Review: Think Evo II

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 06:52 | Written by 
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Racing the Think Evo II Racing the Think Evo II

I’ve been paddling the Evo II for a couple of months – it’s a stable, comfortable ski that goes like a rocket downwind.  Well worth checking out if you’re in the market for an intermediate boat.

First Looks

My Evo II is a South African built model – made by Hein van Rooyen at Carbonology Sport.  Like all his products, the ski is beautifully finished, hard and stiff.

It’s a hybrid layup – with a carbon deck on a vacuum glass hull.  The weight is good – just a shade under 13kg.

Think Evo II

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Think Evo II

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Think Evo II

Click here for a larger image

The rudder is the Carbonology standard rudder – which works pretty well, but as I note below, I’d like to try some other options.

D71 2761

The main differences from the Chinese-built boats are:

  • The bailers are dual bullet-type; the Chinese boats have a single scupper
  • There’s no hatch at the front of the cockpit
  • The footplate assembly is the Carbonology standard setup – but secured with the Think rails.
  • The recess for the leash anchor point is there, but the anchor point itself is not fitted (on mine).

On the water

I’ve paddled the boat in all kinds of conditions and it’s been an intriguing process.  I’ve been paddling intermediate boats for over a year now including the Fenn Swordfish and the Knysna Kayaks Genius Blu.  I won’t go into a detailed comparison here, but where relevant I’ll compare my experiences in the skis in specific conditions.

One constant is that I almost always paddle with Dale Lippstreu, my training partner, who has been on a Fenn Swordfish for the last 18 months and who has been a great marker against whom to compare my paddling.

Evo II handles

The handles make it less likely that you'll drop the boat.

Flat water

On the flat (not my favorite), I could honestly find very little difference in speed between the intermediate skis.  However, the Evo II does have a relatively high bucket, which, together with the cutouts in front of the cockpit, gives a seating position that I find very comfortable. 

Evo II cutouts

The cutouts contribute to a comfortable paddling position

What’s the bucket like?

The old V10 bucket gave me a raw coccyx in about 5 mins.

I can sit in Fenn buckets for ever, without getting the notorious “Fenn dead-leg”.

I also find the new V10 bucket very comfortable.  To me the Evo II’s bucket is similarly comfortable so if you’re comfortable in Fenn skis (or the new Epic skis), I suspect you’ll find this ski comfortable too.

Evo II Cockpit

Paddling the Evo II


I find this ski one of the easier boats to remount - the relatively shallow cockpit makes it easy to swivel your bum into the bucket

Choppy, confused water

I find the ski very stable; perhaps a touch more tippy than the Swordfish, but of a similar order of stability.  Since I’ve been paddling intermediate boats, my ability to paddle skis like the Fenn Elite (which I paddled for years and loved) has diminished, and I find myself less and less comfortable in rough water in them.

The edges of Hout Bay, where I often paddle, are mostly sheer rocky cliff faces that plunge into the sea; when the open ocean swell is big, it reflects and ricochets off the rocks, producing a notoriously mixed up chop in the bay. 

During our Tuesday night dices around the bay we often have a long downwind leg where you have to find and chase small runs hidden in among the overall mixed up chop. 

This is where I sometimes find the Evo II challenging; it feels to me as though the boat is “bouncy” and I battle to settle into a rhythm and take the hard strokes necessary to get onto the runs.

But this is a quite specific set of circumstances – it sometimes happens in Hout Bay, and sometimes at the beginning of a Millers Run.  As soon as the runs become a little more defined, however, things seem to change, as I’ll go into below.


As noted in other articles, when it’s calm and we can’t find downwind conditions, we often chase a big 88 ton tourist catamaran in Hout Bay called Nauticat.  Nauticat’s wake is perfect for practicing surfing but is challenging for long skis in that the wave is quite steep and short.

The Evo II is a longer ski and the rudder is more prone to pop out of the water when you’re on the wake than some of the shorter skis – and it’s a challenge to avoid broaching. 

I've arranged to get a bigger, elliptical rudder and will report back once I've had a few paddles with it.  (Depending on the boat, rudders can make a huge difference to handling; The old Fenn Mako6 was transformed in downwind conditions by a proper surf rudder.  Other boats, not so much.)

Evo II hull shape

Hull contours towards the nose

Evo II tail


The hull flattens quite radically towards the tail - giving the ski its stability


I love paddling this ski downwind.  Here’s a typical experience…

Most people know that I have a certain fondness for the “Millers Run”, a fantastic downwind route that we paddle whenever the southeaster blows here in Cape Town.  But the southeaster blows mostly in summer.

In winter we get northwesters that blow as the cold fronts come through – so we go the other way, the so-called “reverse Millers” run.

The northwester blows offshore from Fish Hoek and along the coastline, towards Millers Point; the initial section is flat, but the runs build quickly, and within 2-3km of the start, you’re into clean downwind conditions.

A group of us did the run last weekend. For those first 2-3km, I was more or less neck and neck with my training buddy Dale on his Swordfish; from there, as soon as the runs were forming properly, I dropped him quite easily.  I’m not 100% sure why it is – the rocker, the length of the ski? - but I find easy to link runs on the Evo II, maneuvering and sometimes ramping the “next” wave with a few hard strokes. 

When we’re both paddling Swordfish, Dale and I tend to be very closely matched on the Millers Run; the fact that I’m usually a minute or more ahead when I’m on the Evo II is conclusive – to me at any rate.

Racing the Evo II

Lighthouse Race

In December last year I paddled a heavy locally made glass Evo II in our lighthouse race – 5km out into a pumping 30kt southeaster following by 5km back in cracking downwind conditions.

Paddling out was a head bash but I was able to keep up with the group around me; after coming out and swimming the ski past the rocks at the lighthouse(!) I’d lost about three minutes on my markers – but flew downwind to pass one and catch the other on the beach. 

Millers Run Race

At the end of last season, we had a proper Millers Run race – the wind was gusting 32kt and the swell was coming into False Bay.  Cracking conditions. 

I beat Dale by over three minutes, and surprised a number of my other markers, beating one of them for the first time ever. 

[I'm busy with a video of this race - I'll post it in the next couple of days.]

Evo II tiller bar

Simple, straightforward - Carbonology's tiller bar.  4 months and no sign of any corrosion yet.

What I like about the Evo II

I’ve paddled both the South African and Chinese built boats – the quality is comparable and excellent in either case

  • The relatively high seating position
  • The low rails – which makes it one of the easier skis to remount
  • I find the ski enormous fun in proper downwind conditions, it’s maneuverable and it pops over the next wave handily, enabling you to link the runs with ease.

What I don’t like

  • I find the boat less easy to handle in small, confused conditions.  (But give me slightly bigger, though equally confused conditions and I don't seem to have the same problem.)
  • The footplate doesn’t impact the floor of the footwell, so it doesn’t feel solid when you push your heel against it.
  • The footplate mechanism is capable of very fine adjustment, but there are no measurement markings.  [This is being added to the boat since I first noted this.]

Think Evo II


To me, the essence of surfski is downwind paddling.  The Evo II is a great downwind boat – so it follows that I really enjoy this ski. On the flat it's no slower than the other intermediate boats of my acquaintance.  Upwind and crosswind, the stability makes it easy to maintain stroke.

If you’re on the way up from beginner boats – or if you’re finding an elite ski a little too much to handle - have a go on the Evo II.  

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