Surfski - life guard spec or not?

Can someone please talk about lifeguard spec surf ski and ocean racing surf ski? I understand that the latter may be slightly faster/less stable and the former have the flat head for preventing diving in steep waves.

As a first ski for fitness paddling in mostly flat still water, may be up to 3-5 wind waves on the Chesapeake bay very occasionally, would you recommend getting a “lifeguard spec” surf ski as a first ski over something else, like the Epic V10 Sport or even the “L” (no big water for me)?

A ski like this used can be had for about $400 where the Epic V10/L/Sport is 3-5 times this cost used if not more, depending on construction, so given the above, would I want to consider the more expensive models?

I’m tall so stability is an issue but I feel fairly comfortable in an Epic 18x, so learning on a little less stable ski may not be too much of a challenge. But I would not want the tippiest of them for sure.

I basically want a cheap-ish, light (no more than 40 lb), easy to use craft that allows good body rotation and close paddle entry. So if there’s something else out there for this that would fit 6’4 at 190 lb, size 15 shoe, please suggest – may be a trainer kayak instead? I got a sea kayak that I can use in the cold months…


does it leak
It often great to buy used kayaks becuase they are a deal and are fixable. Fixing a leaky ski can be really tough. Try before you buy. Have it upside down for awhile. The surfskiinfo site is much better qualified. Also I made the dumb assumption that skis are easy to remount. Wide plastic sitontops are easy. getting back on even a spec ski is like being able to roll a kayak. It takes skill and practice and might require a paddle float

If you’re serious about paddling on the Chesapeake that rules out a trainer. You could learn to balance it but they don’t handle like skis are aren’t as fun in the chop.

Beyond that, you don’t need a spec ski for the Bay. That bow foil is for climbing over the foamies in surf. Further, the modern “intermediate” skis like the V10 Sport and Think Evo are pretty stable (spec skis run the range from stable to really tippy). The modern boats also have deck cut-aways and single footwells that improve ergonomics. These are the better options for general paddling. However, if you can get a stable spec ski inexpensively that is in good shape to learn and decide whether or not you actually like paddling a ski, that might be better. There are an awful lot of people that shell out for the new fangled boat for the big price and end up selling for a big loss just a little later. The difference in speed between the spec boats and the new intermediate boats is minimal. The spec boats will be a tad wider at the catch but even that is no big deal for learning. Good stroke mechanics are good stroke mechanics whether your boat is 18" wide at the feet or 15" wide. If you build good fundamentals on the spec boat or in your 18X then you’ll be able to better capitalize on the new design when you graduate up or decide you like skis enough to make the investment. Do be sure that the spec ski is a stable design though. The spec skis with the shallow seat and round bottom are tippy.

$400 ?
These seem to sell for about $400 used (seen several ads - never touched one, yet). According to the owner it should be on the stable end of the scale and sized for me in terms of height.

I think you are right on point - I am not at all sure I will like the ski so it needs to be cheap in case I don’t. I liked the Epic but my large flappers did not fit in it and there was really not much I could do short of cutting it to raise the deck at my feet - just not enough deck height there. I paddle a CD Extreme for now and that is fast enough for me but it is wide in the front and I can’t really do as much leg action in it as I want as the cockpit is short (folks under 6’2 would be able, but I can’t). Plus the ski will be a 6 months-a-year thing for me most likely - don’t think I want to be swimming in the water too often in the winter…

Last chance to chime in -:wink:
Here is a photo of the actual ski in consideration:

Look at the second from left (yellowish) one.

I could not get the owner to give me the specs of it but by the looks of it it seems that it is rather wide and probably not much different from my current kayak in terms of hull dynamics - may be a bit faster top speed if the ski is in the 20’ range but the waterline seems to be at least 2 feet shorter. The key differences seem be the open cockpit for good body motion and probably higher center of gravity, thus less stability, plus the front is rather full and high and would be a handful in cross-winds…

Am I totally off in the above theoretical reasoning?

I’m starting to think I might be better-off saving-up and getting something like the V10L that would be less susceptible to wind, faster, and probably lighter construction as well.

What do you guys think?

Is not a whole lot of money. Just get it, paddle for a while, develop skills, sell it for a bit less money, get something else and move on.

PFD ~ 100$

Drysuit >600$

Wing Paddle > 300$

Key point - make sure it does not leak.

I got the specs from the manufacturer - 19’x19". I need to think about it. If it were 3 hours closer to me I’d probably just drive and see it but as it is I’m not sure… As you say the price tag is small (got all else) and that’s what’s tempting but I’m not sure it is that much different from my current SINK to be worth the trouble…

worth the trip
If the boat is in good shape. It probably worth the trip. I paddle my skis 4 months a year. (25 years)

They are fantastic in warm weather. Easy to get out and in. Really fun in the surf ,waves motor boat chop.A really fun boat to paddle. After your done surfing for the day,your body then tells wow what a great work out.

My 2 cents


snatch it up
$400 is a steal for a ski, even a used one, even if you outgrow it quickly.

i’ve paddled that very ski

– Last Updated: Oct-31-08 6:24 AM EST –

not the brand- that particular ski. the guy who is selling it is a good guy- he wouldn't try to rip you off. i paddled it 3 times for maybe 8 total hours this past summer. it's a bit heavy compared to some of the newer skis, but it seemed very well built, did not seem to leak at all (i didn't spend a ton of time paying attention to this though) and was fast enough to be fun. very stable- about the same as a mako xt. very comfy in some very confused inlet waves going out into the ocean.

my inlaws live near there, and this guy was nice enough to let me use the ski. i'd buy it and keep it there if i got there more often. if i was in your position, i'd go for it.

(added later)- wait a minute. you are 6'4"? i am 5'11" and it fit me. he must have a larger size one, different than the one i paddled. so i haven't paddled the exact boat, but an identical one sized differently. should have the same paddling characteristics, though.


He says it is sized for my height. Thanks for the info on the seller. I think I’ll go for something more local though, initially so I could see it without wasting a full day traveling back and forth on toll roads -:wink:

Adjustable peddles
I think the real difference is the Epic will have adjustable peddles, so you can get the fit just right.

I understand the older ski low price tag is tempting. I bought a great ski at a great price, and paddled it for about 8 months…it was just a little short. I demoed an Epic V10 value, and once I got in the ski and adjusted the peddles to my exact leg length I couldn’t go back.

Some of my thoughts precisely!
Having been in a slew of kayaks that are supposed to fit my size but don’t I’m very skeptical of a ski that fits a paddler height varying by almost 10" with no adjustments…

Anyway, thanks all for the responses. I think I’ll save-up for a more “modern” design that would be better for my needs. Plus I’ll have all winter to think about it -:wink: