FSK (Fast Sea Kayak)

Boat of choice: SKUK Quantum
Paddles of choice: Vertical Element Wing Small
Favourite areas: North Cornwall, North Devon

What is an FSK and what Defines one?

An FSK is a Fast Sea Kayak. An FSK is fast because it has a long waterline and a hull shape designed to cause minimum drag, being as hydrodynamic as possible. This type of boat will have a very specific design and purpose. The following sub categories are relevant. (These are affected by lay-up and boat weights)

  • Racing/Training FSK (Valley Rapier, Tiderace Pace18, Kirton Inuk) Cruising efficient pace of 4.7-5+kts
  • Expedition FSK (NDK Quantum, Rockpool Taran, Freya, Inuk Ultra20) Cruising efficient pace of 4.5-5+kts
  • Traditional/Old skool FSK (Greenlander Pro) Cruising efficient pace of 4.3+kts

A boat will have an optimum carry capacity to utilise the hull and displacement; freeboard effects the paddle stroke and draft effects the efficiency of the hull and increases/decreases the glide phase. This means that an FSK is subjective to different sizes of paddler and the equipment the paddler wishes to carry. However there are some boats on the market that clearly are FSKs and are designed to be fast and efficient such as Quantum, Taran, Pace, Inuk, Rapier. All of these boats will have a cruise speed of 4.5 to 5.3 knots, loaded without tidal and wind assistance. Even 0.1 of a knot is a significant speed increase/decrease in a kayak. This speed is an efficient speed, a speed that can be maintained over a distance.

One may be able to paddle a Romany at five knots over a mile but you wont be able to paddle it that speed over twenty, with equipment and you wont be able to paddle another twenty after a short break because of the energy it takes to alternate strokes to maintain direction. Of course throughout all of the categories (arguably sub-categories) of sea kayak there is cross over of concepts and shapes, which causes some confusion.

But an FSK is an FSK, so how do you get the most speed out of a kayak?

  • There needs to be a rudder or a skeg (the skeg can be built in and integrated into the keel line) which causes as little drag as possible, this allows the kayak to track as straight as possible, even in bumpy stuff. Directional stability helps the paddler to put all their energy into propelling the boat forwards and this will add rhythm and power to each stroke and increase the glide phase. Having a rudder will put some of the control into the feet, again allowing the paddle strokes to be consistent and that will also allow the paddler to stay focused and engaged through the lower body.
  •  If a kayak is eighteen feet long, as much of that length as possible needs to translate into water/keel line. This is why you’ll see the stubby bow and sterns.
  • Width; an FSK should be as narrow as possible but the purpose and load capacity will dictate this a bit.

A five-foot, eight stone paddler will paddle a different boat to a six-foot, thirteen stone paddler, both boats will be FSKs but they will be designed for purpose and capacity in mind, also a smaller paddler may be able to control a smaller craft more effectively, adding efficiency and speed.
The whole ethos behind FSK is slightly different, its about speed and efficiency, its about being fast and light and suiting your kit to the boat. Its kinda like Original Mountain Marathon running, so it’s not just a boat thing.

I hope this helps. Some of you will be saying: “My explorer/nordkapp/cetus is pretty quick, so that’s an FSK right?”- Nope! Sorry, folks, they’re not, they fall into the traditional, expedition category and have a cruising, efficient pace of 4+kts.