Submitted: 09-10-2012 by Trilobite02
I love this boat.
The SE-L (Stellar Elite Low) is the low volume sibling of Stellar's flagship surfski, the SE. At 21'6" and 17.5" at the beam, it's a hair wider than the rest of the elite class of HPS (high performance skis); not enough to slow it down, but just enough to impart an extra measure of stability that some of the others lack. I've had the opportunity to spend some time in the bucket in all manner of conditions, from glassy, rolling calm, to confused, washing machine jobblies. It is comfortable and predictable and goes like stink. Handsome, also, to boot. Mine is a unidirectional prepeg carbon layup with a yellow cockpit, and deck peaks. It's nice that Stellar incorporates a UV inhibitor into their clearcoat-something that most of the other manufacturers do not. Hence, their carbon boats, if left in the elements, often develop a chalky, milky look.
Stellars come in four different layups from heaviest to lightest construction: Sport, Advantage, Excel, and the high zoot, all carbon Ultra. IMO, the Excel incarnation of this boat offers the best of all worlds. The Ultra is feathery light, and looks fantastic, but you do feel every little subtlety of the water's texture and the roll rate's a little quicker due to the stiffer layup/lighter weight. I'm at about 205 now, and it fits perfectly; the bucket is actually a bit wider than my Huki S1-R's 'wide' seat. While at my bodyweight, I'm probably on the cusp of the move to an SE (which I've also owned), I don't find the low volume an issue. I have buried the bow in some short duration, steep swells almost up to the Stellar deck decals, but it always pops back up, and doesn't seem to leech speed from the run.
The three point footplate/pedal assembly adjusts by unscrewing two wingnuts and sliding it forward or aft along a horizontal track. Unique to Stellar is a locking lever at the base, which makes for an extremely solid platform to drive from; no flex and no creaks. The Dynaleen rudder lines self-adjust. The hump between the seat and footwell is low, enabling strong leg drive. There are bungees forward of the foot pedals, and on the rear deck. The deck itself has a raised ridge to shed water, and stiffen the body structure. Believe you me, the Excel and especially, the Ultra, layups are plenty stiff. Power is transferred instantaneously-the SE-L responds nimbly to input. For taller paddlers, the SE-L will accommodate. At 6'1" with a 34 inseam, I still have five inches left on the adjustment tracks left.
The boat goes upwind extremely well, with a bit more bow slap than say, a Fenn Elite. It is wonderfully controllable; the amount of secondary (somewhat of an oxymoron in an elite class ski) is reassuring. Beam chop is similarly handled with aplomb, but where this boat really shines is in the sloppy stuff. It eats this stuff up. My rough water boat is a Huki S1-R, which is reknowned for its sloppy water prowess. As I spend more time in the SE-L, the Huki has been spending more and more time at home. Speedwise, it's a hair off the fastest of the fast elite boats on flat water, the Fenn Elite, Epic V12, Nelo, Think Uno, and its smaller stablemate, the Stellar SES. That said, I'm reminded of the adage: 'stability before speed.' What it lacks in out-and-out velocity (maybe a tenth or two mph), it more than makes up for in its stability through open water.
The SE-L also loves to surf. It picks up a wave nicely, and carries its speed from runner to runner as well. Once atop a ride, it will calmly sit there all day. There is an available spray shield that Velcros on the boat a la an Epic V12 for bigger water, but honestly, I've never used it. Remounts are easy due to lower side rails and the boat's trademark stability.
Yes, there are items on my wish list. The catch could be narrower, and the steering response quicker and more precise. Also, the cavernous footwell carries a whole lot of agua (I'm working on filling the extra space before the pedals with minicell block that will also house my drinking system.), and the draining is merely satisfactory. But that's it; the sum of its parts may very well make this 'THE' boat. Having owned a good amount of other elite skis, this one's well... Stellar.