I chose the Evo due to its extra 6 inches in length (for a little more performance – I still like to go fast!), and due to several reviews that indicated the Evo was a little faster – and perhaps more importantly –it possessed a more comfortable seat.
I think I made a great choice. I haven't paddled a V10 Sport, so I can't make a comparison, but I will say I have thoroughly enjoyed the Evo. The seat seems to be quite comfortable overall. I do feel it a little in my lower back after about an hour and a half, so it isn't perfect, but it feels good overall. The footwell has enough room I can wear my neoprene river boots in the winter with sufficient space (my feet are a wide size 11 – 12). When I tried out an Epic V10L, I barely had enough width for bare feet – no room at all for most water shoes, and certainly not river boots. The foot board and rudder pedals are very easily adjustable, and allow for very small increments of adjustment to fine-tune the pedal distances.
At 34 lbs, I'm very pleased with the light weight of my fiberglass Evo. Furthermore, it's a very sharp looking boat, painted in orange and grey. I get compliments on the boat nearly every time I take it out with a group. Sometimes people just stop and ask me about it when they see it on my car – especially when my wife and I have her Fit and my Evo on the car, in matching orange/grey color schemes! I've been told this is the coolest boat they've ever seen!
Primary stability doesn't feel substantially different than my T-bolt, but the Evo enjoys a significant amount of secondary stability. You can really lean it on its side. It's also somewhat faster than I expected. Not quite as fast as the T-bolt, but not that far off, either. I found that on my local river I can pretty comfortably average around 6.4 mph in my practice runs, and on a deep lake it isn't any problem holding 7 mph over extended distance (and even 8 mph for shorter distances). I have taken it out on rough lakes with confused, wind-driven chop running 2 – 3 ft, and felt quite confident. When I have gone over, reentry was quite easy, and the boat drains fairly fast.
I bought my boat used in late August, shortly after the USCA Nationals. It was hardly used by the previous owner, but I found it that while he picked it up in 2008, it was actually a 2007 model. As such, there have been a few improvements since mine was manufactured. The newer boats have pluggable venture drains – a very nice feature when you don't want to start with a foot well full of water, or you're paddling with others who are going too slow to keep your foot well drained. I just put a piece of plastic tape over the venturi drain when I want to keep it drier. Apparently the newer boats also have improved decals. Much to my dismay, I found that the sunscreen on my legs smeared the decals on the side of my boat. I eventually removed them, and cleaned up the adhesive with some Goo-be-gone. The newer boats also have a weed guard – a nice feature, since I do find that I can pick up some weeds on the understern rudder in weedy lakes. The newer Evo's also have handles on the front and rear of the boat – not a big deal to me, but a nice feature. With those changes, this boat moves from really good to excellent.
All in all, this is a fun, fast, comfortable boat, and I highly recommend it. As a side note, I've found Daryl Remmler, owner of Think Kayaks, to be a great guy to deal with. He's gone above and beyond in providing support.
I've heard several reviewers comment that even the most rank amateur can become comfortable in this boat (i.e., despite its relative tippiness for the novice) if they just put in the effort. Add my vote to that list.
My first few times paddling the thing, I was SHOCKED that anybody could EVER become comfortable paddling it. I'm talking about the (then it seemed) astonishing lack of stability. While I only capsized four times in my first four hours of paddling, there were many near-misses and it seemed like I was constantly on the very verge of doing a "huli". With time, I found a previously unexpected level of secondary stability. Further, I found that my body's ability to keep her righted (and to be comfortable doing so) increased noticeably with each and every paddle.
In these two and a half months, I've paddled 18 times for a total of about 140 miles. My top average speed was 5.6mph. I bought this ski with the intention of using it for fun and fitness. My average speeds range from 4mph to 5.6mph. I found that average speed is highest in calmest conditions.
I was amazed at what happened when I went out on a windy day, with 1-3 foot waves. In calm conditions, I have to work fairly hard to maintain above 6mph. I can sprint up to 7.0 mph, but only hold it briefly, then I have to rest. But on that windy day, I found myself flying along at as fast as 8.5mph! It was amazing! As invigorating as that was, the upwind leg was equally invigorating. I wouldn't exactly say it was "fun" going into that strong wind/waves, but it was a great challenge and required careful concentration and a great deal of strength/effort.
I was quite happy how well the boat handled when going into the 3 ft waves. The bow just plows through the waves. It gives great confidence regards its sea-worthiness. The boat feels nice and stiff. And the under-stern rudder continued to get the job done well.
I use an EPIC leg-leash, which works well. It attaches to the dedicated leash fitting at the forward part of the seat-well. I use a Lincke Watch & GPS holder for my GPS. The suction cups seem to work well on Blaze's smooth epoxy surface. I haven't weighed the boat, but the advertised 33 pounds seems believable. It is difficult to rationalize the extra cost of the Kevlar layup. The seat seems comfortable. The gas-peddle foot peddles seem to work well. The foot assembly seems well-suited to fitness paddling, offering plenty of stiffness to allow one to drive with their heels during a good rotation. I am 6'1" and my legs are just one or two slots from maxing out the leg length adjustment. So folks with materially longer legs may not be happy in this boat.
I also got the optional over-stern SmartTrack kick-up rudder. My retailer called this being "kick-up ready". I haven't yet used this feature. According to Daryl Remmler, the manufacturer, only about 10% of EVOs are made to accept the special over-stern rudder. In order to accept the over-stern rudder, the boat has about a half-inch diameter sleeve manufactured into the hull at its stern. The SmartTrack rudder has a special fitting which fits into the sleeve (a VERY tight fit, at least initially). You can only put in the rudder when it is positioned 90 degrees in a left turn. When you then straighten out the rudder, it is locked and can't come out of the hole (i.e., unless it is turned 90 degrees).
So the steering lines are accessible via the inspection port above the under-stearn rudder. It comes with extra rudder line for running back to the over-stearn rudder. I suppose that you just unscrew the nylock nut holding on the under-stearn rudder and remove it (the rudder) -- but I haven't done that yet. Then you run the lines back to the over-stearn rudder and tie them on (I also haven't done that yet). Therein lies the problem. Unlike the Think Fit, which has manufactured-in holes through the aft decking for the lines to go (i.e., from the under-stearn rudder well out of the hull to the over-stearn rudder), the Evo has no such provision. So you either have to just leave the inspection port cap off and run the lines up through it and back to the SmartTrack, or you need to drill through the deck yourself, which I have yet to do. Further, I found that part of the rudder assembly actually has to be filed away in order for the thing to work. This wouldn't be an issue if the sleeve were located perhaps a quarter of an inch or so farther aft on the ski. The SmartTrack rudder cost about $300 from my retailer, as I recall. The sleeve making the EVO (allegedly) "kick-up ready" didn't add to my cost at all.
So, why only a 9 out of 10? Well, it would be nice to have carrying handles at the ends (which Daryl seems to have provided in the newest models now available) AND it would be nice if the "kick-up ready" boats were more "ready" (i.e., not requiring further drilling/modification).
P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed dealing with Daryl Remmler (the manufacturer) and John Abrahamson (the retailer - Superior Surf Systems in Minnesota). I found both folks to be extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time. They really seems to want their customers to have good experiences.
The fit and finish on my Think is PERFECT. It is art work. It also appears durable and it has been durable for me. To save weight, Think uses a thin gel coat and then a high tech paint for its finish. I have not had any problems at all with the finish but I am very careful with all my boats. Regarding the color, it’s great; you could see this boat from the Space Shuttle in orbit. The Evo’s bright and vivid yellow paint scheme is beautiful and very visible. The Evo does not have an external seam. Its appearance is elegant. The seating position is more comfortable than any surf ski or kayak I have ever owned, it is all day comfortable. Its venturi drain keeps the boat completely dry and unlike any other ski I’ve seen, its drain is part of the boat’s mold (very fluid). The carbon foot brace/pedals are easy to adjust and large.
As a "wanna be", I am always working on my form. Having a larger/longer foot brace allows me to "pump" without the boat wagging too badly back and forth thru the water (tough to be me). The Think has a new (I’ve never seen it before) adjustment mechanism in which you can adjust the rake on the pedals, very cool and very easy to fine tune the pedals.
With me in the boat, it is slightly faster than the Sport and considerably faster than the XT. I believe any ambitious paddler could easily paddle this boat. The Evo comes standard with a rear deck bungee, forward cockpit screw hatch and paddle leash tether. I love the paddle leash tether in the cockpit and use mine to tether my camel back; keeping it low, forward and very reachable.
My Evo rides waves great. If you prefer wave riding over quiet waters (I hope you do, that’s where these boats really shine!), their 8.25 inch deep rudder is a must. In three plus foot waves, the Evo with its 6 inch rudder wants to breach and turn up if you are not perpendicular to the wave. Linked rides are a hoot and very easy to put together with this boat.
The Think owner and boat designer, Daryl Rhemmer, has been a delight to work with; as good as or better than any person I have bought a boat from (that’s pretty good, I’ve owned a lot of boats). He truly wants you... and me to be happy. I could elaborate.
If you are interested in taking "the" next step (leaving fast sea kayaks for a surf ski), I don’t think you could go wrong with the Think Evo. It has been my favorite boat, which I’ve owned, so far. It should definitely be on your short list of boats to try. It is also a boat you won’t soon grow out of. I am delighted with my purchase of the Think and highly recommend the Evo to others.
Finally, I am not an elite or expert paddler and sadly consider myself to be an average intermediate. So, if I can do it and love it, you could too! Go try a ski!