FENN ELITE-S Review
Fenn Elite S 4/15/2015
by Steve Scoggins
This review reflects multiple paddles over a weeklong period in a variety of classic Pacific NW Bellingham conditions. I am not an elite athlete. I paddle for fun, fitness, and adrenaline when the weather cooperates. With the exception of the original “OG” Elite, I’ve paddled all the Fenn lineup at some point in the last two years. After having the pleasurable opportunity to paddle the new Elite S, I feel compelled to share the results.
Day 1, part 1
Monday. The ski was ready with a beauty queen appearance that any new boat has. The carbon layup is almost silly light. Wind on the bay seems about 15-20. The waves are at 1-2 feet. Going upwind was smooth and easy in the Elite S. The volume up front sheds the water perfect and makes for a very dry ride. The boat felt extremely stable for its size. Turning downwind, the forward rudder placement is immediately felt. I’ve always had to be pretty aggressive when turning into a wave, but the S just slips right into place almost effortlessly. After several out and backs the boat just felt more and more comfortable.
Day1 part 2,
Off to the lake to do intervals with the youth K1 program. The boat performed well on flat water. The seat and hump are pretty much ideal for allowing full rotation and unhindered leg drive. I’m liking this boat more and more.
Back to the bay for a torture session with Kirk and Morris. Kirk provided the unobtainable carrot while Morris followed along effortlessly giving me motivation and dishing out plenty of comedy. The wind was around 10- 12, which around here pretty much provides ” nussiance waves”….you know, waves that have the basic appearance, but really only provide a constant speed bump that you have to plow over…and over, and over, etc. In my opinion, these conditions are not ideal for this boat. If you find yourself constantly racing in 10-12 Kt wind, or in a location with limited fetch, I think the Glide or the Spark will yield better results.
Wednesday night race at Lake Whatcom. This was a nice test. Controlled environment, 3+miles , light breeze.This race is pretty hilarious mainly because of the short distance. It’s too long for a full on sprint, but not long enough to warrant saving any gas for distance, so basically it’s just plain weird….but really fun. The S poweredup really quickly in flat conditions. GPS showed 9.8 mph off the line. I couldn’t help myself and just burned as long as I could, providing a real nice wash for my friends. Regardless of getting dropped at the first turn, I still made a PR for the course. From initial appearance, I wouldn’t have guessed the design to be fast on flat water. Turns out, the hull design, mixed with the forward seat placement provides a perfectly trimmed out boat that makes a sweet waterline. Fascinating.
I wasn’t planning on a paddle. The plan was to do a short jog/run from Marine Park before the K1 program in the late afternoon. The wind picked up pretty good, back to 15-20, and Duncan pulled up. Its just pain fun to go for a paddle with Duncan, so time to suit up. The only gear I had was a drysuit. We paddled out into waves that were capping or just on the verge. This was a perfect opportunity to run the S on the beam. I can’t say enough about how stable this boat is. Not a twitch or pitch, no need to brace as you slide up and over the sideways waves. We cruise downwind for a little while, milking the bay for everything it’s got. As we turn back for the shore it occurs to me that I’m wearing a drysuit…..perfect for remounts in our cold PNW waters. The boat remounts super easily. The bucket is deep, but not crazy deep. The lack of hump and the stable nature allow for a sloppy remount, no need for precision here. Seriously, just get your butt back in and start
Party time. Weather is giving us some proper downwind conditions, 25-30kts wind, 3-4 ft waves(a few bigger here and there) Tide is slightly ebbing so the waves are right steep, but not scary steep. Shuttle is leaving for Larabee, but DJ talks me into paddling upwind to meet the group. This turns out to be a good idea. We go out along the wall….lots of rebound and washing machine like hay stacking waves. Did I mention that this boat is super stable? The S just plows right through all of it without a hitch. Once we turn downwind I fully realize what this ski is designed to do . The rockered bow knows exactly where to go. The seat placement is just right. The usual experience with my limited surfing skills is one of guessing where to put the ski on the wave. The S removes the guessing game. It just feels right. The rudder is effective no matter where you sit on the wave. No more accidental pearling to avoid broaching. Carve, turn, straight down, the Elite S is a surfing stallion. In conclusion, I can’t say enough good things about this boat. In the week after I took these notes, I found the “nussiance” waves much easier to power over. I still stand by my opinion that the Glide and Spark are better suited for that. Fenn has a boat for every skill, every condition. If you’re looking for a fast in the flats, super stable surfer, look no further. The Elite S is a perfect addition to the already awesome Fenn lineup.
Stability is referenced multiple times in this review. This is a very subjective thing. The author has spent many hours and miles in the Glide, Spark, and K-1, thus the stated stability is in comparison to boats of this caliber. The Elite S is not a beginner boat. Use common sense and choose your conditions/equipment wisely.