Review: Honcho Guevara

Sunday, 04 November 2007 09:06 | Written by  Murray Williams
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Naming a surf-ski after a mass executioner from Bolivia might seem a bit weird. Once the Cuban revolution was won he ordered the execution-without-trial of hundreds of prisoners at the La Cabaña Fortress prison in Havana as Castro's "Supreme Prosecutor". But almost everyone who celebrates the freedom fighter seems to have forgotten that.

... So Honcho may as well cash in on Che's famous mugshot-in-a-beret too.

Honcho Logo 

How's the boat?

More importantly, how's the boat?

What a pleasure.

This Guevara's suitable for a wide range of paddlers - from beginners to just shy of the mark for serious contenders in the races.

One could place it in the same market segment as the Fenn XT, but that would be damning it with faint praise.

5.7m long

At 5.7m long, it's a good 800mm shorter than your top-end racers. But such is the flatness of its rocker that it's nearly as sleek and as fast.

Unlike the XT, it offers better forward-leaning trim in downwind conditions. The XT tends to lounge back reluctantly, back off the wave, which can be deeply frustrating. By contrast, the Guevara's sharp nose slips into the dips more sweetly ... and is happy to stay in them with a minimum of effort.

Incredibly Maneuverable

In the surf, the Guevara is incredibly maneuverable, with the finest steering system yet tested. Paddling out through a set, you can turn in front of an approaching wave and you'll be facing the shoreline in time to catch it - amazing.

Honcho Guevara Surf Ski
Honcho Guevara - steering system

On the wave, it's beautifully nimble. You can flick it left and right, or jam it into white water and crank it off the lip - just like you could a Wedge or a Stingray in days past.

The nose does occasionally dip under the water on the wave, but pops up quickly. Not sure, though, how it would handle monster downwinds like Rooi Els-Strand in a Southerly or a Miller's Run in the South-Easter.


The construction feels robust. Ramping the biggest waves available, the hull came down with a solid smack. Importantly, you heard just a single, crisp sound on impact rather than the multiple "gadum" sounds you'll hear on boats in worse shape.

The adjustable foot pedals are high quality. And the heel plates are strong enough to really kick against - unlike some other boats' flimsy plastic efforts.

Like almost all modern boats, the Guevara's single footwell design, coupled with adjustable pedals, leaves space for ridiculous amounts of water. They become flying bathtubs. So the effectiveness of venturi systems is critical. This boat seemed to drain fine.

Some paddlers said they felt a bit big for the boat, and the manufacturers apparently confirm that it's designed for paddlers of up to 80kg.


Negatives? Nothing that can't be sorted easily:

  • The adjustable foot pedals miss one or two settings because of screws attaching the system to the boat.
  • The rudder cables could also use some rubber cover tubes next to the pedals, to save your toes in heavy-pedaling surf conditions.
  • The venturi system could use some perfecting - a bit of water came into the boat up through it.
  • The front of the rudder cracked - perhaps it was dropped by someone earlier - but the steel inside the plastic might need to be a bit further from the front.
  • The seat's very deep, so you really have to haul yourself up and into it from the water, but you'll get used to it.
  • And, lastly, because the footwell is so deep, you sometimes battle to grab the single footstrap while carrying the boat. Why not stick a handle on the top deck - especially seeing how much downwind paddling we do and what a mission it often is to carry boats down to the water in raging South-Easters.

The Ultimate Test

The ultimate test of the boat was in superb conditions at the weekend. Glided out from Stony Point at Betty's Bay in green glass, overtook several posses of penguins and the boat felt fast. Dodged through loads of kelp to reach main beach, where the surf was firing and the Guevara was a pleasure - almost sneaking into The Green Room (a barrel, to non-surfers).

Honcho Guevara Surf Ski
Honcho Guevara Surf Ski - Top view

Returning to Stony Point, coming in to land, the tide had dropped by about a foot. Latched onto a final wave ... sat back to enjoy the ride up on to the sandy beach ... and smacked a hidden rock head-on.

The Garmin 305 Forerunner later showed how the boat ground to a halt from 18km/h - 0km/h in a split second - mildly hilarious. But the boat stood its ground. The damage was restricted to the impact point - no cracks or stress on the seams further back, showing what a tough boat this is too.

Honcho Guevara Surf Ski
Honcho Guevara Surf Ski - side view


Conclusion: for paddlers not vying for the crown, but who want a tough, agile boat capable in all conditions, Che's namesake is a killer.

Murray Williams

Chief Reporter

Cape Argus

082 338 79 38 (all hours)

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