This is the S18R Gen 2, new to the market and just recently arrived at River Bear Racing. Optimized for Sea Kayak class racing, it’s also a dandy touring or fitness boat. Some of the changes to the Gen 1 design include a slight narrowing of the hull (now 20.2″) but without changing the stability, lengthening of the water line, cutouts on the deck for paddle clearance to allow a closer catch, an enlarged cockpit (4″ longer!), and an enlarged rear hatch. Coupled with Stellar’s very solid 3-point foot plate (which also allows you to place your feet near the center of the cockpit, increasing foot room), this is an awesome sea kayak package. All of which sounds great, but how does it fit? And how does it paddle? In a word, “Stellar”!
A few days ago a customer who’s 6′ tall and 240 lbs wanted to try it out and see if it would fit him. He reported being quite comfortable in the cockpit, and found it much easier to enter than most kayaks due to the larger size. Getting out on water found him all smiles, especially after he found an immediate 1.2 mph increase in cruise speed over his 14′ boat with no extra effort. He was downright laughing when he found you could “power slide” the boat; the bottom is so clean you can literally slide the boat sideways and turn it within its own length.
Tonight I finally got my turn to try out the boat in a 7 or so mile paddle with our recreational kayak group. Now I’m pretty much a hard-core surf ski paddler; I haven’t paddled a sit-inside kayak for more than a few test hops in a long time. Most of them feel like barges to me. But what a revelation this evening! I found the S18R to be a downright fun boat! Very much like the new S18S G2, this boat just feels like it has very low resistance, and it paddles superbly, yet it can turn on a dime. Spritely, sporty, spirited, efficient, and tossable – all words I would use to describe the paddle experience. I ran it in calm waters, then played for extended periods of time in wind-driven waves and chop up to about 2 ft tall. It felt even more stable than the S18S surf ski version, probably due to the lower seat height, yet just as fast. If you like sea kayaks, but you want something that feels more like a sports car than a van, this is a boat you’ll definitely want to try!
For fans of smaller sit-inside kayaks, here are a few photos of an S14LV I recently delivered to a customer (he was buying it for his daughter; what an awesome dad!) Set up with a retractable skeg from the factory, the boat also has the components in place for a rudder installation if so desired. This is a great boat for paddlers who are space limited, or just like the handiness of a smaller 14′ boat.