The launching of the Grey Ghost (Stellar SES Multisport surfski)

Fitness paddling: A new beginning!

Flex Maslan Miami kayakfari stellar surfski kayak biscayne bay virginia key vkoc paddle ses

Test paddling the Stellar SES surfski at Miami’s VKOC – Virginia Key Outdoor Center!
Note the twin rudder setup and the Multisport construction layup!

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In the summer of 2017 I suddenly found myself in the market for a new surfski. After 20 years of paddling my old ski ‘ONE-WAY →‘, a Findeisen Shearwater surfski from the 90’s era, I finally wore out it’s backbone (stringer). Being my most paddled boat by far, she had served me well over the years, but was no longer a seaworthy craft!

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Florida kayakfari hat long surfski kayak miami Adventure Art Fitness ft lauderdale kayakfari.com Flex Maslan beach photography

ONE-WAY→”
My old surfski balanced perfectly on my head!

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On a chance visit to Wayne Albert and Esther Luft’s Virginia Key Outdoor Center (VKOC) just off Key Biscayne in Miami, I was introduced to the Stellar SES (Stellar Elite Small) surfski. Wayne (aka Mosquito Magnet) mentioned that he ordered it in the Multisport layup for his adventure marathon racing, but it turned out not to be a good fit for him. I decided on a test paddle, not really realizing what I was getting into. About the only thing that popped into my head at the time were the words ‘grey ghost’ as soon as I saw the boat!

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This Stellar SES 2G dimensions are as follows:

Length: 20’4″ / 6.2m
Beam: 16.4″ / 41.6cm
Depth: 13.8″ / 35cm
Paddler: 5′-6’3″ / 1.5 – 1.9m
Capacity: 200 lbs / 90kg

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This is actually the second generation (2G) of the SES with some refinements as manufactured by Hangzhou Flying Eagle Boat Co., Ltd in Zhejiang Province, P.R.C.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Admiring the fine lines of the Stellar SES.

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Stellar SES 2G characteristics:

Swede form hull shape
Fine entry and responsive hull shape
Low wetted surface area for minimum drag
High volume bow for rough conditions
Lower volume quicker draining cockpit
Excellent secondary stability
Durable gelcoat finish
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Since I am 6’2″ at 160lbs, the dimensions indicated a good fit on paper at least. My first thought was that this was going to be a tippy boat – but I was only partially correct. Initial, or primary stability is indeed low to moderate, the result of the narrow beam and almost circular hull cross-section. The hull on the SES never really flattens out, however it does flare up significantly where it meets the deck. This gives the SES tremendous secondary stability which is key for paddling at speed on the ocean!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Sleek, shiny brand new hull of the Stellar SES Multisport at the put-in at Virginia Key Outdoor Center.

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First impressions:

Perfect fit for me! (important)
Excellent cutout on the fore deck for a very narrow catch.
Manageable initial stability.
Excellent secondary!!
Seemingly impervious to beam seas at speed.
Really FAST boat!

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I should mention that the SES is probably not the best choice for beginning surfski paddlers. There is most definitely a learning curve involved! The SES is 2 inches narrower than my old surfski, which I had gotten quite used to in all manner of conditions. I found that the biggest difference in stability became apparent mostly when still or moving slowly. This is a boat that needs to be paddled fast but with a bit of a gentle touch so as not to needlessly over react. As others have also noted, the SES has great secondary stability for a ski and thanks to it’s rounded hull is almost impervious to taking on beam seas once at speed!

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flex maslan kayakfari one does not simply kayak meme humor stellar ses surfski miami vkoc imgflip.com

It’s true that one does not simply paddle a 16″ wide kayak!
The SES, like the rest of Stellar’s SE line is not for the beginner surfski paddler.
It is however a phenomenally good paddling boat! 🙂

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This particular Stellar SES came in their Multisport layup features a single skin laminate hull made of Carbon and Kevlar layers with an EPS Foam stringer in the center. The idea is to have a more pliable hull that can absorb impacts and bounce off submerged objects that can be encountered in very shallow waters. For this reason the Multisport surfskis also come standard with an over stern rudder for minimal draft.

After a couple of test paddles I got a decent feel for the boat and pulled the trigger when VKOC made me a very attractive offer that I could not refuse! 🙂

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Virginia Key Outdoor Center Miami vkoc kayakfari stellar ses surfski kayak paddle flex maslan biscayne bay

Taking my new Stellar SES surfski home!
Image courtesy VKOC – Virginia Key Outdoor Center.

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The Multisport layup is intended to be tough and as such is not the lightest layup for the SES. The weight listed is just about the same as for the basic Sport layup at 33.5 lbs. For comparison, the lightest layup for the SES comes in at 22.5 lbs! Of course, there is also a huge price difference and a different use. I am not a sprint racer, nor an adventure racer, but I do appreciate a durable boat. I like fitness paddling, surfing swells and working out and this layup is just fine for me!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The SES Multisport layup features a pliable Carbon/Kevlar hull finished in clear gelcoat.

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Stellar uses an EPS foam center stringer in the Multisport layup construction that runs most of the length of the boat. Because my boat came with an access hatch I was able to peek inside!

One day I noticed that the foam was partly loose inside the boat and that I could wiggle it. I called up Deb at Stellar USA who informed me that the foam was only glued to the deck – well my copy was only glued to the hull! It took me a couple more attempts to get more information about this discrepancy. I was put on the phone with Ed Hofmeister, one of the owners of the company who assured me that was intentional design to allow it to “float” inside the boat. I can see this makes sense, though it’s never a good feeling to feel something loose inside a new boat. I suppose that without the access hatch most Multisport owners will probably never notice this. The Stellar team then suggested I buy a special glue to finish it off if it bothered me, but one could argue that it should have come from the factory like that! In all honesty, I really would have appreciated better communication – as stellar it was not. Regardless, I haven’t experienced any problems, although the boat definitely flexes more in the waves than my old ski (when it was in good shape). I suppose this is the difference between a solid and a foam center stringer!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Peeking inside the bow through the drain hole reveals the foam center stringer.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Looking towards the stern on the inside shows the pink center foam pillar, honeycomb core deck and Carbon/Kevlar hull of the Multisport contruction layup!

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The EPS foam center stringer is actually only attached to the hull on my boat. I expect to use this ski in the ocean 99% of the time, and do not expect to hit any submerged objects. Therefore I want the foam to not move laterally if it can be avoided! Instead of gluing with a smelly glue, I decided to allow the foam to continue “floating” but also to sit inside a groove of sorts. I formed this groove by attaching some 6mm self-stick foam strips on either side, deck and hull for a couple of feet.

Several sessions later, I am happy to report that this has done the trick and the boat feels less “springy” in the ocean. The foam stringer is doing it’s job in stiffening up the boat!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The SES seat bucket from the inside shows the contoured foam stringer under the seat.
The white is 1/16″ self stick foam sheet I used to line the area under the access hatch.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Stellar SES surfski Multi-Sport construction diagram.
Click this pic link for more info on Stellar’s site!

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One of the big differences between my old ski and the SES is that there is now a comparatively large tub that can completely fill up with water. The tub is shaped well for drainage, however it will not drain until the boat is moving. This is common to most modern surfskis and not unique to Stellar. It can take a bit to drain all the water out if completely full. Fortunately the boat doesn’t suffer much stability-wise, just a little performance-wise. Most of the time only a little bit of water ends up in the cockpit which drains very quickly! On the Multisport layup, drainage is done via an Anderson style bailer. In my boat it appears to actually be the Super Mini model and works very well.

Once all the water is sucked out at speed, the bailer will make various sounds. Sometimes it sounds slurpy, sometimes like an exhaling marine mammal, sometimes a hissing/sucking sound! I tend to leave it open only when I know I will be encountering larger waves or boat wakes.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Flush mounted Anderson Super Mini bailer installed in the Stellar SES Multisport surfski.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Anderson bailer and bottle holder in the SES Multisport tub.

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Stellar uses a very solid 3 point adjustable foot track system with straps and dyneema rudder lines.

One thing I discovered very quickly is that it pays to optimally adjust for your leg length. It took me a couple or three sessions to really dial it in and made a noticeable difference in stability in choppy seas! With the right length, I get a forward posture with really good leg drive. This is something I never had in my old ski because it was always a bit short for my legs. I expect further improvements to my technique that will carry over to my other boats! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Stellar provides a very solid adjustable 3 point attachment system for the footplate on the SES surfski.
The unused area in front is ideal for a hydration bladder or in this case, to hold my crocs!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The SES Multisport comes standard with an over-stern rudder. However for ocean paddling mine also came with an 8″ under-stern rudder!

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The pliable Multi-Sport hull and over-stern standard rudder open up new possibilities for surfski paddling with minimal draft.

For instance ultra-minimalist fast distance paddling across the Everglades!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Test paddling the Stellar SES surfski at Norris Cut just around the corner from VKOC.

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Virginia Key Outdoor Center (VKOC)

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The as yet unnamed SES on the beach at Mizell-Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park in Dania.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Late afternoon session with the Stellar SES surfski.

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Paddling the Stellar SES is a treat! The hull has a super fine entry with a swede form. The bow has lots of volume and effectively prevents pearling when surfing. Also the deck peak is pretty high in front of my feet so she’s a pretty dry ride! I’m using the standard 8″ under-stern surf rudder and really can’t complain about the handling. With the narrow catch up front, it’s easy to dig into a stroke and get phenomenal bursts of speed with my SES!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The access hatch provided by Stellar on the SES Multisport is just big enough to drop in a small drybag, camera or hydration bladder(s).

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

When my Stellar SES became the Grey Ghost, I added a second set of bungees to hold a lifejacket. This makes remounting the ski a lot easier!

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The access hatch was installed at the factory and is an added bonus. It’s just big enough for a small drybag because the space inside is bisected by the foam center stringer. The lid is tethered, so it’s easy to clip things to it so that they don’t slide around inside the boat!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Stellar greetings from the beach! 🙂
Paddling on Whiskey Creek at Mizell-Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park in Dania Beach.

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I like to name my boats, so my Stellar SES quickly became the

Grey Ghost

with an alien twist! 😉

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle tuktu greenland

The Grey Ghost and a Greenland stick!

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I am probably different from most surfski buyers in that I’ve never been much into the racing scene. I intend to use the Grey Ghost for personal fitness paddling, working out and some distance touring. Why then get a specialized ‘racing’ type boat? Well, I do like to paddle fast when conditions allow and love to get long rides on ocean swells or suitable powerboat wakes! I like paddling a high-end boat that takes skill to paddle and is a bit of a challenge. I expect this one to become my most paddled kayak, as was my old surfski for the last 20 years!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle tuktu greenland

Surfski and a Greenland stick?
Yes. It is a combination that can work!

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It’s not often that one sees a surfski and a Greenland stick in the same picture!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle tuktu greenland

My Red Cedar solid Greenland stick from Tuktu Paddles and the Grey Ghost.
I find that the narrow stick can effectively move the ski with the right technique for training purposes. It really helps to learn the stability characteristics of the new surfski!!

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Paddling the Grey Ghost with the stick is a different experience, although I think complimentary to using a wing paddle. Obviously acceleration is not the same, but once up to speed, cruising becomes almost effortless with the stick. Top speed is also limited, but I found that I could actually get a better feel for this new hull! I came to realize that the stick puts the balance back into the hips, and the hips don’t lie! Because it’s harder to get a solid bite into the stroke, I consider the stick to be a great tool for learning the stability profile of the SES / Grey Ghost!!

I would also consider the Greenland stick for long distance cruising with minimal impact and effort, especially in relatively flat conditions.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle tuktu greenland

Surfski with a Greenland stick is an unorthodox combination, yet can work particularly well in flat water conditions.
Acceleration and top end speed are not comparable to a wing paddle, but it’s literally a good change of pace and excellent aide to mastering the stability profile of the Stellar SES surfski!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Is this what they mean by “Care Culo” .. lol?
My customized 6mm foam seat pad – here’s lookin’ at you! 😉
CLICK: The fine art of surfski padding for optimal paddling!

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The seat bucket in the Stellar SES was already a perfect match for me and very comfortable. It’s always good to have some padding, so I went with 6mm self-stick foam that I custom cut to size. Later I cut out the “eyes” to better locate my hip bones in the seat. I’m pretty happy with my foam customization campaign on the Grey Ghost! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

“Safe Worship” – Church of the Double Bladed Paddle services on Biscayne Bay!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Riding the Grey Ghost with the Miami skyline on the horizon.

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Some photography cruising around South Florida –

putting the Stellar SES / Grey Ghost through it’s paces.

Some images are also links to other stories you may like!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

Tall afternoon summer clouds over the Miami skyline in high contrast!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The Grey Ghost under the Cape Florida lighthouse on the tip of Key Biscayne.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The Grey Ghost at Stiltsville!
Click for Kayak Miami: Stiltsville Village in Biscayne Bay.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The Grey Ghost in a classic Key Biscayne beach scene! 🙂

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flex maslan kayakfari Whiskey Creek Dania Irma hurricane kayak beach conch damage impact erosion storm surge conch lives matter

“Conch Lives Matter!”
The Grey Ghost on Dania Beach after Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma aftermath at Dania Beach and Mizell Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park.

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I’m still in the process of picking the right wing paddle for the Grey Ghost.

I’ve settled on a medium size blade and twist that’s a good match for me but haven’t decided on the brand yet.

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flex maslan kayakfari Whiskey Creek Dania Irma hurricane kayak beach conch damage impact erosion storm surge

The Grey Ghost on Dania Beach and cruise ship leaving port after Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma aftermath at Dania Beach and Mizell Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park.

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I hope you’ve found this useful if you’re considering a new ski, particularly one of the Stellar Elite (SE) lineup of racing surfskis. They do come in different sizes to fit different folks and layups to accommodate different uses.

Have a test paddle at your local Stellar dealer.

Once you go surfski, you never go back!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses multisport kayak grey ghost miami biscayne vkoc paddle

The Grey Ghost on the beach with a medium size carbon wing paddle.
I find this is the best fitness paddling combination for the Stellar SES! 🙂

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Enjoy!

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

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