The Epic experience started before I even parked my bottom in our demo V7. I began by learning more about this new surfski at Kayak Sport Canada, a friendly shop in Toronto’s trendy Leaside neighborhood that caters to acolytes of performance paddling.
Owned by father-son team Mike and Dav, and lodged in a reclaimed paint factory, the shop’s airy, twilit space is an education in all things speed. Shiny trophies from Mike’s kayak racing career in his native Hungary crowd dusty shelves; a trio of Wenonah fast canoes hide in an alcove; a surfski with an anvil-sized hole through its hull awaits Dav’s meticulous repair, victim of a customer’s recent surfing accident. Race SUPs, paddles and fitness trainers share the space, but it’s the wall of moon-white Epic kayaks and surfskis that lures my eyes up into the rafters, where imported Hungarian racing kayaks hang in the sepulchral dusk. A lively, rusty-coated vizsla strains on his lead to greet us as Dav shows me into the shop. “He’s a Hungarian breed, like us,” jokes the dog’s owner.
The Epic V7 and the need for speed
Mike began selling sprint boats out of his garage in 1982. Performance paddlers may comprise a small niche of paddlesports, but they’re a dedicated and growing group. The pair moved into their current shop in 2010, Dav tells me, “But we’re already outgrowing the space.”
Most kayakers have felt the irresistible allure of speed—whether on a downwind run or cleaving calm water on a quiet morning—but not every paddler wants to commit to an expensive surfski just to go fast. For fence sitters, the V7 is a welcome game-changer.
“We’ve definitely tapped into a new market. A lot of people have wanted to try a surfski but haven’t wanted to get into a composite boat, or they wanted a lower price point,” says Vince Bechet, Epic’s chief marketing officer. “Sales have been phenomenal, we couldn’t keep up with demand last summer in both North America and Europe.”
The Epic V7 is streamlined and fast, but also affordable
The V7 sports the same flawless finish as Epic’s composite fleet, so it’s little wonder that casual observers and even those who paddle it don’t suspect this ‘ski is molded from durable polyethylene, not premium glass and carbon fibers. Until they pick it up, that is—the V7 weighs 11 pounds more than the heaviest lay-up of its composite sibling, Epic’s 18-foot V8. The trade-off is a very budget-friendly price tag; you can literally get two V7s for the price of one performance lay-up V8.
Belying its good looks, Dav says the V7 represents Epic’s learning curve with rotomolding plastics. While the boat’s orange bow and stern caps look fighter jet sharp and match Epic’s composite line-up, adding the splashes of color during the rotomolding process is a tedious procedure that greatly increases production time. For 2016, the V7 will lose the trademark color badging, but retain Epic’s signature clean white finish.
On the water, the V7 isn’t quite as speedy on acceleration as an ultralight composite surfski, but recreational paddlers aren’t likely to notice—this is still a very quick boat. It’s heavier weight also makes the V7 more deliberate feeling in wind and waves, good news for touring kayakers crossing over and looking for a less twitchy ‘ski with predictable stability.
Amid the growing cadre of accessible surfskis vying for touring kayakers’ attention—among them Stellar’s S14S, Current Designs’ Ignite and Epic’s brand new V5, a plastic 14-footer just announced at press time—the V7 stays perhaps closest to its roots: unapologetically streamlined, purposefully spartan and Epically fast.
With a 21-inch beam, the V7’s stability is closer to that of a nimble touring kayak than a racing ‘ski, making it perfect for effortless cruising and forgiving fitness or sprint paddling.
Epic’s adjustable, carbon fiber footboard and pedals deliver smooth, precise steering inputs to either a removable under-stern rudder, or an optional SmartTrack kick-up rudder (recommended for shallow and rocky waters, $100).
For 2016, a new hard lid will be added to the rear hatch, protecting the existing waterproof fabric cover from damage. Careful packers with small gear will find adequate space inside for an overnight.
This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak Spring 2016 issue.
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