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Submitted: 12-12-2013 by Kocho
Below are my initial impressions on how the Think Eze surf ski performs after my first time in it, a couple of hours in wind generated choppy conditions. Wind was 18 mph, gusts to 28, short fetch, so only up to 2 feet short period waves with lots of white caps. Also, in one section of the paddle, near a vertical stone wall at 45 degree to the waves, lots of reflected wave action (clapotis up to 2.5 feet or a bit higher) with waves intersecting at 90 degree to each other.
The flattish hull with vertical sides behaved as expected: solid (though not too strong) primary stability. Little additional stability was gained when edging the boat, unfortunately. Perhaps a lighter paddler might find it different, but at nearly 200lb with my day's gear, I felt I was loading it pretty good. The sides have little flare, so a boxy shape like that gives you this kind of stability profile. Compare this to an Epic V6: the Epic has very lively on-center feel due to its roundish hull - it feels unstable just sitting in it (wobbles side to side very easy), but it builds progressively stronger secondary stability very fast as you edge it more as it has lots of flare and its final stability on edge is higher than the Eze. It feels (and is) wider all over though. On calm flat water this is a very different feel from the Eze I thought. I have not paddled the V6 in bumpy conditions so can't compare how that translates to its handling compared to the Eze.
The flat and fat rear with narrow front on the Eze result in some interesting behavior that took me a few minutes to adjust to in the steep short waves. Most skis do that to some extend, but it is more pronounced in the short Eze. The rear tends to get pushed around a lot as it gets lifted up by waves and blown by strong wind. When the wave is a bit from the side, the flat bottom in the rear tries to follow the curve of the wave (it tries to edge for you), while the narrow front offers little resistance to that. Thus, the rear gets tilted down-wave and I broached a few times until I got the hang of it. Seems that more aggressively controlling the angle of the boat (edging it) and counteracting directional changes with the rudder earlier is a good cure for this. After I made these adjustments, I made several more runs up- and down-wind and did not broach any more.
The decent primary stability (not stiff, predictable) allowed me to paddle with full power while not feeling like I am pulling a lot of boat. The lack of increasingly strong secondary stability when on edge was a bit odd at first, but I got used to it. Still, I would not mind having a bit more of it, even the expense of losing a bit of primary stability.
The 7" rudder is probably the smallest you want for steep waves. No issues in the strong wind, but I felt it was at its limit occasionally on steeper waves. Still good enough for zigzagging down he small waves wherever I wanted. With more speed on bigger waves that would not lift the rear so abruptly) it might perform even better.
The drain is ineffective (slow and needs a relatively high speed to work). The drain plug leaks too much to be if any use - I left it open after trying it initially on the flat water. On the plus side, at 6'4" and 200lb with my gear (in a dry suit) I seem to fill up the cockpit pretty good and there is never much water there.
The nose catches leaves more than ideal. Perhaps I'm on the heavy side of things for the Eze, though I felt the boat performed well otherwise for my weight - did not submarine or get washed over by waves much. Perhaps folks over 200lb dry weight should look elsewhere though.
The cockpit is narrower overall than on my new V10. The tightness is mostly at the calves and thighs and the sides of the seat are more vertical. The width between the foot rails is 9", but half an inch is wasted in the center for attaching the dual foot straps. The V10 has 8.5" width (1/2" less than the Eze) but offers the same if not a smidgen more foot width and more room for my toes to spread outwards if desired, above the rails. The dual strap setup on the Eze was more restrictive but effective in terms of leg drive than the single strap setup on the Epic. I barely fit my paddling shoes in the straps on the last notch, and felt a bit too tight still. The foot plate is more solid than in the Epics, the adjustment fore and aft is finer too (but more cumbersome, and the straps adjustment is really time consuming and requires you to be on dry land or you will lose the washers and nuts).
The leg length in the Eze is perhaps just a 1/4" longer than the V10, so about the same. With booties over neo socks over my dry suit's latex socks and over another pair of thin socks inside, I have about 3/4" left behind the foot plate. I got a 36.5" inseam, measured by the road bike method. Barefoot usually gains me about 1/2" more leg room.
The seat bottom did not feel like it was trying to keep me upright. I also felt a bit crammed in it side to side and against the hump. I felt more tendency to lean back than I do in the V10. In the V10 I have a bit of a tendency to slouch, but in the Eze I felt a tendency to lean back, which is more tiring to counteract. I thought the Epic's seat was more ergonomic from this perspective, but the seat in the Eze offered more contact through my calves mostly. Adjusting the leg length (bringing the foot plate closer to me) helped a bit, so I will revisit this next time I paddle both skis.
The upper rear of the seat pan is also a bit steeper on the Eze (I prefer the one on the Epic, which allows me to more freely lay flat on my back over the rear deck to rest, looking up to the sky).
The inside of the ski stayed dry, despite the one swim I took (remount was easy) and the really bumpy conditions with waves washing over the deck fore and aft. Having an inspection port is nice (even though seeing the pink construction foam inside was not too confidence inspiring).
The outside width of the cockpit at my feet in the Eze (where the paddle enters the water) is 13", compared to 10" on the new Epic V10, which has nice paddle cut outs there. The gunwale height on the Eze also feels higher there. So initially I felt I would hit the sides with my paddle but I adjusted to this quickly. Paddle cutouts would be really nice to have, but they are not there, unfortunately.
The Eze has tubes for the rudder lines leading to the rear where an over stern rudder can be installed in the provided hole (I got the under stern rudder).
The Eze felt solid (no flex) in the bumpy water, but given its short length, this is expected. As for build quality, based on my 2013 model year Eze, it trails behind Epic on some counts. Specifically, the stiffener/stringer inside the ski is made of what appears to be pink construction insulation foam (does not compress well, separates easy from glue points, but is lightweight). Gel coat is a bit unevenly applied - can see brighter and darker areas where light shines through the hull when I look through the inspection port. It is also easily scratched and there are occasional micro dimples from the painting process. The seams joining the deck and hull are invisible from the outside, there is tape on the inside (good). The seams are a bit wavy as are some other areas on my boat (sides near the bow, bottom of the hull, sides of the hull near the rear). This is I assume mainly cosmetic and not too bad visually, but is easy to see without even looking hard. The fiberglass is a bit flexible in many areas, including the upper sides of the cockpit, the deck, and the sides of the bow (more so than on my Epics of similar construction grade and weight). A bit of flex in the deck and sides is OK on light duty craft like this, but the seat area (where one holds the boat during portages and the full weight of the paddler is) not being fully reinforced bothers me. I've seen cracks in these areas on a pair of Think Evo II skis, hope the Eze will fare better as it is shorter and presumably subject to a bit less stress due to this.
Carrying the Eze at the take out was not as easy as its short length and relatively light weight would suggest. It was a bit awkward, because the hull is too wide to wrap my arm around it when up on my shoulder. It is slippery (and there is some flex in the fiberglass) so carrying at the hip was awkward too, but worked better. A carry handle in the cockpit would be a nice addition.
The gel coat (or whatever paint it is) is very easy to scratch off. It has less resistance to abrasion than the stickers (!) that Epic uses on the front and rear. I've bumped my new V10 and my older V10 Sport against concrete many times, I've slid over rocks a few times - with barely a superficial scuff mark on the stickers and bottom. A similar bump today took off the entire gel coat layer and some of the fiberglass on the edge of the bow on the Eze. First scratch, no biggie, but the little it took to get it tells me this ski should be babied in terms of touching bottom and other hard objects with it.
I also paddled for a first time today the Think wing paddle (smaller of the two they make). It has considerably less area and power than the Epic mid-wing that I also had with me and which is my primary paddle. I swapped between the two paddles a few times today. The Think paddle feels a bit heavier even though it is smaller. The shorter blades mean a shorter overall paddle length is needed compared to the Epic mid wing. The 208cm of the Think seem to correspond to about 212 on the Epic (to maintain the same spacing between my hands on the shaft and to the blades). The feel of the Think wing is also different - I don't remember the last time the Epic curled in under me. The Think wing did that several times initially, until I got the hang of it - perhaps of the smaller area but I think there is also a different shape. It requires more precise technique and more finesse when using (as it won't offer as much bracing power during the stroke and for braces). The Epic is also noticeably smoother through the entire stroke and lifts less water at the exit, despite being bigger and more solid. Got to paddle more to get a better feel for the Think. The metal lock lever on the Think feels more solid, though I have not had any issues with the plastic one on the Epic. The shaft is oval at the hand. It is also made of concentric circles that you can feel (not smooth as the Epic) - hard to tell if there is any advantage or disadvantage to this.
At the end of the day, I thought the 17' Eze was more fun in the short period waves than a long ski. That's what I got it for and it performs as advertised for this. Felt overall a bit more stable than the intermediate skis like the Epic V10 Sport and the new V10, considerably less stable than a V8, different stability profile than a V6 (for better or worse, depending on your needs).
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