Maiden Voyage - Sterling Progression Kayak

We have had more wind swell action yesterday and today than forecasted by Magicseaweed. Wind swells of about 2.5’ at 8-9 second period have been coming in since yesterday evening. The sun was out, air temps hit just above 50 by lunch time. Did a morning and lunch meeting, responded to various emails and then HIGHTAILED it out by 1:15 PM. Got to the beach break at 2 PM. Waves were still rolling in, but a diagonal onshore wind picked up to about 15-20 knots. The winds were mushing the waves and creating messy bumps here and there. In other words, PERFECT conditions to put the Sterling Progression through a maiden voyage trial. :smile:

A couple of hours on sloppy waves is just that, a very limited window just to figure out out my butt situation in the cockpit, get a sense of how the Progression feels and performs with my paddling strokes and techniques and to develop a early sense of familiarity and, hopefully, comfort within the boat.

BIG Initial impressions:

  1. This lightest long boat I have had at just under 40lbs. It a couple of hours past low tide when I arrived, so it was a bit of a carry to the water’s edge. Not a problem. No stops needed. Only thing lighter were my 17’ Greenland SOFs which came in at slightly over 30 lbs.

  2. The Progression feels “lively” and is amazingly agile, probably because of that crazy high rocker. It pivots amazingly fast of the pivot point somewhere right under my butt area.

  3. However, it was an agility that I could not control well in my first hour out there. Every time I got on a wave, it started to carve one way or the other beyond my control. But the boat didn’t broach and side surfed as would all my other longboats. Rather, it spun around 100 degrees plus and started to backsurf. It seemed my Progression really wanted to surf backwards than forwards with me. This happened several times and I used bow rudders to somewhat successfully control a bit of the direction. It dawned on me the the pivot point was very sensitive and that I may be too far forward (Sterling staff told me they intend to move the seating an inch farther forward than most to accommodate my shorter/smaller body). Anyway, I started to lean way back (not ideal position normally as this would normally slow the boat down on the wave). When I did this, I found I could actually get a bit more control – not perfect – but enough to make a forward run to the beach.

  4. On the second hour, I paddled in and adjusted my footpegs one notch farther back. This served to push my body weight more towards the stern. I started to get more decent rides with some directional changes as I (rather the boat) intended

  5. The Progression is a “pure rough water” boat. Once I relaxed and “trusted” the boat, it felt like the chops and breaking wave are where the Progression is intended to excel in. It has an incredible secondary stability that allowed very deep edging and then immediate righting. I never felt in danger of capsizing in the chops and breaking waves.

  6. Pushing myself and the boat to see what was possible on the wave rides, I did capsize several times. No mental or physical hiccups in “combat rolling”. The boat just rolled up as if it had its own volition.

Well, these are the first impressions. I look forward to some bigger, higher quality swells to take Progression out for the next trial. I am mulling whether to move the seat back a tad bit, or just leave it with the current adjustment of just the foot pegs. Patience… Patience… But, it looks like the beginning of good/great relationship. :kissing_heart:



Interesting to hear you say this. Nothing that I have ever paddled exhibited this feeling as profoundly as the Progression. While some boats with strong secondary increasingly resist deep edging to the point of fatigue the P just goes with it, provides enough feedback to let you know what you need to know and when you have had enough it just straightens back up without any drama. Really great feedback from the boat.


It is pretty distinctive that “feedback” and the “assurance” that comes with it on/in the textured stuff. But, I need/want to develop a much greater extent of directional control on the wave. Until that happens (it will eventually), the P is just a great bracing and rolling boat. For me, bracing and rolling are just means to pursue something else – ability to dance across the face of a beautiful peeling wave.



Ok. I clearly lack patience. After drying out the P, I just went at that foam seat with the rasp and took another 3/4" off to push the butt well farther back. Took about the same amount off on the height of the foam back rest. I also pared down the angle of the foam rest to minimize interference with layback rolls. With pegs pulled all the way back and the foam wedge tuck all the way under the seat, I am pretty locked in. Have to say that the Joe Greenley seat is pretty comfortable now that I took a hack at it.

The next swell will tell whether the modifications to move my butt and the center of pivot farther back will enable better directional control on the wave. Fingers crossed.



That is a sweet looking coaster boat. I wonder if some of the directional control issues are coming from instinctive aggressive weighting/edging from wave skiing. I know I feel like a fish out of water when I get in surf in a boat without rails/fins - same issues, I tend to start back surfing.

I thought the same thing about the adjustment needed from waveski to longboat. That was certainly true when I started surfing the Delphin. But, I got that down and I think that adjustment should carry over to the Progression. Apparently not.

Funny, you said “coaster” boat. The Mariner Coaster has long been my “dream” long(ish) boat for surf play. I think I had a shot at 2 Coasters on the local used market in the last 20 years. Both times I hesitated (and lost the opportunity) because I thought was “too expensive” for my budget. Well, I “rationalize” the Progression buy because it will be my LAST longboat. I’ve also decided to sell the Delphin to defray.

Truthfully, the Progression is more dimensionally similar to the Mariner Express. However, aside from the rocker, the design approach is somewhat different in where to locate the pivot point and “planing” area of the hull. But it certainly works for both boats. You might remember a former Boston-based PNet member, Sanjay. He got an Mariner Elan when it first came out. (The Elan is essentially a lower volume version of the Express.) I went out a couple of times with Sanjay to play. Talk about boat envy… LOL!

Here is a sweet looking kevlar Mariner Express to compare the Progression with:

Reading the Broze brothers’ description of the Express at the Mariner Kayak website, I am reminded of how folks often describe their Sterling Kayaks:

"Going out the bow pops up quickly to ride over the waves and soups thereby keeping most of the in rushing breakers from slugging you in the chest and stopping your progress. Surfing in on a wave the hardened chines bite into the wave face and let you surf across it at high speed (rather than just mush in sideways as with most kayaks it acts more like a surfboard). You can still slide in mostly sideways if you prefer by bracing further forward with your paddle or moving the sliding seat further forward.
"Once the wave had broken and after the initial ‘Maytagging’ the Express EX would slide sideways smoothly with the bow slightly forward, but unlike most sea kayaks the bow did not repeatedly snag in the green water in front of the wave only to be bounced forward by the broken wave again and again. While skidding sideways it was easy to brace further towards the stern pivoting the bow forward in order to hit the beach coming straight in or back off the soup.
“The Express rivaled the Coaster in its ability to come straight in through the surf without pearling the bow and end flipping. I was trying hard to do an ender in the Express EX. Although several times I had it standing nearly vertical in six foot dumping breakers each time I either rode straight down the wave and out in front of it or if I was unable to keep it pointed straight as the breaker hit the tumbling water quickly swung my stern around into a sideways skid (like most other kayaks must adopt early in order to prevent an ender). The closest I came to pearling the bow was when I leaned well forward in an attempt to force the bow under. About 1” of water ran up the nearly vertical deck before the bow again broke the surface and surfed off straight in front of the wave.
“Even more amazing, when I was unable to punch out through a bigger breaker, instead of the usual rear flip that ensues the Express EX surfed backwards long enough without pearling to give me time to get turned off to the side. I found it great fun to surf backwards on three to four foot breakers. The stern didn’t pearl even when the waves broke into soup.”



Rasins, paddles one of those Sterling Progressions sometimes. Seems he paddles the Petrel Play most now days.


Well who knows if it’s your last or not. You may be going strong at 100. I got to try a Mariner Coaster and it was my dream SINK for a long time. I think TsunamiChuck bought a boat that was supposed to be nearly identical but not with the premium price tag for a rare Coaster, don’t remember the name or brand.

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Well, if you don’t find a Coaster (it’s long search process but easier perhaps on the west coast), the Petrel Play is a viable alternative. The Petrel Play shares the swedeform and higher rocker of the Mariner Coaster. Also, more important, according to its owners (and the designer Nick Schrade) it is a “short” (14’) longboat that is intended for surf play.

(Love watching Ole dudes out in the surf!!!)

The Petrel Play used to be S&G, but something has been worked out with Turning Point Boatworks to produce a composite version.



Sing: nice looking boat. I was going to suggest to wait to get more seat time in varied conditions before making any changes. I know you are focused on its surfing abilities but being able to paddle it in strong winds should be a consideration as to seat placement. Enjoy your new toy!

Thanks, steevey. I agree with your approach as the “better” way, although I admit again that I was/am bit impatient. :+1:t4:

My extenuating excuse is that I found the Progression (surprisingly) controllable for “normal” paddling in the choppy waves and 15-20 knot winds that I was in. The boat turned and went where I wanted, be into or away from the wind. I find for the boats that I’ve paddled with weather (lee) cocking issues, these will show up (and increase) once winds go 15 knots and above. (This was why I was anxious to get out for the maiden voyage when I saw the real time buoy data.) The time I began to lose control was on the wave, where the bow went in direction that was despite my intent. However, when I leaned way back and later adjusted my footpegs back, I started to surf better and with more directional control. (I was able to review my hour plus GoPro footage this morning and saw that this was true and not my imagination.)

Another factor for me to go ahead is the nature of the Joe Greenley foam seat design. After carving away 3/4" for the back, I didn’t automatically sit that far back until I brought footpegs all the way towards me AND when I push the foam wedge (part of the seat design) all the way under the front of the seat. This serves to elevate the front part of the seat and aid in pushing my body weight farther back. If this arrangement doesn’t improve my directional control, I am to lower the front of the seat and push my footpegs forward another notch. This would then allow me to shift my center of gravity farthar forward again. Essentially, my modifications is not irreversible.

Fingers crossed for more waves this weekend.


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From my paddling experience, I found to evaluate how a boat behaves in strong winds is influenced by the sea state. In lumpy waters, this gives you help in getting easier directional control. When there is less boat in the water, gives the paddler an easier time in correcting direction if the effort to correct is done when the bow/stearn is out of the water. Problems with directional control is increased when in strong winds and flat seas as there is more boat in the water that has to be overcome to make desired corrections. Your boat has lots of rocker so this problem should be mitigated more vrs a boat with a straighter keel line. I thought paddling in the latter conditions before making any significant changes would be my suggestion. Just my 2 cents.

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Some footage of the Maiden Voyage - initial seat time to get acquainted! Rough to start but it got a little better as the session went on. :upside_down_face:



Thanks for the video. Are you riding skeel up, down or in-between?

Skeel was up. Didn’t feel any need for it. Just as well. When I got home, I found the skeel was stuck in the housing. It’s such a tight fit. Sand worked its way in in the process of launching and landing. Had to use a visor grip to get hold of the string to get the skeel free.


Yes, the skeel has a problem with sand.
When I use the Progression in surf sessions, I will put a piece of tape over the skeg opening.


Good idea!!! Thanks.


That did appear to be broaching quickly. It will be fun to read about/see how you’re able to adapt to it’s performance characteristics. Lots of fun to be had for sure!

Yes. Looking forward to going out this weekend and testing with the modifications made. :slight_smile:


So, we got better waves today than expected - 3’ plus @ 10-11 second intervals. The onshore wind was ever so gentle at 5-6 knots that it didn’t mush the waves too much. Of course, the waves were rolling in from a blurr of fog, mist and rain. I love that ambience. Apparently, the same for the only other surfer out there on a long board.

Today was my second but productive surf session with the Progression. The first session, I figured to lean back to get better directional control on the wave because the trim (my center of gravity location) was off. I subsequently did some modification to the foam seat to pull the trim farther back. Today, initially, I kept leaning back and not quite getting the control I wanted. I then realized that I had changed the trim and that I should not have to lean back. Rather I should sit straight up in a proper posture. Doing this I immediately began to experience better control.

I like the progress made today in the Progression. No where near surfing to the potential and capability of the boat. But, it’s a rewarding and fun step forward. (Video to come later.)

Oh, got my first ding in the gelcoat. Glad to get that out of the way!