Last week, I had an opportunity to test drive one of the long awaited, C4 Waterman, stand up boards manufactured by Boardworks. Evidently, the boards had been imprisoned in a shipping container in San Pedro and were just unleashed upon the mainland last week- look for them as they spread across the coast and into your local surf shop.
Kelly Kraus of Emerald City (619 435-6677), in Coronado, Ca was willing to let me hop on his brand new 10'0" version of the board (the board line also includes a 10'6" and an 11'6").
Setting the scene: I paddled this board in the ocean on a moderately choppy day, the surf was a small 2 - 3' wind swell. I'd call the conditions "semi-challenging" due to the pop-up nature of the wind swell peaks and the amount of south wind, cross chop. We surfed the board at a local beach break, no channel cheating here.
Paddling: I have to say, I was a bit apprehensive about the how I'd do on such a small stand up board. I'm currently riding a board that is just about 12' by 29.5"- the dimensions on this board put its width at 28" with a thickness of 4". I weigh about 210lbs and I honestly didn't think the board would float me.
I was completely wrong. The board handled me; the deck wasn't awash. In fact, I found the board surprisingly stable for it's size. I could paddle around, back paddle it and even pivot turn it with a foot on the tail. Undoubtably, paddling it did require considerably more thought then my other board but I have to say that my preconceived notions (see the article about the Craig paddleboards) regarding paddle-ability and board size have been put to rest. A guy my size can definitely paddle boards in the sub-11' range.
Surfing: Scott Bass wrote a great article ("Got Paddle? A Preliminary Look at StandUp Paddle Surfboard Design" at www.surfermag.com) about stand up boards that discusses the trade offs in a board's design. There is evidence of this in this board. The board does not possess the glide of the big 12' tankers and I'm reasonably sure it was never meant to compete with them in this area (however, the 11'6" C4 may have been designed for this purpose). What the board does do extremely well is surf. Form definitely follows function with this board- the thing surfs really, really well.
Taking off on this board is a different experience then gliding in on the 12 footer. The board has a snappy acceleration (think a twitch of the wrist on a rice burner) and an easy entry into the wave- there is some meat in the nose of the board allowing you to really lean into the paddle over the front of the board. Kelly Kraus goes from zero to ripping in about three strokes, I've seen him get into waves he had no business catching.
Another clue regarding the board's purpose? Check out the tailpad (the board comes stock with a deck pad and a cut-in tail pad). Like your favorite short board, the board was meant to be surfed off the tail. Get your foot back there and the board goes rail to rail down the line very nicely; it's "pump-able". The board makes speed easily and feels like a much smaller board then it is. I didn't get a chance to disfigure a fat reef break shoulder but I have no doubt that thing would carve a cutback very nicely.
Summary: This board would not be my choice for a long distance (10 mile or more) coastal cruise, it just doesn't have the waterline and weight to match the speed and glide of the big boys. I would use this board for a two or three spot go out; the kind of session where you roll up, see the peak you want to poach, surf it and then hit one or two adjacent spots. The board has an extremely "surfy" feel that will appeal to shortboarding cross-over surfers. At my weight, I could see myself eventually getting used to a board of its size, realizing that I'd have to climb the SUB learning curve again. I'd be interested in trying out the C4's bigger brother the 10'6", given my dimensions and experience I think this larger version would be a better fit . Overall, I can say that riding this board has expanded my paddle surfing world a little bit- and I've begun to realize that I may have to make room in my shed for more then one stand up board. Ouch.