Nelo 550 - very brief and non-conclusive impressions

5 years 2 months ago #29879 by kwolfe
So I have had my new 550 out 3 times so far and this is my initial assessment. Keep in mind that living in the middle of Pennsylvania US, I paddle flat water lakes and rivers 99% of the time.

The bucket in this ski is very comfortable. I only have two other skis to compare it to (Epic 14 and Stellar SEL). It does engulf you like either of these seats but the way its formed, it keeps your butt in place but flares out a little if you happen to have wider hip bones. I like the sloped back to it because it makes sure that my shorts won’t rub on my lower back. As for the small ridge that runs down the center, I really don’t think it does anything but look cool.

This was this first thing I noticed. This ski is seamless and beautifully made. I have the WWR layup which weighs in at about 26lbs which his roughly the same as my SEL. The construction is very solid and consistent. All the fitting are nicely seated and attached. You don’t get the feeling that it was just thrown together. The Nelo decals are stickers which could, over time, getting nicked and marked up but I looked on the website and they are only $3 USD to replace if you wanted to.
The Debrito bailer is great. Emptys the ski nicely and the foot operation is a definite plus. Wish they had these on everything.

On flat water, the ski really does accelerate very well. Way faster that my SEL. I would say I can get up to speed faster in the 550 over the SEL with 4-6 less strokes. Not a big deal if you are just grinding out miles, but could make a huge difference if you were trying to catch a wave, or boat wake.
I have only had the surf rudder on so far and I will echo Wesley’s comments that this thing turns on a dime, It makes my SEL and previous V14 feel like turning and ocean liner. It caught me off guard the first time and I actually give tap brace because it really wips you around.

The foot plate. Ohhhh the foot plate. I don’t know how something that is so well thought out and put together could have such a wonky, finicky, not well made foot plate. I see what they were trying to do, but buying a $3500 ski and getting a plastic foot plate was pretty disappointing.
Its not all bad. The foot pedal adjusters are fantastic. I have gotten in my SEL a number of times when the I don’t realize the rudder wasn’t center to the peddles until I was already out there. With the Nelo system, you can adjust it on the fly with ease. In addition , you can also slide the whole system forward while on the water by simply pulling to spring loaded pins on the front of the rails.
The downside to this is the bottom part of the footplate. Its molded plastic which uses two rubber footed nubs to anchor it. It just doesn’t work. You can feel it flex when you are driving with your heels. Heck, you can make it flex by pushing on it with you hand. Why oh why wouldn’t you just keep the original carbon plate. If it ain’t broke……..
The hard strap is good. I haven’t adjusted mine yet because since I paddle the flats I don’t really rely on it accept to attached my GPS to (which it works really well for). Honestly though I feel like this is another one of those things where they didn’t need to innovate here. Current straps work just fine. I haven’t really heard anyone say “if only I had a hard strap!”.

OK, I do have GPS data!! I had my SEL out a few weeks ago on the lake I frequent. This lake is 2.5 miles long and I have paddled it over 100 times for sure. In the SEL with light winds I clocked an average of 7.1mph over 5 miles. I took the 550 out on Sunday and ran the exact same course and averaged 7.0mph over the same distance. Now I didn’t use a heart rate monitor but I felt the same after each was done. Also I should mention that my SEL has the 4” weedless rudder and the 550 had the surf rudder so that should add a little resistance.

As others have said, this ski has more primary stability which really does help when you start pushing hard and really try to rotate. Now it’s nothing like V8 primary obviously but it does have that looseness of the SEL. Secondary stability is progressive and really locks when you lean the ski over. I was able to sprint up to 8mph for a short distance partially due to the fact that I could really rotate and reach for the catch without any “twitch”.

Let me know if you guys have questions or want pics of anything specific (like the footplate).
The following user(s) said Thank You: Steve Hansen

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5 years 2 months ago #29881 by Bitemekaos
Good review Kwolfe pity about the foot plate! I have been looking for a new ski for more ocean padding and the 550 was at the top of my list, l struggle on my V14 in tricky ocean conditions but do like the boat in more moderate conditions. I will be testing a 550 in a couple of weeks and have been exited to do so but the foot plate might turn me off as I do push pretty hard on them. When stellar ski's switched to there quick lock system instead of there butterfly nuts I kept breaking them. I am also keen to test paddle one of the Revo R2's but am a fan over bailers instead of bullets which unfortunately I think the Reno's have looking at there photos. Anyway I am waffling on thanks again for your review as like most paddlers honest information is great to find.

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5 years 2 months ago #29882 by Hacker Mike

I have been testing out a 550 and a 520. I have not had significant enough time in either to give an in depth review, but I can say that I find the foot plate setup innovative, extremely adjustable, firm and user friendly (to such an extent that I could make adjustments on the water during the initial set up stage). The hard foot strap is great for attaching a watch of phone in the supplied phone bag.

I would not let the foot plate put you off trying the ski. It is more than adequate IMO.

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5 years 2 months ago #29883 by Bitemekaos
Cheers Mike, I am still taking one out for a test paddle so I will be able to see and feel the foot plate then. Thanks Greg

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5 years 2 months ago #29884 by Ranga
Interesting to hear that the foot plate is not to your standard. Every Nelo Kayak has the same set-up, just in Ali, but changing to the plastic if not mistaken.
It has been raced throughout the world with no one complaining, I also had no problem with it and I push quite hard on the footplate.

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5 years 2 months ago #29885 by kwolfe
Don't let my comments on the footplate steer you away from the ski. It's really the bottom plate assembly that I am not crazy. My SELs bottom plate is rock solid. The plastic one just doesn't feel that way. The rest of the ski more than makes up for it. Plus, I think about $20 and a simple mod will fix the issue.

I agree that its innovative. I do like ease of mounting a GPS unit to the strap. As I said earlier, I really like the spring pins and line adjuster. Makes adjustment on the water super easy.

Oh dear Ranga,
From my understanding, previous Nelo skis had a carbon footplate. Not sure what Ali is. I'm sure people have been racing it with great success however how you know that everyone likes it is beyond my abilities. Point being, with a ski that is made this well, the materials used in the footplate just don't seem to match the finish of the rest of the ski.

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5 years 2 months ago #29886 by ryeNH
I agree with Kwolfe, original carbon foot plate on a demo 560 I tried last fall felt more solid. I wasn't happy with the plastic plate of my 560 when it arrived early this summer, but got used to it. Still, if offered free-$100 replacement, I would do it. I tried 550 a few days ago and definitely will consider selling V10S to have same ergonomics as 560. I don't think I will ever get comfortable in the ocean in 560:( Will keep it for river and harbor.

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5 years 2 months ago #29927 by kwolfe
Got a few more paddles in over the weekend and this morning. Really a great ski to paddle. Super comfortable and quick to accelerate. Note to bigger paddlers, I'm not a small guy at 6' 195lbs and don't have a narrow rump but there is definitely room for more backside in the bucket than I have.

Sunday was my first paddle with the Nelo weedless rudder. I'd be interested to hear others opinions but here are my observations.

First, this rudder is the same on they use on the K1s I believe. The shaft has two copper collars to make it fit the shaft hole. I had to sand the edges down because they were sharp and slightly mushroomed. Must have happened when they were cut to size.

Second, I will say that, despite paddling flat water 99%, I put the surf rudder back on. The shaft on the weedless is so far forward that it makes steering at speed a challenge when compared to other rudders I have used. Also, I found it was really stubborn to get it to track straight. It would be way off, but just a couple degrees which is enough to drive you nuts when you are paddling 3 miles in one direction. Seeing it, I would have thought it would have only wanted to go straight but I was wrong. Completely not what I thought was going to happen. I'm going to try and cut it this week to see if I can't make it work.

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5 years 2 months ago #29928 by Henning DK
I agree with your comments om the weed rudder - you really have to work a lot on the steering because of the placement of the shaft, and the copper collars are also hard to get into the right positions when mounting it, so it does feel like a not so perfect solution. It does however keep the weed off the rudder, and it was the perfect choice for my 70 km river race last Saturday! I think it is a K2 rudder by the way. The standard surf rudder is much better in waves.

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5 years 2 months ago #29935 by Impala
I have the same impression with the weedless K2 Nylon rudder - on my 560 it makes the boat both track and turn badly. The rudder chafes under the hull, so you have to grate some of it away in order not to either go right or left, and nothing in between.

Therefore I would suggest a weed deflector together with the small Nelo surf rudder as the superior weedless setup.

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5 years 2 months ago - 5 years 2 months ago #29976 by mckengmsurfski
Been enjoying our new Nelo 550 demo ski in WWR layup for the past couple of weeks here in Charleston, SC. Fast, stable, great acceleration, light (25.4 lbs with surf rudder, wave deflector, and leash), great ergonomics and comfort, and solid construction/finish. My usual ski since May has been a Nelo 560ML in WWR, and I will be going between it and the 550 from now on, likely choosing the 550 for all but flat/small conditions, as in anything else I'm just as fast and more comfortable in the 550.
Had a great ocean session this past week with multiple 2 minute runs off the coast of Sullivan's Island, SC and the 550 really excelled! So easy to change direction and maneuver into position combined with great acceleration and the 5.5m ski fitting perfectly onto the wave lead to some of the most consistent long surfing runs I've ever managed.
Here's some video evidence of how much fun there is to be had on the Nelo 550!
Last edit: 5 years 2 months ago by mckengmsurfski.

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5 years 2 months ago #29978 by zachhandler
Yes the weedless nylon rudder is a joke. Clearly an afterthought grabbed from the k2 parts bin and hastily fitted with copper collars to fit the surfski rudder tube. It is weedless but as a rudder it does too little too late. That is in comparison to other weedless rudders that are on the market.

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

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5 years 2 months ago #29993 by kwolfe
Got some more seat time on the 550 this weekend. Saturday I took it down to a large lake near me that's actually a dammed part of the river. Good spot since it makes for a good 11 mile paddle (down and back) and when the wind blows right, it can create some small rolling waves (1-2ft normally).

Well this day, the wind was blowing downriver which made for some little runners. These waves are really closer together so you don't get great rides. The 550 picked up small runners and the steering was great when trying to move from one to the other.

When I got within a mile from the damn, the waves most have bee refracting off the dam and back at me which made for some interested 3ft confused chop and random swells. The 550 was really pretty darn solid in this. The SEL would have definitely more to handle. Once again, the quick steering helped keep the line I wanted. The one thing I will say, is that the 550 does get moved around a bit by the confused waters. I can only imagine this is due to the shorter waterline and flatter bottom.

Going back up wind, the ski handles well and does bounce a whole lot. The nose profile tends to cut into the wave as apposed to slapping it. Once again, it can get pushed around some if you are not paying attention.

That's it for now. Haven't found time to mod the weedless rudder or footplate yet.

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5 years 2 months ago #30062 by Henning DK
I think your comments about how the 550 gets moved around in confused waters are very characteristic of its behaviour, and maybe a reason why not all people will like it.

I have a couple of other comments:

1) The deck lines may come in fancy colors, but are not the best quality, and be careful that your knots are tightened properly, or they may not hold!

2) Most people seem to love the wave deflector, but I prefer water going into your boat to having it redirected into your face, so I don't use it, and I don't find it to be a problem since the bailer is so efficient. Fortunately, it's optional.

3) I love the hard foot bar replacing the usual foot straps. It feels good, it's reliable and always in place, easy to get your feet in and out - and the GoPro mount is very useful, too.

4) The weedless rudder construction is below standard, but that said, I find it is ok in use. You just have to be aware that you must use more effort on steering because it is much less responsive than the surf rudder. You do loose some fun factor, since it feels almost as a different boat. But weeds are not fun, either.

I have had the Nelo 550 for two months now, and I keep updating my personal review notes, which can be found as the text description of my facebook photo album:

I you consider buying a Nelo 550, you may find it useful.

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5 years 2 months ago #30063 by JohnK
Hello Henning,
I note that you mention the flat water speed to be like the V10 S and therefore less than the V10. This is interesting as most reports indicate that the flat water speed is higher. I did a short paddle and found the ski changed direction in choppy water also which is apparently what you experienced also.
Great feedback, thank you.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Henning DK

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5 years 2 months ago #30127 by [email protected]
Modification weedless rudder.
I removed the copper things and put a carbon tube over it, so it fits much better and has less play.

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5 years 1 month ago #30133 by [email protected]
Modification of de weedless rudder.
I removed de copper tubes and placed a carbon tube over the shaft. So the rudder has less play.

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4 years 9 months ago #30873 by Henning DK
Interesting comment by Big O himself:
In the video you can see a lot of weed in the water; was that a problem?
Yes! I usually use a DK rudder, but didn't have one for the race.

Kind of confirms comments above re. Nelo weedless rudder ;-)

In the interview

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  • SURFSKI: K1 560M - 560x43.8 / K2 Viper - 650x56
4 years 9 months ago #30877 by photofr
Warning on the Nelo Rudders:

- Ultra reactive, unmatched by any other surfski / rudder combo as it truly turns on a dime.
- Changing direction on a DW is priceless - and effortless.
- Careful: The surf ruder is a weed magnet.
- You can minimise its weed collection by installing a tiny weed deflector in front of your ruder, but that isn't perfect by any shot.
- Weed isn't that bad at super high speed - as long as you keep that super high speed.

You'll notice that every single Nelo ski comes with a flat water weedless ruder. You'll notice that it's a bit heavy, but it works AMAZINGLY well.
- Careful: avoid using it in DW conditions. In real DW, manoeuvrability is greatly reduced with the weedless rudder.
- I am not saying it isn't possible to DW with the weedless rudder, but you are shooting yourself in the foot every time you choose that fin in Open Water conditions.

Try a speed comparaison with the two different rudders on dead flat water. The results will blow you away - as long as stability isn't an issue with you.

The 550 is an amazing ski in DW. I therefore recommend to always use the Surf rudder when ever you venture in Open Water.

You could paddle that ski at 84 years of age - or at 22 - and have a total blast.

(Brittany, France)
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4 years 7 months ago #31357 by tve
I'm looking at the 550 to upgrade from a 510. It seems a number of you that kindly posted in this thread now have a year in the bucket. Are you selling your 550? Or keeping it? Still happy/unhappy?

As far as I can gather the biggest weakness of the 550 is probably upwind into steep waves? At least in the 510 it's slap-slap-slap plus frequent water in the cockpit.

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