A high-ish performance surfboard for the working man…
I am a husky, wrinkled old-timer with a harem of surfboards. Stubbornly intermediate is my level and most days I leave the surf emitting ughs of disgust at my performance.
Do you know the feels?
In the right conditions, on the right board, you’ll hit a lip, throw fins, maybe there’s an end-section foam climb to almost revert in there or an on-the-face reverse that takes four seconds and a frenzy of duck-paddling to ride out of.
On a bad day, you’re getting hung up in the lip, driving too far out on the face, avoiding sections and traversing set waves with your feet unable to get anywhere near the levers.
So I’m always looking for boards that forgive but don’t shut the door when you hit a little form.
Four years ago, I bought a custom Lost Puddle Jumper, right when they first came out (the harem, as we can all appreciate, is never quite complete). It was five-six, still with all its insane width, twenty-one inches…insane… but thinned out to hell, two-and-a-quarter inches in the middle, two-and-an-eighth on the rail.
For all the limitations of its width, it was a revelation of sorts.
Y’see, the general rule of the quasi-fish, hybrid, fun board (more ughs) is you squash the length down, stretch it out the middle and give it the rocker of an ironing board.
Anyone can ride ’em.
They’re stable to paddle and they don’t have to be surfed in the pocket. You can traverse an entire wave five yards from where the action is and make deep-water sections with nothing but a smug look on your face.
But piloting an easy-to-drive SUV down a freeway ain’t ever going compete with the satisfaction of pushing a Formula One around a difficult track.
The Puddle Jumper was different. It had the fat outline but it was married to performance rocker and bottom curve. The shaper, Californian Matt Biolos, had wanted to create what he called a “return to surfing” board after a knee injury had him landlocked for three months.
“I needed width as well as floatation,” says Biolos, “But I still wanted to turn.”
An easy-to-ride board that got its stable platform from the wide outline.
Like all boards, if you take something, in this case stability through width, you gotta lose something. Which meant the thing will give a little of that hi-fi feel but on the stable platform of the (again, ugh, ugh, ugh) fun board.
In a technical sense, “the centreline ( stringer ) rocker is pretty flat, we just fooled the curve by creating a hyper extended rail rocker, which counters the low, flat, over all rocker and allows much tighter arcs, when rolling over onto the rail,” says Biolos. “When simply trimming or pumping , it feels like a typical, down-the-line, fish or Simmons-esque plank. But on a rail, it really comes to life.”
A year after I got that thinned-out custom, I was in Bali with Biolos and we got into the CAD program AkuShaper. I wanted a pulled-in version of the Puddle Jumper. Less nose, less tail and I wanted to lose a few pounds off the girth (board and owner).
“That was the early adjustments leading to the Puddle Jumper High Performance,” says Biolos. “Reduce the nose area in the forward third and pull in the tail block in the last few inches.”
Lately, I’ve been on a PJ-HP and the diff between the original and the HP is marked. It ain’t gonna baby you quite so much but it ain’t gonna buck you off either. For the stubbornly intermediate surfer who might go backwards even ten surfs or land one air in every twenty, and who is missing a few too many sections on the original, it’s a pleasing improvement.
“The entry is flat enough that all but the most rudimentary of surfers can still get it up and going immediately, although it’s much quicker. The pulled-in nose reduces swing weight and gives the feeling of a set back wide point,” says Biolos. “Combined with the pulled-in tail block, it creates the hip effect between and under the rear foot. This allows aggressive small-wave wraps while still maintaining drive, without any shuffling of the feet.”
I’m 175, five-eleven (six-one in heels) and the five-seven, all thirty-one litres of it, treated me pretty good. I blew a fin box (board came with those damn fragile FCS II things) soon after it landed but it’ll be, upon repair, the board I loose in everything up to four feet.
To be transparent, I wanted this thing when it came out and promised this review in exchange for the free board.
If you’re better than intermediate, you’ll dig the speed but may find the limitations of the width and rocker in anything other than two-foot waves frustrating.
For me, and for you, I’m guessing, it’s a peach.