Converting an Epic V10 to a flatwater racer

Sunday, 05 April 2009 14:30 | Written by  Bryan Hopkins
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I thought this might be interesting to those lucky enough to use their surfskis in their natural environment... namely the ocean.  There is an increasing use of surfskis in locations literally hundreds of miles from the nearest tide.


Most of my paddling and racing is now done using a surfski, even though I am located in the Midwest of North America near the large rivers associated with the Mississippi River Basin.  Our big river races are typically marathon or ultra marathon distances (40 miles or more) and surfskis are rapidly becoming the boat of choice for our area.  

"Big River"

To understand this, one has to appreciate what we mean by "Big River".  The Missouri River and Mississippi River can be a half a mile across in many locations, with wide open stretches of water.  A paddler on these rivers is often subject to wind blown waves, strong currents and isolation from shore.  In addition, large transport barges ply these rivers and can generate very large wakes that are not unlike ocean swell.  These conditions can make a surfski an ideal tool.  We also get on the water as soon as the rivers break free of ice in the spring. The ability to remount the boat quickly can be very important, where trying to deal with a flooded racing kayak in cold water can be a recipe for disaster. 


While most portions of our larger rivers have deep water, there are sandbars and submerged logs to contend with and several of our races are held on the shallower tributaries to these larger river systems.  This can make an understern rudder a potential problem.  In addition, a paddler often can keep the cockpit of a surfski dry unless they flip the boat, thus reducing the need for an active venturi.  The result is that there are some modifications to a classic surfski that make sense for padding these larger rivers.  

Kick-up Rudder

An obvious modification is a stern mounted kick up rudder.  Even when an understern rudder is used, it is rare that a 9 inch surfing rudder would be needed.  A smaller 4 inch understern rudder provides plenty of boat control as our waves tend to be steep and choppy.  Also, thin bladed stern mounted rudders or smaller understern rudders significantly reduce the drag that is associated with larger surfing rudders.  The cake and eat it too approach is to rig a system that allows for a removable stern mounted kickup rudder.  The paddler can convert the boat in a couple of minutes for conditions of the day.  A locally fabricated kickup rudder shown here not only can be completely removed, but also has a removable pin in the rudder guide to allow the rudder depth/angle to be tuned for water conditions.  The goal is to have the least amount of rudder in the water required to achieve adequate boat control.


Venturi Plug

A venturi plug is also appropriate.  This allows the paddler to start off without water in the cockpit and avoid back flooding from the venturi when decreasing speed.  The plug can be pulled if a wave overtops the cockpit or the ski is flipped.  A plug in the venturi also avoids a stream of bubbles from being pulled from a drained cockpit, which it has been asserted may interfere with laminar flow of water over the hull. In an effort to further reduce drag, a venturi scupper can even be partially modified. 


In this regard, the new Epic V12 has actually abandoned the venturi all together and uses a pop down canoe type bailer to reduce drag and drain the boat only when conditions demand it.  (I have considered installing an Anderson bailer in my V10 and removing the existing venturi scupper...but it is hard to rationalize cutting a hole is one's boat!!).

Seat Padding, Hydration Hatch & GPS Mounting

Many Midwest surfski paddlers also significantly pad up the seat.  Our races are long and conditions are often such that a paddler can allow some loss of stability in order to gain better leverage on the paddle and achieving a more of a classic K-1 paddling position.  


A hatch in the boat is a good idea and allows hydration bladders to be placed down low and slightly toward the bow to help avoid stern squat which can occur in shallower water.  Often two bladders are needed to achieve the hydration needs for a race over 50 miles.  The fast current associated with these large rivers can also make judging the distance paddled a challenge.  A GPS is a handy tool to know when it is time to drop the hammer during a race. 

And those flames...!


Finally the Epic V10 pictured here has flame graphics, because we all know that it is a scientific fact that not only does this make the boat much faster, but it makes your competition slower.




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