Friday, 30 October 2015

A Year in the The Think Evo II

We picked up our demo Evo II at the start of the year, and have had it out in conditions ranging from a big & lumpy sea, to raging downwind, to the long fast grind of a 100km Hawkesbury Classic.
First & foremost, I’m an advocate of intermediate-range ocean racing skis. I think the reality of the elite skis, even the elephant in the room, is that to paddle them where they’re designed to be paddled, in a decent running sea, you need to have an elite attitude. Over the course of a few years watching paddlers turn up with elite skis and paddle around like they’re sitting on a watermelon, in conditions that most intermediate skis would simply absorb, I think there are far too many guys limiting their paddling days on skis that are not only beyond them now, but will probably always be beyond them. To me that’s what it comes down to, within reason, making sure your ski doesn’t put any limits on when you can go paddling.

The Evo II was an addition to our demo range following on from the great success we’ve had with the Eze and the Ace, both short, stable, and light entry level boats which have spread through paddling circles based on what the new owners have been able to do in them. By that I mean the mix of ergonomics & stability have provided confidence in spades to paddlers who had been tentative about either owning a ski in the first place, or had been wobbling around on boats that didn’t offer the right amount of confidence-inspiring stability.

Like all Think skis the Evo II has a very disciplined seating position, perhaps the most regimented of all the ski brands, and simply doesn’t allow you the option of splaying your legs. You sit in a very upright position with knees forced together by the narrower channels for your calves, and once you adjust it makes it very hard to slouch or fall into any of the bad habits of paddling posture that drag most of us punters down.

It feels buoyant on the water, something I’ve always considered a reassuring quality in the rough stuff whether it’s a kayak or a ski, and the seating position, with your bum well & truly higher up than your heels, makes you feel like you’re well over the top of your stroke.
First impressions, especially if you hop on board on dead flat water, is a lighter initial stability than some of the other designs in the genre, but this hardens up considerably once the water becomes more dynamic. Essentially the Evo heels a few degrees further on flat water than some of the flatter hulled intermediates, but then locks into a solid secondary point every bit as solid as the rest.

As the waves wash through & around the hull, the transitions that separate the tough boats from the sympathetic ones are gradual & predictable. You don’t get a fast twitch from the Evo II even in crappy little bay chop. The trade off with a hull that moderates the bumps is usually a loss of that instinctive quality that allows to you turn the boat on waves using your eyes. By this I mean the ‘look left, right shoulder moves forward, right arse cheek drops, boat turns toward the raised edge of your ski’ in a nice organic motion that isn’t necessarily predicated by a hard push on your rudder pedal. The best intermediate boat I’ve ever paddled for this sort of instinctive turn is the Fenn Swordfish, and while the Evo II doesn’t quite carve around in the same way, it makes up for it in hull speed and the capacity to grab the runs with lift and acceleration.

It has speed to burn, more than I’ll ever be capable of harnessing in the ocean, and because you have the nice buoyant feeling that extra volume provides, it never feels like you need much of a dig to get it up & running. I’ve used the boat a lot to ride shotgun on our weekly Dolls Point paddles, where a big group of us take on the Sydney sea breeze for a 10km blast into, across & with the wind. It’s been a great mothership for effecting rescues, helping paddlers who’ve missed their remounts etc. I can manoeuvre it in bouncy chop, pull alongside to raft up & help out without having to think about my own stability, a trait in the sometimes individualistic world of surf ski paddling that should perhaps carry more weight. When you do do take a swim, the low gunwales mean you don't have to be anywhere near as precise getting your backside into the bucket as you do with the skinny skis, and remounts are pretty stress free.

On flat water the ergonomics really shine. Whilst metronome rhythm is your enemy on the ocean, for flat water training & racing your form and tempo are everything, and a disciplined posture gives you a great base for harnessing the right muscles. Whilst not a particularly dedicated flat water paddler, I didn’t hesitate to reach for the Evo II from our quiver of demo boats to do this year’s Hawkesbury Classic, a 111km overnight race on the outskirts of Sydney. Despite only paddling a couple of half rat-power 10 & 15km flat water sessions in the boat, I knew it was the one that would keep me in the right form, and would have enough glide to allow a comfortable & reasonably quick trip down the river.
111km done & dusted, and a good ski for the task.
There has been a trend recently towards using elite skis on flat water for marathon racing, understandable given the challenges most K1 hulls provide to those of us not raised paddling them. But, if you can only afford one ski I reckon only the fittest of racers would get more out of an elite than they would out of something like an Evo II, and the versatility of the ski in the ocean allows you to go beyond being just a fair weather sea paddler.

We spend a far portion of our time introducing paddlers to the sea, and even the seasoned & technically sound flat water guys don’t take very long to work out that the two disciplines are a world apart. We’re lucky thesedays to have the breadth of excellent mid-range, intermediate skis which provide the portal into the part of ski paddling that I reckon provides the big smiles. Fortunately for us and you the consumer, the brands we represent, Vajda, Epic, Fenn & Think, are all damn good. They're all well made, well designed, they have their own traits that run through their ranges nowadays, so you really do need to get out there and get in them before you make a decision about which one is for you. The Think Evo II is a very successful blend of speed, sympathetic predictability at sea, and acceleration for the days when it’s all going your way, a boat I love to paddle.
Length 625cm   Width 48cm   Weight See Below   Paddler Weight 75-110kg
$3295 (Performance - 15.5kg) $4295 (Elite 12.5kg)

We have a demo at our Miranda store and will happily take you out on some moving water so you can see for yourself.


  1. Agree. Good review. I have an Evo 2 and a uno but the Evo is my favourite to paddle on anything other than flat. Opens up new horizons and I feel great in it

  2. Agree. Good review. I have an Evo 2 and a uno but the Evo is my favourite to paddle on anything other than flat. Opens up new horizons and I feel great in it

  3. Excellent review Mark on what is truly a great "all rounder" ski, (despite my allegiance to another brand).


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