The Epic 18X family is designed for intermediate to advanced touring paddlers seeking a distinct edge in a high-performance kayak. Paddlers find that the sleek, efficient shape and long waterline enable them to cover long distances with exceptional ease and speed, and deliver excellent performance in rough water conditions. In addition to all the features that come standard on an Epic, the 18X family includes the advanced Epic Track Master™ steering system, an adjustable seat, large storage capacity, and front deck cutaways for a closer, more efficient stroke. Whether out for an hour, a day, or an extended expedition, paddlers will discover the 18X family offers the ultimate paddling experience.
Submitted by: Terry S on 6/20/2017
I got this boat over the winter as the next step in my paddling evolution. Specifically, I wanted something faster than the Seaward Chinook that I raced in some long events last year.
The primary stability isn't as good as a 24" wide boat, but that's to be expected. I'll say that it's as good as any other skinny boat out there if not better and it's secondary stability is great. I have probably 100 miles of training laps in the boat at this point and 2-3 hour paddles are no problem at all. Plus, it only weighs 42 lbs, which is a huge benefit over my touring boat when you're trying to throw it up on the top of a Jeep 3+ times a week.
Last week I did an 60 mile overnight race on the Osage river in Missouri. I was in the boat for about 9 hours without stopping and about 6 hours of that was after dark. I didn't have any problems at all with the boat other than I blew out my core by using a mid-wing paddle rather than my normal small-mid (not the boat's fault)
I haven't tried to roll this boat, but others have said that rolling can lead to issues with maybe breaking the seat track. I can see how this might be an issue because the seat just slides on the one track that runs down the center of the boat. Also, at one point I got some sand in the bottom of the boat and it made it super hard to slide the seat until I took it out and cleaned the grit off the track.
The rudder pedals are more surfski style than gas pedal, which is nice for getting a good push with your legs for a power stroke, but I've found them pretty much impossible to adjust without getting out of the boat. Maybe it's just me.
So now the not so great; I can only give it 3 stars to my review simply because the fit and finish was sub par for a boat that cost this much. I bough it new and when it came it still had mold release (presumably?) caked on the hatch lugs and the rudder area had paint overspray on it from where the black tips had been painted. The biggest issue though was that after my first paddle I looked up at the boat on top of the jeep and the angle was such that I noticed an actual hole about 1/2" long by 1/4" wide in the underneath side of the cockpit coaming where it had been sanded through during manufacture/assembly. I contacted the dealer/factory and the fix was to fill the hole with epoxy, which I did at home rather than make the 3 hour drive back to the dealer.
The dealer was great to work with and it wasn't a big deal per se, but the response from the factory rep had more to do with covering their own backside. i.e. "don't lift it by the coaming until it's fixed" etc. It would have been nice if there had been an apology for selling me a new $3,500 boat with a hole in it, or even maybe a free coffee mug or paddling shirt for my trouble, but that didn't happen.
Overall, it's a fast boat and reasonably comfortable. Right now I'm paddling laps in my local lake about 3 times a week and it's holding up well. I'd buy it again, but I would definitely look it over closer for fit and finish problems before I loaded up. I might also go with the sport version which is about an inch wider, just because I paddle such long distances and that extra inch of stability might be worth the speed hit I would take.
Submitted by: Canuka on 12/2/2015
This is just a first impression after testing one recently for a few minutes. But I was so impressed, I just needed to say something. The rest of the reviews here say it all, except one thing. No one has mentioned the roominess of its cockpit.
I had been very curious about this boat for a long time because of its design, speed, beauty, etc. But I was doubtful it would fit me. I am 6'4" and 225 lbs, with size 13 feet. The boat looks like it's pretty low volume with its low deck height and I thought that would kill my feet.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find out this boat is perfect for big guys! The foot board adjusts so far forward that I couldn't reach it with the seat all the way back. This has never happened to me in any kayak. There was plenty of room for my toes, never touched the underside of the deck. The seat is very easy to adjust back and forth.
It has a very narrow bow and felt super fast, faster than any sea kayak I've tested. The padded knee braces are very comfortable too.
I fell in love with this boat. Now if I can only get a hold of $3,400!!! (or find a used one for a song...).
Submitted by: Bamalongboat on 9/9/2014
After paddling the 18X for a second season I am still in love with the boat. I am 5-10, and 180lbs...just above average balance and skills...had paddled many sea kayaks,,,plastic and composite which were wonderful but going to the 18X was smooth as butter.... it has saved me in some tight spots and bad water...only dumped once and it was my fault for having my new paddle not set properly.
Submitted by: Shagnasty78 on 9/6/2014
I bought a Carbon haul Epic 18X 5 years ago to use for USCA racing. The 18X is in my opinion the fastest kayak in it's class. It is very easy to handle and can handle the occasional bumps on the river. The kayak can haul enough gear on camping trips to stay out for weeks on end when you need to get away for awhile.
I have owned dozens of kayaks over the years and the Epic 18X is by far the best I have had the pleasure to paddle. I highly recommend the Epic.
Submitted by: Bamalongboat on 7/2/2014
Amazing boat... going from a regular sea kayak to the 18X was smooth as butter. I fall out of surf skis but can paddle rough water in the 18X. I don't like the foot peddles and wobbly rudder.... or the straps (old system) and the rudder access cover that degrades too fast in sun light. that said... it is still an awesome boat.
Submitted by: Celeste on 3/15/2013
I love the way my 18x handles HOWEVER, I've had to fix the seat twice. The seat came loose (fixed it) and then came off completely from the boat with my rolls. Boat repair expert says the railing construction is poor if you want to roll in this boat!
Epic was wonderful and paid for half of the repair expenses even though my boat was out of warranty.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 8/24/2012
Just finished paddling Michigan's Inland Waterway, Lake Huron, Straights of Mackinac, and lake Michigan in my new upgraded 18x performance layup.I love this boat! Fast and smooth.The "track Master Plus" rudder was great on the following waves.The hatch lever locks are wonderful.Workmanship and quality are unsurpassed. It's a 10 of 10!!
Submitted by: Anonymous on 2/8/2012
I've paddled the 18x once at the Sanibel Island Paddlefest. 8 knot winds and a light chop on the water. I own a Seda Glider (now the 2nd fastest touring kayak) A Necky Chatham which is a greenland style hull great for rough seas. And a Seaward Tyee which is a big expedition kayak. I could trade them all for an 18x and not miss any of them.
The 18x slices thru the chop instead of bobbing over it like my other boats. From 2011 on the 18x has a retractable rudder for beach launches etc. It sits so low in the water it practically disappears below the wind.
I've recommended this boat for a beginners kayak. If you can ride a bicycle you can master this boat. Buy one boat, and keep it for life. The only quibble I would have with the 18x is the way the rudder is deployed and locked down. You have to reach behind you and snare the rope in a keeper. It'd be better if there was a lever near the front of the cockpit you could just flip and get right back to paddling.
I don't race kayaks. The 18x gives me more results for my effort than any other kayak. More incentive to exercise. I'm scheming my way toward owning one.
Submitted by: terrydavison on 9/26/2011
I am a fit 58 year old and have been paddling steady for 20 plus years now. (I just recently completed the Colorado River 100 on a Cobra Expedition). Anyway I just recently received my new 18x and its even better than I expected!
The fit and finish is top notch.
The initial stability is much better than I expected, and the ultimate stability is the best I've ever experienced in any Kayak.
Now the best part. The performance exceeds all of the hype that I have read on the forums!
Thanks Greg Barton, and all the people with Epic.
Submitted by: VegasPaPa on 8/26/2011
I have paddled my Epic 18X for over a year now and it was sweet enough for me to do the unthinkable... I sold my Looksha II to a good friend. It is light and fast and has handled weather/water conditions that would be considered very dangerous... flooding downstream and 24mph winds blowing upriver creating washing machine conditions in the Tennessee River where I paddle. I am 5-10, 185 average 59 year old male paddler... I love my boat.
Submitted by: DougKing on 1/24/2011
Submitted by: Red_Pepper on 7/22/2009
On the performance side of the equation, I don't think you can find a better overall sea kayak. It's fast, efficient, sprightly, tracks well, turns well, and is quite comfortable for long hauls. It's easy to surf wakes and waves, and always feels comfortably stable, exhibiting great secondary stability. It lean turns superbly for such a long boat, and with the rudder you can really whip it around. I like the Sealine rudder system - the boat responds almost instantly to rudder input, and it's easy to adjust and use. Overall, the boat feels like a sports car to me.
As to quality, this boat leaves a lot to be desired. The gentlemen who owned the boat before me was a fanatic about protecting and caring for his boats, and I've always stored my boat indoors and taken good care of it. Nevertheless, the gelcoat has spider cracks all over the place and the seam tape is coming off. I've also had to replace the Sealine rudder pedal system in the cockpit area - the original pedal adjustment housing was plastic, and cracked. The new housing is aluminum, and appears to be very durable. The hull is soft, and I have some indentations in the hull from where the boat rides on the saddles on my rack. I believe mine is somewhat heavier than listed as well. On the plus side, my hatches are easy to use and seal pretty well. One stays completely dry, while the other will leak a little.
In spite of the quality irritants, I really like the boat. I bought a QCC 700XL last year, intending to replace the Epic 18 Endurance with 700XL, a much higher-quality, made in the USA boat. As it turned out, I sold the QCC and kept the Epic. The QCC was beautifully made and very solid, but it had a "big boat" feel compared to the sprightly feel of the Epic, plus it was slower (GPS confirmed numerous times over the same course) and less comfortable (part of that was the after market back band, but I didn't like the seat as well either). Looking at the two boats side by side they looked pretty similar, but a close examination shows the Epic possesses a sharper entry on the bow and exit at the stern, along with some other subtle differences that add up in the water.
I've since moved into a Thunderbolt for racing and rarely paddle the Epic anymore, except in winter, but I've loaned it out to a friend's son to get him started into USCA marathon racing, and he loves it as well.
A great boat, with a few caveats.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/20/2009
The bungee cords on the back deck are useless for a paddle float rescue, however, and need to be replaced by solid lines if you are going to use that technique. That said, the boat rolls easily and if I trashed out of the boat, my first self rescue would be a re-entry and roll followed, if needed by a paddle float re-entry and roll. There is plenty of storage for longer trips, and while I can get about a sponge full of water into the hatches, this amount is not dangerous. Critical gear that cannot get wet should be in drybags no matter how much you trust your hatches anyway.
I only use the rudder when the wind is on the beam or further aft. Any other time, the extra drag is not worth it. That is also why I wouldn't install a longer rudder. On a steep following sea, it will wander a bit until the rudder bites, but that's what your paddle is for.
My question is about the speed this boat is famous for. I also paddle a Mariner II and a Betsie Bay Recluse. On a measured course with the same paddler (me) and the same paddle, the Epic is not much faster, if at all than these others. Maybe that's because I am 63 years old and can't push any of these boats that fast. I can do about 7.5 knots over my 2 mile course, and all 3 boats are within seconds of each other.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/9/2009
There's no excuse for crap like this in 2009. I took it back after 3 months because the seat had worn through the hull. The Sydney distributors at that time told me it was my fault. Sorry for sitting in the boat. I've watched Freyer Haufmeister struggle with her, specially prepared Endurance too:
So, what is it about making a kayak that's so difficult. And how come she's testing new fittings paddling around Australia? I thought that would happen in the LAB.
When I ask around people always talk about the factory burning down, the Chinese factory problem and stuff. Hey guys, that's not our problem... If people deliver a product and don't stand by it, that's not what Sea kayaking is about, is it? I like the design but the company owners ought to be held accountable for this abysmal quality.
Submitted by: Wavespinner on 5/8/2009
While the 18X resembles the Endurance I replaced, it is clearly a different boat. The first thing I noticed was the weight. In going from a skinned carbon fiber to the Performance foam core, it picks up a few pounds. It also seems more rigid and the build quality is much better. The Ultra layup would reduce the weight, but the additional cost and potential problems weren’t worth it to me.
The integral rudder is designed to increase speed. The trade off is it doesn't have the bite of the flip-down edition. I haven't found that to be a major drawback. But, there's always a protruding blade below the waterline, so you do have to be aware of that in shallow water or plopping it down on a hard surface. It has the gas pedal control, but I might modify that to the kickstick tiller.
Hatch openings are generous. There is a molded in cutout for a day hatch behind the cockpit, but I wouldn't see many taking advantage of that.
The cockpit is set up so you can paddle in either the "normal" or knees-together position. Position adjustments are easy, which is good because it is sensitive to trim. Deck redesign allows slightly better access to the water.
From a racing friend's test drive vs. his Endurance and my own experimentation, I calculate it at about four to five percent faster. That's enough reason for racers to upgrade.
The beam tapers down at the waterline so yes, it is on the tippy side, more so than the Endurance. If stability is a priority, this isn't the boat for you. If speed is your need, this is your steed.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 10/30/2008
After last year's demo of the Epix 18x, I broke down and bought an 18x in March. I have thoroughly enjoyed the boat. This past spring I paddled it quite a bit for fitness paddling and raced it twice. It is more stable than a sprint boat, but I think it is as fast as my K-1 trainer (SRS Laser). All the qualities I discussed from my first review still stand.
This weekend I had the opportunity to take it out on a 4 day, 3 night overnight kayak/camping trip on the Suwannee River. It was absolutely awesome. It holds a lot of gear and I had plenty of room for the trip. Driving to Fargo, GA, we encountered torrential rain for the entire 5 hour drive and it rained most of the night as well. I expected the hatches to leak, but to my surprise there was only a few drops in the kayak.
I found the kayak to be very rugged and I had no qualms about sliding it onto sandy beaches or bumping into the occasional underwater tree stump. I also punished the integrated, understern, fixed rudder quite a bit by dragging it onshore, but it held up fine.
My only complaint is that the bulkheads leaked a little. I got water in the cockpit getting in and out of the boat. When I dragged the boat onshore, the water in the cockpit would collect along the stern bulkhead and somehow it would leak through to the stern compartment. It wasn't a horrible amount and it's something I can live with.
Overall, this boat fits my needs and lives up to my expectations. I wanted a boat I could fitness paddle and race as well as a boat I could do overnight camping trips and the 18X fits the bill.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/23/2008
This is about 5% faster than the Epic Endurance 18 (IMO). It is clearly the fastest mass market sea kayak out there. It seems as fast as a couple of K1 trainers that I've tried - which is amazing for something that makes USCA rules. For flatwater, I just don't see any other kayak beating this one - given a paddler within weight limits for the design. Epic tells me that 210-220 lbs is the weight limit for the 18x, the Sport goes a bit higher.
Speed is this boat's design goal, and Epic has obviously accomplished that. What they've also delivered is a very comfortable seat and cockpit. This is the most comfortable decked boat I've ever paddled. My legs and feet have not gone to sleep in this boat in 2 months of 4-6 workouts a week.
The stability is adequate, and the rudder ventilates a lot in rough water. For flat conditions, it is fine. Construction quality is very good, with very good fit and finish. The front hatch is tight, while the rear one does leak a little. Also, the hatches are not matched to the deck's color very well. Pedal adjustment is a bit tough, but can be done.
Overall, for a fast training sea kayak, this would be my top choice again. For an off season trainer, this would be a sensible boat. The stability and safety of bulkheads for cold weather training is a big benefit. The cargo capacity should be adequate for an overnighter, but this is not an expedition boat.
After a couple months, I'd buy this boat again. The guys at Epic are great to work with and respond to questions, and have done a lot to advance the sport. I think their boats have really raised the bar for what is expected in the speed department from hulls. The manufacturing is pretty good on this boat. Mine is the standard FG composite layup.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 11/8/2007
I consider myself an all around boater. I paddle whitewater, flatwater rivers, lakes and coastal waters, ICF sprint races and fitness paddling. I'm female, 5'6", 150 pounds. Since I live in Atlanta, I usually paddle mostly lakes in my sea kayak. I started off as a WW boater so I appreciate a responsive long boat, but I've recently gotten into fitness paddling and racing. I am mainly looking for a kayak to race and do overnight kayak camping trips so it's hard to find a boat that fits both of those requirements.
I had the opportunity to demo the new 18x. It wasn't the 18x ultra, but one of the performance 18xs. It weighs 41 pounds and I could see how this lightweight boat would appeal to women. I liked the fact that it weighs only 41 pounds and the construction seemed solid. Many racing sea kayaks seem rather fragile and I wouldn't dare load it up with gear and do an overnight trip. I also recently demoed the epic endurance carbon layup (predecessor to the 18x), and I thought it too fragile to handle lots of gear.
The 18x is very fast and very responsive. I like the fact that you can paddle the boat racers style (knees together) or traditional style (knees under thigh braces). I also loved the pedal style rudder system. I also loved the solid foot bulkhead. It made it very easy to pedal your feet while paddling (racer style). Even when I'm not racing or a doing a work out paddle, my hip flexors get very tired and sore when I paddle long distances using the thigh braces.
I paddled the boat on a flatwater, deep river and there was quite a bit of wind and chop. The boat handled great! It is tippy, but compared to a sprint boat it is stable. Although, I didn't roll the boat, I think that it would be very easy to roll.
I also liked the integrated rudder. You just get in the boat and go...no having to put down the rudder or worry about the rudder system. The only disadvantage to the integrated rudder is that you must be careful with it. The rudder sticks out a bit so you must be careful about what you paddle over. A rock or log could possible snag it...unlike a traditional rudder that would simply bump over an underwater obstruction. Since the rudder is integrated and fixed, you can't pull it up if you see something ahead that might snag it. I do think that this is a small disadvantage and the other great, thoughtful construction of the boat really outweighs that one disadvantage. The hatches seemed sturdy and there seemed to be plenty of storage room for a weekend trip.
I really liked this boat and I could see many hours of paddling it. Now, I just gotta come up with the money to buy one!
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/5/2007
Submitted by: Wildwater on 2/13/2007
Submitted by: potterspoint434 on 12/4/2006
Submitted by: potterspoint434 on 12/4/2006
I paddled a 18x about 5 times and was impressed with the speed and comfort of the boat. I felt like it was more unstable than the endurance 18 but I didn`t have a real problem with it. The big cockpit was very nice allowing you to paddle with your knees up and get proper rotation. I`m not sure about the new honeycomb layup I think the boat is very fragile also the rudders cables are not cables but a cord seems strange. The boat is new out this year I think its to early to tell how well they will hold up.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/28/2006
I liked the finish of the boat, black with red on the bow and stern. Perimeter lines felt a bit thin, but adequate. I found the add'l bungee cords aft of the rear hatch very convenient. I couldn't grasp the small diameter bungee cords wearing neoprene gloves-I added a knotted loop of cord to each bungee to correct that. For carrying the boat, I like the suitcase style grips far foar more than grab loops/plastic handles on other boats.
I found the cockpit an excellent fit and the padding adequate. My size 11.5 feet fit with Teva sandals & kayaking booties, but not with the bigger Keen Newport sandals. The footpedal system works, though it did break. Cascade Designs responded promptly and replaced the unit. I have since improved my technique a bit and stress the braces less. I have had to re-glue the knee pads on both sides. Rumors of Epic moving production to China may improve quality. The seatback adjustment system seems excessive with plastic ratchets, maybe useful or just Rube Goldberg. The stainless bolts have moderate rust. Water leaked in at the cleat holding the rudder up/down line. Rubber ring washers fixed that. Periodically, the nylock nuts & bolts holding the seat/backrest unscrew themselves. I had to restitch the webbing hardware for the hatches.
I found the 18 to have exceptional primary and secondary stability but that might come from my having used it for so long as well as having paddled a Seda Impulse for two years. The Impulse has a narrower and rounder hull. The 18 turns well on edge, but you have to sweep the paddle blade from the bow out and back to the stern. The lack of much keel mandates a rudder for tracking. I have had the 18 surfing windwaves and swell up to 1.5 feet--the boat generally does well but will broach with following seas when the rudder clears the water.
The Boat rolls well empty. I have never loaded the boat with more than 10 lb of gear. A low cockpit at the rear enables layback rolls. Some water found its way into the rear compartment after rolling--it leaks either from the hatch cover, the bolts/nuts holding the decklines/bungees or the bulkhead. Both bulkheads have very small ventilating tubes.
As for speed, I haven't paddled a faster boat. A very accomplished paddler friend of mine prefers it to his Seda Glider. My paddling has improved, but I still haven't taken a gps aboard.
Overall, the boat wins my vote for best boat for lightness, speed, handling, stability, fit, footbrace/rudder system. the boat loses a point for quality control.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 5/30/2006
Submitted by: Anonymous on 12/15/2005
I'm learning the boat and found it to be quite forgiving. Glides through the water effortlessly and provides some great workouts. Rudder system works well but I can see why some suggest larger blade.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/1/2005
One thing that did surprise me is how easy this 18 foot boat is to steer with my hips. I imagine it has something to do with the rounded bottom and light weight. I really love the rudder pedals. The foot braces are solid and the rudder pedal is actuated with your toes. I found this easy barefoot and with booties. It would be tough if you use rigid soled shows, though. It also seems that they must have listened to folks on this forum as they now use a firm, narrow back band that seems to work well although it takes awhile to get it adjusted properly. The only thing I don't like so far is the black color. On a big lake the boat is nearly invisible. It looks fantastic, but I am in the process of adding some 3M reflective tape. It seems like a shame to to it, but getting hit by a boat seems worse!
Submitted by: Anonymous on 2/16/2005
Construction is fine, with a tight front hatch, reasonable rear hatch. The rest of the boat is nicely built and put together.
Overall, a top performer with excellent speeds, stability, reasonable comfort, and durability. A sea kayak (USCA definition of sea kayak) that just can't be beat by anything in its class.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 12/27/2004
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/29/2004
The service from the people at EPIC and Cascade Design (Smart Track mfgr) has been EXCELLENT - Thank you GB. I want one of the new black boats but don't want to buy it from our local dealer who has no use for racers. It's the one boat you can use as a daily paddler and as a weekend racer that gives you a decent shot in the touring sea kayak class - EFT's and Nelo Razor "cheater" boats not withstanding.
Submitted by: Peter_K on 8/2/2004
Carved turns surprisingly well but the rudder was a big help in the wind. Once turning had started the boat wanted to keep turning even when brought back to an even keel. This boat was easier to turn for me than the CD caribou but did not stop turning as crisply, or track as well. If I get this boat I will get a rudder and the trim tab adjustment and use it exclusively. I also need to raise the pedal height but that is down to me not Epic. I wonder if I could get the trim tab and leave the toe pilots out ( I know it is not standard design but... I will paddle this boat soon in conditions, and if I decide I need a fast sit in boat it's likely to be purchased.
Seat back is quite sad but what do you expect. It is way too tall and way to flimsy. I doubt that seat backs are a big concern of Greg or Oscar. The boat rolled OK but did not pop up like the romany explorer does (few boats do.) Weathercocking was noticable but not outrageous. The reason I would get a rudder is because of the boats tendancy to keep turning. I was very pleased with the lack of drag fron the sealline rudder.
Overall, I was quite pleased, and very pleasantly surprised at the boats ability to carve I weigh 225 have snort legs and have been working at improving my paddling skills for about 4 years three of them year round.
Submitted by: Franklin on 5/26/2004
Submitted by: Anonymous on 5/3/2004
Hatches are well secured, and have not leaked noticeably in 2-3 ft seas.
I'm 230lb, 6'3", and find the cockpit to be a bit snug, but comfortable enough. The boat is stable enough to adjust the foot pedals in chop sitting on 1" thick padding added to the seat.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/4/2003
Submitted by: Anonymous on 8/4/2003
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/9/2002
Paddling into the wind the bow cuts through the wave. When the nose comes down, it slices very nicely through the forward wave, which aids in steering. Paddling with the wind. The knife bow aids in steering and the flat mid section hull planes very nicely. The rudder system steers beautifully. On some waves the kayak had a tendency to broach when the rudder was out of the water. Paddling 3/4 to the wind. The large bow has a slight disadvantage here, but weather cocking was easily corrected with the rudder.
Initial stability and secondary stability are better than the looksha 2. I am surprised that a boat this fast could feel this stable. Weight is an issue, as my boat definitely weighed in at more than 41 lbs. My Looksha was actually lighter.
Quality of construction I am told is being improved. The hatches leaked and needed work. I can’t give the Endurance a 10, because of the hatches, but performance is where this kayak outshines the others I’ve paddled. Best paddling to all. A great boat for those looking for boat with a rudder and a fast touring model.