Paddling Buddy Dave and I finally got out for a training run together with these two boats yesterday. He in his Epic V7 and me in my Nelo 510.
We started out and maintained a healthy pace for a while to see if one boat pulled ahead of the other, given that we are fairly equal paddlers.
The two boats kept even with each other.
Then we switched boats and did a few sprints. Dave initially thought he got the 510 going faster than he ever had in his V7, at 7.7mph, but I quickly pointed out he was heading down wind. I mounted his V7 (the first time I ever paddled one) and watched the GPS behave almost exactly how it does in the 510.
We then switched boats back again and continue to log 15.5 training miles with numerous sprints and we were not able to discern any difference in speed between the two boats.
That was good news for me as I was hoping to find a plastic ski that could keep up with a V7 without being a V7.
I found it in the Nelo 510.
I now have a competitive plastic ski for downriver races that is stable and comfortable enough for ultra-marathon races.
The interesting thing to keep in mind, however, is the Nelo 510 is 3″ shorter than the V7 and about 1/2 of an inch wider, so on paper it would seem a slightly shorter and wider boat, therefore slower, but we did not find that.
We conclude the two boats are pretty much equal in speed and we were able to get each one up to 7.0mpg with no wind on flat water.
If I had to give a edge to one boat or the other I would have to give it to the 510 for being a bit lighter, and because it is shorter, might sneak into lesser race category than the V7 if race classes are separated at the 17′ mark.
The bow design of the Nelo 510 also creates the illusion of a much sleeker boat. In fact, when I paddled the V7 the bow just seemed like a big bubble there up in front of me. The higher volume bow of the V7 probably gives it an edge when bobbing back up to the surface through class III rapids.
We shall see.
But for now, we are calling the boats even in terms of speed.
It is interesting to keep in mind that Nelo has essentially created a “me too” boat in the plastic surfski category but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Paddlers will not find much of anything in the 510 that the V7 doesn’t already deliver. So I question Nelo’s logic for even creating this boat. With the V7 already the dominant player in the category (here in the U.S. anyway,) Nelo should have come out with something significantly superior and they did not, so I’m not sure what market niche they were aiming for exactly.
I believe they missed an opportunity, but I suppose it does provide Nelo an entry-level, affordable, plastic ski in their product portfolio, so I get that. It gives them an entry-level ski to bring people into the sport and hopefully have them move up the Nelo ladder.
I just don’t think they made it significantly superior or more affordable than other plastic ski options with already-established market presence, so I can’t imagine it displacing its competition amongst those who already own the competition.
UPDATE April 2020:
Some final thoughts at the back end of this video.
The Nelo 510 has not caught on in the U.S. After racing against various V7’s with this boat, I still call them equal in terms of speed. The plastic on the 510 does seem a bit thinner than that of the V7 so I believe there is a bit of a durability trade-off for the lighter boat.
The 510 is probably one of those boats that I’ll never sell because it is so versatile and easily moves from flat water to downriver racing. And the fact that there aren’t too many of them in the U.S. makes it even more appealing to me since I hate to paddle what everyone else is paddling.
It will never be my choice for speed on flat water, but it has its place when I’m paddling with slower paddlers and I’m looking for stability.
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