Fenn Elite Glide
The Elite Glide – a quick review by Austin Kieffer
When I first unwrapped Fenn’s newest elite racing boat, the Glide, I was once again impressed by the simple beauty and elegant craftsmanship of Fenn’s boats. All white, sleek design, tasteful stickers and even on dry land it looked like a shark, begging for the Ocean.
As for visually, the new Glide differs a bit from the SL and Elite. To begin with, it is the most narrow of the boats, measuring 16.75 inches at its widest point, and built like an arrow. Secondly, the bow tip is much smaller than the previous two elite designs. The Glide maintains the shape of its bow to the tip instead of flaring out like the crescent edge of an ax. Thirdly, there appears to be much less rocker in the length of the boat. And finally, the cockpit is much tighter and more form fitting. As a result, getting into the glide feels like sliding “into” a mold fitted for speed and control, versus merely sitting “on” a kayak. I am sure there were many nuance changes and adaptations Fenn included to the new design that I completely missed during my initial inspection, but at the end of the day, what really matters is how it feels in the water.
I barely had time to put on the rudder before I was barreling down the road (whilst adhering to all the rules of the road, of course) to the Newport Aquaitic Center. When I first got in the boat, I was expecting instability. I had read a review by Dawid Mocke, in which he described the boat as more tippy than the Elite, but nothing a paddler couldn’t get used to, and given the narrow design I was expecting it to be dangerously tippy for a mere mortal of the surfski world like me. However, I was blown away by how solid and stable the boat was for an elite racing design. Starting in the flat and feeling completely stable, I was actually nervous for a moment that I had gotten the wrong boat and that the Glide sticker had been put on another white Fenn. But as I warmed up and kept checking my GPS for speed, it was clear that despite the increased stability, the Glide had lost nothing in speed. Early on in my paddle I was hitting all the usual speeds I would in the Elite or the SL, and it seemed that the decreased rocker had given it perhaps a little more speed than the previous models. I even took a few extra minutes to work on more extreme stability drills and continued to marvel at the enhanced balance of the Glide.
Enough about the flat though, what about the chop?! Luckily for Patrick and I, both trying out the new Glide, the ocean had been coaxed out of its usual placid state and perfect 2-foot small condition waves were being kicked up by the wind. We paddled out for the first few minutes, with the wind and chop at our beam, to get a feel for the boat in small conditions. Within minutes Patrick turned to me grinning and said, “this is the best boat I have ever paddled!” And I couldn’t help agreeing with him.
The Glide had everything the other elite boats had in the flat, plus a little extra, yet where it truly shown was in the chop. The Glide maintained its stability from the flat and seemed to be connected to the water. Instead of riding on the water, at the mercy of every ocean undulation, boat felt the water. That seems a little foolish to say now that I am reading my words out loud, but that is truly how it felt. The Glide seemed to be a part of the water, receptive to the water instead of being bashed around by it. As a result, I paddled comfortably, without even thinking much about the chop and kept up good speed easily.
And finally, once we had made it far enough out to sea, Patrick and I turned downwind for the most important test of any true surfski: surfing.
The boat was great! It carved, surfed, surged, and, true to its name, glided across the waves. It was, like all Fenn boats, a true surfing machine. The Glide was comfortable and stable in the downwind, keeping the runs easily and wanting to chase the next runner almost on its own. Prior to the paddle, I had been curious to see if the Glide would maintain the sharp receptive steering on the waves that had been one of the greatest strengths of the SL. Immediately, I was able to feel that the Glide possessed the same great steering and enhanced control that set the SL apart.
All in all, I would be remiss not to recommend the Glide to anyone looking for the very best in high-end surfski racing. The boat is stable and quick in the flat and out in the smaller conditions it truly shines. I have yet to take the boat out in any big conditions, but after feeling the boat in the chop and on the waves, I am confident that the Glide will perform formidably in all race conditions. I look forward to training and racing in the Glide this season. I am excited to test its potential, as well as see it continue to dominate on an international scale as it has already in Cape Town and at the Doctor.