Nelo 550 Surfski Review
Overview Nelo 550 Highlights
I’ve been using a Nelo 550 ski for 5 years for almost all races and training. I’ve had both WWR and SCS and both generations, G1, and G2. Since we now sell Nelo skis this review is more of an overview and is presented subjectively with all the enthusiasm that these lively boats create!
Nelo Ergonomics and Volume Sizing
These boats are comfortable! The paddling position is based on the K1 racing position for forward stroke and is also easy on the back as your feet are well below your seat. The bucket shape in 550L G2 is generous. With no crowding from the sides or back of the bucket, I find I sit up straighter and can stay in the bucket longer. I joked if my 550 had wheels I’d drive it around town.
About Nelo Sizes
Nelo surfskis are available by size, both the boat volume (hull circumference) and bucket width increase. The guidelines really overlap depending mostly on weight and hip size for fit. The other important consideration is stability, you may be the weight size for an ML but prefer a boat with more volume for stability. The XXL is not a massive boat, it’s a subtle but effective increase. My 6’5″ son paddles in a 540 XXL and I also use the same boat to take out female friends who are a foot shorter than he, much lighter, and novices. Boats do not need to be tight on you, you get your connection from the foot straps and your paddle. Also most people like to be loose in the bucket for good rotation. At 5’10” and under 160 (72kg) the L fits me perfectly for both size and volume.
ML under 75kg (165 lbs) | L 75kg – 90kg (165 lbs – 200 lbs) | XXL over 90kg (200 lbs)
When people sit in my boat the first reaction is:
This bucket is so comfortable.
The second reaction is:
This boat accelerates!
Stability and Acceleration!
Since paddling the G2 550 I’ve noticed my starts are faster, my overall cadence is up and my stroke is shorter. I thought it might be due to some time on the kayak erg. The erg offers less resistance so I get the feel of cranking up the cadence. Or maybe it was some technique improvements, but now I think it’s got a lot to do with the boat. Everyone talks about stability and speed and it’s tough to accommodate both but the 550 is stable with acceleration. It responds rapidly!
In my case, I’m more stable and the seating position favors a powerful forward stroke. I switched to the hard pullbars and they keep me balanced forward and draw my catch forward as I have a push/pull action. I can more easily prevent bumping up against the bucket back with all this forward action. These improvements combined with the quick acceleration response have resulted in a shorter stroke, higher cadence, and the ability to stay in the upper mid-range speed zone with less effort. It feels like all the axis are moved forward, it’s a salty K1!
Flatwater and Ocean Racing and Training
These are the two boats I’ve used almost exclusively for 5 years. I’ve also used Epic V10 Sport, Epic V10L, Nelo 560, Nelo Viper 46, Vadja K1 Masters, Kayak Pro Jet, Stellar 18S, Mohican, even a giant Huki S1 a couple times.
For more about Surfski Paddles, how to select and purchase.
My Race Experiences with the Nelo 550 Surfski
Flatwater Race – Great Stone Dam Race
Long Ocean Race – Light House to Light House
Tidal Ocean Bay – Sakonnet River
Chris L: So have there been any racing or training situations that you thought the shorter ski might be at a disadvantage, where you wondered if a longer ski might have been an advantage?
Oscar C: Nope. I really have never felt I was at a disadvantage in my shorter ski, in fact I only see advantages. Another nice benefit of our shorter surfski design is that we have been able to make some 7.5kg surfski’s. Building such lightweight and strong skis is actually that much easier to accomplish with a shorter ski, and we all like that!
Nelo 550 Details
by lowering the seat and keeping the “K1” angle
Nelo 550 Hull Design Acceleration and Glide
The Gen 2 boat has been redesigned with a deeper bucket and footwell and with a reverse rocker just under the bucket midline ridge. I switch back and forth between Gen 1 and Gen 2 boats quite a bit. G1 is not an unstable boat (for an experienced intermediate) by any means but the G2 is definitely even more stable. Both have a lively rolling primary and a solid secondary. While I saw a bump up in my times when I moved to smaller, lighter skis I also notice a better ability to accelerate and then hold those upper-moderate racing speeds, that steady and fast but not all-out speed. On our river, I’ll get to 6.5 to 7.0 mph downstream, upstream has both current and wind so drops down to 5.5 to 6.0 depending. My goal is to someday hit a 6.5 mph average at the end of a season on a roundtrip river run, I hit 6.2 last Fall.
by moving the pivot point forward
Catching Waves and Turns
The G2 design moves the pivot point forward resulting in increased maneuverability. Nelo’s were already quick turning but since the pivot point has been moved forward the boat turns on a dime. In any race with a few turns in it, I can add a couple of boat lengths and it’s so fun to be in a race, head to head, and see that buoy coming up and lean into the turn. I always glance over at whoever is with me to see if they know what’s going to happen. I use the Nelo carbon footplate (FastPaddler boats have this added option!) and prefer the carbon pull bar. I like snug-fitting foot straps with rigid padded pull bars, no extra wiggle room. Better for stability and I can push with the drive leg and pull with the recovery leg. It amps up leg drive and rotation, moves the catch forward, and gets rid of any slide toward the back of the bucket.
WEIGHT IS REDUCED
by making a stiffer, more responsive, shorter boat
Stiff Construction, Low Weight
Nelo surfski paddlers benefit from Nelo’s long history of building racing K1 and C1 boats, the Nelo surfskis are beautifully made. Both 550 WWR and SCS versions are rigid due to the seamless construction and so they can also be lighter and still maintain stiffness. The shorter-length boats are lighter and easier to carry since they present less of a sail to the wind. Easy to pop it right up on a roof rack and the 550 fits in a garage.