Have you ever wanted a board that does it all? Surfs like a high performance shortboard, but paddles and catches waves like a longboard? Look no further, for you have found it in the Simmons inspired, John Mel designed and shaped, 7-0 HGS.
HGS? Holy Grail Series (my own made-up name for the board and NOT Freeline's btw) because this is what so many surfers are looking for in a surfboard. It's a great all around board for all ages, but I think it is especially suited for the older surfers (like me) who would like to have more maneuverability in a high performance package, but don't want to give up the comfort and great paddle-ability of their longer boards.
At some point we all realize that we just don't have the youthful energy, stamina and flexibility of days past. So we get off our shorter boards, and onto a longboard. It's hard to forget though, how easy it was to throw around our shortboards, place them exactly where we want to go on the wave, and do it now. With a longer board, everything slows down. The instant reaction just isn't there. It's a different genre, type and style of surfing. Now I'm not saying this new line from Freeline will surf like a 5-10 chip, but the 7-0 (or longer) HGS will fill the gap nicely between chip and log.
Personally, I've been immersed in the Simmons inspired designs and boards, and Simmons' ideas since last year, when I started doing the research that led to the Freeline Ghostbuster2, which I still love. But I also wanted to have another, longer board for my quiver; one would fill the space between my Freeline Mini-Simmons 5-11 Ghostbuster2, and the Angulo Custom 10-0 SUP. I thought a conventional longboard would do the trick, so I bought a McTavish 9-3 Fireball. This is a great board, and it surfs old school with updated McTavish design elements thrown in to make it a very modern longboard. But the polyurethane has just proven to be a little too heavy for my new tastes that have evolved ever since I started buying EPS foam boards. For an older, smaller guy (150 pounds +/-) like me, the lightness of this foam just can't be beat. I'm not dissing P/U, I'm just really into EPS.
So I came to John with some ideas for a Simmons inspired longboard, based on the planing hull ideas Simmons put forward in the late 40's and 50's, and the 5-11 Ghostbuster2. (For more on the mini-Simmons designs check here and check out Richard Kenvin's blog.) Unbeknown to me, John had already been working out designs which incorporated some of Simmons design elements, and were further refined by John's treasure trove like knowledge, which he has accumulated over 30-something years of shaping...11,800 boards and still going strong!
He's already sold several of these boards locally, and had a 7-0 demo model in the shop which he invited me to surf. I rode the board in fairly mellow beach break for the last week and I'm super stoked on this design and shape. The surf (see blog post) was not big, but on two of the three days had enough juice to test the board under some pressure. But the small days were really good too, because if your board doesn't surf well in gutless, small stuff, you won't have any fun...and Summer is coming.
How does it paddle? A seven foot board is not a longboard, so I had my doubts. I was thinking that I'd need at least 7-6 to 8 feet of board to have the paddle power I wanted, not only to paddle into those super small and weak Summer beachie days, but to have the paddle boost you need to paddle in a little bit earlier on those big days, when you want to get in sooner than later to set up for some down-the-line speed trimming. The polyurethane 7-0 is thick (3.25") and I had absolutely no problem at any time paddling into just about any wave I wanted. Was it "corky"? No, it floats just right. As a matter of fact, I had several no paddle take-offs. It's easy to push your weight forward as you transition from prone to standing. The board is exceedingly stable and handles a late drop with no worries.
How does it surf? Amazingly well for a thick and wide (but shorter) board, that isn't a thruster or a chip. I don't surf skateboard style. I'm 63, not 23, so keep that in mind here. Most people don't look for this first, but one of the things I want to know about a board is, how well does it surf in white water. Does it bog down so that you have no chance of breaking into the smooth water of the shoulder? Does it just sink...game over? I can answer a resounding NO to both those questions. This board epitomizes the word "stable," on the take-off, on the wave face, in the steep sections and in the foam. It'll turn hard off the bottom, and although it takes a little getting used to, it will come back hard on the redirect. (The secret is to get your back foot firmly planted over the low-aspect ratio twin fins and rock back hard on that foot. The board comes around smartly and in a hurry.) Banking off sections and taking the high line is the name of my game. This board satisfied my every need. Even though the waves were small, I have no reason to believe it won't surf really well in small to tall (double-overhead is just about my personal limit on purpose).
Hopefully John's next EPS foam order will come in this week. There's an 8-5 blank in it, and it's mine. In the meantime, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in, check it out. But you may want to call Freeline first. 'Cause I've still got the 7-0 and I ain't done with it yet.