My first impressions of the Ion

on May 09 in Ion, Skis, Surfski, Think by

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My first impressions of the Ion

Saturday 27th of April, and Sydney awakens to another cracker of a day. We’ve been blessed with some fantastic weather right into Autumn, which has been great for paddlers across the city. The Middle Harbour Challenge is scheduled for the morning, and it’s the first opportunity for many to set eyes on the new Ion. I took the opportunity to paddle the ski for the first time in the race, and what a surprise packet it was.

I write this blog with the caveat of having the flu for a week, and then getting concussed a few days out from the race, so I feel like I didn’t do the boat a lot of justice in terms of performance, but I gave the race as much as I had, and tried to explore as best I could the limits of the design in the conditions on the day. I also paddle an Uno Max as my daily ride, so am pretty comfortable with tippy skis in all conditions.

The course ran from the beautiful setting of Middle Harbour Yacht Club, headed straight out towards middle Head, took a left towards Manly Cove, then an about turn and back towards the city, before turning again and heading back to the Yacht club. The 17km course had a lot of variables, such as side chop, great ferry runs, head winds, tail winds, and strong tides.

Off the line the pace was frantic as always with a lead group of a few doubles, with about seven or eight singles hanging on their wash. I managed to tack onto the back of the group, but got spit out a few hundred meters down the way with a change at the front which I couldn’t cover at the back. I found myself in no mans land, trying to work the small wash from the main group. I worked around to Grotto Point and rounded it in about 12th spot of the singles. Once we turned, immediately the water chopped up, small runs appeared and wooooo…. the Ion took off. The guys who I turned the corner with immediately dropped off, which surprised me as they were paddling elite level boats. The section down to the next turn had lots of small boat chop, mixed with some swell and the Ion simply ate it for breakfast. In fact, it made me look good in the conditions. It had the sensation of a boat which wanted to go on each run, which was looking for work from the energy in the water. Hopping from one small chop to the next was easy, and made easier by the rocker featured in the design. It does go about its work differently to my usual boat, the Uno Max. The Max cuts through those runs and feels like it slices those type of conditions. The Ion felt different in that it felt like it was using its momentum from the rear to push on. I kept an eye on my GPS and the speed was very consistent, with no huge dips. Every stroke felt very solid and I felt like I was able to really push without any loss of power in the rough conditions.

Rounding the first turn can, and then facing back into some small chop as we headed towards the city, the Ion sat nicely on waves, and didn’t bob or slap. Again, I was really surprised at how it kept this feeling of wanting to push on. At this time of the day, the tides were beginning to play a big role, so I chose a line as best I could to stay out of the outgoing tide. I had also passed another paddler on this upwind leg, again on an elite ski. I had my eyes set on two paddlers ahead, with a third just ahead of them. That was 7th, 8th and 9th place I was trying to track down, with me in 10th.

The next section of the race runs parallel to the main shipping lane through the harbour, which is utilised by the Manly ferry, so we had plenty of opportunities to jump some nice boat wash to help work into the tide. The Ion didn’t miss a beat. It soaked up the bumps, and as a run faded out, it wanted to charge down the next. The beauty was that I felt really stable at all times. I could just grind away and focus on the water around me and what energy I could use from it.

The turn for home came with about 4kms to go, and a welcome turn with the tide down to Middle Head. The Ion kept its great boat run up, and provided a really stable platform for me to focus on trying to grind down the guys ahead. Turning Middle Head, the tide was then ripping out, but I tried to make the most of it, knowing it was the same for all of us. I managed to paddle down the guy in 9th, and finished just a few seconds behind 8th. I have to admit, I was pretty happy with the result, considering all the guys around me were racing elite level skis, and none over 12 kgs, and I was on a 15kg Performance construction Ion.

I would probably call the Ion an advanced level boat, sitting between the intermediate Evo II and the elite level Uno Max. It was encouraging for the design to see so many elite boats behind me, and no other advanced or intermediate skis anywhere near the Ion. In the right hands, there’s no doubt the Ion could finish even higher in the field, but I was really surprised at how well it worked for me on the first paddle.

The main points I’d note would be:

  • The seat is exactly the same as the Evo II, so it provides familiarity for guys moving up from that boat, as well as a great seating position to get on top of your work.
  • It feels really stable in cross chop and on runs. At no point did I ever feel like I had to do a brace stroke, and never missed a stroke.
  • The rocker accelerates the boat quickly onto runs, and makes it exceptionally easy to change direction, particularly when used with the 9” elliptical rudder. It felt like it could spin on a sixpence.
  • It holds if momentum fantastically well, and just surges on and on, with a feeling of almost looking for work (if that makes sense). It feels eager to push on and find the next chop or run to work down and keep progressing.
  • It looks like a torpedo, and torpedoes are fast!


In the weeks since the race, the Ion has spent some time with some great Think Kayak supporters, who have provided invaluable feed back. From Evo II paddlers to Uno Max paddlers, it has been really interesting to hear how everyone thought the design worked. Off the back of that feed back, we are engineering in bigger cutaways into the paddle entry section, and all production skis which will ship to Australia soon will feature this.

Trying to be unbiased (hard to do when you live, breath and love Think Kayak), I can honestly say this ski will be a game changer for many paddlers. Where is sits in the market place, and how it performs in relation to other skis in this segment, I believe it will surprise many and fulfill many paddlers’ dreams.

I’ll be posting more opinions and reviews of the Ion over the coming weeks, as well as keeping you up to date on the progress of the design as we take onboard all the fantastic info we’ve collected in the past few weeks.

As ever, watch this space,

Go paddling!

Stewart O’Regan

Think Kayak Australia

Mob:     0404 236 638
Skype:  stewieor