I had a great time giving the 9'6" a test run this weekend. The beach break was maxing out and was pretty much the domain of prone guys. These guys were pulling in to big, mostly unmake-able, barrels. Of course one of the strengths of the stand up board is the ability to find your own surf-niche (thanks Kelly!) so we paddled way outside to an empty wave and had it to ourselves for an hour.
Photo: No channels? Business as usual down here at the beach. Time the sets, make your call and paddle like hell. He who hesitates is lost.
About a half hour after daybreak, the wind went offshore for about forty five minutes. It was blowing hard up the face of the well-overhead waves- making it tough to drop in. In all, it was a tricky day of surf. The peaks were moving around quite a bit, some of them connecting all the way through for super fast, long, right hand rides. Others were freight train lefts- a few were make-able, most lured you in for a few big turns then grew into death walls.
It was, however, a pretty good day to put this board to the test:
This board is really sweet. If you've paddled one of Stamps' boards, you know that Tim makes 'em surf-specific. The guy's been stewing in seawater since he was a pup- he can't help it, it's in his blood. The board's lines give it away. This is a modern, high performance shape. A good indication are the rails; super low volume, they're the most surfboard-like of any stock board out there. The result is that they really hold in steep and thick stuff. I was so ridiculously late on one wave my brain bypassed the, "lets see if we can pull this" option and went straight to "yank the effing eject handle and get us the hell out of here". It was so steep I thought the board would just detach from the face and fall away. I'm going to credit my survival on this one to the board and specifically the rail line- the thing held. Stoked.
Photo: Senor Stamps checking under the hood. This shot give a good perspective of the drawn out foil... pulled nice and thin at each end.
A big part of the whole package here is the way the board is foiled. Foil can be crudely described as the distribution of volume from nose to tail. This one's pulled pretty darn thin at the nose and tail. The result is that when you're hooked into a macker and you're hauling ass, you know that when you lean it over off the bottom, the board's thin, low volume tail is going to bite and hold. Other boards, with wider, thicker tails can "walk" off the bottom. Wide tailed boards have trouble biting and holding through the arc of the turn. The boards tend to bounce out as you apply pressure to the fins- this little jitter off the bottom is definitely not a confidence builder.
The board's also got the whole Ninja-bump thing going on. You can see the small wings, or bumps, sixteen inches up off the tail. This does two things for the board. First, the rail line is effectively shortened by the little wing. A shorter rail line means smaller radius turns- and a board that surfs smaller than its actual length. Second, the wing breaks the outline of the rail and gives you a little pivot point to turn off of- the board releases off this pivot point and allows you to transition to the opposite rail much easier.
Photo: Check the Ninja-bump tail... these little wings really keep the board under your feet when you're coming off the top.
As with all design elements, there is a compromise here too: You lose a little flow and gain a bit more redirect-ability. Personally, I like it. I find it adds a level of "forgiveness" to the board. For example, you can overshoot your cutback and still be able to bring it all around and back into the juice. Boards with smooth continuous curves in their outline have that silky smooth, flow when you're going rail to rail but they are demanding as well, technically strong surfers love 'em. I'm finding that my surfing is less than "technically strong", I like the fudge factor that these little bumps build into the board.
This board's dimensions make it a little more suited to those in 160 - 190 lb range. I'm a solid 235 lbs so I was pushing it as far as buoyancy and stability. There is a 10' version of this board (same outline, slightly different dimensions) that is probably the perfect size for a paddler of my size. The 10' will also be offered as a stock production board (I have a feeling this one's going to be hot).
Conclusion: This is a great board for a paddler looking to step into the world of high-end, stand up paddle boards. If you're in the 160 - 190 lb range you'll find the board to be stable and highly responsive. It will definitely be a step up from the 12' barge you're paddling around now. Although this board hasn't been put into full production yet, there are a couple floating around for those interested in picking one up.