Epic have undergone a few changes over the years, and the brand new 18X is showing all the signs of being a huge improvement on what has come before. First of all, they had Freya Hoffmeister paddle a bog standard glass 18X two-thirds of the way around the country, completing the trip with one of the first of the new batch of the 18X at Broome, with the first casts of the features that have just gone into standard production.
A 12 month varied expedition covering every single aspect of sea paddling has got to be a good testing ground, & Freya's experiences in her boats have given rise to a boat that is really a seriously good design.
One thing unmistakable was the speed of the Endurance, the guy paddling it was smoking us, & he was no hot shot. The new version of the 18X has all of the renowned speed. A strong paddler won't hit the wall on flat water until well into the 11kmh zone. Last year's MREC Hawkesbury Classic winner, Toby Hogbin, blitzed the 111km in 9hrs 18 minutes, so the credentials for racing are well established.
What's new? First off, the 18X just looks different. The clunky build of old models, the telltale signs of mass factory output compared to quirky loving construction is gone. We've been selling Epic skis since they began production at their new facility & haven't had a single issue with regards structure or fittings, and this 18X has the same hallmarks of beautiful quality.
I've been paddling it now for a week or so & have had it plunging into head seas upside down rolling in breaking water & haven't seen the remotest sign of a leak. Their new hatch system is light, clever in it's closure system & dry…
Bone dry hatches sealed with a clamped cross lever.The day hatch is now standard, not a bunged on afterthought option for sea kayakers, rather the necessity for sea touring that we all know it to be.
The carbon flush day hatch on a hinged fixture.And then there is the new rudder system. I don't reckon the pure hull shape of the old Epic 18 was good enough to deal with steep following or quartering seas without a deeper draft rudder, which it didn't have. As a result It tended to skate around disconcertingly when things got steeper & you really did need to take care to angle on runners to avoid broaching too far to recover.
The revolutionary housed rudder - deployedThe new system, while not quite the 'holy grail' retractable underslung rudder, still manages to put the pivot point further forward, safely protected in a housing, and give great bite in following & quartering seas. Flat water paddlers can retract the blade & use the integrated rudder for calm water steering with less drag, while those of us who like a downwind blast now have a control system nearly as good as Epic's legendary surf skis.
….and safely tucked away.With the rudder up, the ski also performs very nicely with the application or 'proper' kayaking strokes. Initiate a turn, drop your opposite edge, plant a careful bow draw & the boat will pirouette just the way a more traditional design does. Here's a short video illustrating the things you don't expect the 18X to do….
We think this fitness/tourer design is about to bloom as a very prolific boat style among sea kayakers. In some respects the Epic 18X has been ahead of it's time in leading the way towards the sorts of designs with good upper end speed & radical looks. Other designs have caught up & even surpassed the old Epic 18 as quality & design innovation have moved ahead in recent years, but this superb new incarnation has put the old pioneer back on the podium. We will have stock of the new Epic 18X from next month, selling with full features for under $4000.