New Nelo Skis

New Nelo Skis

A couple of months back the Nelo dealers were all invited to a dealer conference to take a first look at their new offering of 2 surf skis. Born from a collaboration between the worlds best kayak manufacturer and Oscar Chalupsky, one of the all time greats from the surf ski world and 12 times non-official World champion aka winner of the famous Molokai race. This last weekend I got to test them out for the first time in the UK.

With this pedigree expectations were high. It is not Nelos first venture into the ski world but until now they have not produced a mass-market ski or a ski with technical input from a ski professional. There were to be two skis launched, the 560 which is a ski aimed at the proficient ski paddler and the 520 a more stable entry level ski aimed at the wider market and the growing influx from the sea kayak and touring world.

One of the main draws of the invitation was to come to the factory and make our own ski, or at least watch the full process of one being made while we were there.


The ski we were making was a 560 in the lower end construction, WWR. Watching the layers of material being built up in the mold, the outer skin ,the foam core and then the inner skin with increased materials at all the weak points or the areas of most load was fascinating and to be fair very reassuring. High cost, high strength materials where the reinforcement was needed and lower cost resilient materials where is was not to keep the costs down and the longevity of the boats up. Once all the composites were in place the molds are vacuumed to remove excess resin and keep weight low. Into the oven overnight and then the next day the stringers are fixed and the two halves of the mold are clamped together. 

When ready the finishing begins and the fittings are added, footrest, rudder, bailer etc. One thing that struck me was the time, and attention to detail that added to that time, that resulted in the superb finish that Nelo are known for.

Lets start then with the fittings…..

Anyone who has experience of the old Nelo skis knows that moving the footrest is a complete nightmare but in this ski this was almost the biggest selling point. The new system, which will also slot directly into your Nelo K1, is a thing of beauty, plastic molded structure, easy adjustment which can be reached from the sitting position and a hard carbon pull bar make for an extremely comfortable and secure system. The system is self-adjusting if you want to change the length and feels very strong. Top marks for this certainly.


For the bailer there are two options, one with 4 open positions and one that is either open or closed, both will be supplied with the ski and are easily changed. We were treated to a demonstration from the designer himself and changing one for the other is a 5-minute job at most. In terms of efficiency it is without doubt the fastest working bailer I have used. Designed for and easily operated by foot the only issue I had was that occasionally if you were in too much of a rush you could close the bailer when taking your foot back to the footrest. This was on the 4 position bailer only and I am sure you would learn how to avoid this in a few hours of use. The bailer appeared robust and tidy.


Rudders were supplied in two sizes and for the sort of paddling we were doing either was fine. Obviously in bigger conditions the bigger rudder would be better but that wasn’t something we got to test this week.


The models we tested had not yet been fitted with the recessed handles which will come as standard, but we saw the mold for these and felt the shape, provided they are placed in the right place they should work very well. 


Deck bungee cords are standard on all 520 skis and optional on the 560.


The skis themselves have their length designated by the name so the 560 is 560cm long. This is almost a meter shorter than the traditional ocean skis, so that in itself will be a talking point. There are a few reasons for the change in length, some from practicality viewpoints and some from usability. Compared to the old skis these certainly look much smaller. Lower bow volumes and shorter lengths being the two main reductions. For 99% of ski paddlers who do not go out in 10m swell the previous larger models were considered just too big, the new length is suited to smaller wave lengths and the chop that most of us experience when paddling. Add to that the ease of storage, transport and the weight reduction and the reasoning becomes quite compelling. Turning into the wind will definitely be easier on these skis with reduced windage. The 520 is the same length pretty much as the entry level offerings of most brands but again Nelo have gone with a lower volume front end. When paddling this makes the ski look and feel a lot more nimble and possibly faster, though speed is always difficult to judge without technological feedback.


One of the biggest selling points of these skis is going to be comfort, the seat bucket is the same in both skis and even just sitting surfing behid the local tour boats for 90 minutes was pain free on the backside. I have no idea how a seat bucket design occurs but whether by luck or judgment Nelo definitely have this one right. No complaints from any of the dealers who used them.


The skis, partly due to the lower volume are not as ‘dry” as some and the relatively low sides also allow waves in to the cockpit. What this does mean though is that re-entry is a piece of cake! This is one massive step forward from the old 560 which once out of were almost impossible to remount. Again everyone who braved the cold to try a remount was suitably impressed.


I am not going to go into speeds too much as that really depends on who is using them but neither ski reached it’s terminal velocity (on the flat) at any speed that 99.9% of paddlers can go, they were both happy to go as fast as you were prepared to make them go. 


Stability is always a key factor in skis and the Nelos held up well here. The 520  model would maybe present a little stress to the total beginner in the waves but for most this little ski would be a bundle of fun. Secondary stability is very good and for most people this ski would take them through the worst of conditions. The bigger volume skis may just have the advantage in big steep waves where the bow can bury but Nelo believe (we didn’t test this) that their wave deflector will compensate for the lack of volume in terms of keeping the ski out of the wave in front.


The 560 for most would be a race type ski but compared to Nelo’s previous offerings is very stable. I was very comfortable in small chop sitting sideways in the cockpit with both legs dangling over the side, which places it somewhere close to the V10 from Epic in terms of stability. In terms of maneuverability though it really shines, the ski feels like it moves with you and you are part of it rather than being a small person sat on/in a large ski. Certainly anyone coming from a kayak background would take to this size ski much quicker than the old large version.


One of the real joys of these skis though is the part when you lift them out of the water and eventually on to the car. At around 11kg for the cheaper construction and closer to 9 for the top end these skis are probably the lightest on the circuit and having watched one being built I can assure you this is not at the expense of cutting materials and strength. Once on the car the sail area is so small that these will be a lot less stressful to carry on the car in a side wind!


To go into detail about how the skis handle in all conditions I would need a longer term test so demo boats are already on order.


The 520 is a one size fits all ski and certainly the range of dealer sizes at the conference tested this. The 560 comes in two sizes the Large and the medium. The medium is probably the first ski I have seen that is actually suitable for small people. At 80 kg I was definitely close to its limit. For women, juniors and smaller guys this ski is certainly worth a look.


Since writing this review I have now had a chance to test both the 520 and the 560 here in the UK. Neither tests has reduced my enthusiasm for these two skis, the 520 is the most nimble entry level ski I have paddled, great paddling position and extremely comfortable, the 560 was stable enough to coach from in medium conditions and comes alive the moment the paddle is pulled on. 

I have always said that nothing could match my V10L but he 560 is showing me I could be wrong. The 520 was an immediate hit with a couple of ski paddlers who I struggled to get out of the thing once they had had a go!








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