Possibly the best downwind teaching tool on the market, the Nelo 600 is a small double surfski that delivers big fun in surf. At just 6 meters long (19.7 feet), the 600 is shorter than most traditional single person surfskis (6.4 meters).
If you are looking for a racing double or a double that is fast in flat water, this might not be the boat for you. However, if you are looking for the confidence to handle messy conditions, big conditions, or teach someone how to paddle or the skill of downwind, in my opinion, there is no better option than the Nelo 600.
For reference, Michele and I have tested the 600 extensively in conditions ranging from flat water to the famous Millers Run in South Africa. We've taken this boat down Swell City on "nuclear" days, as Carter Johnson would say, and big downwinds off the coast of Newport Beach and Dana Point, CA. When we teach downwind skills, this is the boat we use for beginners and experienced paddlers. If you've paddled the Gorge Downwind Champs, chances are that you haven't seen the Nelo 600 Surfski at our tent, because it is always on the water.
A fun Millers Run in the Nelo 600 Surfski
As you might imagine, at 6 meters by 0.6 meters wide, with an 8/10 stability, the Nelo 600 is not the fastest double ski in flat water. However, paddling flat water is not what this boat was born to do. The Nelo 600 is a versatile boat; it is a boss in any sized downwind and it's the best downwind teaching tool we have ever experienced. While it's not super speedy in the flats, Michele and I often hit speeds over 25 kph in the bumps. The Nelo 600 is a competent surfski which gives beginners a taste of downwind magic and experienced paddlers the comfort and confidence they may desire in truly big conditions.
As a teaching tool, the Nelo 600 is unique. The boat is set up so you can choose which paddler controls steering. For example, when teaching folks downwind skills through Swell City, we can place the "student" in the front of the boat, while the "guru" steers from the back. This way, the student can see the guru's decision making and learn from it. Once the student starts to understand how to read water and surf the boat, the steering controls are easily switched while on the water.
The innovative steering option is also great for different sized partners. The front cockpit bucket has less meat at paddle entry than the back, accommodating smaller paddlers. If, for example, a parent brings their kid paddling, the kid can sit in front while the parent steers from the rear. While the Nelo 600 caters to a wide variety of leg lengths, we find that sometimes the bucket is too long for small kids. In that case, we recommend some foam at the back of the bucket to prop them forward. We also find this boat popular with couples...as long as they don't kill each other before the session is over.
The boat handles downwind exceptionally well. Although the 600 is wide and stable, it's low profile helps the paddler get a good catch on the water which allows good power application. If you've ever paddled the front seat of a Nelo 600, you'll notice right away how short the nose seems. This allows you to easily catch waves since the paddler's weight is so far forward in the boat. Because the boat is so short, it surfs like a single ski. All you have to do is lean to the side and you'll see the boat is very reactive. There's quite a bit of volume in the nose which makes it very forgiving when learning to surf.
Although it's not a racing boat, we truly love the Nelo 600 Surfski for its unique ability to share the stoke of downwind with people of all abilities.
If you're in the SoCal area and would like to try a Nelo 600 Surfski, contact us to set up a demo.
If you're interested in buying one, we usually have some in inventory, or you can order one with custom artwork on our next container.
United States Olympian and Dog Mom
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