We are really excited here at JBK to introduce the Stellar range of recreational skiis to our store. The folks at Stellar have been in the market since 2009 and have a range of elite skis, recreational skis, touring sea kayaks and K1 kayaks in their stable. Build quality is excellent and they have some really innovative products.
We think that their recreational skis are a unique offering in the market. I have been trialling the shortest of these, the S14, over the past few weeks (it’s a hard job but someone has to take the hit!!!).
Check out the review below and the video of me having a good old fashioned muck around on our demo boat.
The Stellar 14s
Firstly, what is it….well the S14 is an entry level recreational touring ski for paddlers looking for a versatile, light, and stable craft that can accommodate anything from a fitness paddle to a long day out on the water or even a lightly packed overnighter. The real beauty of the Stellar Rec Skis are their versatility. They would suit a large range of paddlers looking for different experiences. For beginners this offers a very stable ride with performance well above traditional plastic sit on top kayaks and without the complication of the cockpit of a sea kayak. For more experienced paddlers, the S14 is a perfect entry level ski with a decent cruising speed and capability to handle a range of conditions.
Primary stability is a real asset, provided by the generous beam (~63cm) and deep bucket – check out the video for a few of my tried and true stability tests…here is a sneak preview….
I would have not qualms about recommending this for a novice paddler looking for a step up in performance from a traditional plastic sit on top (and the step up in performance is huge) without sacrificing the ease of use and safety that a sit on top kayak offers. Most paddlers can just jump in and take off in the S14 which is certainly not the case on a lot of skis out there. Self rescue is easily managed and it’s not far off a plastic sit on top in terms of ease of re-entry. A little practice will make it straight forward.
The S14 cruises really well – easily sitting on 7.5 – 8.0km / hr. With a trailing rudder making it really manoeuvrable and easily paddled in windy conditions. Two hatches provide a good amount of storage with proper rubber hatch covers giving a waterproof seal, opening up the ski to longer paddles as a day cruiser.
Can it be used as a fitness craft ? Yep. I got it to a top speed of 10.2km/hr. It felt like that was pushing the limit of the hull length, but for a highly stable short ski, this is a testament to the hull design. Given its light weight (depending on the model chosen this is anything from 12.5kg to 17.5kgs) the S14 accelerates well with a nicely tapered hull and clean cut-aways on the foredeck allowing for a cadence that will turn up the heart beat to exercise levels.
The construction quality is excellent. The composite lay-up looks very clean and well finished and the outfitting is first class with a carbon footplate, trailing rudder, lots of handles, heavy duty hatch covers and deck bungee. There are 4 choices in lay-up which vary in weight from 12.5kg to 17.5kg. I have the Advantage version which is a heat cured infused epoxy Fiberglass – weighing in at 15.5kg.
Off the water management of the S14 is a delight. With the recessed deck and handles in the sides, back and front, there are plenty of places to grab. At under 16kgs, it’s easily manoeuvred into place on the car. The trailing rudder that comes standard can be locked into the “up” position via a deck cleat which means that the ski can be put straight on top of the grass – not the case with traditional skis which often have a permanent inset rudder which is highly exposed when moving them around off the water. This also makes it a lot more versatile and able to handle shallow water, beach landings etc.
Performance on the water – it paddles like a longer and narrower ski. The hull design is really efficient with a gradual displacement, minimal rocker and a nice sharp keel line at the stern and bow. This means that the S14 glides along with little effort at a comfortable speed. It also has plenty of secondary stability with a soft chine and a large sweet spot – with the rudder drawn up, I was able to easily lean on the “edges” and spin the ski around. You really have to work hard to push it past the point of no return…which I did for scientific experimental purposes!!
Comfort – the footplate has plenty of adjustment on it and can accommodate paddlers from 1.5m to 2.0m in height and up to 145kg. The bucket is nice and deep and there is plenty of room to move around even for bigger paddlers. I would add a foam pad for longer trips. Like with all skis, they do require a certain amount of core stability as they do not offer a high backrest. However the shape of the bucket is deep enough to allow paddlers to lean back and get some support if needed.
The footplate adjustment can be a little fiddly to lock but slides along well and is rock solid when locked. In the scheme of things, a bit of fidgeting with the locking mechanism is a very minor gripe.
The S14 opens up a new world of ski paddling and is a real surprise packet. It has all the features of a go anywhere craft and is just a really fun craft to paddle. User friendly, easy and stable, it can go at a good clip, cope with surf and wind and double as a day tourer. A great beginner’s ski or a tourer that can easily accommodate some decent distance.
The length of the s14 makes it really easy to manoeuvre on the water, but also to get on and off the car and store at home. At sub 16kg for the Advantage lay-up, it is easier to deal with off the water than basic sit on tops, but on the water, it’s in a different class.
A great choice for first time ski paddlers, those looking at stepping up from a basic sit on top or preferring a sit on top tourer to a sit-in touring kayak.
There are 3 recreational skis available from Stellar. For those looking for a slightly longer and faster version, there are 16 and 18 foot cousins. Check out the comparison chart below for more information.