Review – Epic V10 Ultra

Monday, 02 March 2009 15:50 | Written by 
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Paddler's view - Epic V10 Ultra Paddler's view - Epic V10 Ultra Credits:

It has been my good fortune to have an Epic V10 Ultra to paddle for the last month - and it's been a treat. 

Varying Conditions

I paddled the ski in conditions that varied from hot and flat, to choppy (a triangular lap race in Hout Bay), to a semi-hectic Millers Run (I'd call it a 8 out of 10 on the Mousley scale).  Add two glorious downwind paddles in Mauritius last year and sundry other paddles around Cape Town.

But first things first...

Build Quality

From the point of view of build quality, the ski is simply beautiful - close to flawless.  The fittings show the same attention to detail: the rudder is an all-carbon work of art; the tiller bar is a clever design in gleaming stainless steel; the foot plate assembly is easy to adjust - and the rudder line self adjustment works beautifully.  There's even a measurement tape next to the footplate runners - so that you can be sure of your settings when you readjust the footplate on your own (or anyone else's) ski.

The ski simply exudes "quality".

Epic V10 Ultra

Epic V10 Ultra

Epic V10 Ultra

The weight of the ski is ridiculous - it comes in at just over 11kg and is a delight to pick up.  (Be sure you have some assistance when the wind is blowing however - light skis are a handful when you're trying to put them on your car in a gale!)

Carbon skis are notorious for their susceptibility to dings - they're rigid and structurally strong, but don't have high resistance to puncture damage.  This doesn't seem to be the case with the Epic boats - in spite of the label in the cockpit that encourages owners to take "appropriate care" of their skis.  (What's that mean? "Appropriate care", forsooth!  I know some guys for whom appropriate care means chucking the ski in the garden after they've used it.  If they mean, "don't put the ski down on gravel", why don't they say so?)

Epic V10 Ultra

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Epic V10 Ultra

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Paddling the Ski

The first thing I did to the ski was to install my trusty Lincke Seat Pad .  I am one of the few people in the world whose backsides aren't compatible with the Epic bucket - 10 minutes in an un-padded Epic seat and my coccyx is toast.

Then it was time to adjust the footplate assembly.  That took about sixty seconds - literally - and included a walk to the back of the ski to check that the rudder was still straight.  It was.

Flat Conditions

I paddled the ski in flat conditions only once - it was comfortable and I didn't disgrace myself.  Enough said - I don't enjoy the flat!

Hout Bay Race

I paddled the ski in a race around Hout Bay.  Conditions were brisk - a 15kt southerly wind and some challenging chop.  The first lap was triangular, giving us an upwind leg and two diagonal downwind legs.  The next two laps were sausages - out into the wind and back.  All three legs took us across a kelp-covered reef over which sets of waves were breaking...

I had a slow start (fiddling with my GPS), and as I set off a set of waves came through.  I fell off and spent the next two minutes floundering around in the water.

After that however, I had a ball.

The ski went well in the choppy conditions.  Within the first km I had caught the back-markers and as I approached the reef I saw that Chris, one my paddling buddies, had taken a swim and had only just got back on his ski. 

The first long diagonal downwind leg took us right across the bay.  The ski handled beautifully - I was turning to catch the runs then, having accelerated, back on course, riding the waves at a diagonal.  The ski tracked down the wave fronts as though it were on rails - and I overtook Chris before the buoy. 

I maintained my lead through the next lap and a half - but felt myself beginning to flag as we set off upwind on the last lap.  As we approached the reef for the third time, a huge set came through and I saw a ski flying through the air and - when I got closer - the rescue boat busy chasing someone's runaway ski.

I sprinted to get through the break zone unscathed.  As I rounded Barnacle Rock for the last time I saw that Chris had made up some ground and was only about 50m back.  There was someone else with him and I knew they'd be after my blood.  The last section was exhausting - halfway back to the beach we had to take a loop through the harbor -sprinting on flat water.

Finally we got back to the beach and I'd held off both Chris and - to my delight - the T-bone King who'd been one of the casualties at the reef.

In spite of my terrible start, I felt exhilarated at the finish - and thoroughly enjoyed paddling the V10.  The highlight was undoubtedly the way it handled the diagonal downwind legs - catching the waves easily and then tracking beautifully.

Millers Run - 5 out of 10 hectic scale

My favorite test run (well, let's face it, my favorite paddle) is our 12km downwind Millers Run from Millers Point to Fish Hoek.  It's a good test because you paddle out 700m diagonally into the southeaster, before rounding Bakoven Rock to head directly downwind to Fish Hoek.  The downwind section is rarely entirely straightforward and most often you have to contend with a couple of sets of waves running in different directions and that makes for challenging "technical" runs. 

This run was relatively benign - 15-20kts and the waves weren't all that big - 1-2m.

For me one of the highlights of the V10 is the big surf rudder: it gives the paddler superb control over the boat - especially going downwind.

To me the boat really comes into its own downwind - it feels eager to catch the runs, and I felt that in contrast to some other skis, it is relatively easy to push over the "next wave", when you need to get over the hump to the next dip.

Millers Run - 8/10 hectic

The next Millers Run we did was a lot more challenging - the deep sea swell was coming from the southeast - straight into False Bay.  And the wind was much stronger - gusting to 30kt.

(I should explain that the prevailing direction of the swell in Cape Town is southwest - so when it does come from the southeast, it produces a very different set of conditions for the Millers Run.  The wind swell and the ocean swell run at about twenty degrees to each other and the bay becomes a maelstrom of constructive and destructive wave fronts - in short, it gets pretty messy and it's difficult to stay on a run for very long before you get knocked off it by a crest coming from the side.)

I felt extremely tentative going out through the crosswind to Bakoven Rock - something akin to sitting on a tightrope - and I'd brace whenever a gust hit me.  Suffice to say that my paddling buddy, John Blacklaws, got to the rock well before me. 

My confidence returned after we turned downwind - but I still felt a little unsure of myself and I missed some of the runs through being hesitant to take the power strokes necessary to launch onto the waves.

The next Millers Run we did, I put John onto the boat.  He also found the ski a little twitchy going out to the rock (he normally paddles a carbon Mako6), but he couldn't stop exclaiming how nice it was going downwind.

Tippy or Not?

I was disappointed in my paddling ability on the more extreme Millers Run.  After handling the choppy conditions during the race in Hout Bay I was feeling pretty much bomb proof and it was a shock to find myself floundering on the Millers Run. 

At last year's Molokai, I questioned whether I should have used a V10 instead of the V10 Sport that Oscar Chalupsky advised so strongly. 

Now I know that I would not feel comfortable to paddle the V10 Ultra in a big Molokai. 

But in anything less than a "hectic" Millers Run, I really enjoy paddling this ski.

What I like about the V10 Ultra

Pretty much everything, but in particular:

  • The weight:  at 11.5kg it's a pleasure to pick this ski up.
  • The hull finish: As noted, there's scarcely a blemish on these boats
  • The fittings: the attention to detail is extraordinary
  • The rudder: I love the control afforded by the elliptical rudder.
  • The footplate assembly: and its ease of adjustment

What I don't like

  • The bottom of the bucket - it's a personal and highly subjective thing but I don't like using a bum pad and I wish the V10 bucket was more compatible with my coccyx.
  • The tippiness of the ski - in extreme conditions. 

Epic Kayaks on the web

Epic's website is at