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Design & Illustration

New Zealand surfskis on the water

The Russels with their Spindrifts and Spray. Photo: Warwick Russel.

"Hi Bjorn,
As promised, some pictures of the skis on the water. We are all so pleased with our boats, all I can say is thank you for the wonderful designs! I think we could have gone for 44cm beam on the altered Spindrift instead of the 45, so incredibly stable they turned out to be. Next year maybe?
My brother does not paddle his beloved Swordfish S any more because he regards his Spindrift as much superior. Can't say much more than that!
Many thanks again.

Two New Zealand Spindrifts and a Spray on the water

Two New Zealand Spindrifts and a Spray on the water

Two Spindrifts and a Spray in New Zealand. Robert Russel.


Brilliant! And it's going on summertime for Kiwis. Such timing!

The two hi-viz colors are a good idea too, whether you intended them that way or not.

Thanks for posting those, Robert.

Thanks Rich, yes definitely had safety in mind for my daughters orange Spray. My brother Warwick finished his full length Spindrift. Interesting though, a couple of kms out to sea and the only one visible was myself with the orange vest!

Thanks, Robert. That is a very important observation. Often when you spot a kayaker from afar, it is the movement of the paddle that first catches the eye – the eye reacts very strongly to small movements (which is why it is hard to read a text on a website if there are animated objects in a sidebar.

When the paddler comes a bit closer you see the pfd – and then a cap (but only if those are brightly colored). The hull can be spotted from a distance only in calm conditions.

The visibility of colors is debated. The often used yellow-orange-red are generally good but may be hard to see at dusk. White is a good choice in calm conditions but not in white-capped waves. Black has advantages in a fog.

When searching for a kayak from a rescue vessel or a helicopter a light turquoise is considered the best choice overall, based on experience (surprising considering that the sea might appear turquoise sometimes). The kayak should ideally be one color only – a broken color fields design is a camouflage (but what about a black hull and a white deck and a frantically rolling paddler ;-)

And talking visibility: I have seen a lot of fancy ideas on radar reflectors for kayaks over the years. They have on thing in common – they don't work.

A Swedish kayak manufacturer once introduced a safety innovation: built-in radar reflectors (a metal mesh in the hull lamination) – only to be informed that in anything but dead calm they would be hidden in wave reflections or killed by the squelch control. The same goes for trashed beer cans on the deck or crumpled aluminum foil in the cap. The reflection rate of such gadgets is so minimal that you have to be almost within reach before a radar picks them up.

The only reasonably reliable device is a professionally constructed radar reflector on a meter high stick, which of course will compromise the stability of the kayak – and still depend on the attention of the radar operator.

The conclusion is: you are probably invisible – stay clear of other boats!

Kia ora Robert,

Your skis look fantastic - well done!

I'm keen to get some clues about your building processes; how you went about making the bucket & where to source powlonia?

I'm also very interested in your observations about the ski's performance - I built a Njord in 2013 & currently paddle a Stellar SR after a couple of seasons in a Swordfish. I'm down in Dunedin, I'm guessing you're in Wellington?



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