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Surfski Gear Review - Stellar S18S (Gen 1) Excel

Thanks for checking out our 5th surfski review. This post will make direct reference to the V8Pro review which you can check out here.

All input is appreciated so we can continue to structure these better! Currently we have Boat Specs, Measurements, Stability Rating, Remount Rating, and Flatwater Testing.

I am 5ft 6 (167cm) and 140lbs (63.5kg) slightly above the intermediate skill level as a reviewer. I typically fit in all boats without issue but have a good general idea of a paddler being too big for a given vessel based on club members using boats.

The Stellar S18S Gen 1 has been a primary transitional boat for paddlers coming from sea kayaks into the sit on top surfski boat type. In the Stellar line up this boat is mirrored with a sit inside option with the same hull shape. This Gen 1 has been updated into a Gen 2 and ultimately the newest "Osprey" naming which we hope to try out as well. The excel layup is the second lightest layup option. As a quick note I could not get someone to take photos of me today, so only photos of the boat this time!

S18S Gen 1 Excel Specs

18 feet long x 21 inches wide (5.48m×53.3cm)

Bucket Depth 9 inches 22.9cm

Bucket Width(Highest point) 17 inches wide 43.2cm

Bucket Width (Lowest point) 13 inches wide 33cm

Footplate length (Longest setting) 45 inches 114.3cm

Footplate length (Shortest setting) 32 inches 81.3cm

Heel Depth 9.5 inches 24.1cm

Hump Height (highest point in cockpit) 4inches 10.16cm

Boat weight for testing - 29 pounds 13.1kg

Rudder 8 Inch Surf Standard 20.3cm

Outline Measurements from nose

15 inches from nose - 4.5 inches wide 38cm/11.4cm

30 inches from nose - 8.5 inches wide 76cm/21.6cm

45 inches from nose - 11 inches wide 114cm/27.9cm

60 inches from nose - 12.5 inches wide 152cm/31.75cm

75 inches from nose - 17 inches wide 190cm/43cm

Outline Measurements from tail

75 inches from tail - 20 inches wide 190cm/50.8cm

60 inches from tail - 18.5 inches wide152cm/47cm

45 inches from tail - 15.5 inches wide 114cm/39.4cm

30 inches from tail - 11 inches wide 76cm/27.9cm

15 inches from tail - 6 inches wide 38cm/15.25cm

Cockpit/Bucket Area

This is one of the widest buckets I have ever used in a surfski. At 17in/43cm wide at the top and 13.5in/33cm at the bottom that extra inch of room comparatively to most other surfski does make it spacious. The entire footwell area is very wide as well creating a long rectangular spacing to the end of the cockpit where the first storage hatch is at. This hatch opens a lot of space within the bow for storage. The heel to sit bone ratio is about the same, with the heels very slightly lower. As with many generation 1 models of boats the "hump" height in the cockpit is about 5in/12.5cm up from the heel/hips meaning your legs will touch this contour within the boat during leg drive. The rails for the footplate can be adjusted on screws it looks like, and it is on the longer setting for the 32in-45in/81cm-114cm range. You can definitely move it closer if you have shorter legs. I was able to manage on the shortest setting of the longer leg configurations. The gen 1 features 2 bullets on the bottom for bailing out the boat.

Quality of Life Details

This boat has very nice carry handles at the bow/stern that are cushioned. The rails in the center cockpit are metal and very ergonomic for lifting the boat easily from the center point. The center bars are positioned so you do not notice them during remounts, which is very nice as this is a typical downside to center handles. Having used and owned stellars in the past, I am a fan of the 3 point locking system for the footplate adjustments. There is a trick in pushing down on the locks on the side rails to get them to unlock before moving which makes them easy to adjust. Many paddlers will fuss with this system and think its very sticky if you omit this step. The rear hatch is a great addition if you are looking to haul gear with the performances of a sit on top style boat. Again, highlighting its entryway from more traditional sea kayakers. The rudder system is very easy to change only needing a single socket. The stellar rudders are universal across most (all?) models which makes it simple to swap between different boats. It is also equipped to take an overstern rudder without any modifications.

Stability Rating: This may be the most stable surfski of all time. A bold claim to make, but this is absolutely more stable than I predicted from the width alone. There are multiple designs within the hulls outline and shaping on the underside that lead the boat to be incredibly stable. The primary stability is so pronounced that the boat will kick you back to upright before you can push the rails underwater to engage the secondary stability. Maybe it is because I am a smaller sized paddler but I struggled to even flip this boat over when I wanted to. The secondary stability is met with rails 2-3in/5-7.5cm wide which means there is a lot of forgiveness before a flip. Combined with the very large bucket and you could but someone 250lbs in this vessel with a high chance of success.

The overall width is usually a great indicator of stability but there are design choices that can make it more or less tippy and this boat leans into less tippy in most regards. There is a dramatic jump in width from the nose outline as it reaches the cockpit area which makes the boat very rectangular through the middle. The tail outline is very wide for the majority of the area behind the bucket that accentuates this wide outline. This adds a lot of stability through the shape instead of narrowing into points sooner from the widest point, it holds that width for a large section of the boat. The underside of the boat has very flat edges that are wide for a majority of the boat. Rounded undersides have less friction which means more speed, but that friction with the water is the stability as well, in this case it has a LOT of friction from the flat edges, which is why the primary stability is so pronounced.

These factors all combined lead this to be one of the most stable boats out there. Even being in a lighter layup that may make a boat feel more twitchy, this was as rock solid as a wider plastic surfski (which we have also done gear reviews on!


(With all surfski your height, weight, age, current skill level and paddling environment will influence how each boat feels and that dynamic will continue to move back and forth on a spectrum forever. These ratings will give some insight into what the boats shape will do for rating as we begin comparing them to other similar model widths with different outline measurements. We will work towards numerical ratings as more reviews are completed to compare boat to boat on stability.)

Remount Rating: In relation to the comments on stability, those sentiments translate over into the remounting process. With the primary stability wanting to pull the boat back to a level position, it feels like its literally helping you pull back into the boat as you are pulling yourself into it. The rails are in a great spot to not really be in the way, but be conscious of where your fingers are! As you transition your legs around the boat is actively working to stay upright and help you during the process. Definitely a great boat to practice your remount skills with.

(Like Stability Ratings, we will rate remount ratings boat to boat as we complete more reviews.)

Flatwater Testing Overview: For all tests ongoing we will be using the format of 3 miles 4827m at a specific stroke rate. This lake has the same water depth annually for consistency, and the course is marked by 4 buoys that do not change position making it easy to run different boats on the course for cross analysis. The Stroke Rate goal is a submaximal 45SPM(This denotes double strokes, so 90SPM single strokes) with a margin of error for 1SPM 44-46spm. Noting boat weights and rudder sizes as potential future differences amongst similar shaped boats. This serves as a good general guide on boats that vary dramatically in width, but will also be fun to see how similar width boats compare and factoring in the outline measurements towards that.

Flatwater Testing - The battle of stability vs speed is always on a sliding spectrum. As you slide towards stability you lose out on the things that makes a boat fast and vice versa. With stability being no barrier to technique or movement, you can immediately see why paddlers look to transition into sportier boats. I did not really look at the boat too closely until after the time trial and was a little flabbergasted at why it wasn't moving as well as I had imagined. Combined with the 8 inch surf rudder, leg length being a little too far away, and no foot strap to engage (for myself apparently I really utilize it for pulling while one leg pushes!) this time trial was about on par with some of the plastic surfski boats. All the properties that help it stay incredibly stable hold back the boat from really gliding well. Each stroke takes a bit of effort and there is not a big moment of boat glide. Compared to the V8Pro time trial (8:05/mile vs 8:26/mile), it goes beyond the 1 inch difference in width when comparing every other aspect of the boats shaping/design. In contrast the V8Pro is MUCH tippier in comparison which is funny to say since it is also pretty stable. The foot pedals are tensioned with a knot system that is fairly complex to mess with on the fly, so the tension on the pedals wasn't great to take full advantage of the 8 inch rudder on turns. The turn radius on most turns was very wide which added to the speed barriers.

Final Thoughts: There are a lot of strengths that this boat provides being wide for larger paddlers with supreme stability, this is a huge selling point for a lot of paddlers especially coming from the more spacious sea kayak world. When put to the test for most paddlers, stability is king, and the inability to move freely in a narrower boat means they will end up slower than having something wider. I think for many racers this boat will be faster than a narrower counterpart because of that. When stability is no more of a factor, the speed increases will come instantly and dramatically.

Thank you all for checking out the article if you have any questions about boats or our online coaching feel free to message anytime via Live Chat or my email

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