SUP boards are numerous – both hard boards and inflatables. And as part of my ongoing work I’ve tested a huge number of both. With a keen on eye what the everyday paddler wants my own needs are a little different. It’s therefore gold when I come across SUP equipment that fits both categories.
The first Classic 9’11 SUP test.
I discovered the first incarnation of Freshwater Bay Paddle Co.’s Classic 9’11 during the brand’s initial stint on the scene. Before it was mothballed. Keeping an eye on industry SUP products if something new pops up that I think will be interesting I jump on it and get in touch with the company in question.
Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s Charlie Cripwell – the original brand head – came back to me with details about the orange and white striped Classic 9’11. After some back and forth this is the one that landed on my doorstep for testing.
Having reviewed so many watersports products I can look at a piece of kit and have a fairly good idea of how it’s going to perform. The Classic 9’11’s mid-section flat rocker, accentuated by a narrow pintail and progress kick, with pronounced nose scoop looked like a retro inspired longboard shape. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was its generous volume and width.
Speak with any performance orientated SUP rider and they’ll tell you that too wide isn’t great for manoeuvrability. Especially in waves. And I have to admit that 31.5” is right on the cusp. But the overall shape of the Classic screamed surfing. And I know from experience that dimensions mean naff all really. It’s how a board feels once on the water that’s more important.
Onto the water.
Unfortunately, due to seasonality, waves were scarce during the initial few outings. As such it was mostly about flat water performance. That wasn’t a bad thing per se as SUP boards need to be as versatile as possible. It’s all very well pimping out your latest wave riding shape. But punters want as broad performance from their gear as they can get. Mostly. I appreciate some riders own a quiver of stand up paddle boards – with specialist tools in the mix. The masses, however, tend to stump for one style of SUP and stick with that for a while.
Paddling the Classic 9’11 on flat water revealed there was (is) plenty of fun to be had. It’s obviously not a touring SUP so doesn’t glide or track quite the same. But that’s obvious straight off. Yet cover distance and deliver fulfilment, without waves, the Classic 9’11 does. To add further kudos to the 9’11’s flat water prowess: Charlie Cripwell himself paddled quite a few miles across home waters back in the day, thereby proving the 9’11 is applicable to a wide range of paddling scenarios.
SUP surfing proper.
Sometime later the first decent swell swung into my local. Anybody aux fait with Hayling’s set up will appreciate there can often be a long paddle out. Waves break on a sand bar, which stretches a mile or so offshore. It’s not uncommon to have to paddle right out back to score. As you can imagine piloting short, low volume and narrow SUPs can be a ‘mare. So the Classic 9’11’s length and stability was welcome news.
Taking off on that first wave it soon became apparent just how good the Classic is on swell. The narrow pintail allows hard carving turns when ridden from the back. Whilst the pronounced nose rocker ensures pearling isn’t common when riding steeper sections. The Classic carries good momentum through flat spots whilst the width gives forgiveness to those still dialing in their technique. Yet not to the detriment of maneuverability.
Post-session and I was made up. Had I just found my magic surf SUP board?
Following a brief interlude, my next surf SUP session was a decidedly breezy affair. This can often be the case in my neck of the woods. But you deal with it. With gusts right on the point of the session not quite being doable, I paddled out, but at a different spot. The waves were lumpy, but steep, sucky and fast.
In conditions like this, you definitely don’t want to be trying to balance on an unstable sled. Fortunately, the Classic 9’11’s width ensured I wasn’t constantly bracing and spending more time trying to avoid a dunking. This meant I could concentrate on trying to pick off cleaner sections and enjoy better rides.
Considering the junky surf it was a lovely session. The sun was shining and I had a few belters. Some of the prone surfers were quite jealous! One of the biggest takeaways from that session was just how the momentum carried was allowing me to round sections and get onto unbroken faces. And when facing a decent hit I could fang the 9’11 round and chuck some spray. In some cases, less than ideal surf can be supremely fun! If, you have the right tools for the job.
Onwards and upwards.
Following the aforementioned session, I decided this Classic 9’11 was a keeper. And I’ve since gone on to enjoy countless SUP surfing sessions around the UK. Often it’s been a session saver. And the Classic’s coped well with everything from junky onshore mush to overhead bangers.
Don’t get me wrong. The Classic 9’11 has its limits. Super hollow, high performance waves (once past a certain size) aren’t its forte. You’d be better off with something else, or even prone surfing. For most real world SUP surfing conditions, that the majority of wave riders will face, the Classic 9’11 works a treat though.
There are other great wave orientated stand up paddle boards out there too. But with brands updating their shapes each season, it’s hard to keep on top of the situation. The Classic shape doesn’t change, from season to season. So you know what you’re getting.
The Freshwater Bay Classic 10’6 SUP.
Not only have I enjoyed extensive use of the 9’11 I’ve also put some decent hours in aboard its bigger sibling. The Classic 10’6 is another adept performer. The magic thing here is whilst the board is a scaled upsize it retains all the performance traits of its smaller cousin. Albeit with bigger dimensions in play. This translates to the same style of riding from a familiar shape of SUP board. It’s also quite unusual getting an upscaled version so on point, with exactly the same feel as small SUPs in the same range. Often that feeling is lost between board sizes.
The 10’6 allows smaller swells to be ridden perhaps more efficiently than the 9’11. Heavyweights will appreciate this and be able to use the bigger version in larger waves. There’s also slightly more efficiency on flat water, compared to the 9’11. And anyone who’s truly into their traditional ‘toes on the nose’ longboard riding will find the 10’6 just pips the 9’11 in this category.
All in the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Classic range of SUPs is a great choice for riders of all types, with a bias towards waves. They can be used perfectly fine on flat water but really do shine when real world SUP surfing conditions show up. For my money that’s worth every penny…
Tez Plavenieks – SUP Mag UK.
For more SUP articles and knowledge, posts head over to Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co.’s blog here.