Few could approach the racing credentials of Greg Barton and Oscar Chalupsky, the owners of Epic. In fact, Chalupsky won his 11th Moloka'i World Championship in a V10 Surfski -- but then we suspect that he would have dished out a can of whoopass even if he was paddling on a piece of plywood.
Epic, the brand and the company, originally started as the brainchild of Greg Barton in 1997. With two Olympic gold medals, numerous world championships, an engineering degree and a few years of designing under his belt, Barton is uniquely qualified to know what works and what does not. At the time, Epic's sole products were paddles, with blades being produced in-house and shafts outsourced.
While on a fact-finding mission at the 2000 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Chalupsky met up with Barton and ended up crashing in Barton's room for the duration of his visit. Like many things South African, the paddling scene and depth of talent was masked by the international community's response to apartheid. Athletes and athletic moments were developing quietly within South Africa, with little exposure to the rest of the world. For some reason, South Africa became a nation of paddling freaks who dearly love and understand the sport, with Oscar Chalupsky and his younger brother Herman, sitting at the head of the class.
Based on their mutual interests -- Barton in expanding his line and Chalupsky in exploring the U.S. market -- a partnership was born in 2001. Today, Epic's U.S. office is based in South Carolina, with most of the manufacturing in South Africa.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying that we were more than just a little excited to get our hands on the V10 Surfski. Boasting a length of 21 feet, 4 inches and a width of just 17 inches, the V10's South African pedigree of paddling huge water in unforgiving exposed conditions is readily apparent. Its front deck is extremely voluminous in the way that a wildwater boat is, with the deck pinched in slightly to allow a paddler to plant his paddle for a forward stroke that is as close to the boat and as efficient as possible.
Fit and finish on our test boat was good. In all fairness, we were handed a blem and we suspect that the very few irregularities that we saw won't be present on production models. What really struck us was how this boat disappeared beneath us to become an aquatic version of a magic carpet. Our tester reported that it was fast in flat conditions but just screamed and inspired confidence on an epic 30-knot day with 8-foot breaking waves in the Tacoma Narrows. Thoughtful touches like the factory-installed foot straps and a rock solid, quickly adjustable, foot brace emphasized that this boat is made by folks who are as serious about their paddling as they are about producing epic boats.
Overall, the boat performed extremely well, with big water clearly being its forte. Those looking for a fast flat-water cruiser would be well advised to investigate other models. As for durability, the V10 surpassed our expectations. A sudden gust took the lightweight V10 for a brief flight, with a rough landing down an embankment. However, there was little damage to report -- a testament to Epic's design and manufacturing process.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4.5 (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $2,495 as tested (be prepared to add your name to a waiting list as of Oct. 10, 2005)
For more information:www.epicpaddles.com or 843-720-8841