Shoreham Sea Kayaks are a new entry in the burgeoning UK sea kayak market, based – as the name suggests - on the Sussex coast. Their boats are constructed in Europe specifically for the company and their range includes three different hull designs with many optional variations. SSK aim to provide boats of high quality build and performance but – and here is their marketing ‘hook’ – to offer them at prices significantly below the established competitors. We were supplied two of their designs to test; the Kaspian SK18 and Kaspian HV17. The internet knows everything, so we Googled ‘Kaspian’. It turns out that the word means either a Central Asian sea, or a character in the ‘Narnia’ children’s books. Whatever. What we know for sure, is that the SK18 is designed as an out-and-out expedition boat to handle any conditions and get you from A to B fast, whilst the HV17 is also designed as a fast boat, only with much more volume and stability.

A first glance reveals that the two boats are very different beasts. The SK18 is narrow and sleek and has graceful curve along its length. The back deck is a little lower than the front. The hull tapers to a thinly pointed bow which scores lots of points for aesthetics, whilst the hull narrows right down towards the stern. A retractable skeg offers directional stability and extra waterline length when needed. Two random passers-by asked if it was a ‘Nordkapp’ and although there are definite differences, the SK18 shares the appealing Inuit lines of this classic boat.

By comparison, the HV17 looks far more functional and utilitarian. Although it is only 3 cm wider than its partner, it clearly has far more volume as the greater width is maintained along its length. It has a ramrod-straight hull profile with hardly any rocker (curve). This is extended as far forward and back as possible, to give a very long waterline, despite the HV17’s shorter overall length.

At the stern this forms the equivalent of a fixed skeg. The bow still curves upward with some style and dignity, the HV17 isn’t ugly! The HV17 comes with a retractable rudder fitted as standard. Read more . . . .

The SK18 off Pembrokshire


The HV17 in action

See also this discussion.

Mark Rainsley - 2005