Has anybody paddled the Nelo 520S or the Epic V5?

Yes, I realize they are quite different from each other.

I will be trying each one out, hopefully this year. From what I have read, the V5 looks like a beginner ski/exercise boat that also works for daytripping and some surfing. It actually has a hatch compartment. I would get one of the lighter layups, since the main reason I am looking at a new boat is I see the day when schlepping my heavy SINK around will be more than I want to handle.

A greatly lighter boat also means I could dispense with the trailer.

The 520S came up as another possible choice, since it was sized for a small, light paddler. I would guess it is faster and probably a better choice for cardio workout. However, the longer length compared with the V5 might make it not as fun for other paddling?

And no, I do not want to buy both!

If either boat feels great when I paddle it and the other does not, it is a no-brainer. Ditto if neither one does. The dilemma would be if I like both of them equally.

I am not worried about either one feeling tippy, since I am comfortably paddling a fairly narrow SK already (a SKUK Pilgrim Expedition).

How much edging am I going to lose out on by switching to a surf ski? Not wild about being rudder dependent.

I look at them as 2 different sports.
For edging, you’ll have more fun with your Pilgrim.
For going straight (mostly), maybe surfing waves, going a bit faster, use the surfski. You’ll use the rudder instead of leaning, edging.
So, get the surfski, but don’t give up the Pilgrim (and, in some future day, when it gets a bit too heavy, trade the Pilgrim in on a lightweight seakayak).

Also, get a wing paddle. You just won’t ‘look’ right paddling a surfski without one (you know, kind of like paddling a seakayak with an upside down paddle).
(kidding, but still, you might like the wing paddle)

My guess is you’ll fit the 520 better than the V5, as wider Epic’s are known to accommodate medium to large butts (which sounds like you do not have?). The Nelo line all has Small/Medium/Large versions of their skis that have a bucket and volume tailored to a specific weight. Im 185lbs with a 32" waist and I did not fit the 550M bucket, so I would think that the S bucket would be perfect for small women or very skinny men.

personally a 17’x20" (520) boat is more fun than a 14’x24" (v5), but some of that depends on how you want to use it. For fitness or covering distance, I think the 520 will have the edge. Especially if you’re already in a 20" boat, I think the V5 might feel a little sluggish. But really in a ski, bucket fit is God, so you have a good plan to sit in both and decide.

As for edging, most skis do not have very hard chines and I see much less effect of edging in a ski vs a canoe or traditional kayak. if you are not going out in big conditions, a small rudder (like a standard 4" flat water rudder) will suffice and you’ll hardly notice it. If you keep it held straight it’s basically just a skeg and edging might have some effect in flat to small conditions. I never had a rudder on my canoes, but immediately fell in love with it on a ski. The under stern rudder is much better than a over stern rudder like on most sea kayaks. I dont know exactly what it is, but the placement is much more natural feeling than an over stern. In bigger stuff, the rudder is 1000% necessary for control. I have a 9" high cord on my ski and its point-and-shoot responsive in downwind conditions. Anyways, I wouldnt worry about it. You can use rudder input as much or little as you like.

I think you’d enjoy either boat. Let your butt guide you.

The under- or over-stern rudder was a decision I was holding off till after trying the boats.

When I was new to SK, I paddled in wind waves that were tall enough for the rudder to be uselessly pivoting around OUT of the water. A disconcerting experience, since I was so new to paddling. That was right when I knew I was going to eventually get a skegged (or completely “naked”) sea kayak. If I didn’t need the rudder then, I wasn’t going to need it later, after getting better skills. But a ski is a different design, so I assume it will be useful. The question is will I be able to edge it even slightly. Seems like the V5 might be more maneuverable.

The waterline length of my Expedition might actually be similar to that of the V5, due to rocker amounts. That’s one of the things renting will help me feel out.

BTW, though I live in landlocked reservoir country, with a lightweight rooftopped ski I would plan on taking roadtrips to southern CA at least every year. Gotta get my dose of the sea.

Exactly right about the rudder placement. The recent generation of skis has moved the rudder forward a few inches exactly to combat it coming out of the wave when you need it most! Thats one reason over stern rudders arent great (IMO)

You can probably steer by edging on your reservoir effectively. Once you’re in the ocean, it has very, very little effect compared to the steering energy input needed to overcome the energy of a 2’+ wave (and especially as the waves get bigger or steep, like the fun stuff thats 4’ @7 seconds). I had a 7" and went up to a high chord 9" to get the boat in control in 4’+ waves, and doing it again I might do 10".

Both boats should turn very well. The rocker of a ski hull plus the under stern rudder means they turn better than the equivalent dimensioned kayak.

My guess is that you’ll have an ‘a-ha’ moment on one of the boats and it will be an easy decision. They’re different enough that you’ll probably prefer one or the other. Im curious to hear your feedback when you try them

Update: I tried the 520S and loved it. First session was a lesson in a protected bay, one hour. I liked the boat’s glide, no surprise. It FITS me without any mods! Learned how to do the remount two different ways, no problem; easier than cowboy rescue with a SINK due to the much lower height and no stuff like coaming edges.

Still, I was apprehensive about going out the next day in open water wind waves with such a short intro and using a wing paddle, too. Turned out to be less wind than predicted but still enough bumps, plus some areas of more confused water due to motorboats going by etc, to get a feel how the ski handled in other than flat water.

By somewhere around halfway to two thirds of the way into this ninety minute lesson, something in me flipped from Hmmm to Wow. No doubt about it…the ski responds much more quickly and easily to putting the hammer down to catch a wave. And while it feels tippier than a SINK does, it took care of me well enough that I did not need to do anything unusual to stay upright. Yes, there was no capsizing. As soon as I got over my early feeling of, well, nakedness without a deck or thigh braces for edging with, I could focus on timing of power. I think that was when it clicked for me.

I am making myself wait before pulling the trigger, and anyway there should be a chance to try the Epic later, too. But I loved paddling the Nelo.

It is obvious you have been smitten. I suppose there is a point in improving on love, but I have never been that patient.

Glad you liked it! Skis are addicting. More stable skis like the 520 and others that are 20"+ are very approachable and overlooked as a ‘specialty boat’.

I only agree if their specialty is being fun! If you dont need to carry much stuff and like a dynamic boat that rewards input and skill, skis are the boat - The funnest I have paddled so far.

I bet you fit the 520S better than the epic, just from a bucket perspective. The lower numbered epics typically have larger buckets, and a good connection to the boat is critical for maximum enjoyment since you lack other contact points.

Ski’s rock! I haven’t found a reason yet to come back to a sea kayak.

Only one bad effect: I got chafed enough that blisters formed just above my tailbone. (IIRC, this is the exact same spot that Freya H posted a photo of her butt, with a bright red heart photo-edited in, like X marks the spot.) Later that day the blisters opened up. Ugh. Kind of hard to let that area heal due to the need for wearing clothes over it except when sleeping.

I am looking into pads with slippery covers and maybe sport-specific shorts, if those exist. I guess the SKUK seat in my SINK has enough of a recess in that point to have avoided the chafing, plus the leg position is splayed, unlike on the ski. That was a major plus of the ski; the position felt much, much better than in any sea kayak.

Got any tips on pads, shorts, or anything else? Looks like rooftopping on heavily padded crossbars with the ski upside down will work. And wider straps with padding wrapped around them.

Mocke and Epic sell microcell foam pads. Put one right at the junction of where the vertical meets horizontal. Also, be sure to sit with good posture if you’re not already. This is a tough one, as most people (myself included) assume they are using good form but often are slouching a bit.

I slouch and rubbed a raw spot a little higher. The good news was it was caused by torso rotation. Never did find a way to prevent it except good posture.

@string said:
I slouch and rubbed a raw spot a little higher. The good news was it was caused by torso rotation. Never did find a way to prevent it except good posture.

Me too. It took me a few tries but once I got used to it I’ve never had it happen again.

@pikabike said:
plus the leg position is splayed, unlike on the ski. That was a major plus of the ski; the position felt much, much better than in any sea kayak.

I prefer the leg / foot position in my Epic 16X kayak over our Epic V6 Ski - My size 8 Chota Mukluk Lites feel smashed together in the foot well of the V6. They feel wonderful on the foot board of the 16X. I often use legs together paddling in the 16X, similar to the V6 ski, but the foot board / foot space is much more comfortable in the 16X.

My wife has size 6 feet and loves the V6.

It puzzles me why surf ski foot wells are so narrow when the ski actually has plenty of width at that point for the foot well to be wider. The V6 is the only ski that I have any experience with. I’ve never read of anyone else complaining about this, so my experience must be unique.

In my Stellar S18S , I was always knock kneed and my size 13 feet had little room. I got used to it but that part wasn’t fun.

Vaikobi is the gold standard of paddling shorts and pants. Others will work fine too. Something with some minor butt or low back padding will help. If that does not work, the smooth surface minicell can be added as Mountain says.
In an extreme case, your butt and bucket may just be incompatible. Butt to bucket fit is a major factor in finding the perfect ski for you.

As for the footwell, a wide footwell (like on most stellar’s) means the bucket volume increases substantially and leads to slower draining after a flooding. My Stellar SRg1 had a huuuuge bucket and took like 5 minutes to drain. My Fenn Swordfish S is tight - I can have at most 3mm booties on before foot interference begins, but I have size 12 wide feet. an extra 1/2" width near the top of the footplate would help me a lot. But overall cramped feet are better than a huge bucket IMO, at least in fun (big wave) conditions when the bucket takes on water frequently.

I simply cut a piece of foam and glued it to the back of my bucket with high-powered duck tape. Works great. I don’t have any fat to cushion my lower back and my Think Uno Max has a very deep bucket. Go for inexpensive because it’ll need to be replaced each season.

@DrowningDave said:
I simply cut a piece of foam and glued it to the back of my bucket with high-powered duck tape. Works great. I don’t have any fat to cushion my lower back and my Think Uno Max has a very deep bucket. Go for inexpensive because it’ll need to be replaced each season.

How do you like the Uno Max?

I love it. It’s the elite version so it’s very light, fits like a glove, tracks like a missle and is very fast. If I had to say one minor issue its that it has a higher deck then many skis so therefore it can catch the wind it off angles. The high decks also means it won’t bury itself into a wave.
I went from an HPK to this ski and the learning curve surprised the heck out of me. Now that I’ve “mastered” it I would never go back.

I’ll look into those pads and shorts. Meanwhile, I put on a Bandaid HydroSeal bandage, specifically designed for blisters. Needed a mirror to do that, and it took three tries to place it correctly.

The good part is that I must not have abraded it as deeply as some other people have, probably thanks to paddling only an hour and half. They mention the pain of chlorinated shower water on the sores, which I did not have,