REVIEW: EPIC KAYAKS V12(2G)

I’ve been waiting on the second generation Epic Kayaks V12 for a long time. As an early adopter of the V14, I’ve loved the speed, clean lines and comfort of this speed demon, but as an inland paddler, I struggled with the stability on rough days out in the ocean. Basically, I would cross that imaginary line of stability verses ability in the rough. The old V12 would have been the answer, but alas, my ridiculously long legs wouldn’t fit in the shorter cockpit. So the new, second generation V12 has been on my radar for a long time. As soon as I got wind that the new V12’s had landed here in the States, I was able to snag one and since then I have never looked back as the V12 has been everything (and more) I had wanted it to be.

Check out this short video clip of the new V12 in action on Fontana Lake. And here’s another clip from Epic’s Kenny Howell of the V12 in action in Hawaii.

LINES & LOOKS: The new V12 shares the same simple attractive lines as the other Epics. The bow has been tucked in a little and is not as plumb as most of the Epic line. The bow deck looks to have more volume than the V14 and it sheds water quickly when surfing. With a wave deflector added to the deck, the boat becomes ridiculously dry. The stern deck looks like other Epics but the tip of the stern is remarkably slender compared to even the V14 or a V10L. The V12 hull is clearly more rockered than the V14 and most of that rocker appears to be in the bow. The rudder is also positioned several inches forward of the V14 by comparison. All these things add up to making the new V12 an amazing downwind platform.

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COMFORT: The cockpit is typical Epic and I have always found their buckets fit my rump extremely comfortably. The V12 is slightly wider than the V14, making it even more comfortable. Cockpit length is identical to the V14 as my footboard falls in the same spot. I did replace the standard footboard with the taller foot board to accommodate my larger feet, but I had done the same in the V14. The hump under your legs feels marginally less pronounced than the V14, giving me a little more room for leg drive. The big difference between the V14 and V12 is the depth of the bucket. The higher sides (freeboard) of the new V12 makes you feel like you are “in” the surfski rather than sitting “on” a surfski, as I feel in the low sided V14. These high sides are just one of the features making this boat so dry in the rough, but remounts are noticeably more difficult than the other Epics as a result, so make sure you practice before heading out. Elsewhere, the cockpit shares the same features you’d expect on the other Epics like the leash attachment point and bailer, etc, but no water bottle holder like some other models.

STABILITY: If the V14 is a 9/10 in terms of stability, the new V12 is a 7 or 8. I have found the V12 to be remarkably more stable in the rough, allowing me to relax and just get more time to identify the next run. I love the way the stability kicks in, which has given me more confidence to find the edges of my own ability. Simply put, it’s a predictable platform for me. I have really enjoyed training during the week in my V14 and then paddling and racing the V12 on the weekends in the rough. Making that transition between the two really highlights just how much easier the V12 is for me to paddle in the rough. Since owning the V12 I have had a chance to chase a wide variety of east coast conditions and have hit several speed PR’s and have consistently linked more runs together than ever before. In fact, it’s in the runs that the V12 really comes alive. It’s effortless to catch runs, less effort to stay on them and chase the next run and more confident on the surf. My only point of contention is using the new V12 with the large surf rudder. If the V14 is a straight line ski, then the V12 feels like a slalom ski sometimes with the aggressive surf rudder. The upside, is that you can easily maneuver around on the surf, but I do plan to put the smaller universal rudder on the V12 and see if it will dampen the rudder feedback just a little.

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SPEED: In the rough, it should come as no surprise that I am faster in the V12. The confidence I am gaining from the stability and dry ride easily erases any difference in flat water speed between the new V12 and my V14. I’ve hit several PR’s in the rough since owning the V12 and also feel that the extra confidence I have found in the V12 has allowed me to explore the edges of my ability and improve as a paddler. In flat water, my average speeds have been measurably slower by a fraction of a kph on a consistent basis over the V14. I even used the new V12 for a recent 25km flatwater race just to see how things stacked up and I believe the lack of fatigue I experience in the later stages of the race was partially due to the comfort and stability. So in short, the V12 does appear to be a small percentage slower than the V14 in flat conditions, but as soon as things start coming alive, that margin is erased for me.

SUMMARY: In summary, I have very quickly become a huge fan of the new V12. It’s everything I was hoping it would be and more. It’s allowing me to paddle better than ever in the rough and the training/racing combination of the V14/V12 is a fantastic balance. If your looking for and elite ski that’s nearing V14 fast but in a more comfortable downwind / rough water platform that surfs like a demon, then the new V12 should be at the top of your list to demo.

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