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V10 Rip-off?

Wednesday, 08 November 2006 12:35 | Written by 
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ImageIn the last two years the surf ski market has seen a revolution in terms of ski design.  Skis have become more stable and faster.  In fact, fast, stable skis, with a single footwell and adjustable rudder pedals have become the norm.

 

How has this come about?  At least part of the reason is that Epic were prepared to invest heavily in R&D to design and develop the V10 surfski.  The very name gives a clue to the amount of effort that went into it - the V10 was the 10th version of the design

 

Surfski.info ran a story on how the V10 was developed - Epic was the first company ever to spend the money to CNC machine the plugs for hull and deck.  The single footwell drain was also an innovation, developed using new-age technology.  The story is on the website at: 

 

http://www.surfski.info/content/view/218/64/

 

And what did it cost?  Epic say that the hull and deck plugs alone cost just under R100 000 to create - the equivalent of about US$14,000.  Factor in the man-hours spent on CAD design, the development of the cockpit and the adjustable pedal hardware as well as the venturi, and you're looking at upwards of US$50,000. 

 

Since then Fenn Kayaks and Red7 have also developed fast, stable, single footwell skis.  (Red7 had their hulls tested by state of the art computer simulation systems at Intelligent Fluid Solutions in the UK.)

 

The overall result is that the surf ski community has benefited hugely: it used to be that if you wanted a top-end ski you had to have superlative balance - that's just the way it was.  Top-end ski = incredibly unstable ski.  This is no longer the case - what a pleasure - for everyone.

 

Protection

 

But companies like Epic cannot function without a measure of protection.  If other manufacturers are allowed simply to copy Epic's design, then Epic (or any other manufacturer) won't invest any more money in further development.  What would be the point? 

 

The end result will simply be that we'll never see any more innovation in surf ski design and we'll be paddling the same tired old designs in twenty years time.

 

Dean Gardiner, arguably the best surf ski paddler ever produced by Australia agrees. "There should be no rip-offs of skis," he said, "I'd like to see paddling's governing bodies ban the use of rip-offs in their events."

 

Unfortunately there are a few realities to be recognised.  Any manufacturer investing in development of a surfski proceeds in the knowledge that the manufacturing process makes his product inherently easy to copy.  He also knows that defending his copyright is a lengthy, costly and sometimes impractical process.  

 

Advantage Kayaks "Charger" Surf Ski

 

Surfski.info was sent some photographs of a ski that is being manufactured in Victoria, Australia by a company called "Advantage Kayaks".  The ski, called the "Charger" looks identical to Epic V10 - the distinctive shapes of foredeck, bow and especially the wide after deck are all there.  If fact it looks as though the company simply took a standard V10 and took moulds right off it

 

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Same bow

 

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Looks familiar?
 

 

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Even the rudder looks almost identical

 

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The V10's wide stern is unmistakeable

 

I contacted the company to ask them about the ski.  I asked for photos and the background to the ski's development.  Peter MacDonald sent back a brief reply:

 

"I am only a small 2 man operation and hope to make maybe 20 skis a year. So  I am supplying a local market only, and have no ambition to go any bigger. So at this stage I want to stay don't need to push my product into the market." (sic.)

 

Having received the photos (from elsewhere) I sent another email asking straight out whether the "Charger" was a copy of the V10.  I've not heard anything more.

 

Of course one can't be 100% sure from photos whether the ski is a copy, but:

 

  • From their website, Advantage Kayaks don't appear to have ever manufactured skis before.
  • Their first attempt at a ski looks exactly like the V10, down to the rudder shape.
  • They don't seem to want to comment on whether the ski is a copy

 

As for Advantage Kayaks hoping to make "maybe 20 skis a year", we've also heard that the Avalon Surf Life Saving Club has ordered 11 of the skis.  Does Avalon know that they may be buying a ripped off design?  [Editor: I have since heard from a very unhappy Brett Greedwood, captain of Avalon Beach SLSC.  He said, "I am disgusted by your unfounded comments in your article that Avalon SLSC has ordered 11 skis. We in fact have ordered none and wish you to clear this up along with your implications that we have been involved in replicating the V10 Ocean ski." 

 

We did attempt to confirm our facts by sending an email to the address on the Avalon website but unfortunately no-one replied until now.

 

Our unreserved apologies are therefore extended to Avalon SLS Club]
 

It's worth noting that Kayak Centre in Durban, South Africa produce the V10 under license from Epic.  Brian's Kayaks in Cape Town used to build a "Molokai" ski paying royalties for years to the Australian company that designed it.

 

What can one do about it and why should we care?

 

On the face of it this is a matter between Epic and Advantage Kayaks so why should we, the broader paddling community, concern ourselves?  Our point is that surfskis have evolved from "eye balled"  and hand shaped to CAD generated designs based on solid hydro dynamic science only because manufacturers believed that there would be an economic return on the required investment in research and development.  Clearly this will not be the case if making blatant copies of successful designs becomes a widespread practice.  It is therefore in our collective interest to actively discourage copied products.

 

Surfski.info is putting this information out in an attempt to report the facts of the situation.  We think the ski is a copy and - if indeed it is - we feel strongly that this should not be allowed to happen.

 

We encourage readers to:

 

  • Not to buy copies of products.
  • Ask Advantage Kayaks why their ski looks so much like the V10.
  • Encourage race organisers to ban participation by rip-off ski's

 


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