The Stellar Intrepid 18 (SI18) Sea Kayak, a very capable and more traditional hull design. Hard chines, a defined keel and a retractable skeg provide excellent handling in the Rock-Gardens or longer adventures…” Stellar Kayaks
Material: Four composite layups available (Sport, Advantage, Excel, Ultra)
Deck Height: 13.4”
Cockpit Size: 17.3” x 32”
Capacity: up to 330lbs
Weight: 52.9lbs (Sport), 45.2lbs (Advantage), 40.8lbs (Excel), 40.8 lbs (Ultra)
Hatches/Bulkheads: Bow, Stern, Day, Deck Pod
MSRP: $2500 (Sport), $2995 (Advantage), $3775 (Excel), $5115 (Ultra)
The Intrepid 18 (SI18) by Stellar Kayaks represents their first take on a British-style sea kayak. At first glance, this ultra-light, full-length sea kayak sticks out like a sore thumb in the Stellar line-up that is known for its racer-inspired designs. You’re not seeing things! This is exactly what it looks like; an 18-foot long sea kayak that is designed to handle bigger conditions while retaining the speed and efficiency that Stellar kayaks are known for. There is a lot about the Intrepid to be excited about but the three things that impressed me most were its maneuverability, weight and outfitting.
Paddlers typically look to long boats for their straight-line tracking and speed. Almost every long boat (18+ feet) that I have ever paddled has tracked as if it were on rails. This is great if you’re trying to cover some distance or hold course on open water. However, at some point you’ll have to come back to shore and maneuverability with these long boats is almost always something to be desired in these near-coastal situations. This is not the case with the Intrepid 18. It benefits from moderate rocker and very solid secondary stability which help to make it quite limber for an 18-footer. Of course, increased maneuverability comes as a trade-off for decreased tracking. I’ve found that the Intrepid 18 weathercocks quite a bit. This behavior is easily corrected for with the smooth-operating drop skeg. When deployed, the skeg puts the Intrepid back on rails without creating noticeable drag or otherwise impacting speed and efficacy!
There is the undeniable trend in paddle sport in which the consumer has shifted their attention toward lighter kayaks. The reason for this is because folks don’t want to deal with lugging a heavy kayak on and off their car and to and from the launch. To achieve this dream, they are often willing to sacrifice the idea of a full-length sea kayak for something shorter to fit the “light weight” bill. I’ve even followed suit by complementing my 60lb, 16.5ft P&H Capella with a 32lb, 12ft Current Designs Vision 120SP and I haven’t regretted it. However, the thing about the Intrepid 18 is that it breaks the “long boats are inherently heavy” rule. Here we have an 18-foot-long kayak that weighs only 45lbs in the “advantage” layup (best bang for your buck)! 45lbs!…18ft!…WOW!!! Yes, you can get other lightweight sea kayaks (the Wilderness Systems Arctic Hawk come to mind) but not for $2995. Maybe we don’t have to sacrifice length for weight savings after all…
I also continue to be impressed with the complete and thoughtful outfitting that Stellar puts into their kayaks! The Intrepid is literally decked out with everything that a paddler could ask for. I found the cockpit area to be both accommodating and comfortable with well-placed thigh braces, foot braces that are easily adjustable from the cockpit, and sufficient depth for those of us with tight hamstrings and/or oversized (up to Size M-13) feet. You’ll notice that Stellar retained their noted paddle cut-outs on the side of the cockpit to prevent the paddler from knocking their knuckles and foster a more efficient, high-angle forward stroke. This feature is common amongst racing kayaks and in the rest of the Stellar line. I think that it probably under appreciated by the general paddling public but really like the cutouts and I’m glad that they were retained in this sea kayak!
The Intrepid comes with a full assortment of hatches (fore, aft, and day) with plenty of storage room for a 3-5 day trip. It also has one of the most thoughtfully-designed deck pods that I’ve come across. The deck pod is easy to reach from the cockpit, doesn’t take up much space under the deck, and has enough room to hold a few small essentials at arm’s length. The best part is that you can actually reach your hand all the way to the back of the deck pod so that your things don’t get lost in the nether-reaches! My one knock on the outfitting has to do with placement of the compass recess. Shorter paddlers will notice that the bottom half of the compass is hidden from view by the front hatch cover. Taller paddlers may not have this issue but it would be nice to see the recess either lifted up an inch or moved six inches toward the bow.
Overall, I found the Stellar Intrepid 18 to be very interesting in terms of its handling, weight, and outfitting. It’s quite nimble on edge for an 18-foot-long kayak without sacrificing too much in terms of straight-line tracking thanks to a well-placed, smooth-operating drop skeg. The fact that the Intrepid weighs in at only 45lbs (for only $2995) The Intrepid 18 would be a great choice for the mid-sized paddler who is interested in a light-weight kayak capable of handling everything from near-coastal to open conditions with grace, speed, and efficiency! Also, a little bird told me that we can expect to see two more sizes of the Intrepid 18 (MV and LV) within the next year or two…
Pros: Fast, Maneuverable, Lightweight, Superb outfitting, Smooth-operating skeg, Great price point
Cons: Some may complain about weather cocking. Poor compass mount placement
Demo Notes: The Intrepid 18 was demoed on an inland lake with light winds and small waves.