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Submitted: 07-27-2009 by altruistguy
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I have been paddling my Think Evo (in the glass layup) for two and a half months now. My previous experience paddling kayaks is virtually zero. I've screwed around in cheap, short, plastic kayaks at camps a few times, but before I took delivery of "Blaze" (the name my 12 yo daughter gave the beautiful orange EVO), my only experience with performance kayaks/surfskis was limited to the 1.5 hrs demoing the Think Fit and Think Evo last fall.

I've heard several reviewers comment that even the most rank amateur can become comfortable in this boat (i.e., despite its relative tippiness for the novice) if they just put in the effort. Add my vote to that list.

My first few times paddling the thing, I was SHOCKED that anybody could EVER become comfortable paddling it. I'm talking about the (then it seemed) astonishing lack of stability. While I only capsized four times in my first four hours of paddling, there were many near-misses and it seemed like I was constantly on the very verge of doing a "huli". With time, I found a previously unexpected level of secondary stability. Further, I found that my body's ability to keep her righted (and to be comfortable doing so) increased noticeably with each and every paddle.

In these two and a half months, I've paddled 18 times for a total of about 140 miles. My top average speed was 5.6mph. I bought this ski with the intention of using it for fun and fitness. My average speeds range from 4mph to 5.6mph. I found that average speed is highest in calmest conditions.

I was amazed at what happened when I went out on a windy day, with 1-3 foot waves. In calm conditions, I have to work fairly hard to maintain above 6mph. I can sprint up to 7.0 mph, but only hold it briefly, then I have to rest. But on that windy day, I found myself flying along at as fast as 8.5mph! It was amazing! As invigorating as that was, the upwind leg was equally invigorating. I wouldn't exactly say it was "fun" going into that strong wind/waves, but it was a great challenge and required careful concentration and a great deal of strength/effort.

I was quite happy how well the boat handled when going into the 3 ft waves. The bow just plows through the waves. It gives great confidence regards its sea-worthiness. The boat feels nice and stiff. And the under-stern rudder continued to get the job done well.

I use an EPIC leg-leash, which works well. It attaches to the dedicated leash fitting at the forward part of the seat-well. I use a Lincke Watch & GPS holder for my GPS. The suction cups seem to work well on Blaze's smooth epoxy surface. I haven't weighed the boat, but the advertised 33 pounds seems believable. It is difficult to rationalize the extra cost of the Kevlar layup. The seat seems comfortable. The gas-peddle foot peddles seem to work well. The foot assembly seems well-suited to fitness paddling, offering plenty of stiffness to allow one to drive with their heels during a good rotation. I am 6'1" and my legs are just one or two slots from maxing out the leg length adjustment. So folks with materially longer legs may not be happy in this boat.

I also got the optional over-stern SmartTrack kick-up rudder. My retailer called this being "kick-up ready". I haven't yet used this feature. According to Daryl Remmler, the manufacturer, only about 10% of EVOs are made to accept the special over-stern rudder. In order to accept the over-stern rudder, the boat has about a half-inch diameter sleeve manufactured into the hull at its stern. The SmartTrack rudder has a special fitting which fits into the sleeve (a VERY tight fit, at least initially). You can only put in the rudder when it is positioned 90 degrees in a left turn. When you then straighten out the rudder, it is locked and can't come out of the hole (i.e., unless it is turned 90 degrees).

So the steering lines are accessible via the inspection port above the under-stearn rudder. It comes with extra rudder line for running back to the over-stearn rudder. I suppose that you just unscrew the nylock nut holding on the under-stearn rudder and remove it (the rudder) -- but I haven't done that yet. Then you run the lines back to the over-stearn rudder and tie them on (I also haven't done that yet). Therein lies the problem. Unlike the Think Fit, which has manufactured-in holes through the aft decking for the lines to go (i.e., from the under-stearn rudder well out of the hull to the over-stearn rudder), the Evo has no such provision. So you either have to just leave the inspection port cap off and run the lines up through it and back to the SmartTrack, or you need to drill through the deck yourself, which I have yet to do. Further, I found that part of the rudder assembly actually has to be filed away in order for the thing to work. This wouldn't be an issue if the sleeve were located perhaps a quarter of an inch or so farther aft on the ski. The SmartTrack rudder cost about $300 from my retailer, as I recall. The sleeve making the EVO (allegedly) "kick-up ready" didn't add to my cost at all.

So, why only a 9 out of 10? Well, it would be nice to have carrying handles at the ends (which Daryl seems to have provided in the newest models now available) AND it would be nice if the "kick-up ready" boats were more "ready" (i.e., not requiring further drilling/modification).

P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed dealing with Daryl Remmler (the manufacturer) and John Abrahamson (the retailer - Superior Surf Systems in Minnesota). I found both folks to be extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time. They really seems to want their customers to have good experiences.

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