Brett McDonald from Western Australia has tested Carbonology Sport’s Flash and written a review.
When I was first offered the opportunity to demo the “Flash”, Carbonology’s first foray into the full length elite ski market, I recalled Surfski.info’s impression in his review of the Carbonology Atom, “it made me look like a paddling super-hero”. But on my first encounter with the “Flash” the first impression I got was that it presented more like a mild mannered Clark Kent than some super hero.
While the “Flash” decals are just that, the ski is much like the other Carbonology ski’s, somewhat understated or to once again borrow from Surfski.info’s Atom review “simple and elegant”.
This mesh’s quite well with what I know of the Carbonology team of manufacturer and distributors, they are content to let the skis talk for themselves and have been a slowly but surely increasing their presence in the ski market without much fanfare.
At the beginning of the year I had been paddling a Carbonology Vault for around 10 months and more out of jest than anything else I posted on the Carbonology Facebook page that a full length version of the Vault was on my wish list for 2012, much to my surprise the reply was “have you been spying on us?… watch this space!”
Here we are 6 months later and after being initially released on the European market it has finally landed on Western Australian shores.
The Vault I have been paddling is in the Hybrid lay-up so when I was asked which lay-up I would like to demo the flash in I went for the same lay-up. I have found the hybrid lay-up of Glass re-enforced with Carbon to be quite stiff and very robust. My ski is still in excellent condition despite the accidental knocks that all skis cop over time, I really think it is the best value for money from all the lay-ups available. As opposed to other manufacturers who quote a weight for specific ski’s Carbonology have gone the ball park method. There is obviously much less material used in say an Atom to a Flash, yet they quote a flat 12kg for all hybrid lay-up single ski’s.
On the bathroom scales test my Vault weighs in at 12.5kg while the Flash weighs in at 13kg.
Width at seat: 445mm
Width at front of footwell: 315mm
Deck height in front of footwell: 345mm
Nose height at front of ski: 265mm
So to those familiar with the Vault how does it compare… well I lined the two ski’s up bucket to bucket and this is what I found, there is an extra 30cm in the nose and 13cm in the tail.
After 35 km’s in the Flash over 3 days this week I have yet to have any issues, the bucket is quite snug on my 90kg 6 ft 2in frame which I feel adds to my stability. While initially I though the bucket a narrower version of the Vault bucket I also noticed that the hump under the knees is lower. This is sure to please the short legged paddler who has problems with big humps under the knees. When setting up the footplate for my leg length I also noticed that the bucket is slightly longer, not sure exactly how much but there is at least two more notches left on the footplate adjustment in the Flash. Given that I am 6ft 2in you would need damn long legs to max this bucket out.
Looking forward from the bucket this ski is decidedly thin. Take a close look at the photos and get yourself a tape measure out, a 315mm catch!!!
The footplate is the standard Carbonology plate which appears to be a favoured design among many ski manufacturers. The footlength can be adjusted in a matter of seconds by pulling out the locator lugs, adjusting the length then feeding the rudder lines through the pedals to bring them back upright. The only time some knot tying is required is when you wish to adjust the pedal angle.
Carbonology ski’s use stainless steel rudder cables attached to cord in the footwell, which in my mind is the best of both words, giving very precise rudder control and feel while allowing easy adjustment footplate length and rudder pedal angle.
First Paddling Impressions
The morning a picked up the Flash I was meeting with my regular Saturday morning training group in the Estuary and Canals around Mandurah, Western Australia. The tide was running quite fast that morning so any thoughts of ascertaining what speed this ski would do were out the window. This paddle would be able feel. After sliding into the bucket I expected a twitchy start but found that while the primary stability was a little more lively than the Vault I was used to, the ski had the same characteristics as the Vault, in other words it was quite predictable. After the initial group banter over the ski we settled into a moderate 15km session. I found the ski tracked quite well and didn’t appear to wander when washriding other ski’s, something I have struggled with in the past in the Vault. After about 8km I actually forgot I was in a new elite level ski, I just felt right at home and was able to really concentrate on my technique.
Speed versus Stability
The following day the wind was up in the ocean waters about 200 metres from my house so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how the ski handles the sloppy stuff.
The biggest reason I bought a Vault was for the added stability it gave over the previous Epic V10L I had been paddling for the 9 months prior. The Vault have me a smidgeon more stability which enabled me to really apply my technique properly.
When I decided I wanted something quicker again I started paddling most of the big name elite skis, which reminded me of the speed versus stability question again…just how much extra speed can I get out of this ski in choppy conditions or when I am fatigued.
So I put the speed versus stability question to the test with a 5.3km triangular ocean course in 10-15 knot winds and a short wind driven chop of 1-2 foot .
I recorded each timetrial on my garmin, but placed the garmin where I couldn’t see it as I didn’t want to have the speed displayed encourage my performance. I went flat out for both efforts with a 40 minute rest period in between.
The first leg of the course was cross chop for about 600m then turned into a approx 2.5km upwind leg with the chop at about a 20 degree angle from the right before turning for a straight downwind leg of about 2.2km.
I took the Vault out first and as I bought this ski for it’s cross chop and upwind abilities found the going pretty straight forward. I was copping some waves in the lap over the bow and the odd one in the chest but the double bullet scuppers made quick work of the water in the footwell. Then it was around the marker and into the short steep downwind chop in the Vault which is always fun in this short ski.
After my rest I set off on the Flash for a warm up then headed off cross wind. The ski was just a little tippier but not to the extent that I needed to brace, maybe a few wider strokes on occasion were needed to make sure I wasn’t leaning too far but I didn’t feel unsure in the ski. I did catch myself feeling like I needed to hurry up, maybe that I wasn’t achieving the same stroke rate that I had on the Vault? Turning upwind the effect was almost immediate, the longer length of the ski ironed out the chop and the lesser degree of pitching kept the ride much drier. Although the wind was 20 degrees from the right the low volume nose wasn’t affected. Again I felt as though I was putting in some wider strokes and couldn’t rate as highly. As I rounded the marker for the downwind I was right on a runner and as my GPS will later tell me I accelerated straight up to 15km/hr….then as I kicked the rudder pedal to move off the runner as it dissipated I found myself in the water!!! What the heck?!..how did that happen?! That question didn’t last too long in my mind as the realisation that I was 2 km offshore in waters where a Great White attacked a ski only the week before rushed into my mind. It was at this point I realised that I hadn’t given any thought as to whether I’d be able to get into this narrower bucket while rocking around?…a few deep breaths and I was up and in the bucket, one foot in, brace, start paddling then lift the second foot in and I was away!! In no time I was back and gliding on these runners. The thought later occurred to me… I have a small river rudder on the Vault which really needs to be worked hard to steer in these conditions, I hadn’t given the Flash’s ocean rudder the respect it deserved and paid the price. Now I was aware of how well it steered I had no further problems and quickly found myself paddling through waves to catch the next lump.
When I finished the course on the Flash I honestly had no idea which ski had gone faster, so after a few photos of the ski on the beach it was home to download the tracks and analyse the data.
I wasn’t surprised at what I observed, the Flash and the Vault were neck and neck on the cross chop and upwind and if you were to twist my arm for a winner I would probably have to say that I think the Vault was the better performer. In the downwind the Vault appeared to have better acceleration onto the short steep chop but the Flash held the chop better and didn’t seems to wallow off the back of runs as much. I was able to be just as aggressive in steering the Flash and could paddle as hard as I wanted through a wave to get onto a run without feeling the wobble I have experienced in some elite skis.
Taking into account the 30 seconds it took me to remount and get going from my swim the Vault was only 30 seconds quicker over the 5.3km course, not a definitive result by any stretch of the imagination.
After my swim I decided to check out the rudder and found that it was a swept back eliptical rudder. Hein from Carbonology stated that in testing the usual rudder shape was too aggressive and this new rudder smoothed that out but still gave good feel and response.
One pleasant surprise was that they have kept the same rudder shaft length, so I was able to swap out the ocean rudder for my river rudder, however the new elliptical rudder has the shaft set further back from the leading edge so if fitting a weed deflector it needs to be done with the ocean rudder fitted so as not to foul it when switching rudders.
Top Secret one way draining bullet scuppers
Hein from Carbonology tells me they have been able to integrate a one way valve into their bullet scuppers that stops the footwell from filling with water when you slow to a stop. This would be very handy sitting on the start line to a race. Unfortunately they are only fitted as an option on new skis and he didn’t see fit to send a ski with them fitted to us for review so I was unable to test its performance. I look forward to hearing what becomes of this new design.
After almost a week of windy choppy conditions the storm cleared away and the ocean on Friday evening was like a pond. The mooring lines on the boats hung slack and each boat pointed in a different direction. No wind, no currents, ideal conditions to test the ski’s speed against the Vault. So on went the garmin and I plotted a 1km course in deep water just off the coast. After first paddling the Vault at my 80% effort I walked the 200 metres home, got the Falsh and came back to do the same stretch of water. Once again after warming up it was an 80% effort. The difference between the two ski’s was .3km/hr.
A couple of day ago I was given the opportunity to paddle the Flash in a 27km river marathon. I have been training hard for our local marathon series and was excited to see how this ski would go.
I wont go into a full blown race report but what I found was that the ski washrode beautifully and as opposed to previous events in the Vault where I have been at my redline pace to stay with the lead bunch I had the energy to do more washleads. I also ended up with a .3km/hr better average over the race than in a previous marathon event a month earlier in the Vault.
This result was enough for me to trade my Vault in for the Flash!
Finally in a training session with my training squad on Monday night , we were doing 5 x 8 minute reps at 80%. On the final rep another paddler and I usually push one another as hard as we can until one of us drops of…and until last night that was always me… not any more, while I have only found the ski to be marginally quicker than the Vault at my marathon pace I believe it’s narrower hull does allow it to run better a higher speeds and as I get stronger I will see a greater degree of improvement in this new ski without having to sacrifice a great deal of stability. I have yet to see what improvements I can make in downwind conditions but with how stable I am in this ski now I am excited to see.
- Those looking for a low volume ski that isn’t prone to being blown around by cross winds.
- Those currently paddling an elite level ski who find it too twitchy but don’t want to sacrifice speed
- Those looking to move up from an intermediate ski such as the Vault, Swordfish or Evo II.