Submitted: 07-28-2006 by jeffrey wong
I have owned my Epic 18 for 1 yr and have put in several hundred miles, fitness paddling, technique paddling and racing. I bought it because I needed (wanted) a boat that I could EASILY cartop. My 18 came in near its advertised weight. In carbon/kevlar it weighs 37 lb. Most other boats exceed 45 lb. You might consider cartopping a 45-50 lb boat a luxury compared to some of those 60 pounders, but try lifting 50 lb after a race or hard workout.
I liked the finish of the boat, black with red on the bow and stern. Perimeter lines felt a bit thin, but adequate. I found the add'l bungee cords aft of the rear hatch very convenient. I couldn't grasp the small diameter bungee cords wearing neoprene gloves-I added a knotted loop of cord to each bungee to correct that. For carrying the boat, I like the suitcase style grips far foar more than grab loops/plastic handles on other boats.
I found the cockpit an excellent fit and the padding adequate. My size 11.5 feet fit with Teva sandals & kayaking booties, but not with the bigger Keen Newport sandals. The footpedal system works, though it did break. Cascade Designs responded promptly and replaced the unit. I have since improved my technique a bit and stress the braces less. I have had to re-glue the knee pads on both sides. Rumors of Epic moving production to China may improve quality. The seatback adjustment system seems excessive with plastic ratchets, maybe useful or just Rube Goldberg. The stainless bolts have moderate rust. Water leaked in at the cleat holding the rudder up/down line. Rubber ring washers fixed that. Periodically, the nylock nuts & bolts holding the seat/backrest unscrew themselves. I had to restitch the webbing hardware for the hatches.
I found the 18 to have exceptional primary and secondary stability but that might come from my having used it for so long as well as having paddled a Seda Impulse for two years. The Impulse has a narrower and rounder hull. The 18 turns well on edge, but you have to sweep the paddle blade from the bow out and back to the stern. The lack of much keel mandates a rudder for tracking. I have had the 18 surfing windwaves and swell up to 1.5 feet--the boat generally does well but will broach with following seas when the rudder clears the water.
The Boat rolls well empty. I have never loaded the boat with more than 10 lb of gear. A low cockpit at the rear enables layback rolls. Some water found its way into the rear compartment after rolling--it leaks either from the hatch cover, the bolts/nuts holding the decklines/bungees or the bulkhead. Both bulkheads have very small ventilating tubes.
As for speed, I haven't paddled a faster boat. A very accomplished paddler friend of mine prefers it to his Seda Glider. My paddling has improved, but I still haven't taken a gps aboard.
Overall, the boat wins my vote for best boat for lightness, speed, handling, stability, fit, footbrace/rudder system. the boat loses a point for quality control.