Last week I headed down to Grand Bahama with the family (we were forced to leave the United States to renew our international health care), and it just so happened that the Pryde Group dealer meeting was going on at Taino Beach. Now, this wasn’t exactly a coincidence, Garry Menk, head of Pryde Group Americas, is a good friend and when I told him we had to leave the US, he invited us to come down, check out the new 2018 gear, learn to kite and sit down with Werner Gnigler the shaper for JP.
Werner’s roots are from windsurfing, first a competitor at the highest level, then shaper and designer. As JP moved into standup, Werner took the best of windsurfing design and tech and applied those elements to his paddle surf boards. Working with the likes of Keahi de Aboitiz (podcast here), Werner has refined his SUP designs to be some of the best in the sport. The new JP 7.6 x 27 is an incredible board.
On the show we get very technical about his shapes, board technologies, fin setups and innovation process. This is definitely a show for the paddle surfing nerds, and one you could listen to a couple times… Enjoy
Summer Glide – Costa Rica on a Popdart from The Progression Project on Vimeo.
I’ve been sitting on writing the full review of the Popdart from L-41 for a bit now. I didn’t want to write it until I felt that I understood the board, and have always felt that the board had so much more potential than I was getting out of it. It did, and after the breakthroughs I have had on the L-41 and in my paddle surfing in the last week, I’m stoked to give you my thoughts.
To understand the process, we’ve got to jump back a few months. When I bought the board I was envisioning a shortboard feel. Thinking about the 2017 contest season, focused on “performance.” My hope with the short size, it’s a 6.10 x 26.5, and the stepped rails, was that I’d be able to drive it hard through turns, and fit in smaller spaces. And while using the framework of surfing like I would on my small Hobie or the 7.4 Starboard Pro, the L-41 was faster, but lacked the drive to draw the tight lines that either of the other boards could draw. I got out of the water frustrated on a few occasions, and then put the board away.
That was late November and the next few weeks I was running retreats and coaching, which means I’m not focused on personal surfing. The sessions I did have on all boards felt flat, and I knew that my surfing was stagnant. Stuck in old lines and mental frameworks. This is about the time that Fisher Grant, who was here for 3 weeks in December (and coming back on Thursday for a few weeks of helping with the retreats) said I should hop on single fins for a bit. I bought Donna, the 6.9 Takayama, and for the next 22 days, only surfed that board. For the first few sessions I was stuck in the framework of shortboard surfing. It didn’t work.
Extrapolating on that point, my paddle surfing model has always been shortboard surfing. I come from a shortboard background and I’ve modeled the best in our sport, but their styles are largely shortboard inspired. (Not Colin, Kalama, Fisher and a few others).
When I dive into a new skill, my approach is to start with consumption. I’ll watch every relevant video, try to talk to anyone who is farther ahead on the learning curve and use that knowledge to prioritize my focus. In this case, on the single fin, with the goal of learning to draw more true lines, I went back a few decades. Gerry Lopez, Buttons, even old longboard videos. Modern inspirations were Colin McPhillips, Fisher Grant, Alex Knost and Devon Howard.
My goal is to add a new framework through which to see waves.
I’m not a martial artist, but there are so many similarities that martial arts provides a good analogy. If you had trained in Muay Thai for decades, you’d interpret a fight in a Muay Thai framework. If you decided to learn boxing, at the beginning you’d see boxing through Muay Thai, relating techniques and principles. Then at some point you’d see boxing from a boxing framework. The beauty happens when you transition back to Muay Thai and can analyze it with the boxing framework. Now you have a new framework in which to interpret your true passion.
I want to learn the single fin framework and bring it back to paddle surfing. And for 22 days I went about as deep as it’s possible in that short window. I averaged about 5 hours in the water per day and studied video another 2-4. I’m at my happiest in the middle of a binge learning session, and it was a great few weeks. (It’s not over, but has to taper a bit as we’re running retreats and I’m coaching for the next few weeks.)
And this all comes back to the Popdart as the board provides an amazing platform for the lines I’ve been trying to learn on the single fin.
So, my review on the Popdart is that it’s an incredible surfboard. I’ve already written about how solid the build is, top level, but I’ve waited to talk about the ride. Once you learn the board, and stop imposing the shortboard framework, it’s one of the best paddle boards I’ve ridden. The glide and carry in flat sections is unmatched. The board smooths out choppy paddle surfing.
Yeah… I’m frothing to surf this baby!
Kirk recommended 2×6 glassing on the deck, 1×6 on the bottom and carbon rails. I don’t mind pressure dings on the deck, actually kind of like a bit, lets you know where you are, so no carbon or weave on the deck.
The show last night in St. Aug was great. Stoked to meet the local paddle surf crew. Some passionate folks. Tonight we’re in Jacksonville at Black Creek Outfitters, then this weekend at Mex 1 Cantina on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston after the Chucktown Showdown. Hope to see you.
Alright folks! I’ve finalized the design. First, I’d like to say a huge thanks for all the help with the decision. You all have sent me photos, videos, feedback on what you’ve done and what you wish you would have done with your boards- it’s been an incredibly fun process. I’d love to keep it going, but to have the board ready for Sept. 20th, Kirk said we’ve got to decide now.
So… Here it is!
She’s a 6.10 x 26.5 at 85L.
I chose the Popdart because I surf good waves most of the time. Everyone who chimed in said the TV Dinner was great in bad conditions, and weaker surf, and I might pick one of them up in the future, but for now, I’d like a board that I can ride the majority of my sessions.
The common thought was that either the TV Dinner or the Popdart would be stable for the size and at 85L and 26.5 wide I am well within my range. I am comfortable paddling the 25.5 starboard at 83L and even the 24 wide starboard at 78L, that one just requires more work. I like boards that are a bit of a challenge to paddle, and I don’t like being on top of the water.
Sidebar – During the process of getting this board designed, I went back and used a few older boards. If you guys follow, you know I do this from time to time to see if I notice anything about the shape. In riding the 90L JP and the 95L JP in choppy conditions, I realized how much that makes me bounce around, and I actually fell a good bit more than on my 83-85L boards (but you do make up for it in glide). This will get a full journal soon.
So, I want to be just a touch under the water while paddling. 85L is my perfect volume and my guess is that big nose will pop right out of the water.
I pulled the length back from 7.0 to 6.10 mainly because I want to test increasing thickness for volume and reducing swing weight. My hypothesis is that once you get used to paddling a thicker board it won’t be much of a difference in stability. And with the step-deck and thin rails she should still drive off the rail. If both of those thoughts hold true, then the reduced swing weight should make her come off the top and come around much faster. And she should be much easier to surf in offshore winds. I really notice, and hate, how bigger boards get pinned to the lip when we have an offshore wind. After a few months of slack winds, and having a stiff offshore yesterday, I fell 3 times because I couldn’t get the board around on routine turns or floaters. It forces you to put your surfing more on the face, which isn’t as much fun.
That’s the decision. I can’t wait to surf this beauty!
Here’s the initial design for the TV Dinner. And the note from Kirk –
Original dims on the TVD were a typo. The 7’0 x 27.5 x 3.875 is 92L. This one 6’8 x 27.5 x 3.75 is 85L. I offer two versions of tail design — One with split tail and another with a diamond “fang” tail with single channel. Personally I prefer this split tail design to shorten rail line and remove surface area under your back foot to make it easier to turn. This board is amazing. And you will surely hear this from folks who are riding it. Lightening fast, loose, responsive, stable for it’s size, etc. Not well suited for big, hollow waves but perfect for head high and under points, reefs, beaches.
Thoughts… I’ve tried a few of the tomo style boards and haven’t found anything I’ve enjoyed riding yet. They’ve all felt massive, and what’s the point of having a small board that feels huge. But, from what Kirk is telling me, and the emails I’m getting from you all, this board is different, and I’ve got to say from the look of these designs I can’t wait to ride one.
My initial thought is that I can paddle it narrower and for whatever board I get shaped I’ll probably go that way. Either the TVD or the PD would most likely be a board that I’d opt to surf in smaller surf, that’s where Kirk is saying they excel, and I don’t normally surf small waves unless they’re clean. We get our smaller surf Nov.-Feb. and our conditions that time of year are amazing. So, clean surf means smaller board. Or, for this test, narrower, at the same volume.
Kirk, what would be the difference in performance if I were to go 6.10 x 25.5? How thick would that need to be? Is that too narrow for a TVD?
I like the split tail design.
Maybe you could give us a quick overview on the feel of the TVD vs. the Popdart. You know our waves here, and this board will be my go-to for chest to slightly overhead surf. I surf a right point break, a mellow beach break and a nice beach break barrel. Which board do you see being a better fit?