G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Board Review: Original SIMSUP S3/S5 Hybrid (The SNAzY)

UPDATE: (please see below).

Dimensions: 7'10" double winger (toeside), 7'8" asymmetrical (heelside) by 29.5" by 4.5" by 122L

From the minds of creative, knowledgeable and imaginative people come innovations that always precede, then exceed expectations. Bob Simmons begot the modern planing hull, while years later, Joe Bauguess & Richard Kenvin begot the mini-Simmons. Staying with the surfboard genre Dan Thomson built upon Simmons original premise and proffered the current era planing hull as found in the Vanguard and Vader. And in the SUP world Kirk McGinty burst forth with the Original SIMSUP series of boards. Starting with the S1 through S3 series, he continued his creative juggernaut with the S4 and S5 editions. These innovations have led to the birthing of an utterly unique amalgam of modern SIMSUP hybrids, blending tradition with modern hydrodynamics and always based upon his core values of maximizing speed and maneuverability without loss of stability. The board you see here which I have dubbed the SNAzY (Shovel Nose Asymmetrical simmY) is the vibrant result of my latest adventure with Kirk and the Original SIMSUP.

I picked the board up Sunday afternoon and had it in the water at my local beach break at dawn Monday morning. My initial impressions of the board are as follows: generally, it paddles like a bigger board, and surfs like a smaller board. It took some getting used to the shovel nose. It just doesn't look "right" and makes the board feel like a much bigger board when in fact it's the shortest SUP I've ever ridden, and at 29.5", narrower than what I usually ride. Not only is it the shortest at 7'10" on the toeside (double winger side) but it's only 7'8" on the asymmetrical (heel side). That should feel short in the water but it doesn't at all. Happily, I did not even notice a difference standing on, or paddling the board between my current 8' S3 and the SNAzY. Well that's not quite true. The SNAzY is slightly more tippy than my 8' S3 at 30.5" wide, but I didn't really feel any greater effort was needed to paddle, sprint, surf or maneuver the SNAzY. The sea surface was pretty glassy with some offshore wind ruffles, but there were rips moving around as well as some backwash from the beach which was sending some diagonal humps back through the lineup, especially after big sets washed through. Even on the areas of uneven sea surface I never fell off the board standing, paddling or sprinting for waves or rushing to get out the back and over set waves. The board paddles through foamy breaking waves better than any board I've ever ridden. The accelerated rocker in the shovel nose smoothly lifts the board up and over the whitewater and the landings are stable.

The unique plan shape that you see is deliberate and purposeful. The general specifics of the design and dimensions were made in collaboration with Kirk and with the indirect help of Michael Marina who had the first SNAzY I ever saw and graciously allowed me to ride it. It only took one session on the board and I was committed to this unique plan shape and the asymmetrical design.

The toeside wings are more pronounced than on my other Simmys and I was worried that they would somehow make the board slower or stiffer than my other double winger (S3), but no worries. The SNAzY turns and holds off the bottom without hesitation and there is no drag or lagging at all. The SNAzY rides the high line and goes fast, just as fast as my S2 and S3. Turnbacks/cutbacks are sleep walking. The board changes direction on the 7'8" asymmetrical tail like a hot knife cutting through butter, just as we'd planned. The board banks off the top and is steady and stable re-entering from the crest at the steepest part of the wave. Wider and heavier surfboards (think SUPs) have a tendency to catch the outside rail in the trough of the wave before the rider can put the board on rail and accelerate "around the corner" and into the clean wave face. This was an issue we specifically addressed with the SNAzY design by the 29.5" width and the slightly accelerated nose rocker. It works perfectly. While making the transition from the steep drop re-entry into the bottom turn, the nose stays well clear of the acute trough angle. The combination of the the k-rail and the double concave planing hull provides for nearly instantaneous speed with little (if any) noticeable deceleration. When the board has the occasion to ride the foam line it does so with no slowing, catching, jerking or loss of speed. In those situations it was almost too easy to slide the foam and turn up into the clean corner for more up and down action, or to flick out and paddle out the back for more.

Another important design element in considering a short, fast and maneuverable SUP is weight. The SNAzY is protected by a state of the art glassing application emanating from the Stretch factory in Santa Cruz CA. This process utilizes Technora Fiber seen via the unique crosshatch pattern inherent in the material known as Vectornet. It is defined as follows: "Aramid fibers are a class of strong, synthetic fibers. Improves flex memory on the bottom of surfboards, and core-crush and point-load impact resistance on surfboard decks. Also used in aerospace, military applications, body armor and ballistic composites."(1) In truth Vectornet has been around for a while and has been coming into greater use in the surfboard/SUP industry because of it's high strength to low weight ration. (I also dig the way it looks, especially on the SNAzY. Sexy!)

So, why did I go from a 8' X 28.5" X 4.5" X 119L S2 to the SNAzY S3/S5 hybrid? The primary reason is that I'm just not physically strong enough to keep from getting quickly exhausted when out on the board. If it was just surfing there would be no issue. The board surfs better than any SUP I've ever ridden, mainly because of low volume and the narrow width. But those two elements require more strength to balance on at rest and when paddling and catching waves. I like surfing beach breaks which typically have more chop and roll than point breaks protected from the wind or by land. It was just too much work to paddle and balance at rest on the board. Consequently my sessions were always shorter due to fatigue. I just wasn't having enough fun. SUP boards, paddling and surfing are like flying. It's a constant process of adjustment. Looking for that perfect balance between stability and surfability is part of that never ending process. That's (in my opinion) why we call them "custom" boards. They are custom built to the SUP surfers desires, needs and perhaps most importantly, abilities.This is self evident for those who have been SUP surfing for a while. Are you still riding the first board you bought when you started? I'll bet not.

Kirk and I collaborated to build a high performance surfing SUP that would surf as well or nearly as well as the S2, but would be less tippy and more stable in rougher conditions. The SNAzY is the result of that collaboration and although I've ridden it only once, I think we went a long ways towards resolving the issues I felt needed improvement. The shovel nose design allowed for more board width overall without compromising surfability. We kept the wide point at 29.5" (a compromise between 28.5" (S2) and 30.5" (S3) which is still excellent for putting the board on rail and therefore enhancing maneuverability.The asymmetrical tail was designed for ease in cutbacks. Not only did the overall plan shape allow for more maneuverability, it allowed us to go shorter, from 8' to 7'10" toeside/7'8" heelside, and still maintain acceptable volume (122L vs. 119L (S2) and 125L (S3). We were able to do this with minimal loss of stability. This is my fifth SIMSUP and each build has been an adventure as well as fun and exciting. Each new board aims for a new balance with the goal of extracting as much fun and pure joy from the SUP surfing experience as possible.

Over the last four years Kirk has invested significant amounts of time and energy into researching and developing the SIMSUP. (His design knowledge also includes building surfboards through L41 Surfboards, which he has been doing for years.) His high performance S4 and S5 models are built upon the plan shapes of the original S1-S3 series but they are incredibly advanced compared to those early boards. He has incorporated his knowledge and design innovations and continues to make products that the SUP world simply has never seen before. They say the highest form of flattery is imitation and there have been those who have tried to imitate the Original SIMSUP. But Kirk is the original, the creator. He's a genuine son of the Santa Cruz surf culture and the history of surfing and stand up paddling.

Update: My first surf on the SNAzY was March 24th, this year. I've had plenty of surfs on it in multiple locations, multiple situations and conditions from beach breaks to point breaks to reef breaks as well as summer surf on Maui. It is the most exciting and the funnest SUP I've ever owned. In a word, I "love" this board. I continue to be amazed and pleased by how fast and maneuverable the board surfs. It is also stable in almost all conditions including strong wind and bumpy, back washy seas. The SNAzY is 100% my "go to" board in all waves up to head high/one to two feet overhead at all spots where I surf. Even though it's short, even though it's got a funny looking snub nose, it can handle any kind of wave in that size range. Soft, steep, barreling, it takes 'em all.

The primary limitation in this board is me. I am too old to push this board as far as it can go. Under the feet of a younger and more skilled SUP surfer, this board would astound. I am slowly ridding myself of the notion that the SNAz is a small wave only board. I recently rode well overhead, 17 second, high energy south swell waves at high tide with significant backwash from shoreside cliffs and a lot of water moving. Six guys out, two on SUPs (me and a longer 9'-10' standard shape SUP) and the SUPs were the only boards capable of consistently paddling into the fast moving high energy waves. Drops were ledgy as you couldn't get in early...too much water. The loose maneuverability of the SNAz in small waves is almost a liability in large waves of consequence because it doesn't take much to move the board around on the wave. Making this adjustment in the mind of the surfer is important, especially if you don't ride big waves (think double overhead as a start point here) very often. I felt insecure and skitterish on the board for the first couple waves until I got my bearings. After that it was just pure adrenaline fun.

Contrast that day with the next in dropping swell at a different point break in 1-4' waves. Some were lined up with long fast walls and some were just teeny 1-2' barrels too small to tuck into. Those would just break into my legs as the SNAz just blasted down the line and onto the shoulder. Bar of soap, super slippery, kept coming to mind.

I took the board with me to Maui last Summer and surfed it almost every day for six weeks in small warm water waves. I'm going back for the month of November and my dilemma is which board to take. The surf will definitely be bigger and packing a stronger NPAC punch. My SNAzY or my S3? I still haven't decided.

This update is finished, but the story isn't. If I take the SNAz next month, I'll update again. Either way, it's going to be a SIMSUP adventure full of good waves and a ton of fun.
(October 5, 2014)

About me: 67 year old retired firefighter in pretty good shape. Live next to the Monterey Bay. Been surfing on and off since 1963. Paddled my first SUP in Hawaii in August 2007. Started SUP surfing in September that same year. Collaborated with Kirk (he's the one with the know-how) to build the first SIMSUP S1 which launched in June 2010. The SNAzY is my fifth SIMSUP. Hope to be able to SUP hard 'til I can't.