heavier ski. The fact that a lighter ski will have less wetted area and a stiffer ski will flex less should both contribute to better glide/less rolling resistance.

I have heard the argument many times that it does not make sense to pay a huge amount more for a ski that weighs a few kilograms/pounds less when most of us could afford to lose a similar amount in bodyweight. Oscar Chalupsky explained to me at the time that I bought my 8kg Ultra Elite that you could not equate the 2 because there was a vast difference between the dead weight of a ski and the live weight of your body. A cynic might be tempted to conclude that someone who weighs 110kg/240lbs and chooses to paddle and sell 8kgs skis would have to believe such a thing but any paddler who has tried to accelerate a ski with a cockpit full of water will be able to attest that a few extra kilos of dead weight does makes a huge difference.

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9 years 1 month ago #19489 by photofr
I am sorry to say, but more often than not, paddlers aren't providing enough data / info when making comparisons. For instance, don't you think that most of the data found in testing goes out the door when using a 50kg paddler, over the course of 3.5 hours, over rough water?

There is so far one thing I will agree on though:
A super fast boat will only be fast for as long as it is upright, so if a paddler cannot apply his/her force, this person may need more training / a different and more stable boat that will make him or her way faster.

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)

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