Kayak vs ski

Hi gang,

I am upgrading my kayak this year but cannot decide. I paddle mostly for fitness, occasionally race (on local lakes and rivers) but do very little touring. I am torn between a longer sport type kayak (like the Epic 18 sport) or perhaps a surfski. I want to keep the length somewhere around 16-18’ and still have fairly good stability along with good hull speed. I know surfskis are fast but can be a little tricky to master. I am willing to put in those hours to get good at it but I am hesitant to move from the traditional kayak. I am sure there are many of you who have moved from a kayak to a ski - were you happy you did? What things did you like and disliked? If you are a kayaker and hate surfskis, tell me why (and vice-versa). I am an advanced intermediate paddler (getting better everyday) and have a budget of about $3500 for a new boat. I have tried both (although only a couple of times in a ski) but have no real preferences in either type at this point. Thoughts? Oh and thank you for taking the time to respond, I do appreciate it. Scott

tried skis, stuck with kayaks
I tried a few skis, but have stuck with kayaks. Guess I prefer the versatility (able to carry gear, not feeling like I need a wing paddle which doesn’t do a lot well except go forward, etc.) over the speed/distance covering. But I also have never raced either.

My $0.02.

…and a follow-up question:
For those of you who have tried them, are skis such as the new poly Epic and the Stellar 18S a good compromise for people who want to travel and maybe even do an overnighter, as opposed to a fast kayak?

Can the difference between these two surf skis and a fast sea kayak really be enough to sway one from a fast sea kayak, if one intends to use it mostly for day paddling?

Depends :slight_smile:
Whether a surfski or a kayak makes more sense depends on one’s specific situation. Here’s mine: fitness and “thrill”- seeking (a strong word, given what I actually do), and the occasional race a couple of times a year.

For fitness, the lightness, ease of use, safety, and the ergonomics of a surfski are a no brainer to me.

For “excitement”, e.g., when the weather is rough, it can go either way. Depends on what excites you. If you like downwinders, definitely a ski. If rock gardening and currents - short playful (and as a consequence, slow) kayak. I’ve personally decided I take the ski on windy days when I can play in waves on open water. But these days are few and far between for me. So I got into white water specifically to substitute for the lack of rough water conditions near where I live. So, in the “thrills” area for me the ski wins again, in combination with a WW kayak.

The third use of a sea kayak for me is to do some day trips and evening after work paddling with local paddlers. There aren’t enough surfski paddlers where I live, but plenty of sea kayakers. I sometimes take the ski for the weekly evening outing of my group and it works fine: I just paddle in a relaxed slow pace, perhaps using a canoe paddle, or chase boat wakes and go cover more distance than the group by still stay with them overall. The ski again works good enough for me here. Our group has many people with Greenland paddling inclinations, and with a ski obviously one does not roll or balance brace. So for this would be good to have a low volume kayak suitable for Greenland stuff. The abovementioned playful/slow kayak could work as would other long and faster ones (but the fitness -oriented 18x etc. are not the best choice here). For day trips with a group a sea kayak works best. So, I tend to keep a sea kayak that is suitable for Greenland stuff, playful for some occasional rough weather use, and sufficiently speedy for occasional group outings and day trips.

So, there :slight_smile: Coming from sea kayak only, I ended up mostly splitting my paddling time between surfski and whitewater, with the rather occasional sea kayak group outing on flat water.

The new Epic V7 I think will be a great choice for many: fast and ergonomic for fitness, promises to be stable for an experienced kayaker to just sit and paddle, has storage for day/week, plastic-tough yet light enough, safe, fairly inexpensive… If one does not need the toughness and rather pay more for lightness, the Stellar s18s would work good too (and even the s14s, if one is not in a hurry).

I like them both, but…

– Last Updated: Jan-15-15 3:29 PM EST –

I personally find myself on a ski about 95% of the time. That being said, I really enjoy the fitness and racing side of it and also appreciate the simplicity. I'm on the water as fast or faster than those on SUP.

Another advantage that works well for me is that I have always been drawn to ocean paddling. I feel far more comfortable paddling a ski on the ocean than I do a kayak. I have fallen off my ski out there before and getting back in is a snap. No worries.

Which gets me on another subject. I used to spend a good deal of time working on safety measures. Many of these issues (not all)are not necessary on the ski. You can spend more time doing what you love---paddling.

It sounds to me like you would probably appreciate the simplicity and speed of a ski. If you're like me you'll wonder what took you so long to get there.

Slush paddler-IMHO, I think that Crossover ski's are beginning to work for some camping etc. Yes, the V7 has one hatch, but with an open cockpit you will save some room from not using safety equipment, such as paddle floats, bilge pumps etc. Maybe not there yet, but seem to be on the way.

All that being said, I recognize that this is a totally subjective experience. It definitely works well for me. Someone else may not be interested in any way.

The right tool…
I paddle kayaks, have a canoe and a ski. I switch dependent on what I have planned. Ski is by far the easiest and quickest to get on the water. I race occasionally,

there is very little
Learning curve from a 22-24 inch wide kayak and the 18’ skis. Stability is nearly equal, especially if you are at all athletic.

Hull shape is different
Ski’s have more rounded hulls, and can be mastered fairly quickly if you’ve had experience with other narrow boats. My kayak is 21 1/4" wide, ski is 19" wide.

I like my V8
Here’s my 2 cents worth:

I never liked being “inside” a trad kayak and my back is def more comfortable in a ski. also, in general I have found skis to be much lighter (which I like a lot!).

I’ve owned a couple of 19 ft. x 19 in. skis and, when not able to put in substantial and regular seat time, they became less attractive to me due to general stability concerns.

I now own (and paddle once or twice a week in decent weather) an Epic V8. Love it. I paddle for fitness only. I take it to FLA or Hilton Head or Michigan when we go for a week (which we’ve done each year for the past few) and it works out great for me.

If you do very little touring and…
just want it for fitness, I would get a ski.

I am just the opposite. I do tons of touring along with a bunch of racing, and would like a ski just for the occasional race, but can’t see paying the big bucks for a boat that I will only be using for racing.

I keep looking for a ski that some one wants to part with for a small price, but it’s not going to happen so I’ll stick with my FSK QCC-700.

Jack L

the 18’ skis
Arent that narrow.

so now I’m thinking
that a ski with storage like the SRS might be too much of a compromise and not enough of a difference from my kayak.

Fenn Blue Fin (Bluey) Is Unbeatable
Search all the reviews and this ski is the one to get. In fact, at last summer’s U.S. Surfski Champ’s, even experience paddlers, who paddle elite level skis, switched to the Bluefin to paddle from Muir Beach to Berkeley.

Unfortunately, at 19’3" it is a little longer then what you want, but, at under 20 ft., it should fit inside your garage. Plus, you don’t lose anything in speed.

At just over 20" wide, it is too wide for me, but heck, you don’t need a wing paddle to get it up to speed. The old style Olympic flat blade (Euro or River blades) around 212 or 214 cm will do just fine and are more versatile.

Bluefins are available at Oceanpaddlesports on both the East and West Coasts.

Try before you buy!!!

Valley Rapier 20

– Last Updated: Jan-16-15 11:08 AM EST –

20' long - 17.75" wide 47lbs at the heaviest and you can roll it.

Rather than rely on They Say reviews I'll write one up when mine comes in March.

Now to stick a P&H 1m sail on the bow. ;)

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

Comfort is most important to me.
I’ve been in some really uncomforatble boats and can attest to the fact that I can paddle more miles in day in a comfortable boat, because it allows me to " Keep it moving".

On multiday trips comfort is even more important. In general most skis are easy to make comfortable and most decked kayaks are not comfortable. Your results may vary.

“In general, skis are easy to make


The Epic V6 (1st generation) is the only ski like boat I’ve paddled and I don’t find it to be as comfortable in it’s stock configuration as a few of my kayaks. The seat pan angle just doesn’t seem to work for me, but my wife seems to think it’s fine. I’m not sure what I could do to make it more comfortable for me. I also don’t like how narrow the foot well is - feels kind of snug with my size 9 Chota Mukluk Lites.

I seldom paddle the V6 because I prefer to stay dry and I don’t have a plug for the scupper, so there’s always a risk of a wet butt when mounting the boat.

So far, I prefer the more connected feel of a sit inside kayak to an SOT, because I like to use weight shifts and edging the boat for control and tight turns, rather than using the rudder.

I really haven’t given the V6 much of a chance. I think I’d prefer the newer configurations with the TrackMaster rudder (which my Epic 16X has) and the added carrying handles along the sides of the cockpit. My V6 is a challenge to get hold of to carry, since there’s nothing to get hold of around the cockpit.

The skis/SOTs are certainly easier to mount/dismount than the sit insides.

Ski comfortable?
From my experience, mileage does vary

For the first 2.5 hours it’s fine but after that the hip flexors are getting their full work out and a low brace is kept handy with a Fenn Mako 6.

Excellent training kayak to get a lot workout in a short period of time.

Switching back to a P&H Cetus MV is like hopping into a Cadillac like ride. All day = no problem.

Like Yanoer my #11 feet make shoe choices important. My sea to summit booties fit fine but not my astral Brewers or Rasslers.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



Most of the 18’ skis are essential that companies fast kayak with the deck off. There are differences and sometimes they shave a bit off the beam. But anyone comfortable in a decently narrow kayak isn’t going to have a problem.

If I lived up north where my warm water season was a few months shorter, I won’t paddle one.

i couldnt keep that thing upright
Nor could I get my ass comfortablly in the seat. But a sweet boat for someone smaller and less top heavy. Its a rocket ship.

ski for fitness - easier logistics
skis are lighter and easier to clean and maintain. In the summer I like to put in 5 - 8 miles before work 3-4 days a week. I used to have a QCC 700 and now paddle a Fenn Swordfish, I like the ski better and almost never miss a workout since I switched to a ski.