Nelo 510 surfski first impressions and subsequent review

This was originally going to be my James River Rundown boat for 2018 until the James River Association discontinued the event.

Now it is a boat in search of a race.

I’m waiting for the back-ordered, over-stern rudder to arrive before I can do any downriver distance with it, but as it stands, it is a very fast boat for a plastic design.  I do not yet know how it compares to the Epic V7, but hope to have that verdict to you soon.

Initial impressions?

I wish it was sharper in the bow to cut through the water rather than splash and push a bit of water (I felt like it always had a leaf stuck on the front) and wish it had a reasonable space for a water bottle within easy reach, but overall I like this ski.

I’ve got only 14 miles into it over the weekend so a full review will be coming once I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces.

I have to say, the difference between under-stern and over-stern rudder is huge. The shorter ‘wheelbase’ of an under-stern rudder makes turning much more efficient such that it takes very little movement of the peddles to turn the boat significantly.

I’ll explore this more fully in a future review, but once I got everything setup and adjusted I found that if I found myself thinking about using the rudder I was already overthinking it.  Only the slightest press of the foot with a toe involved achieved the desired effect.

And Ben not too many years ago…

* Review/Update 1 year later: *
I like this boat a lot and if I could only own one boat for everything this might be the boat.  But I have discovered some negatives.

  • The plastic is definitely thinner/flimsier than the Epic V7 and I really need to be careful transporting it on hot days.  Yes, that also makes it lighter, but don’t leave it on the top of your car on a hot day strapped on for too long.
  • The “release” point for the overstern rudder should be some angle greater than 90 because when I lift it and turn it vertically and near upside-down to put it on the top of my truck the rudder pops out.
  • I hate that there is no good place for a water bottle in the footwell. If it goes in front of the foot plate it is pretty much unreachable and I don’t like strapping a water bottle under the rear deck bungie.
  • Lastly, with the overstern rudder and hard hatch cover the molded-in carry handles in the cockpit are in the wrong spot and are useless which is extremely annoying. Clearly they never considered where the center of mass is with an overstern rudder attached.
  • That said, I think the overall design of the boat, the shape of the bow and the bailer outweigh most of the other stuff.  It looks cool as hell, too.

I’ve paddled this boat hundreds of miles now and really love it.  Other folks on the water often make comments about how cool it looks and they can’t help but notice how fast it is and comment on that.

I’ve raced it against the V7 and have not managed to beat a V7 with it yet, but that could mean I just went up against superior paddlers.  It is fast, though, and will run strongly with any other plastic boat.  At the 2019 Nelson Downriver Race, I raced her for 8.5 miles against a V7 and my own Cobra Viper kayak (which I still consider to be the fastest plastic kayak ever made,) and I finished within 3 minutes of those two boats and I know those paddlers were stronger/better than I am.

So yes, it is a great boat but it is equal to the V7 in most ways but I believe its looks set it apart.

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