Performance/Racing Kayak Boat Advice

Hello everyone. I love my sea kayak but I have a need for speed! I live very close to a town lake that is 4 miles total so I have an easy place to go. There are always sculling boats, outrigger canoes, etc. and I was thinking it would be great to have something that I can get a great workout but also go fast. I don’t have any prior experience in the “performance/racing” world. I’m an athlete so this is probably where this interest comes from. I see brands like Stellar make these kinds of boats but feel kind of lost as I don’t know exactly what I should be looking for. I’m not asking for anyone to do research for me, don’t take it that way. I was just curious on some advice for a boat or just in general. Thanks for your time!

Would you want to actually enter any races? If so there are craft requirements based on race category.

If you dont care about a race class, then an Outrigger Canoe or Surfski is the way to go.

Outrigger is much more forgiving of imbalance. Also an outrigger canoe stroke is probably easier to master than a wing paddle used with surfskis.

Fast surfskis get tippy quickly and require a year or more of practice to get comfortable on.

I have raced open canoes (3x27 spec ‘pro boats’) OC1/2/6, and surfski.

Open canoes are the most technical in terms of race strategy. When I was in my 20’s and extremely fit, I would get beat by 60 year olds because they knew how to conserve energy, pop in the shallows, exactly when to sprint or relax, etc. Balance was not too hard to learn, even in a tandem pro boat.

Outriggers are easy to learn and not overly technical in terms of stroke mechanics, but on larger bodies of water wave reading and linking is highly skilled
Surfskis probably have the steepest learning curve in the sense that the mechanics of a proper wing stroke are highly technical, balance is a concern, and wave reading applies the same as outrigger.

That said, if you’re up for the challenge, I find surfski to be the funnest fast boat, but I have access to waves (the pacific ocean). Even on flat water some people like skis because the elite skis are nearly as fast as an Olympic K1, but since they are sit op top boats you dont need to worry about falling out. (if you swamp a K1 you swim it to shore. If you fall off a ski, you just hop back on)

A good boat to look for would be a ski in the 19-21" beam like an Epic V7, v8 pro, V10 sport, stellar SR, Fenn XT, or similar. note that a ski will be significanntly less stable than a sea kayak of the same beam. a guy just sold his ski immediately because he thought it was so tippy even after paddling kayaks for 20 years (but he was also being a wuss, so a lot depends on your interest in learning and pushing your skills. The less you care, the wider your boat should start out)

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Not for now, while it does sound fun I don’t think I should try to focus on a craft with specs geared toward racing. Getting my feet wet should probably be the way to go.

Great info! Thank you for that. I actually saw a guy at my local lake with an Epic V8 this past weekend. I asked him where he got it (I’ve never seen one in person) and it was some long story about coming from the east coast I believe.

I am looking for fun, fast, and challenging (but rewarding) so tippy does not scary me away. I’ll do some research on your suggestions. My sea kayak is a 20.5" beam but as you said, it’s a different beast. Thank you!

The best all around boat, for being comfortable and fast is the Westside EFT(Extra Fast Tourer)

It is nineteen feet with a 20 inch beam.

Another fast boat that is also comfortable is the Epic 18.

Both of these are sit in boats, as your background is in sea kayak, both run as touring class by the USCAK rules, and both have won competitive races.


If you can handle a 20.5" sea kayak in rough conditions, you could probably go straight to a 19-20" ski to start with. I went straight to a Stellar SR (gen 1) and did fine, but was paddling Pro boats and OC1 before that and practiced bracing and balance a lot. After 2 years paddling ski I went down to a 18" advanced boat and have mastered that in very rough ocean conditions. Now I’m thinking about moving down to a 17" elite boat, but dont know if I want to sacrifice the stability in rough water

The SRg1 has a relatively flat bottom and is 19’x19" so might still meet FSK class rules.

Here’s a good link from a local Epic dealer:

This is great - thank you!

I bought an Epic 18x last year and love it except for the seat which I replaced with a Redfish. It is a sit-in. Best for flat water as it has zero rocker, but does well in one foot waves (I haven’t tried it in anything heavier). Epic’s surf skis are faster. The guy I ran into paddling one pointed out though that he can’t relax in his - paddle is in the water at all times just to stay upright.

I have never been attracted to racing boats because of the narrow beam and tenderness of their performance. They settle down somewhat when they are moving but are not that relaxing to paddle. I am still getting used to my OT Canadienne which has a 32 inch beam. It has very fine entry lines and is plenty fast. I like it a lot.

You need to find some racing boats and try them to see if you still have enthusiasm for them.

Buy a used surfski and be prepared to sell it and upgrade when your skills progress. Warning: You will become addicted and this cycle will never end.


Oh my gosh, I am realizing what you mean. Seems hard to believe but I found an Epic V8 Ultra in great condition a few hours from me. It’s a great price, going to test it and likely pick it up on Saturday. They’re pretty rare so I’m stoked!

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I’m surprised nobody advised you to try a rowing shell. Skis are fast, but on flat water a sculler can go at least as fast and probably faster.

If you don’t want to face “the wrong way,” though, forget about that one. Also, I watched someone doing laps back and forth in a pond. Did not count how points she used for her gazillion-point turn, to make just one U-turn.

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Now, now, let’s not forget that the guy was used to paddling wide double kayaks with a spouse who was just as terrified of waves, and he had 16 years in (IIRC), with only a few hundred hrs of seat time over all those years. The guy who had 20 yrs of sea kayaking experience in narrow singles is doing fine with his ski; you must’ve gotten them mixed up.

Speaking as someone with roughly 19 yrs of sea kayak experience in singles…I am enjoying my surf ski. I did not have much choice in models, so it’s good that I got steered to an appropriate model that I’ll continue to enjoy and improve with. Take surf ski-specific lessons if you can. And assume you will need a wing paddle.

I may have mixed up a couple people.

Pika, are you Arcturus on

Its funny, 2 people on have said ‘enough’ with the sport recently. One because a 24" double was “insanely tippy” (which is not the case, i guarantee, but he also had a medical condition that made swims sketchy which is a decent reason not to paddle) and the other did not see the speed improvements he expected and moved on to an epic 18x sea kayak, which is still a fine boat, but I still dont understand how he though a boat upgrade would take him from 5mph to something much faster. 90% of your Speed comes from the engine. If you gave an elite paddler a beginner-but-acceptable boat like an epic V5 (24") or V8 (22"), they would still smoke me in an advanced boat (18") any day. short or long distance. Also, the guy who gave up for the epic 18x said he was never comfortable in lake ontario in an intermediate ski. To me that was the fatal flaw. A ski is meant for waves. Its literally the point of the boat. If you’re not chasing waves, a ski has only 1 other benefit, easy remounting (and possibly light weight).

This kinda made me realize ski is a boat for people who are dedicated to learning and improving. Balance takes time to learn. Wing stroke is highly technical (to do correctly) and take time to learn. Reading waves is highly technical and takes time to learn. No improvement on a ski comes free.

Personally, I’m not trying to be an Olympian, enjoy balance training, and am ‘good enough’ at a wing stroke to be proficient. Perfect? definitely not, but I dont know that that should be one’s goal, unless that makes you happy.

Im happiest chasing the biggest nastiest waves I can find, and a surfski is (debatably) the best craft to take out in horrible conditions.

Like you say, I think someone with average ability can hop on a beginner to low intermediate boat and paddle away without issue. you picked it up immediately similarly to me. are we just above average in our natural balance or do we work harder at it than most are willing to…? for me personally, I’ll say some of both.

Fantastic! That’s a sweet ski. Its 27# weight even sweeter!

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Go for it! I love my V8.

Going from 22" sea kayaks to the V8 was not a big deal. I am still mastering the wing strokes (hard to unlearn muscle memory from euro blades), but I never found it unstable. Even if you swim, remounting is quick and easy.

The ultra lay up needs some care, so be mindfull of rocks.

Yup, that’s me!

I had a hard time reading the complainer’s excuses for why he couldn’t paddle the 600. Poling back while leaning the ski to put it on its side for a wider platform?!?? For a few moments I wondered if a troll was playing pranks.

My much better experience as a newbie on the ski was not due to exceptional athletic ability. More to having realistic expectations of both myself and the ski, plus no doubt much, much more sea kayaking under my belt than he did despite not many more years since starting out. For one thing, I never expect equipment to make me gain a big increase in speed or competence. For another, I assume that some coaching in new activities is helpful, if not absolutely necessary.

I can tell you’re still irked by that guy’s endless excuses for why he did so poorly. After many of us suggested other boats that would better match his wants, it felt like Bring Me A Rock. I finally got fed up with his oversized ego, too.

Anyway, it’s nothing, really. He may lose some money reselling it, and if he had any clue he’d be licking wounded pride. But it does no harm to you or me. Hopefully he never capsizes, because he said he was unable to recover via any method!

So I continue to plug along, trying to stay mindful of technique, and appeciating the creeping gains in speed I’ve made. Comfort level with the “tippiness” went from cautiously good to hardly-think-about-it. The wing technique is different, and picky, but not like night and day. I’m happy to be able to rotate more with the very different leg position. Still think I’d benefit from a seat pad, but for now I am in the bare bucket.

Thanks for all your advice! It’s been very helpful. I made the plunge and I’m really happy. I feel fortunate given I picked this Epic V8 Ultra up for $1500 with cover and stands. I can’t wait to get some speed sessions in and take it out to the waves. I’m going to order their small wing paddle with the intent to also use it in my touring kayak. I’m definitely keeping my eyes peeled for a used or new 16x or 18x. I’m really digging this brand. I love love love the way they look and I got a lots of looks yesterday. That could be also that I paddled 16 miles in it which is definitely not a great idea… but my wife had her touring boat and I’m not going to waste a perfectly fine day not going out! Although, I am quite sore, ha. Cheers!

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