My Race Experiences with the Nelo 550 Surfski
Flatwater Race – Great Stone Dam Race
The Great Stone Dam Race
is an 8-mile race on the Merrimac River, a broad and slow-moving river that often has some small beam chop and wind. The 550 turns on a dime and the Stone Dam has plenty of turns. I can add a couple of boat lengths each turn so I like the extra buoys in this race. When I make the second-to-last turn it’s back upstream into the wind for one more final turn, conditions that favor the low profile and glide of 550. I can just motor in the 550 under all conditions in flatwater and if anything unexpected happens I’ve got it covered. I’ve tried to use a 560 in this race but each time I relearn that stability lesson and get knocked back a bit for power. I need more time in the 560 so I can get used to the extra movement. The 560 is a rocket.
Long Ocean Race – Light House to Light House
The Lighthouse to Lighthouse is a 14-mile race in Long Island Sound. It’s one of my favorite races due to its location and course, the ocean, but along sand bars and islands. At 14 miles long it’s challenging for me to do the distance. I primarily paddle on a river, 8 to 10 miles, I’m a flatwater paddler no doubt. So at L2L 2017, I find myself working as a river paddler, just counting out strokes. As usual, I’m by myself and it’s small choppy water with some boat swells. I think it’s too small to surf, and I figure why not play around even if it cost me some time. I start catching some short rides and realize that the quick turn of the boat lets me react quickly. It starts to feel like riding a horse but the horse is leading the way. I am having a blast, mid-race, with miles to go, this boat is agile and fun. At the 2018 race, I managed to fall out while in first and still come in second. It was a very small field of racers, but still very exciting! The boat and the race conditions are a perfect match, no boat choice anxiety with the 550, it has a broad range from flat to ocean.
2018 Lighthouse 2 Lighthouse Course
L2L Course Map
Tidal Ocean Bay – Sakonnet River
The Sakonnet River is a very large open area and starts out pretty flat but gradually builds as you approach the Black Rock corner and head for the beach turnaround. After the turn, the water changes to a more ocean-like feel with deep swells breaking against the rocks. When I had the combination of a fast but tippy boat and a very stable boat the breakpoint between the two was very close to New England ocean conditions so I almost needed to bring both boats to decide on the day. At my level, as an experienced intermediate, the 550 covers a really broad range of conditions from flatwater to downwind ocean. And the grind that the Sakonnet often offers up, the tide one way and the wind another, or slack and 90 degrees, or well .. whatever it is the 550 is minimal resistance to get through the grind.