A fortnight in the new Epic V9
"Serial number 001, so this is the first one ever made?"
"Yep, put it to good use!"
So went the conversation at the warehouse as we picked up our new Epic V9 Ultra. A few days later it had made its way to Tasmania.
We put it straight to the test on our local sea breeze run, and over the next few weeks got to know it thoroughly in a good mix of conditions off the beaches and cliffs of Hobart. We have very much enjoyed our time in this new ski...more on that later!
V9 and V8 Pro comparison
Before going too much further we thought a comparison with the V8 Pro would be useful for a lot of paddlers. Since its launch in 2016, the Epic V8 Pro has been one of the World's most popular surfski designs. In Tasmania it has represented one third of our Epic sales. The V8 Pro has helped many paddlers transition from beginner to intermediate level, and onto more demanding paddling challenges. To keep up with the rapid improvement of these paddlers and help them access new areas and similar rates of improvement in the future, new designs are needed. The V9 seems an achievable surfski for paddlers seeking a performance upgrade from the Pro. So let's have a look...
From the side it looks like the V9 has been designed more closely around the paddler, the points of departure from full waterline (rocker points) occur just before the footplate and just after the seat. In theory this puts the paddler firmly in control - at the pivot centre of the ski. In practice this might enable the V9 to hold aggressive angles across waves. Here are some other comparisons between the V9 and the V8 Pro from this perspective.
1. Low profile cutaway nose for better wave piercing, increased manoeuvrability and less disturbance from crosswinds
2. and 3. More volume just in front of the paddler and less paddle strike cutaway area, both features help the front deck to shed water when popping over runs
4. An overall increase in rocker, immediately in front and behind the area where the paddler's weight is distributed
5. Deeper and rounder shape just behind the seat to increase buoyancy, reduce the chances of catching an edge, and increase "lift" upon first contact with a wave
6. Rudder moved forward for increased steering sensitivity
7. More rocker added to the tail (aids stern releases when surfing) than the nose (maintains tracking/stops wandering, allows "pop" rather than "push" over waves)
From the top, focusing on the seat area, the V9 has a reduced beam (we measure a decrease from 51 to 49cm) and seat width (41.5 to 40.5cm). As a result the seat is slightly snugger than the V8 Pro, which heavier paddlers or paddlers with wider hips may still prefer. Interestingly, while beam width is reduced by 2cm the width immediately behind the seat (an area where a lot of the stability comes from when surfing) has only been reduced by 1cm.
The V9 on the water - first impressions
As coaches we spend some long days doing back-to-back sessions paddling alongside students. Saving energy, keeping dry, comfortable and staying stable are some of the key criteria for our “coaching skis”, the boats must also have handles for towing. We often choose coaching skis 1 or 2 levels more stable than our personal skis for ease of rescues and to perform boat swaps with overly ambitious paddlers if required.
What we all noticed with the V9 straightaway is that felt so physically “light” to paddle. I am used to paddling a V10 or V11 so found it quite stable, this will obviously vary with paddler experience level, but there certainly aren't any surprises balance-wise with this ski. I also found it very dry paddling through whitecapping waves both upwind and downwind, considering my build is 185cm and 90+kg keeping dry in rugged conditions is challenging sometimes and this was a very welcome change. For me the V9 tended to fit very well between short wind-generated runs, quickly popping up and over (or flicking left and right) to take advantage of the next opportunity. Extremely dry, responsive and a real energy saver to paddle - I would have it in my personal quiver for all these reasons as I start to race less seriously and adventure more seriously into my 40’s. Certainly not just a coaching ski for me!
The V9 offers developing paddlers a nimble platform for improved open water performance, in particular surfing waves thanks to the weight distribution, rudder position, tapered deck volume and increased rocker. For advanced paddlers the V9 offers stability, manoeuvrability, a surprisingly dry ride, and at jut under 5.8m long is very easy to accelerate. The V9 is a ski that every paddler should try at least once, in fun conditions that make them smile!
To sum up, this ski is an exciting addition to Epic's range and it definitely has the potential to be their most popular yet. The V9 should open up wind and wave-based paddling to a greater number of paddlers, and that will be a very positive development all round.
Epic have made some changes to their line-up over the last few years to keep their range of skis on point, starting with the new Gen 2 V12, continuing through to creation of the V11, refinements to the V10 (currently up to Gen 3), and now the new V9. "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great" John D Rockefeller said, and while it is tempting to look back there are plenty more reasons to look forward and enjoy these great new designs and a new era for our sport.
Enjoy your paddling!
Ben Maynard - Next Level Kayaking
Epic V9 specs:
- Length 5.79 m
- Width 49.0 cm
- Depth 32.0 cm
- Capacity 120 kg
- Paddler fit 1.5 m to 1.99 m