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.