Epic V12 - A Star is Born? ** Update: VIDEO **

Sunday, 15 March 2009 04:52 | Written by 
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Epic V12 Epic V12 Credits: Owen Middleton

"We're taking the team up to Mauritius to test the new boat," said Epic Kayaks CEO Charles Brand. "Would you like to come?" 

And so three days ago I found myself on an Air Mauritius flight from Cape Town, heading towards the tropical paradise of the "Ile Maurice".

V10, V12

Epic brought four skis from their new factory in China - a V10L, a V10 and two V12s - all in the "ultra" layup. (The skis weigh in the region of 10-11kg.)

The first ski I saw lying on the grass was the V10 - but it took a second glance to confirm that it was indeed the V10 because it looks so different.  The coloured seam has gone, red tips and a new logo have been added and ski has suddenly become much more photogenic... 

...but what about the V12?

What stands out a mile is that the V12 is radically different compared with its predecessor.

The V10's fat tail has gone, replaced by a slimmer, lower volume design.  The bow has a slightly bulbous appearance; the hull at the cockpit looks K1-like and there's a cowling that extends back from the front of the cockpit to just behind the rudder pedals.  The cowling is designed to reduce the amount of water coming in the cockpit in rough conditions.

Epic V12

The V12 is noticeably shorter than the V10 (some 60mm) - although the waterline length is pretty much the same.

The V10's single venturi scupper has been replaced by a stainless steel retractable scupper - on flat water it can be closed, reducing hull drag to the absolute minimum.  "It's only about a 0.3% difference," said Greg Barton who designed the ski, "but think about what that means in a two hour race.  A twenty second advantage could make all the difference."

Barton said he designed the ski to perform well in flat to medium size waves.  It was not intended to replace the V10 in big downwind conditions.

Epic V12

Paddling the V12

The V12 is positioned as a ski for elite paddlers.  "We wanted a faster ski," said Greg, "and we were prepared to give up a small amount of stability to achieve that.

"On and by the way," he added, "we've changed the shape of the bucket and I think you'll find it a little more comfortable."  (My backside is incompatible with the V10 seat - ten minutes paddling without a pad and my coccyx is raw meat.)

First Paddle

I paddled with Greg Barton from Tamassa (our hotel and the host resort for the upcoming Mauritius World Cup) towards Le Morne - covering the last 15km of the World Cup course. 

Conditions:  No wind, hot & humid, some very small bumps.

I immediately felt comfortable in the boat.  I was rubbed a little by the back of the seat and Greg confirmed that the cutaway is going to be increased slightly to cure this.  But anyone who has suffered a raw coccyx in an Epic ski before will love this one.


A sample of one is statistically dubious at best but...  even in the Molokai-like heat, I was paddling steadily at about 12.2-12.5kph which for me is an impressive speed (that's above my average in most races unless they're downwind).  We turned around and paddled back upwind.  11.5-12kph.  Average the speeds out and we were progressing through water at just under 12kph. 

That equates to somewhere between 5 and 10% faster...  can that be possible?  Time will tell I guess - especially when some of the A-grade paddlers (i.e. good paddlers but not elite) get their hands on it.


"Primary stability" describes a boat's initial propensity to capsize.  "Secondary stability" describes what happens when the boat is already tilted at an angle.

The V12 feels to me marginally tippier than the V10.  However, the hull shape widens noticeably towards the seam and the ski seems to become significantly more stable as it tips to one side.

I was soon confident that I wasn't going to fall out of ski - but it did require concentration to keep it perfectly upright.

Over the Reef

As we neared Le Morne, Barton started asking where the channel is - he'd paddled the route the day before and wasn't sure where to turn in.  By the time I'd said, "I think it's about 500m further ", he'd already turned right and to my astonishment had paddled straight over the reef.

Oh well, I thought, if he can do it, so can I...

Or not.

I can report that the V12 is one of the easier skis to remount...  (Happily I didn't actually hit the coral.)

Epic V12

Second Paddle

Next day I paddled the ski again - this time with a little wind and some swell to help us along.

My impressions?

As soon as I managed to accelerate the ski onto a run, it felt great, but in the mushy chop at the beginning of the run I spent much of the time feeling off-balance.  As we neared Le Morne the waves became bigger and rounder and the ski seemed to leap onto the runs. 

On the flat water inside the reef, I paddled alongside Anton Erasmus, CEO of Epic South Africa.  He was on an older V10 and it was clear that he was putting much more effort in than me to stay at the same speed.

Pics by Owen Middleton (http://www.omimages.co.za/).  The images were taken on the course of the upcoming Mauritius Surfski World Cup - the location is the southern coast of the island.


What do the pros say?

Hank McGregor was unequivocal in his approval of the V12.  He said the ski pops over the "next" wave, whereas the V10 tends to try to go through.  An explanation for this might be that the tail of the V12 has less volume - allowing the tail to sink so that the nose can pop up over the wave: in contrast the V10 has more volume in the tail and a slimmer profile v-shape in the nose.  The V10 tail won't sink and the bow slices through the water.

Epic V12

Epic V12

In summary...

I think that in the right hands, the V12 is going to be hard to beat. 

And for me: a middle-aged, mid-fleet hacker?  Depends on the conditions.  In flat water I'm pretty sure that I'd be significantly faster.  In rough chop... I'm not so sure.  I'd love to take it on a Millers Run on a medium day, but would I be confident to paddle it at Molokai?  Probably not!

But that's me - it's going to be fascinating to see what happens when Elite and A-grade paddlers start racing this ski.

(Stop press: Clint Robinson just won the Bridge to Beach race in Sydney in the V12's first victory.  The Bridge to Beach is a flat race - it's going to be fascinating to see what will happen in big water...)

Photos by Barbara Yendell (http://www.barbarayendell.com/).  These photos were shot at the channel through the reef at Le Morne near the South Western tip of the island.  The Mauritius Surfski World Cup course goes through this channel about 2.5km from the end of the race.



Here's our clip of the V12 in action - thanks to Dominic Henry of Naiade Resorts who provided a great escort boat (and displayed awesome skill in the channel at Le Morne - while we were watching the skis, he was keeping his eye on the sets coming in!)


Postscript: Mauritius World Cup

Part of the reason for the trip was to attend the official launch of the inaugural Mauritius World Cup - more of this later, but suffice to say:

There will be two races, the first on 1 July 2009, and the main 4-star race on 4 July.

Air Mauritius and the host resort Tamassa are putting together unbelievable specials for flights and accommodation.

From early next week, full details will be published both on wwww.surfski.info and the race website.

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