Boyan Zlatarev
2 min read
11 May

Which one is faster?

The Mercedes F1 car or a regular off the shelf Mercedes E-class?

And how is this related to surfski?

In the video above you see a typical downwind day in Tarifa with stronger Levante wind. The waves build up gradually and if you use the right downwind strategy you will have a lot of fun surfing long glides from one wave to the next. 

To add a full context, in the video I am using Nelo 520 at approximately 14 kg. It is a very stable easy to manage surfski at 520 cm length and 54 cm width. You could see the statistics below and keep in mind the wind gusts were up to 35 - 40 knots and we had substantial current in our favour (4-5 km/h at times)

I paddled with a friend and we had a great time but I reflected at the end:

"I wouldn't feel comfortable doing this with a group of paddlers."

I could add now that I would definitely not do it with a bunch of intermediate paddlers paddling elite surfskis. It would be a complete mess!

The point i am trying to make is that for the vast majority of paddlers out there a shorter and more stable surfski would mean far better safety and also more fun and enjoyment on the water. 

I would make an even bolder statement, the vast majority of all surfski paddlers would be faster (especially in downwind) if they upgrade (or downgrade depending on your perspective) to a shorter and more stable surfski. 

Tarifa Downwind to Bolonia surfski

I am not sure why this topic is even controversial and one argument always keeps coming up:

"If short surfskis are better then why do elite paddlers use long surfskis?"

I think this is a fair question and this is how I think about it. I would use a very simplistic approach, asking myself two questions you could ask yourself too, especially if you own or are currently on the market to buy an elite surfski:

1. Am I an elite paddler?

2. Is racing my end goal in surfski?

Personally for me, the answer to both of those questions is loud and resounding NO. I am definitely not an elite paddler and I have no plans to compete in surfski. So right away - elite surfski is out. 

Here is an example, what if you took that same logic that regular people are best suited using elite performance equipment and applied it to a sport like Formula 1 racing?

Surely if an F1 driver is using an F1 car that must be the best car for the regular folk to use as well?

Surely a Mercedes F1 car will be significantly faster than a regular Mercedes E class from your local dealership? 

Here is the reality: 

  1. A Mercedes F1 is significantly faster than a regular E class Mercedes in the hands of a formula 1 driver
  2. A regular driver is not a formula 1 driver 
  3. Most regular drivers ( i am tempted to say all, but there maybe some really rare exceptions) will be faster in a regular E class Mercedes and will likely not even complete a full lap in a formula 1 car. 

Of course this example is a little extreme but the point is still valid - the average paddler will never be able to use the theoretical speed advantages of a long elite surfski. And without the speed advantage a skinnier, longer and less stable surfski has nothing to offer compared against a shorter one (up to 5.8 m length).

So what should you do? 

My advice to you is, look at what the top surfski paddlers race with and select your surfski starting at least one step lower than what you see: 

If they use Fenn Elite S - get Swordfish or more stable boat.

If they use Epic V12 - get V9 or more stable surfski.

If they use Nelo 62 - get 540 or a more stable model.

You will feel as stable as the elites in their elite models, you will have more fun, you will develop your skills faster and you will overall have a better and more positive experience on water.  

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