Epic 18X maneuverability

-- Last Updated: Oct-14-13 2:37 PM EST --

Looking into getting an Epic 18x. The boat seems to have very little rocker. Was interested if any owners cared to sound off regarding how the boat handled regarding maneuverability, carving, edging and general turning. Especially interested in those that have had boats with more rocker and can make a good comparison. Also, any do any wave surfing with these? If so, how did it handle?

good and bad
I think they turn very well for a long boat, but they have to little rocker and a poor hull shape for surfing well. Really great hull for down wind runs, but not a fun surf boat I think.

Rocker vs rake
Actually, the 18x has quite a functional bit of rocker.

It’s odd how so many mistake “rake” or “overhang” for rocker.

My whitewater canoe has a near plum bow, yet has substantial rocker!

Back to the 18x- I’ve owned one for years, and also have owned a lot of different sea kayaks over the years.

Put an 18x on flat ground, ignore the plum bow, and notice how much of the ends don’t touch the ground. That’s the rocker.

The boat is quite maneuverable, especially with the rudder not deployed. Compared to a KayakPro Marlin, the 18x is reasonably well balanced to paddle without the rudder deployed (not true of some other kayaks in this design class, such as the Marlin). Sweeps and bow rudders are very effective in the 18x.

It is prone to weatherhelm without the rudder deployed.

As for “surfing”, on wind waves it is extremely good fun. For smaller downwind days (under 20kn of wind) it is my preferred boat, as it more easily catches those less steep waves. On those waves, the rudder is also reasonably functional. Over 20kn, the 18x is still very nice, but the rudder becomes less usable (a problem in those conditions with all over-stern rudders). I wish I could get an 18x with an under-stern rudder!. But that’s when I resort to more traditional skills, using the paddle. And yes, a wing paddle works reasonably well in a stern rudder application.

For surf zone, it isn’t a whole lot better or worse than any other expedition kayak- just a problem with length. But for punching out or coming in trying to avoid getting surfed, the speed of the 18x is a decided advantage.

To stay and play in the surf zone, or downwind runs in wind over 20kn, where the objective is to make diagonal runs and make turns on a wave, that’s where the 18x is mediocre, and I’ll use one of my shorter sea kayaks.


– Last Updated: Oct-15-13 5:43 PM EST –

I already have a shorter boat and thought the 18X might be good for rounding out my options.

Are you pretty satisfied with it? If you could only have two boats (one short and one longer) would it make the cut

18x cockpit for larger paddlers?
Can anyone speak to the 18x’s ability to carry a larger paddler? Right now I am paddling a Cape Horn 170 that is 23 inches wide, the 18x is 22. I just worry about cramming my legs in there. I’m about 5’10 and 210/220lbs, with thicker legs. I have a demo coming up and would hate to waste the time to find out that I can’t fit in the boat.

I got to try one on the beach this Sat
I had only tried one years ago on the pond at the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. But on Saturday, my friend (who is something like 6’ 5" and husky - a large man; I’m 6’ 190 lbs) brought his out on a camping weekend on the beach. His has the understern rudder. I didn’t use the rudder at all. I just left it in the straight position, with the fin retracted up. He let me paddle it on Saturday, I’d say 2’ to 4’ smooth sets coming in with a light offshore wind.

So about me. I have long cruisers like the KajakSport Viviane and CD Extreme, down to shorter, more playful hulls like the Capella 169 and Valley Selkie, and several in between.

The first thing I noticed was that there was little resistance on my paddle when trying to quickly paddle out, there was less resistance to higher forward speed. I could whip up to a good cadence, and it felt really efficient - less effort on my part. This I really, really liked.

It’s nice and loose edge to edge, but it doesn’t just go over. I really enjoyed the stability profile on Saturday. It felt natural to me out there.

I was impressed by the maneuverability. It responded well to bow and stern strokes. A bow draw worked quite well for turning it around. Given the length and speed, it maneuvers quite well in my opinion. Not stiff tracking like my Soltice GTS, but not highly stable like it either.

I did some rolls and deep braces. Can’t say I noticed anything one way or the other. It rolled like a sea kayak. No hitches there that I noticed.

I had an easy time catching the waves, and an easy time making little adjustments with a stern rudder to ride waves in right through the break. It responded well when laid on edge with a stern rudder, and very nicely to turn back over the wave. It side surfs like an expedition kayak. There’s nothing difficult about side-surfing it. The whitewater hangs onto it a bit longer than lower volume kayaks, which is typical. But when the power dissipated enough, I was able to plant the blade towards the bow and stall the bow over first. The bow pearled a little on a few rides, but never dove enough to stall it out. I’ve got a lot of practice with faster kayaks through the surf though. So I’ve spent a lot of time keeping them running straight, holding them back so that they don’t take off too far in front of the wave, and then slow down just out front, right as the wave hits the breaking point in a closeout - crash. The flatter and further out you keep the paddle blade as you lean into it, the more it slows you down. The more verticle and parallel to the hull you keep it, the less it slows you down. To time a successful surf landing through a closeout, you hold the kayak back into the wave and get the hull as perpendicular to the wave as you can as the wave starts to go critical. Make sure you don’t hold it back too much, so that the bow will bury if you surge down the wave. I release it at the closeout point, if it’s a crashing break, so that I’m surging ahead with the crashing water. I find this surfing more pleasing than just getting pushed around by whitewater. Not a perfect science, but I have pretty good success. In any case, I had no issues with the Epic 18X on Saturday, and really enjoyed it. It’s a shame, because I enjoyed it enough to be seriously tempted to own one. Not as a surf machine. As a fast hull that can handle surf landings and still be a lot of fun.

I didn’t have any wind to judge balance in the wind. And the open water was calm. These were the smooth, clean beach waves that beach surfers dream about, just on a small scale. Beautiful sea kayak surfing waves, and great waves to have fun in the Epic.

Again, this was just a demo for me. I would say this particular demo left a nice positive impression. I really enjoyed it. If you’re good with maneuvering skills, you shouldn’t have a problem with that piece of the equation.

18x or 18x Sport?
Often folks mix-up the two models and don’t mention which is which - there is a difference b/w the two, especially in terms of stability.

Not the 18X Sport, Just Epic 18X

Plenty big
See Capefear’s post below. I concur.

The cockpit is extremely roomy, and you might find it even roomier than your Cape Horn- which if I can recall is roomy, but has a rather short cockpit opening (I remember scraping my shins getting in).

The cockpit opening of the 18xSport/18x is very long, wide, and deep. The reasoning is to promote a paddling position more like a race kayak, with knees up/legs together. It’s one of the reason I like it, 'cuz I paddle that way in most sea kayaks even in mildly rough conditions. Very comfortable overall, especially the seat.

The seat is adjustable fore/aft, mostly to optimize trim, but one can also adjust it to create more/less connection with the thigh braces (farther back, more room for knees, farther forward, more likely to get closer knee connection with the braces).

Some may not like the thigh bracing design, as it is wide and high- not as “close” as most sea kayaks. For a lot of play kayaking this might not be a good choice, but quite frankly I still find it more than sufficient for rolling.

Good point
In my comparison above, I am actually referring to the 18x Sport.

The cockpit fit is the same in both, the stability profile noticeably different. The 18x will out-accelerate the 18xSport, and be more sustainable at very high speeds due to less wetted surface.

Also, since the 18x is narrower at the waterline, it can sit deeper and be slightly less maneuverable. Didn’t really notice much when test driving, though.

I opted for the 18xSport due to the Sound Rowers classification, which puts the 18x in the HPK (high performance kayak)category with all the surfskis, and the 18xSport as a FSK (fast sea kayak).

Not really sure how much advantage in speed vs loss of stability between the two, but I will say that the few times I’ve raced my 18xSport…I was ahead of everyone using the faster 18x. Don’t think I could do that this year, the engine is slightly out of tune…

If it makes the cut really depends on the experience one desires.

I have a racing background, and really love these new designs of fast sea kayaks. They truly are significantly more efficient at higher speeds. For tripping, they also can hold a lot of gear (the Epic 18xSport is cavernous, and holds more than some of the 17.5-18ft expedition kayaks I’ve owned).

It is also very comfortable to be in during a long day. On long journeys in calmer conditions I prefer a kayak that lets me move around a bit, and especially allows me to paddle knees up/legs together.

So, for a kayak that I can work out in and go fast, and be used for tripping, it is decent. My major complaint is the hatches allow an annoying amount of water in the compartments in rough conditions. Not enough to be a hazard, but way more than any kayak I’ve used. The hatches have been re-designed in the latest production, and I don’t know if that problem is solved.

I liked the Epic 18xSport a bit better than the KayakPro Marlin, as the stability is a bit friendlier, seems as fast or faster, and can be used without the rudder deployed. But I did sort fall in love with the Tiderace Pace 18. Bomber construction, still roomy for knees together but a better knee connection for edging/rolling, and of course proper hatches that don’t leak. I didn’t like the foot pedals on the Pace; another great feature of the Epic 18x is the full-width footbar and toe-tab rudder control (I added a foot strap to mine). Wish the Pace came with that, then maybe I’d be tempted more…but the Epic is fun, and is a “bird in the hand”.