For years the US surf kayak market was dominated by designs characterized by a lack of fins, flat rocker profile, an unchanging rails. Meanwhile in Australia and South Africa waveskis were taking off which employed the advances of shortboards in the 1980′s. These super light sit on top surf craft excelled in performance, but traded off quite a lot of comfort and performance as you were strapped on with a seat belt with no back support and exposed to the elements.
Late in the 90′s a handful of surf kayak enthusiasts began pursuing new innovations in high performance surf kayak design. These were generally backyard enterprises that yielded a boat for the designer, and maybe a couple for friends. Preston Holmes and Corran Addison then designed the Boogie, the first truly high performance surf kayak mass produced by rotomolding. While the design was solid, and the construction state of the art for plastic, the weight and flex put limitations on what the boat could do.
The 88 is the latest advance in bringing waveski style performance to decked kayaks. The design effort was undertaken to blend the best combination of speed, turning, and hold to maximize the paddlers expressive ability. A good design is a subtle combination of features. If you just wanted speed, you would build a hull with almost no rocker. While blazing fast, this boat would hardly turn. A boat with too much rocker, particularly in the tail, will be too slow. The rail is the part of a surf kayak that most critically engages the water. Three critical things must all work together in the rail for it to perform. The rocker profile (viewed from the side) has to be complemented by the plan outline (viewed from above) to engage the rail correctly during drives and turns. When driving down the wave for speed, the front part of the rail must grab and hold onto the wave face, while during turns, the stern behind the pivot must release to allow the boat to carve and slip through turns. This all works in concert with the fins, which must be placed to work together with the paddlers center of gravity and the rail. The 88 has combined all of these characteristics to give a surfing experience makes you feel like the boat is an extension of your body.
The nose or entry rocker on the 88 allows for easy paddle outs over foam piles, as well as radical drop ins. The design allows for an elevated seat to give you more leverage on leaning turns (at the expense of stability). The stern has enough volume to allow for reasonable flatwater paddling (though this boat is built for the wave, not the flatwater), while still being great for squirt turn entries onto a wave, and resists being shoved by whitewater.
The 88 is not an entry level surf kayak, and will feel more like a waveski than a kayak for those that have paddled both. Some of this takes getting used to. The sidewalls are designed to allow for the most radical turns being widest at the rail. This means the boat has negative secondary stability (the more you lean, the MORE it wants to tip). But as you get used to these things and get it on a wave, you will see that these are more than worth the tradeoff.
Designer: Preston Holmes