There are many factors that influence a decision as to which craft is ideal for you:
· Quality of manufacturing.
· Speed of Craft.
· You factors – your height, weight, age, level of agility etc.
· Who paddles what in the world scene.
· Where you will paddle most of the time – ocean, river, lake, bay etc.
· Weight of the craft.
These considerations ae all valid, and there is plenty of information online to give you more information and clarity. Or, as it so often does, confuse you even more.
However, by far the number one by far factor in considering the ideal craft for you is COMFORT. Not what someone else has written up about a ski, or what the best paddler in your squad, area, the world etc. use. It is how comfortable you feel in the craft.
My suggestion is to try a few different skis before you buy. If not, seek a person’s advice who will have your best interests in mind more than their hip pocket. Your coach, if you have one, will often be the best help here. Whilst most coaches are also agents for manufacturers, if they are ethical and care about the long term maintenance of the squad, they will look out for your best interests.
Regardless of what the manufacturers or agents might tell you, most skis in the same category (i.e. elite, intermediate, beginner etc.) are relatively similar in speed. There are some slight differences, but not enough to make a huge impact on speed over a race distance.
The main factor influencing what ski the best paddlers in the world use is economics – that is, sponsorships. It is very rare in the top paddlers that a switch in ski band will make a difference in their overall results. On the odd occasion you do see a difference, more often than not, other factors are more influential. For example; fitness, experience at the top level, life circumstances etc.
However, the main factor that can make the most significant difference as to how fast you paddle at training, or on race day, is your comfort in the craft.
Comfort includes the shape of the seat, the set of the foot plate, the sitting position (relationship of seat shape to foot plate), width and easy of entry at the catch etc. And, obviously, stability, however this will be discussed in another blog.
I use the craft that I use as I’ve done a lot of kayak paddling in a K1 over the years, as well as surf paddling, and that craft gives me the best feel in terms of seating, feet positioning, and ability for me to get power onto the stroke.
In addition, there’s a particular brand that I’m also an agent for, who have excellent skis that are really fast, however, as much as I’d like to use them, my back simply hates the seat shape. I pull up sore after using them for a session or two.
Everyone is different in terms of preferred feel, body (especially hip) shape etc. taking out different types of skis to work out what feels best is the most important thing. Plus what is stable enough to stay in. Whilst you may not have heaps of experience, you do not what is comfortable or nor, so trust your own instincts.
There are a few paddlers in the group that I paddle with who are very big people. Not necessarily over weight, but they have a very solid bone structure. With these guys, we’ve found that, for their standard (high level intermediate), there are some brands of skis they definitely do not comfortably fit in., and a couple that they do. So their choice of ski is narrowed down straight away. But they found this out via trial and error, and some pain initially, as before they met me and had the chance to demo different skis, the initial ski they purchased was a second hand ski that they had not tried at all, or for very long.
This is so often the case that a new, or not overly experienced paddler buys a second hand ski online based on what they’ve heard or read, and whilst the ski may have been a bargain, it is not the right ski for them.
As such, again, my advice is to speak to your coach, and/or local agents, and see if you can organise demos on a few different skis. Or, if that is not possible, and you are really confident that your coach has your best interests at heart over any other consideration, then trust what they advise you.