Evo II – A Paddler’s Story

on Sep 11 in Evo II, Racing, Think, Training, Uncategorized by

 

Back in 2010, Michael Jose upgraded his Evo Performance for an Evo II Performance. Just this week, he has traded in that ski for a brand new replacement, in the flash new colour scheme of white with orange stripes. This is the story of Michael’s first paddle on the Evo II, and I have to admit, reading it makes me itchy to go paddling! I hope you enjoy it too.

 

October 2010 – New Think Evo II

Last week I took possession of my new Think Evo Mark 2.

I am an intermediate paddler with 5 years paddling experience under my belt. I entered the sport later in life (late 30s), do a few races over the summer season (holding my own amongst similar paddlers at the back third of the field), paddle mainly 1-2 times a week. I had a brief foray into a quick ski four years ago when I purchased one the of the first Epic V10s in Australia. I sold it shortly after declaring it too unstable, no fun and dangerous for someone at my skill level. My favourite skis have included an Ozflight Molokai and a Fenn XT, before I purchased my early model Think Evo three years ago.

The Mark 1 Think Evo was all the boat I ever needed. Quicker than the XT, but stable enough for a once a week paddler. I have regularly taken this boat out on my own in big conditions offshore the cliffs of Sydney, very strong winds, paddled it in big Gold Coast surf and had a riot of a time in a 10 foot plus point break at Byron Bay. Armed with my leg rope and emergency flare this boat was the best combination of speed and confidence inducing stability. I loved the look of the ski and the way it handled.

The biggest downside of the ski was the fact that it needed to be driven hard onto runs and driven hard to be kept on them. It was like it has a finite top speed (although I have recently heard that my long 8″ fin was probably the main reason: why didn’t someone tell me that three years ago!).

I picked up the new Think Evo only last week. It looked different and the Australian distributor identified several deliberate design feature changes. Cosmetically, it is another stunning boat. The cockpit now has a very angular cut away: which means that I should no longer scuff this region with the occasional duff stroke. The venturi now comes with a plug to keep the foot well nice and dry when not moving.

The hull has more rocker, and the stern looks quite different. Gone is the rather beautiful squared stern, and in place is a rounded low volume tail. Think states the intention of the rocker was to allow the ski to accelerate faster to chase the runs a little easier. The tail redesign was to “release the tail while surfing” and to make it more playful.

The hull underwater has most of the Mark 1′s familiar stable looking profile. Not much changed there.

Overall though, it is another stunning boat, and very high quality and easily as striking as the Mark I was three years ago, only now in a more modern way.

The Mark 2. also came with the shorter 6″ fin….

The day of my first paddle was remarkable. The weather forecast icon merely had a picture depicting wind. It was blowing a gale from the west wind some squalls coming through at 30-40 knots. The harbour was a maelstrom. The usual 8am surf ski time trial was cancelled. I chose to attempt to paddle out of the slightly sheltered Rose Bay and work my way into the wind for 45 minutes, to the Navy base at Garden Island, then on to the Opera House. The surf back, I figured would make the hard work worthwhile.

I figured that I’d be ok because I had my leg rope, and this was just another Think Evo, afterall. As soon as I hopped in it though, I realised this boat was quite different. First thing I noticed was that rudder pedals were too far away. Weird, because I had set them up visually about the same place as my Mark 1. Two returns to the beach later, I realised that the pedal area is different. I am 5’8″ and I have my Mark 1 pedals about half way along, just enough space for me to prop my water bottle upright behind the pedals. On the Mark 2, I finally adjusted the foot plate a long way to the back. My water bottle disappeared into the void behind it: I wont be reaching that in a hurry. This boat would accommodate some very tall paddlers!

Where was the extra space coming from? Was the seat further back? Didn’t seem so. Does the nose have less volume to accommodate the cut aways and the foot plate space? Maybe so.

The second thing I noticed was the comfy Mark 1 seat was changed. Now there is a prominent hump under my bum that put you into a beautiful forward paddling position (that I never once had to re-seat by pressing back on my legs to straighten up). While struggling through the gusts in the bay, I also noticed that the new cockpit shape brought your legs much closer together, like many of the fast and very narrow top line skis.

Even before I left the sheltered bay into the worst of the wind, I realised this boat was much more alive than the Mark 1. It hunted, changed direction, twitched so much more. This combined with the narrow cockpit constraining the legs made it initially feel quite a bit less stable. I was anxious when I emerged into the full brunt of the wind, but noted that a Red 7 had joined me on over my shoulder.

I started driving hard into the very steep, 1 meter wind blown chop. I was working hard and trying to get a feel for this ski. Some of the gust were hard enough to make me feel like I had stopped. I had a long way to go to the temporary refuge of the distant upwind Navy Base. The ski, felt enough different to the Mark 1 for me to feel quite anxious in these conditions. Would the velcro of the leg rope hold if I fell off? If it didn’t the ski would be gone catapulting downwind off the tops of the waves within seconds. I just put my head down and concentrated. I was also using new muscles (in my legs) due to the narrow cockpit, but it still had some degree of comforting familiarity in the way it behaved. It was like an Evo 1 on speed.

A quick glance over my shoulder, confirmed that the Red 7 was dropping off, so I took a risk to brace against a stationary paddle to allow him to catch up. Bracing on one side was a bit hairy, so I re-commenced paddling to just hold water. He came up alongside, but there was no way we could communicate. All I really wanted to know was if he was ok and if he had a leg rope, but I couldn’t find out. I recommenced paddling and soon again pulled away. By this stage it was becoming everyman for himself I a decided to paddle solidly until I reached the brief shelter of the next point. I later heard that he turned around shortly thereafter (and he did have a leg rope).

The Evo II got me safely to the first windward point. I couldn’t really gauge the hull speed of the new ski, given that it was all I could do for the last 30 minutes just to make headway. I then bravely poked my nose back into the maelstrom beyond the point and turned into the next grind. This part was quite intimidating. I was well inside Navy waters and now paddling round the bow of a Frigate: I had no inclination (or ability) to head sideways to the wind to start the next upwind run outside of the Navy zone. I just figured they would acknowledge the conditions and not hassle me. In fact there was no-one to be seen, not that I could look up from the water for more than one second at a time.

The first run into the renewed strength wind had me beating into the wind away from the jetty moored Frigate. It wasn’t inspiring to know if I fell off that the wind would run me quickly into the side of it (maybe then they would shoot me). Also the slab side of the ship was rebounding the waves, so the water here was this crazy crossed over violent slosh. I was totally awash, but now I had found my feet in this new boat. The new venturi was also emptying noticeably faster than the old.

A struggle later I pulled in behind the Opera House. One last surprise caught me near this architectural icon. Puffs of wind were warping around the right side of it, but a mini waterspout (which I could see on the water), came from the left to pick up the bow of the Evo 2 and deposited it instantly five feet to the right. Hugging the wall I regained my composure. Couldn’t reach my water bottle. Dam. Will have to find a new spot next time.

I was a bit anxious. How would this thing handle downwind? I had done a similar downwind crazy run from this very spot on the Mark 1 about 12 months ago. Probably a tiny bit less blowy then, and I had a mate to back me up. There was absolutely no-one around today.

Finally I ran along to the end of the wall, stuck my bow out into the storm, which promptly turned it downwind and took off. My target was the Frigate in the distance. The ski just took off. By leaning forward the slightest, digging in a small amount the ski picked up a run and held it. I could even pull the ski up into runs that were already near the front of the hull. I could never lift the Mark 1 onto a run like that. Very soon the ski was riding waves and holding them, with no paddling. None of this Mark 1 keep digging to stay on a wave or you will fall off the back nonsense. For very long stretches all I was doing was leaning on the paddle for balance and steering on the fin: which was doing a great job. This was crazy fun.

I kept forgetting that I was on a brand new ski: one that was quite different, but also quite familiar. This was despite the fact that I was quite anxious and moderately terrified of the conditions. The ski also felt floaty smooth in a difficult way to describe. It just felt serene on the waves.

The total enjoyment was only compromised by the glare of the sun off the water (I was paddling almost straight into the dawn sun) and the need to slice sideways left a bit to clear the bow of the Frigate in the far distance.

Something nasty then crept up behind. A crazy squall just obliterated the water. Wind blown froth was now flailing past me, my paddle straining to escape my hand, and the waves getting larger. I cleared the Frigate and now the wind fetch increased from further up harbour, the waves were growing. But they were also very short interval. Pulling the ski over the falls onto another wild run the bow finally buried. Is there less volume in this thing? I can barely ever recall the Mark 1 burying at all let alone going in and staying there. I lay back to try and bring it up, and dug the paddle for stability, which was my mistake. Either I lost too much forward speed or the little fin finally popped out of the water. She partially broached to the left. A moment of anxiety while part side on to the wind was fixed by full rudder and three strong paddles and I was on another wave. That easily! Amazing.

I did bury the nose again twice more and recovered similarly as clumsily, but I think that my technique was at fault for the subsequent mild broach. I will try a different technique in future (I learn things after three knocks to the head).

I became aware again that I was paddling a wild new ski, in the wildest harbour conditions I had ever paddled in. I haven’t head so much fun on a ski since that Byron Point break. The last challenge was negotiating the Rose Bay point and the moored boats wildly bucking in the turbulent seas. This was now the longest fetch and the waves were biggest, but I was already becoming sad that I would shortly be behind the sheltered headland. At the construction site on the point, a builder fighting a loosing battle to secure his works, stop battling for a moment to admire this crazy waterborne idiot flying past in a plume of spray, having the time of is life.

And then the safety of the bay. While it was comparatively benign compared to the turmoil behind there were still runs all the way to the distant shore to re-confirm that this is the best surfing boat I have paddled at my intermediate level. It was almost hard to bring it to a stop at the beach.

Next week is the Bondi to Watsons Bay race. I am aiming for a personal best on the best ski I have ever owned.