SUP testimonial: The Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic 9’11 & 10’6.

SUP testimonial: The Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic 9’11 & 10’6.

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.

Retro inspired, longboard SUP surf tastic aboard the Classic 9’11.

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.

Fun and frolics aboard the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. Classic 9’11 SUP.

Post-session and I was made up. Had I just found my magic surf SUP board?

Next up.

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.

Flat water SUP fun with the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co. Classic 9’11.

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.

SUP surfing the inside section
Sliding on the Classic 10’6 Pawlonia Wood version.

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.

SUP longboard surfing with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic.

SUP longboard surfing with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic.

SUP surfing, longboard style: the core of Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic range.

SUP surfing can (mostly) be split into two distinct camps. Firstly, rip, shred and tear shortboard style riding, which aims to mimic the aggressive prone surfing type of wave riding. And, secondly, longboard sliding, which can just as equally be about turning and carving, but also walking the board, getting those tootsies over and smoothly flowing with the wave.

Big surf, big fun with the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic longboard surf SUP.

SUP surfing’s roots.

When stand up paddle boarding first came around (in present form) it was about piloting long boards in waves. SUPs were oversize. In fact, the earliest stand up boards – that Laird and Co starting messing about with – were tandem surfboard. SUP specific boards didn’t yet exist.

SUP longboard surfing with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic.
Scoping the waves; Freshwater Bay Paddle Co Classic close to hand.

So straight off the bat the longboard element was how the art of wave riding with a SUP began. Of course, as with everything, progressive riders started demanding more and more performance orientated equipment. SUP surfing boards gradually got smaller, narrower, shorter and lower volume.

Around 2011 or so we started seeing super slinky SUP surfing boards which were mainly the machines of pros. Or lighter weight paddlers. Real world surfers may have experimented but it quickly became obvious the lack of glide, tracking and ease of use detracted from the overall SUP surfing experience.

SUP longboard surfing with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic.
The classic, er, Classic in all its glory.

SUP surfing in 2021.

At the start of 2019 the industry started to consolidate. Some brands may still have pumped out those toothpick esque surf SUPs mentioned above. By and large, however, the shift was back towards longer platforms with a renewed emphasis placed on glide. Design lessons learned in previous years did pay dividends. The knowledge of what makes a good surf SUP was incorporated into these newer, longer board shapes. Rather than step back to what could be regarded as ‘clunkers’, longer stand up paddle boards were now highly tuned machines. Proper ripping of waves, whilst riding more user friendly gear, was now possible.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s range of Classic longboard SUPs takes these concepts and uses them to good effect. Both the 9’11 and 10’6 have superb glide, tracking and versatility. Whilst they were created with SUP surfing in mind the Classic’s also plenty versatile. Flat water paddling is totally doable aboard either shape. Whether you be heavier weight or lighter paddler. But both light up considerable when chucked at some swell.

Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic at Compton, Isle of Wight.

What’s really going on.

A pretty flat deck belies what’s going on underneath. The Classic’s hull is a fairly rockered affair with a thinned out rounded pin tail. Up front, right on the nose is a pronounced upturn that experienced riders will appreciate. As you whip off the top and come back down to the trough this rockered nose avoids pearling. Even though you think you’re going under. The fact you’ve been able to roundhouse a turn in the first place is testament to that tail and accurate fin cluster. And the flatter mid-section, combined with additional volume lends momentum to the Classic which allows sections to be made and early roll in to gutless waves easy.

We won’t lie. To get the maximum out of Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic SUPs you need to be proactive. Accurate trim is key. So walking forwards and back, whilst transferring weight from rail to rail is best practice. Less experienced paddlers can learn the ropes aboard either the 10’6 or 9’11. But moving your feet is extremely important to unlock the Classic’s full wave riding potential. Flow and trim are the go to words here which is what the Classic loves most. And this plays straight into what most surfers would call longboard style riding.

SUP surfing: waves are where you find them.
Hammer (down) time with Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s Classic surf SUP.

Bigger waves – no probs!

One other prized element of the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic range of stand up paddle boards is their ability to tackle bigger surf. Utilising all the design elements mentioned above SUP surfers will love the Classic’s ability to get stuck into some proper juice.

Small wave performance abound with the Classic 10’6 Pawlonia version.

We know Classic riders who’ve had these boards out in well overhead conditions. And they cope well. The Classic is dependable and bombproof. Full power, sizzling rides can be achieved when the surf’s on the cook. All with the ‘get out of jail free’ traits of piloting a bigger board. The extra glide of a 9’+ SUP means zooming away from potential gnarly situations is far easier than with a sinker. And when you see your wave it can roll in early allowing the rider to set up efficiently. Or just go for broke and take the late drop.

Smaller surf action.

Of course, bigger lumps may not be your thing. In which case no worries. The Classic range of stand up paddle boards can do dribblers with the best of ‘em. That momentum carries through, meaning even ankle slapping surf can fulfil.

And don’t worry, we aren’t forgetting all you traditionalists. For those that love a spot of ‘walking the plank’ and hanging some tootsies over, the Classic fits the bill. Head for the front and you’ll be rewarded with a SUP that locks in and holds steady while you style it. Add the Californian retro aesthetics of the Classic and the vista could be straight out of the early days of surfing. Only this time you’ve a paddle in hand!

Moving forwards.

Stand up paddle boarding is still growing. It stands to reason that a percentage of those recently discovering SUP will want to progress. Stand up paddle surfing is one area of paddling boards that riders will gravitate towards. And with a Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic you’re poised to tap into the best of it.

We live and breathe all that’s best about longboard SUP surfing and see it as the main area of paddling in waves. SUP may change yet again but there’ll always be those that need the right tool for the job at hand. And for waves, there’s no better tool than the Classic.

Hot steppa – classic longboard style with the Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co Classic surf SUP.

If you haven’t checked out Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co’s range of hard shell Classic SUPs then hit up the links above. Also, don’t forget to scope other blog posts similar to this here.

Check out this review of the Classic 9’11 from a while back by SUP Mag UK.