Monthly Archives: July 2013

Windy Wildside – US Champs Next!

Wildside morning greeted paddlers with gusty winds & good waves. Surfski racers have gravitated to the Columbia Gorge, shredding the quality waves created by the summertime inversion that funnels the cool coastal air east towards the desert. A competitive field of 100 racers partnered-up for the downwind relay. The field included the dream-team duo of last years champs, Newton/Kiesling, along with gold medalist Greg Barton and current 2013 Surfski World Champion Sean Rice, who came over to see what all the hype of the Gorge is about. Great to see several new entries stepping up to the challenge, including a strong group of Vancouver, BC-based paddlers, as well as Chris Hipgrave (fixture of the US Wildwater team, pioneer of extreme class V racing) from North Carolina, who was making finish-line promises to return next year with a group of East Coast paddlers.

I was lucky enough to be able to partner with whitewater-slalom-racer-turned-surfski-young-gun Austin Kieffer for this event, which is becoming the premier downwind race in the US. I knew it was going to be a battle for the top three spots, and our tactic was to keep in touch with the lead boat as the race developed. At the halfway mark the race became a two-team horse race between Austin & I and Don & Gabe. Don and I came into the final transition with inches separating our hand-off. Austin fought hard early in the last leg to jump a couple waves ahead of Gabe and was able to defend that position for the remainder of the race. End result: only 9 seconds separated Austin and Gabe at the finish of the 24-mile race course.

The Glide and Spark performed fantastically for us this weekend. Austin, whose race weight is 190 lb, has been making the Glide move all year & the boat has been on a big winning streak in the international circuit. At 160 lbs these days, I’ve been loving the new Spark, which truly is an elite boat for paddlers under 170 lbs. There are several new top-end designs that can seriously move on flatwater, and the Spark and the Glide are both able to post quick flatwater speeds. More importantly, they are untouchable going downwind.

What’s next? US Champs is next weekend in San Francisco! Look for us at the Ocean Paddlesports tent on Friday for the pre-race Demo Day & I’ll be returning to Bellingham with a trailer full of new boats. Looks like we have nearly a trailer full of pre-sold boats going to happy local paddlers. Let me know if we can add something on for you!

July Surfski Northwest Update

Summer has arrived and we’re well into July with an amazing stretch of weather extending into the foreseeable future.  This month will bring the two best downwind races of the years; Wildside Relay & US Champs.  Get ready for downwind action!

I’ve been super excited about the performance of the new Fenn Spark & Glide as elite level single surfskis.  The Spark is for paddlers less than 170 lbs & it has been incredible watching smaller paddlers get hooked on this new design. I was very excited when I got my hands on a Spark, and though I’ve spent considerable time in both the Spark & the Glide in all sorts of conditions, I’m thrilled to have a surfski that is made for smaller folks.  I’ve always thought it doesn’t make sense for lighter folks to paddle the same boat as paddlers who outweigh me by 20-60lbs.  Slalom, whitewater, and sprint racing kayaks all have designs tailored for different size paddlers, so it’s great of have a top performing elite surfski come out with two sizes.

Feedback from happy paddlers who have demoed & purchased a Glide or Spark has been simply incredible.  I’ve been told numerous times the superior designs, unmatched quality construction, and unbeatable price point make the Fenn Spark & Glide easy choices as the leading elite surfski on the market.

Spark/Glide Design

The cynic comes out in me whenever I read about a new boat being x% faster.  Hull speed tests & distance time trials can only be precisely replicated on flatwater, thus most of these tests are done in flatwater.  Though flatwater speed is important to an extent, we paddle surfskis – so in my opinion I really only care about performance in mixed and downwind condition.  In the slop, these designs are stable and it’s easy to keep applying the power, but the Spark & the Glide are defined by how it eats up downwind conditions – simply an animal!  I find the boats are able to out perform any other ski I’ve paddled, yet the boats are stable and amazing at holding aggressive surfing angles in rough conditions.

As a comparison for you flatwater tight lycra junkies, last year I was able to pull a 7.8 mile result in the hour o’power test (dead flat conditions, no wind, no current) in the Fenn Elite SL.  Two weeks ago I was able to hammer out an 8.05 on the Spark. I’d like to think I’m quicker this year – but over 3% – it’s got to be the boat. But, as mentioned earlier, the make or break decision point for surfskis should be in rough & downwind conditions.  As much as I’ve been impressed with the incredible performance of the Spark & Glide in flat conditions, I’m blown by its overall performance in mixed and downwind conditions.  The boat in stable (yes, width under 17″ & stable!), holds amazingly aggressive surfing angles, and is quick at leapfrogging waves & maneuver in big mixed conditions.


One customer just summarized Fenn quality by saying “you know what you’re getting when you buy a Fenn, consistently top quality product, light & strong, made to last”

The new hybrid lay-up has been hugely popular in the Pacific Northwest this year.  Coming in at around 26 lbs, this construction combines bomber strong construction with a light boat that rips up the racecourse & is unbeatable on downwind runs.  The carbon lay-ups have been coming in at (or under) 23lbs and is nothing less than a speed machine.

Price Point

Reality of life that price is an important factor.  Plain & simple, here are the numbers:

Vac Glass 31lbs $2500 Performance 34lbs $2795 Performance 34lbs $2595
Vac Hybrid 26 lbs $2900
Ultra 27.5 lbs $3795 ——
Vac Carbon 23 lbs $3900
Elite 24l lbs $5095 Elite 28lbs $3395

Please feel free to contact me with any product related questions.  The new shipment of Fenn’s arrives any day, please contact me ASAP if you are interesting in reserving one of the few last boats from this shipment.

Hope to see you on the water!