Ski Review: Custom Kayaks Apex Double

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 04:17 | Written by  Dave MacLeod, SA Paddler Magazine
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Custom Kayaks Apex Double Ski Custom Kayaks Apex Double Ski Credits: Anthony Grote

A New Generation Double: The Custom Kayaks Apex

With time we will look back on the decade from the mid nineties to the mid noughties as a time when new boat design was caught up in an indecent flurry, aggravated by the scrapping of the ICF kayak width rule. In a drive to be faster and cooler, boats became thinner - and dramatically less stable. However as Dave Macleod found after testing the new Custom Kayaks double ski, it is time to enjoy the new age where speed comes with stability.

Few new doubles

There have been very few double skis introduced in the past decade - because single ski racing has dominated the elite end of the game. However when Mark Lewin launched his new Apex double ski, everyone sat up and paid attention. It looks very different to his Mark One, which with the Fenn and Red7, have been the staple doubles. He has taken on board a lot of lessons learnt in making his Mentor single ski, which was unashamedly aimed at novices. When elite paddlers started racing Mentors to new record times, the penny must have dropped.....

Custom Kayaks Apex Double Ski

For a larger version of this pic, click here.

Distinctive Design

From first observations the Apex is distinctive. It's no shorter than the Mark Two (actually 2cm longer), but the nose has been tucked in a little to make it more streamlined and make cutting through the water (and getting onto a run) more efficient.

The middle of the boat is wider, the seatwells are roomier and the tail is a chunky affair, with the new inverted angle than makes it look like a catamaran tail - another unashamed crib from one of the Mentor's big pluses.

Apex Double

'Middle of the boat is wider'

The deck has been designed around a ridge that runs the length of the centre of the deck, leading to high points (the ‘Apexes' that give the craft its name) in front of, and behind the seatwells. The back deck has stacks of volume, designed, along with the extra volume under the tail, to shed water and keep the back of the ski buoyant.

Both seatwells are partitioned to minimise water intake, and pedals and footrest are fully adjustable by the pin-and-runner method, with a very neat slip-cord arrangement.

'pedals and footrest are fully adjustable'

Apex Double

Y-tech Structure

Underneath the skin, the boat sports what the manufacturer calls the Y-tech structure. This is the addition of glassfibre cord, or flowing, to reinforce the deck strength. In the Apex, it is introduced in a sort-of figure-8 shape around both cockpits, and then down the gunwales of the craft.

Doubles tend to come off second best when being dumped in the shore break, and with the flagging exchange rate and fuel costs pushing up new craft costs across the board, everyone wants one that can take some punishment. That's what the Y-tech structure tries to achieve. It allows the manufacturer to make a strong boat that is actually several kgs lighter than usual, with extra strength.

That's one of the first things you notice when paddling the craft. For a normal glassfibre lay-up, it is stiff and wonderfully rigid. From the first stroke the craft feels quick and responsive, and the tapered down nose cuts a clean line through the surf.

Unusual surf characteristics

Hit the first wave going out, and an unusual thing happens. The flat, wide back deck and tail have a dramatic effect on the way the craft goes through a wave. The extra buoyancy counteracts the deep submersion of the tail when the nose gets lifted up into a wave. This has a ‘snap' effect of propelling the ski through the wave, instead of the dramatic nose-high ‘wheelie' going out that only photographers enjoy.

Apex Double
The Apex Tail

 Even though the front of the craft has been trimmed down, the flat hull section and broad back deck delivers remarkable stability. This, together with the roomy seat wells is going to be well received by the average and novice, and not-so-petite paddlers!

Conditions on our test paddle were not great, messy with a strong gusty wind. Even with the surf standing up in lumps the ski was stable and controllable. The ski has a large, square-shaped rudder, which is extremely responsive, especially when you need micro ‘finessing' of the rudder rather than major change of direction.

It was exhilarating to turn into a section with the swell running side-on - many a less schooled ski paddlers nightmare. The flat hull section prevents rolling under passing side swells, which with the inherent stability takes side swell angst out of the equation!

The messy conditions didn't allow us to test the double under classic downwind conditions. However, another plus from the full tail and back design was very evident. When slipping down a swell or run, the aft volume minimises the effect of ‘dropping off the back' of a run, and does help maintain craft momentum when a swell gets away from you.

Higher Rails

The rails are slightly higher than the Mark Two, and the back seatwell in particular is deeper. This helped keep unnecessary water out of the seatwells. Both seatwells are drained by two venturi bailer that work well. Our deepwater re-entry was easily carried out, aided by handles alongside each seatwell.

Not a lot of gripes? Apart from petty issues with the adjustable footrest, which were quickly dealt with by cleaning the sand out of the sliders, this ski has a lot going for it. Speed. Stability. Tracking. Stays handsomely above the chop.


A winner for sure, to the point that I predict it will make the Mark Two redundant in the near future. Elite paddlers have already shown that it is right up there with speed, and intermediate paddlers and novices will love its stability and compliant character.

Custom Kayaks Apex Double

Mark Lewin and Linton Hope go out through the 'Toti' surf

Time will tell whether the Y-tech construction reduces damage and breaks, but for now, the landscape of double ski paddling has changed. Enjoy the new age where speed comes with stability!


  • Length: 7.52m
  • Width: 50cm
  • Weight: Standard layup 26kg
  • Standard with adjustable pedals

[This article was originally published in SA Paddler Magazine.]


Custom Kayaks "Synergy" - new single ski

[Editor: While I was up in Durban for the Surfski World Cup, I called in at the Custom Kayaks factory to find the plug of Mark Lewin's new single ski.  As a bonus, here are a couple of images of what looks like a very clean design.

Clearly Jasper Mocke can't wait to try it out!]


Custom Kayaks Synergy Ski
Jasper Mocke looks impressed
Custom Kayaks Synergy Ski
Clean lines...

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