Jude can build. It is a handmade boat, and that said, there will be some minor cosmetic glitches, however, you also have the freedom to design it as you want it. I've holed it once in a Nor'easter, but the structure is, although lightweight, extremely strong. It has a few dents, dings, and blips, but has always been watertight and solid. Love the sound of slapping down off the top of a wave and hearing it resonate through the carbon fiber structure.
The only thing I'd do differently about it is to have mine in a single footwell (Jude offers this now), and maybe round the side rails a bit more, and bring them in slightly closer for a tighter catch. Adding a piece of minicell to the seatwell back area to sit more upright is commonly done. Hence, the '9' rating; no boat is perfect, but this one comes mighty close.
Jude is an exceptional individual to deal with, and a true ambassador to the sport. As one friend says, and is so fitting: 'He sells happiness.' I would buy this boat again in a heartbeat should I need to replace it. This one is my favorite horse in the stable.
Jude at Huki was extremely helpful discussing the layups and options to suit my needs in addition to working with me on a price that was competitive with other boats in its class. It is immediately obvious that paddling is his passion-this is communicated in his efforts to, as one friend puts it: 'sell happiness.'
After careful discussion, we ascertained that for my purposes for racing and training, the carbon/'s' glass weave would provide the balance of light weight, stiffness, durability, and cost effectiveness that I would need for training and racing. It's come in at approximately 27-28 lbs., light enough for my needs and very strong to boot. The beauty of Jude's offerings at Huki, besides the boat designs themselves, is that he can truly tailor them to your needs. Different sized hatches, bungees, etc. can be placed literally anywhere, and his gelcoat painting staff are artisans with a spray gun-plain vanilla boats are no longer de rigeur; a selection of paint schemes can be chosen from his graphics tool, or you can custom design your own. You'll spend hours clicking on the multitude of combinations available. My boat fades from a brilliant mango yellow in the center section to a vibrant viper red at the ends, with black flames licking back from the bow and on the rear deck. Striking and distinctive, I get 'thumbs up's and compliments wherever I go. Confession: Sometimes I wander into the garage at night just to gaze at it. A friend appropriately named it 'J.J. Cash' after 'Ring of Fire.' Perfect.
Mine was spec'd with a 6" front hatch that easily holds wallet, cell phone, keys, and drinking bladders, and I spec'd rear deck bungees. Additional options were the wide seat (highly recommended), and adjustable footwells that, although they add weight, are invaluable for arriving at the perfect seating position, allowing others to use the boat, and potentially increasing resale, although you'll have to pry this one out of my hands. Also added were a weed deflector and cables to allow the use of the P-41 kick up rudder, for shallow river racing. You have an infinite selection of rudder choices. Something Jude does is provide you with a system that allows a rudder change in literally 30 seconds flat, AND several mounting points on the spreader to adjust the sensitivity of actuation. After fiddling with an Epic rudder recently, I was cursing the usual rudder mounting design and muttering under my breath that they should have 'done it like Huki.' In retrospect I should have opted for the lockhole on the center divider. My only criticism of the cockpit outfitting would be that the footstraps are mounted to the center divider on the adjustable footwell boats and thus may or may not be useful depending upon leg length as an aid to pull (Huki!) when actuating the legs. Where my legs fall relegates them to nothing more than something to hold onto when carrying the boat or a convenient place to fasten my paddle leash and GPS cord. I'd like to see them individually attached to the foot braces. Beyond that, the seating is quite comfortable. The squared edges of the cockpit occasionally have me banging my paddle, but I've lined them with heavy duty plastic film as well as in the strike zones to prevent gelcoat damage from paddle strikes. The catch is fairly narrow but not as tight as the S1-X-if there's ever another incarnation of this wonderful design, I'd expect some deck cutaways, a la the S1-X special. My GPS fits nicely on the flat profiled center divider, and it also provides a convenient spot for gel packs when racing. For overall efficiency of rotation, a single footwell is probably more advantageous. Advantages to the double wells however, are they clear quickly through the venturis when flooded, and also add a measure of boat control in rough conditions as you can use a little body English against them when being tossed about. The footbraces/pedals are aluminum and flex a bit when driving with the legs; they haven't shifted however, but I'd recommend that you apply some sort of heavy duty tape or film to the wells below each as constant cycling will wear through the gelcoat and into the material below.
Now for the really good news. This boat is so much fun to paddle, that when a high wind forecast is issued, I'm gleefully rubbing my hands with excitement and anticipation of the rides that will be soon be had. Unlike my Mako XT, which was a fine boat, but always felt listless to me, the S1-R has a light and responsive feel in the water, even on the flats. It gives away sheer speed to its longer, narrower brethren on the flats, but holds its own upwind and downwind. Unless you're in the upper echelon of boat handlers, you may find you're faster in the S1-R than some of the other faster, more tender boats, by virtue of the fact that you'll be at ease as the water erupts around you, just smoothly putting the power down. When conditions kick up is where it really shines. It rocks easily over crests, allowing you to change direction with a flick of your hips, yet somehow manages to track arrow straight when this is needed as well. Beam waves, particularly those of steep, short frequency, are this boat's forte-it literally shrugs them off. For our east coast conditions, the 19' length and substantial secondary stability for a surf ski allow me to power right through washing machine chop, and pick up rides that longer boats wallow in, in between the crests. On a following sea, it is wholly predictable. You can spin it on a crest and shoot down the face; the S1-R turns far more quickly than say, a V10. I imagine the V10 comes into its own in bigger swells, but the Molokai Channel is not in my backyard. Even in dumping following seas, the kind where the seat and foot wells flood instantly with water, bringing you to an abrupt halt, the S1-R is composed and well-behaved. I run the 8" rudder most of the time, but will be working on transitioning to the 4", which affords an extra measure of speed. The carbon kick up foil rudder, produced by Pat at Onnopaddles (He does the Huki rudders.) is a thing of beauty. It drops right in via a clevis pin onto the stern and two piggyback cables connect from the stock spreader. Simple, effective, and fast. Remounts, both cowboy and sidesaddle are easy-this boat is so stable in the water.
At some point, I may be inclined toward an extra measure of speed, and debated long and hard whether to pop for the S1-X Special, leaping over the R's transitional step. This is still a consideration for the future, as I amass funds with an eye toward adding to my quiver; I've read more than one account of paddlers who bought the higher performance boat and wound up missing and subsequently adding the S1-R back into their stables. It's that good. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to Huki population at least here on the east coast is geographic-shipping adds to the overall cost. That said, my boat arrived in perfect condition, and the Affordable Boat Carrier Company provided constant updates as to its expected arrival. A large number of paddlers are gravitating toward skis for their simplicity, safety (If you 'huli' you just climb back on.), and versatility. We're seeing more and more skis on the east coast, and more and more Hukis. This is a very good thing. Great boat, great company...'selling happiness' is entirely accurate.