who paddles what and where?

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8 years 5 months ago #21627 by SkiMania
Hi, I am new to this forum and I took some time to read through various threads.
To me, it seems like most manufacturers focus on elite skis, most products reviews are about elite skis, etc...which is a bit of a surprise to me as I assumed that 90% of all paddlers are somewhere around the beginner to advanced intermediate stage. So here are my questions: Are most paddlers experienced enough to focus on advanced/elite skis? What would be the percentage of beginner vs. intermediate vs. advanced/elite paddlers?
What would be the percentage of "open ocean paddlers" in Australia, South Africa, etc (I assume most paddlers e.g. in Sydney paddler in the harbour while most people in SA paddle in the open ocean)?
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8 years 5 months ago #21639 by [email protected]

Are most paddlers experienced enough to focus on advanced/elite skis?


If you ask Oscar Chalupsky, the answer is: No! Most paddlers are on skis that are too advanced for them.

It's only relatively recently that very stable beginner skis (Epic V8, Fenn Blue-fin, Think Eze) have been available. These boats allow virtually anyone to jump on and have fun without spending weeks falling out.

A whole crop of intermediate skis is also available in the form of Think Evo II, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10 Sport, Carbonology Zest, etc. These boats are a great in-between step from beginner to elite.

The elite skis are Epic 10, Epic V12, Epic V14, Fenn Elite, Fenn Elite Glide, Fenn Elite SL, Fenn Elite S, Think Uno, Think Uno Max, Nelo (various models), Point Speed, etc, etc.

And yes, I've only named a small subset of the most well known brands - there are many other skis out there O'Krea in France, Allwave in Italy, Nordic Kayaks in Sweden, etc, etc.

There are a couple of factors that influence paddlers' choices:
  • Ego: "I wouldn't be seen dead on a beginner boat"
  • Conditions: Inland, flat water paddlers can get away with paddling tippier boats

In the last couple of years, more and more paddlers have realised that they go faster on more stable, "slower" hulls, because they can focus on correct technique. Personally I've found that my downwind times haven't been affected by moving to intermediate boats - but I've been a lot more relaxed and I've enjoyed the paddling more!

What would be the percentage of beginner vs. intermediate vs. advanced/elite paddlers?


Good question. And I'd say it's just like any sport - the biggest proportion are beginner, there's a healthy proportion of intermediate paddlers and there's a small group of people who are capable of making the most of elite skis on rough water.

What would be the percentage of "open ocean paddlers" in Australia, South Africa,


It depends what your definition is I guess. If you mean hardcore downwind paddlers, I'd say it probably is a fairly small proportion given that we might see 200 paddlers for a "normal" race but only 40-50 for a "proper" downwind race.

There are further aspects of skill/rough water handling. For example here in Cape Town we seldom have to go through surf to get out into deep water, where in Durban, it's quite common to have to negotiate substantial surf both at the beginning and end of races. The organisers in Durban have recently found, unsurprisingly given the cost of surfskis these days, that if their races involve big surf, fewer people turn up!

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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8 years 5 months ago #21649 by red_pepper
Living in the Midwestern USA, nearly all of my paddling and racing is on flat-water, so I'm paddling an elite ski. I'm very comfortable with it on flat water to mild chop/light waves, and I need the low resistance for flat water racing. Throw some real waves in, however, and I'm over my head. All my energy goes into staying upright. As such, I find I have a lot more fun and paddle much better/faster with an intermediate ski when I get the chance to hit real waves. :)

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8 years 5 months ago - 8 years 5 months ago #21650 by K Racer
Replied by K Racer on topic who paddles what and where?
Best quote ever from the Big O himself....Stability before Ability. I started racing 2 years ago on a very stable sea kayak then progressed to a V8. Recently got a V10 and do great on it until the water gets "confused". When I get into these slop patches I brace more than paddle. On the V8 I can keep paddling even if I have to back off the effort just a little. No matter what you paddle the thing that I have learned is the importance of practicing remounts in real conditions. Knowing you can remount even in waves is a confidence booster. Also, learning how to do low and high braces will keep you moving. On an elite ski the boat will be most unstable when it is not moving.

I am in U.S. Paddle both flat water and open water.
Last edit: 8 years 5 months ago by K Racer. Reason: needed to add my location

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8 years 5 months ago #21660 by gwynnd
Replied by gwynnd on topic who paddles what and where?
Are there any intermediate skis built for smaller paddlers (<75kg/165pounds) or do we have to go towards the elite boats to get a ski that fits us?

I have taken this route and am thoroughly enjoying my Fenn Spark ( sold as an elite boat ) in Durban - downwinds an 'll , although I am not by no means an Elite Paddler. I feel that the fit of the Spark more than compensates for the problems I had handling the bigger volume skis.

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8 years 5 months ago #21663 by Spacehopper
Great post SkiMania, you've raised a subject that actually made me want to sign up and stick my oar in. ;)

I'm a newbie to competitive paddling (V8 and stable K1) and curious about how focused on the elite end a lot of it appears.

Flatwater kayaking strikes me as having become completely divorced from the recreational side of the sport, with low participation levels (in the UK at least) that perhaps reflect that.

Surfski seems to be waking up to the idea that by producing more 'accessible' boats the sport will grow. But I don't think it's gone far enough yet.

few random ideas:

- pure recreational skis (i.e. stable, with hatches) aimed at the next-step beyond sit-on-tops. Making the ergonomics of ski-style cockpits 'normal' and building a wide base of ski paddlers by keeping the jump in skills as small as possible.

- marketing them with some conviction! :) I think the V6 is a great boat but I get the impression that Epic don't believe in it and market it as much as they should?

- Prizes/titles for 'beginners' class of skis. By giving more validity to these skis there is less pressure to trade up prematurely. Defining rules for this is a bit of a can of worms so another alternative would be...

- One-design racing. As some of the sailors who populate the Surfski.info forums will know, this is very much the norm in sailing. As far as I can tell it is rare or doesn't exist in paddlesports? A V8 or Bluefin class prize if enough boats of one type are entered? Would be interesting to see boat models listed as part of results as a norm.

Related to the above two points it's maybe worth noting the Laser dinghy is very low tech (polyester and glass matting, metal mast etc.), low performance and originally intended as a knockabout beach boat. It's also the most popular adult sailing dinghy on the planet and an Olympic event. Even before becoming Olympic, to win a Laser world championships marked the winner out as an elite sailor. Perhaps a similar situation could occur in surfski.

- More of a mix of race types including some in protected waters to let people build up their skills. Open water downwinds are awesome but not a good place to find out your skills aren't up to the boat you are paddling.

- More beginner level demo boats? It's the newbies that need convincing that the sport is for them by actually paddling a boat more than those trading up.

Well that turned into a bit of an essay... :blush:
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8 years 5 months ago #21666 by red_pepper
Hey Spacehopper,

I would say that many of your thoughts have been put into practice.

The Epic V6 and the Stellar S18S and S14S are stable surf skis with hatches. The Epic V8 and Think Eze don't have hatches, but they are stable skis. My observation of recreational paddlers (I paddle with a rec group about once a week) is that most are not interested in the surf ski layout; they typically prefer the warmer/dryer sit-inside kayak with the option of using a skirt. That may change over time, but I don't see much cross-over at this point. Usually those who take up the skis are more oriented towards performance or surfing waves.

In the USA, there are plenty of flat-water and protected-bay races with classes for V8-type boats (they are usually legal in sea kayak classes), and from what I've observed, they seem to be fairly popular. It's the intermediate-level skis that don't get any respect :) (although in bigger conditions many paddlers are faster in intermediate-level boats than in elite-level boats). It's likely you'll always read more about elite-level paddlers and their boats, because that's where the greatest excitement level tends to be (much as in auto racing or any other sport where the focus is usually on the most extreme athletes and vehicles), but this is a sport where you have to stay upright before you can enjoy it (I've noticed that all ski types are faster with the bottom down), and thus there will always be a solid demand for the more stable boat types.

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8 years 5 months ago #21671 by SkiMania
Thanks for all your detailed comments. Interesting how versatile our opinions and experiences are...please keep on discussing!

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8 years 5 months ago - 8 years 5 months ago #21679 by Spacehopper
Cheers for your reply Red Pepper,

red_pepper wrote: The Epic V6 and the Stellar S18S and S14S are stable surf skis with hatches. The Epic V8 and Think Eze don't have hatches, but they are stable skis.


Indeed, I was interested to see the S14S appear recently as it's another step towards overlapping with sit-on-tops. However its still a short list compared to the infinite permutations of intermediate and elite skis.

red_pepper wrote: My observation of recreational paddlers (I paddle with a rec group about once a week) is that most are not interested in the surf ski layout


I think we're referring to different rec paddlers. Undoubtedly many sit-in kayakers are well indoctrinated against sit-on-top boats of any description. ;)

However sit-on-top numbers are massive at present and, in the UK at least, are largely ignored by the governing body and most clubs. Most SOT paddlers see it as a bit of once a year fun but there will be a certain percentage who get the bug and want to take it further. At present they end up in sit-ins but I think if ski manufacturers produced suitable boats and marketed them widely enough that many would choose that route.

A small percentage of the SOT population would massively increase the ski population... Perhaps advertising in the places these people go when thinking of trading up (sea-kayak magazines/websites) and putting boats forward for independent reviews might have some mileage?

red_pepper wrote: Usually those who take up the skis are more oriented towards performance or surfing waves.


It ain't necessarily so... ;) The stereotype of the kayak angler - a fat guy on a barge who just sees paddling as a means to an end is true in many cases. However there are also quite a number who get much more into paddling. The emergence of ski-style fishing kayaks has proved popular and a stepping stone to 'real' skis. It's early days and small numbers at present but it seems to be growing. Again a small slice of the kayak fishing pie is a big slice for surfski: Probably only a few hundred surfski paddlers in the US and UK, but forum membership for kayak fishing for these two countries probably cumulatively sits at over 50,000...

red_pepper wrote: It's likely you'll always read more about elite-level paddlers and their boats, because that's where the greatest excitement level tends to be (much as in auto racing or any other sport where the focus is usually on the most extreme athletes and vehicles)


Perhaps, but this often runs counter to actual participation levels. Auto racing is hardly a mass participant sport! Also, I think the OP and myself were getting more at the way the sport is organised and it's accessibility rather than the media side.

Cycling also has a media focus on it's elite but also a vibrant competitive (and semi-competitive) side. However you or I, as mere mortals, could get on the Tour de France winner's bike and pedal it to the shops.

Sailing does a lot of soul searching about how to improve participation (something that competitive paddling could maybe use a bit of). The old chestnut of more extreme boats = more tv = more participation rears it's head frequently. However there is little evidence for this being true. As more extreme classes have been added to the Olympics the sport is still largely ignored by broadcasters and participation continues to fall. The area of the sport that continues to prosper is racing in relatively slow and simple boats...

Surfing seems most analogous to paddlesports. A large 'recreational' side and a miniscule competitive side (at least in this part of the world), possibly due to the huge discrepancy between the skills and commitment needed to make the jump to competition.
Last edit: 8 years 5 months ago by Spacehopper.

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