The Epic 18X Sport is designed, like the 18X, for intermediate to advanced touring paddlers seeking a distinct edge in a high-performance kayak. Paddlers find the increased stability and sleek, efficient shape of the 18X allow them to cover long distances with exceptional ease and speed, and that it performs great in rough water conditions. In addition to all the features that come standard on an Epic, the 18X Sport includes the advanced Epic Track Master™ steering system, an adjustable seat, large storage capacity, and front deck cutaways for a closer, more efficient stroke. While the 18X and 18X Sport beam widths are equivalent, the waterline width of the 18X Sport is approximately ¾” wider than the 18X.
Read and submit reviews for the Epic 18X Sport.
Nomex honeycomb core; Woven carbon and Kevlar fabric; Vacuum bagged, heat-cured epoxy; Red bow & stern
I bought this boat in 2016 and have logged many days, a few overnight trips, and a couple races on it. I love it, but it's very much the red-headed stepchild of a surfski company that decided to foray into the sea kayak market. With this boat, it's important to understand that it was built with a specific purpose: for advanced paddlers looking to do long-distance expeditions as fast as possible. The design reflects that; it's stripped down, minimalist, and everything possible to cut weight was done. The hatches are simple, the bulkheads thin (so thin they can be prone to cracking), and the rigging is minimal. It's a very boring boat to look at. At its heart, this boat is a wide surfski wearing an elaborate disguise. It has no secondary stability or edging, almost no rocker, and is almost impossible to turn without the rudder. Traditional sea kayakers will hate this boat, as you paddle it in a completely different style: turn with the rudder, use braces for stability, and paddle with your knees together. The lack of secondary stability means it's quite tippy in choppy waters if you're not used to it, compared to a normal sea kayak. However, the quirks above all lead to one thing: speed. This is probably the fastest sea kayak on the market. The cutaways and foot board mean you can drive a huge amount of power into your stroke, and the boat is so light and rigid that it just launches up to speed. It occupies a strange speed range: it's much faster than other kayaks (I've received mean looks and snide comments from other racers in the sea kayak category when I finish literal miles ahead). But, it's still slower than almost all surfskis (I've also watched the entire fleet in a surfski race disappear over the horizon). So with all the above, who should buy this boat? Traditional kayakers will scoff at it. It's too slow to race with the surfskis and too fast to race with the kayaks (unless you want an easy way to win). This boat is excellent for a narrow subset of speed tourers. So if you're a surfski racer who wants a boat to take on overnight trips, or a sea kayaker that wants to get around as fast as you can, this is the boat for you.
I bought a 2017 black tail/nose version about 2 months ago, and have used it 16 times, for a total of about 125 km on tidal inlet waters. This kayak was added as a workout machine to complement my Necky Manitou 14 (reviewed) which is now my "beach basher".
Me: 61, good health, active, etc. ~190lb, 5' 10".
I'm using a Werner Ikelos (reviewed) paddle, which in combination with the Epic, really produces a good turn of speed. Typical cruise for a 5-10 km workout is 9 kph, with bursts over 10.5 kph on short distances. Numbers provided by Garmin.
This kayak moves.
The Epic is taking a while to adapt to, as small positional changes seem to make a big difference in overall performance and comfort. It is narrow, and does feel tippy, and does threaten to broach in close choppy waters, so the ability to use a paddle to balance is a must.
This is not a beginners kayak. It makes no attempt to attend to your comforts. You will need to adapt to it to unlock its potential.
Seating further forward seems to help reduce the wind steer, however, the optimal seating position for paddling efficiency is knees up, not tucked under the cockpit sides. Your knees will then limit how far forward the seat can be placed. The footrest should provide heel support, leaving the toes to operate the rudder.
I don't have much experience with kayak rudders, and don't mind paddling without one. On the Epic, though, the wind steer can be very persistent, making rudder use almost mandatory in those conditions. I've found that just lowering the rudder seems to be enough to make straight line paddling easier. The lowered rudder does give the water more leverage, so it can exaggerate the tippy feeling when a wave rolls by underneath..
The kayak is very light, and relatively easy to handle on shore. The storage lids have stayed dry so far, though those levers can be tough on the fingers at times.
The construction and fittings all have a quality feel to them, and the kayak really turns heads with its sleek looks.
I've been able to pass a few well-paddled outrigger canoes who weren't too thrilled about it,
It is very fast, and it rewards proper technique and adequate power.
Having moved from a Manitou Sport, to a Manitou 14, to the Epic 18X Sport puts me into a difficult situation: This is it: there are no other kayaks to continue to move up to (other than the surf skis)...
I am a mid-60s intermediate paddler, 6'0" who struggles to stay under 180 lbs but who stays in decent aerobic shape. More than 90% of my paddling is for fitness and takes place on a small reservoir on smooth water. The most challenging conditions I have faced since I bought the boat in August of 2008 have been 2-foot wind waves on larger lakes with a longer fetch than my local reservoir, though once there were waves that high on the local lake because of 40 mph gusting winds that kicked up a fuss despite the small fetch. I have not done any camping in the boat. I've been paddling since 2004, with a Venture/P&H Easky 15 and then an Eddyline Nighthawk as my previous two boats. I also currently own a Current Designs Scirocco.
My boat is light, easy to carry, about the 36 pounds advertised by Epic. It is pretty fast--considering its aging engine. When I'm in shape and conditions are mostly calm I can sustain 5.5 or 5.4 average speeds (GPS measured) over an hour and a half of fitness paddling. The GPS tells me that I can sprint to 7.1 mph. That's with Epic's mid-wing paddle. By way of comparison, the same paddle and effort and conditions in my plastic Scirocco gets me about a 5.1 mph average. I've paddled one race of 11-12 miles on northern California's American Estero and led the other novice paddlers (a dozen or so) by 20 minutes or more at the finish--official time 2 hours, 10 minutes. Even the Intermediate and Expert paddlers, on surf skis or outrigger canoes, (and on whom I had 10 and 20 minute starting advantages) did not catch me until about 2/3 of the race distance was covered.
The rudder on my boat hinges the trailing portion of the hull and includes a molded-in tab that extends below the normal line of the bottom of the boat in give a better bite. The tab is a compromise that Epic scrapped for the newer retractable rudder. My rudder makes the boat track very well in most conditions, but is not really all that good for strong directional control in following wind and waves. The carbon-fiber bar and pedal control system at my feet is durable and effective for both knees-together full-body-rotation paddling and for knees-apart-and-locked-in paddling. The latter mode allows control by edging to which this 18-foot boat responds quite well. Even if a rudder line broke, a moderately skilled paddler could readily control the boat just by edging provided the rudder did not get locked over on one side or the other--not as maneuverable as my Scirocco, but way more maneuverable than other 18-ft boats I've tried, e.g. the CD Solstice.
The two major failures of my boat's design are the seat and the rear hatch. With the seat I had problems like those described by Celeste De Bease below. I do rolling practice each summer in the nearby college pool, and the single track holding the seat to the hull broke because the seat constantly rocked from side to side and eventually pried the track apart. Also like Celeste I had a very good response from Epic, whose representatives paid for the repair even though I was the boat's third owner and it was well beyond warranty. It did take a long time to get the new parts delivered to the local dealer and for the dealer and their repair technician and me to all get together. The work was completed in December, and I didn’t start roll practice again until the next June. The new track held well enough, but the seat itself tore at the point of its front attachment to the track. I expect Epic would have worked with me again in a satisfactory manner, but I chose instead simply to take out the seat and go with a homemade system of Thermarest camp mat and closed-cell foam that has made for a comfortable and lighter seat that lowers the center of gravity maybe half an inch. I do surrender adjustability, but I'm not a paddler sophisticated enough to notice the difference. The rear hatch looks and acts like it was not designed for its seat. In a 20-minute rolling drill at the pool, it lets in a half gallon or more of water that I must sponge out each time before carrying the boat back to my car. For this problem also, it appears, Epic has designed a solution in its current generation of the 18x and 16x.
Overall, my Epic 18x Sport Ultra is still my 'pride and joy' and gets used nearly every week. I find myself wishing I could upgrade to Epic's newer version of this boat, but I’ve spent my big bucks on water toys. I'm happy I did.