Spirit PRS 570
TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE, sums up this versatile Australian plastic surfski. Despite resembling other skis (to the untrained eye at least), this one’s tail reveals a major difference: it features an over-stern rudder like the river kayaks we see doing our local river races.
That, coupled with its plastic shell and in-built buoyancy means it’s as at home in a river as any kayak. Thumps against rocks are not going to crack its skin like would happen to fibreglass. In Oz it’s used with a protective nose-cone as a racing boat in the Avon Descent.
Tested on a two-hour sea paddle with a 12kg carbon racing ski for comparison, our two weekend warriors came to some interesting conclusions. The 5.7m, 21kg Spirit is far more sluggish from a standing start and retained water in the single footwell longer than the racing ski. However, we were pleasantly surprised by how the Spirit maintained its speed once cruising velocity was reached. In fact, with a slightly stronger and fitter Paddler A in the Spirit, it held its own against Paddler B in the racing ski.
Once boats were swopped, both testers agreed that the seating height on the Spirit felt lower and this resulted in much better stability.
This means it will be a superb beginner boat to play around in both sea and river. Its serious shortcoming, apart from price, is weight. It’s heavier than the average double racing ski. The Australian agent informs us that future models will weigh 2kg less. The placement of no fewer than four handles will make hauling around on land with a helper easy, but helpers aren’t always around. We felt that a handle at the front of the cockpit would make it easier to control than the two on the edges, especially while standing in surf. We were disappointed to see that the venturie (water outlet pipe) had been cut too long and was restricting the outflow of water.
On the steering side of things, the clunky 4mm-thick stainless steel rudder could be replaced with a lighter aluminium component to reduce weight. Best of all, the Spirit handled surf riding admirably and is a boat we’d consider seriously as an all-round paddling acquisition.
Top marks: Use anywhere, stable, adjustable cockpit
For: Multisport training boat, families
Against: Weight, price
Pope’s Canoes 033 394 1450
Retail R9 863