Review - Custom Kayaks Horizon

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 15:24 | Written by 
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Custom Kayaks Horizon Custom Kayaks Horizon Credits:

Custom Kayaks recently released a new entry in the beginner’s surfski market – the Horizon.  The name was inspired by the idea of novice paddlers expanding their “horizons”…  So, does this ski lend itself to doing just that?

First Looks


The ski gives the impression of being strongly built.  Custom Kayaks are based in Durban, South Africa and have a reputation for making surfskis that cope with the prevailing surf conditions there.  In Durban, skis have to be strong.

Custom Kayaks Horizon


The aesthetics of the ski are radically improved compared to the last Custom Kayaks ski I used.  Previously the footwell in particular looked very boxy, all square edges.  By contrast, this one is all smooth curves – much easier on the eye.

Footplate Adjustment

The ski arrived with the rudder set up slightly offset – but it was a matter of moments to correct it and set it to my leg length.  The rudder pedals self-adjust as you move the footplate and no tools are required.

The length of adjustment is huge – 40cm/nearly 16”

Custom Kayaks Horizon

Cockpit Handles

The review ski had handles on either side of the cockpit but based on feedback from paddlers, they’re being replaced by a single handle forward of the cockpit.

Paddling the ski

I paddled the Horizon in a variety of conditions, ranging from a race on flat water through a triangular race in a brisk southeaster (headwind, side-on and downwind) to a downwind Millers Run.

Custom Kayaks Horizon

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Horizon top 600

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Custom Kayaks Horizon

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My coccyx is always on high alert when I try a new ski, but happily it had nothing to worry about; the bucket is wonderfully compatible with the Mousley backside.

My heels were slightly higher than I’m used to with other skis – but to me, for a beginner, it’s more important to have the stability offered by a low seat.  [Editor: In any case, Mark Lewin (Custom Kayaks owner) says that the footwell has been dropped by a couple of cm in skis subsequent to this one.]

Lateral Stability(Tippiness)

I’m in the firm opinion that first skis should be stable above all else.  Unless an aspirant paddler’s first experiences are fun, they’re unlikely to continue with the sport.  Falling off is not fun.

This is one of the most stable skis on the market.

Directional Stability

Integral to one’s impression of stability (in my opinion) is the ability of the ski to hold its line.  If it’s swerving about with each stroke, or is easily knocked off course by a side-wave, it will feel twitchy, even if the lateral stability is rock solid.

This ski has good directional stability.

(A good test of directional stability is to surf diagonal waves – the triangular course that I raced had a stretch where we headed inshore at 45 degrees to wind and waves.  I found the ski held its line but was also maneuverable and ready to accelerate down the swells.)

Custom Kayaks HorizonCustom Kayaks Horizon


I took the ski on the Millers Run (my favorite downwind route); it was great fun, and I’d definitely be happy to send a novice out on their first downwind runs in the ski.  It didn’t ever seem to want to broach and the stability means you can just relax and have fun on the waves.


Surfski paddlers are notoriously tribal – my ski right or wrong – and will almost always claim that their ski is the best/fastest on the market.

The Horizon is not as fast as my carbon Mako Elite – which is lighter, longer and much less stable - but clearly you can’t expect a shorter, wider, novice-level ski to be as fast as a 21ft elite ski!

Speed, especially for novices, is as much a factor of stability as hull speed.  Without a direct comparison (shootout anyone?!) it’s impossible to form an accurate opinion of speed, so I’ll suffice to say that I didn’t notice the ski to be particularly slow and I’d scoff at anyone who blamed “boat speed” for a poor result in the Horizon!

Custom Kayaks Horizon

Hull profile forward of the cockpit

Custom Kayaks Horizon

Hull profile behind the cockpit


The Horizon has a relatively shallow cockpit, which makes this an easy ski to remount.  Since novices spend more time remounting than the rest of us, this is an important consideration!

Cockpit Drainage

On our downwind run I filled the cockpit once or twice.  The drainage was adequate – but there was always a small amount of water in the footwell which never emptied completely.  The reason I think for this is that the scuppers are located at the front of the footwell.

Horizon tillerbar

Tiller bar - plain, simple, robust

What I like about the ski

  • Robustness
  • Stability
  • Cockpit comfort and ease of remounting
  • The length and ease of adjustment – Dad can paddle the ski then jump out and set it up for his 13 year old in moments.
  • Downwind handling

What I don’t like

  • The cm or two of water slopping about the cockpit.


In my opinion, the Custom Kayaks Horizon is a great ski for paddlers starting out in our sport.  The ease and length of adjustment makes it a great family boat too.

More than anything it’s a fun ski to paddle!

Vital Statistics

  • Length overall: 5.6m/18’4”
  • Max width: 48cm/19”


LayupWeight (kg)Weight (lb)Notes
Standard 17-18  37.5-40 Polyester resin/glass /hand layup (tend to slightly heavier for the more robust local conditions; lighter for export where the skis are used on flat water)
Hybrid 15  33 Hull epoxy/carbon/vacuum molded; Deck standard glass
Lite 12  26.5 Hull and deck epoxy/carbon/vacuum

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