Length: 18' 0" - Width: 22.00" - Starting at: $3395.00See More Details about this Kayak
I am a mid-60s intermediate paddler, 6'0" who struggles to stay under 180 lbs but who stays in decent aerobic shape. More than 90% of my paddling is for fitness and takes place on a small reservoir on smooth water. The most challenging conditions I have faced since I bought the boat in August of 2008 have been 2-foot wind waves on larger lakes with a longer fetch than my local reservoir, though once there were waves that high on the local lake because of 40 mph gusting winds that kicked up a fuss despite the small fetch. I have not done any camping in the boat. I've been paddling since 2004, with a Venture/P&H Easky 15 and then an Eddyline Nighthawk as my previous two boats. I also currently own a Current Designs Scirocco.
My boat is light, easy to carry, about the 36 pounds advertised by Epic. It is pretty fast--considering its aging engine. When I'm in shape and conditions are mostly calm I can sustain 5.5 or 5.4 average speeds (GPS measured) over an hour and a half of fitness paddling. The GPS tells me that I can sprint to 7.1 mph. That's with Epic's mid-wing paddle. By way of comparison, the same paddle and effort and conditions in my plastic Scirocco gets me about a 5.1 mph average. I've paddled one race of 11-12 miles on northern California's American Estero and led the other novice paddlers (a dozen or so) by 20 minutes or more at the finish--official time 2 hours, 10 minutes. Even the Intermediate and Expert paddlers, on surf skis or outrigger canoes, (and on whom I had 10 and 20 minute starting advantages) did not catch me until about 2/3 of the race distance was covered.
The rudder on my boat hinges the trailing portion of the hull and includes a molded-in tab that extends below the normal line of the bottom of the boat in give a better bite. The tab is a compromise that Epic scrapped for the newer retractable rudder. My rudder makes the boat track very well in most conditions, but is not really all that good for strong directional control in following wind and waves. The carbon-fiber bar and pedal control system at my feet is durable and effective for both knees-together full-body-rotation paddling and for knees-apart-and-locked-in paddling. The latter mode allows control by edging to which this 18-foot boat responds quite well. Even if a rudder line broke, a moderately skilled paddler could readily control the boat just by edging provided the rudder did not get locked over on one side or the other--not as maneuverable as my Scirocco, but way more maneuverable than other 18-ft boats I've tried, e.g. the CD Solstice.
The two major failures of my boat's design are the seat and the rear hatch. With the seat I had problems like those described by Celeste De Bease below. I do rolling practice each summer in the nearby college pool, and the single track holding the seat to the hull broke because the seat constantly rocked from side to side and eventually pried the track apart. Also like Celeste I had a very good response from Epic, whose representatives paid for the repair even though I was the boat's third owner and it was well beyond warranty. It did take a long time to get the new parts delivered to the local dealer and for the dealer and their repair technician and me to all get together. The work was completed in December, and I didnít start roll practice again until the next June. The new track held well enough, but the seat itself tore at the point of its front attachment to the track. I expect Epic would have worked with me again in a satisfactory manner, but I chose instead simply to take out the seat and go with a homemade system of Thermarest camp mat and closed-cell foam that has made for a comfortable and lighter seat that lowers the center of gravity maybe half an inch. I do surrender adjustability, but I'm not a paddler sophisticated enough to notice the difference. The rear hatch looks and acts like it was not designed for its seat. In a 20-minute rolling drill at the pool, it lets in a half gallon or more of water that I must sponge out each time before carrying the boat back to my car. For this problem also, it appears, Epic has designed a solution in its current generation of the 18x and 16x.
Overall, my Epic 18x Sport Ultra is still my 'pride and joy' and gets used nearly every week. I find myself wishing I could upgrade to Epic's newer version of this boat, but Iíve spent my big bucks on water toys. I'm happy I did.
Epic was wonderful and paid for half of the repair expenses even though my boat was out of warranty.
The 18x slices thru the chop instead of bobbing over it like my other boats. From 2011 on the 18x has a retractable rudder for beach launches etc. It sits so low in the water it practically disappears below the wind.
I've recommended this boat for a beginners kayak. If you can ride a bicycle you can master this boat. Buy one boat, and keep it for life. The only quibble I would have with the 18x is the way the rudder is deployed and locked down. You have to reach behind you and snare the rope in a keeper. It'd be better if there was a lever near the front of the cockpit you could just flip and get right back to paddling.
I don't race kayaks. The 18x gives me more results for my effort than any other kayak. More incentive to exercise. I'm scheming my way toward owning one.
The fit and finish is top notch.
The initial stability is much better than I expected, and the ultimate stability is the best I've ever experienced in any Kayak.
Now the best part. The performance exceeds all of the hype that I have read on the forums!
Thanks Greg Barton, and all the people with Epic.
The integral rudder is designed to increase speed. The trade off is it doesn't have the bite of the flip-down edition. I haven't found that to be a major drawback. But, there's always a protruding blade below the waterline, so you do have to be aware of that in shallow water or plopping it down on a hard surface. It has the gas pedal control, but I might modify that to the kickstick tiller.
Hatch openings are generous. There is a molded in cutout for a day hatch behind the cockpit, but I wouldn't see many taking advantage of that.
The cockpit is set up so you can paddle in either the "normal" or knees-together position. Position adjustments are easy, which is good because it is sensitive to trim. Deck redesign allows slightly better access to the water.
From a racing friend's test drive vs. his Endurance and my own experimentation, I calculate it at about four to five percent faster. That's enough reason for racers to upgrade.
The beam tapers down at the waterline so yes, it is on the tippy side, more so than the Endurance. If stability is a priority, this isn't the boat for you. If speed is your need, this is your steed.
This weekend I had the opportunity to take it out on a 4 day, 3 night overnight kayak/camping trip on the Suwannee River. It was absolutely awesome. It holds a lot of gear and I had plenty of room for the trip. Driving to Fargo, GA, we encountered torrential rain for the entire 5 hour drive and it rained most of the night as well. I expected the hatches to leak, but to my surprise there was only a few drops in the kayak.
I found the kayak to be very rugged and I had no qualms about sliding it onto sandy beaches or bumping into the occasional underwater tree stump. I also punished the integrated, understern, fixed rudder quite a bit by dragging it onshore, but it held up fine.
My only complaint is that the bulkheads leaked a little. I got water in the cockpit getting in and out of the boat. When I dragged the boat onshore, the water in the cockpit would collect along the stern bulkhead and somehow it would leak through to the stern compartment. It wasn't a horrible amount and it's something I can live with.
Overall, this boat fits my needs and lives up to my expectations. I wanted a boat I could fitness paddle and race as well as a boat I could do overnight camping trips and the 18X fits the bill.
Speed is this boat's design goal, and Epic has obviously accomplished that. What they've also delivered is a very comfortable seat and cockpit. This is the most comfortable decked boat I've ever paddled. My legs and feet have not gone to sleep in this boat in 2 months of 4-6 workouts a week.
The stability is adequate, and the rudder ventilates a lot in rough water. For flat conditions, it is fine. Construction quality is very good, with very good fit and finish. The front hatch is tight, while the rear one does leak a little. Also, the hatches are not matched to the deck's color very well. Pedal adjustment is a bit tough, but can be done.
Overall, for a fast training sea kayak, this would be my top choice again. For an off season trainer, this would be a sensible boat. The stability and safety of bulkheads for cold weather training is a big benefit. The cargo capacity should be adequate for an overnighter, but this is not an expedition boat.
After a couple months, I'd buy this boat again. The guys at Epic are great to work with and respond to questions, and have done a lot to advance the sport. I think their boats have really raised the bar for what is expected in the speed department from hulls. The manufacturing is pretty good on this boat. Mine is the standard FG composite layup.
I had the opportunity to demo the new 18x. It wasn't the 18x ultra, but one of the performance 18xs. It weighs 41 pounds and I could see how this lightweight boat would appeal to women. I liked the fact that it weighs only 41 pounds and the construction seemed solid. Many racing sea kayaks seem rather fragile and I wouldn't dare load it up with gear and do an overnight trip. I also recently demoed the epic endurance carbon layup (predecessor to the 18x), and I thought it too fragile to handle lots of gear.
The 18x is very fast and very responsive. I like the fact that you can paddle the boat racers style (knees together) or traditional style (knees under thigh braces). I also loved the pedal style rudder system. I also loved the solid foot bulkhead. It made it very easy to pedal your feet while paddling (racer style). Even when I'm not racing or a doing a work out paddle, my hip flexors get very tired and sore when I paddle long distances using the thigh braces.
I paddled the boat on a flatwater, deep river and there was quite a bit of wind and chop. The boat handled great! It is tippy, but compared to a sprint boat it is stable. Although, I didn't roll the boat, I think that it would be very easy to roll.
I also liked the integrated rudder. You just get in the boat and go...no having to put down the rudder or worry about the rudder system. The only disadvantage to the integrated rudder is that you must be careful with it. The rudder sticks out a bit so you must be careful about what you paddle over. A rock or log could possible snag it...unlike a traditional rudder that would simply bump over an underwater obstruction. Since the rudder is integrated and fixed, you can't pull it up if you see something ahead that might snag it. I do think that this is a small disadvantage and the other great, thoughtful construction of the boat really outweighs that one disadvantage. The hatches seemed sturdy and there seemed to be plenty of storage room for a weekend trip.
I really liked this boat and I could see many hours of paddling it. Now, I just gotta come up with the money to buy one!
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