Friday, 15 January 2016

The Fenn Elite S, from a Non-Elite Paddler's Perspective....

We got our hands on the latest top end ski from Fenn just before Xmas, the new Elite S. It's been making a very strong statement in the hands of the pros at events around the world since it was launched last year and we figured it was time to add one to our demo range.

I have been paddling it now for a month, trucking it up the coast for my annual camping holiday & paddling it & surfing waves all the way from Noosa, down to the Clarence River Bar at Yamba, to the very friendly clean waves of South West Rocks, and back in Sydney on a handful of fast downwinders on the bay.

I'm no elite paddler, but capable of paddling any of the elite skis in rough water for an hour or so, until they inevitably start to wear me down. For this reason I advocate the intermediate skis for anyone who isn't going to seriously commit to an elite ski on the sea, but it doesn't mean my interest isn't piqued by a more demanding ski when one comes along with the wraps on it that the Fenn Elite has earned.

Stability is obviously the first thing that concerns a mug paddler like me, and the Elite S, whilst still most definitely an elite ski with lighter initial stability than anything in the intermediate genre, is blessed with a very predictable stability, with a transition that feels very much the same as other Fenn skis. The only thing I can't do in it with confidence is mess around sitting still with my GPS or camera; in an intermediate ski I can take a pic without having to throw a leg over, not so on moving water in the Elite S. The first paddle I did involved a trip to the tidal mess off Dolls Point in a 15knot NE wind opposing the flow, and I nailed half a dozen remounts from each side with no problem. This is such a huge consideration when contemplating an elite ski, possibly the most ignored factor even when people test paddle them, the ability to remount confidently in messy water. No point going fast if you can't get back on.....
On a wave it's a brilliant ski, surfing the way all Fenn's seem to naturally surf, but with miles less effort required to either catch 'em or stay on 'em. Two weeks in a row we've had southerlies gusting well over 30 knots, necessitating a challenging paddle across the chop & wind for 15 minutes to get a good downwind line on the finish, and then steep, short, bustling little waves that test your ability to put the boat in the right spot so you don't lose steerage. The typical runs that these days throw up are featured in the short video above. In these conditions, I've barely missed a beat in the Elite S, not had to back off with that split-second hesitancy that often besets the non-elite paddler in the elite ski, and had a ball. That said, a longer race like this years' 20 Beaches, 26km in constant beam chop & varying degrees of rebound on a biggish sea, would be a struggle for me in a ski like this.

It's little wonder the genuinely elite paddlers are loving the Elite S, it has speed, much improved ergonomics and an instinctive quality on waves that make it a joy to paddle. For us punters hoping one day to graduate to one of these sleek beasts, you shouldn't discount it as something to aspire toward. It's not as scary as some of the others in the genre, and at it's absolute best out in the waves.

We have a demo in the Carbon Hybrid layup in our warehouse if you'd like to take one for a spin.

Specifications & Pricing
Length:   6.44m
Width:   43cm
Hybrid (vacuum bagged fibreglass/carbon)

Carbon (vacuum bagged carbon)

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