Tonight I was determined to get in no matter what - I got to my mid beach mark and peeked over the Dunes - it was grim Magic seaweed gave 6' at 10 secs - I like that, high tide was at 8:50pm perfect, but the wind was a constant 16mph right to left cross onshore that ripped all the shape and form from the swell. In fact it felt more like 25mph.
This probably looks better than it actually was - the first pic across the bay to Godrevy shows the white caps blown off the tops of the waves.
I changed up into my wet wetsuit that had been fermenting in the back of the van since Monday. Above and beyond for this blog - I hope people still read it. Off down the 60' high dune and once at sea level the true horrendous state of 50 metres of white soup became fully apparent. Be back home in half an hour I thought.
I waded out and jumped onto the deck. I had to keep the nose of the Nah Skwel pointed into the wind and was expecting an immediate rinse. Nope! The first few, foot high walls of wash slid under the fat nose of the board barely un-noticed. The further out I paddled the more my confidence grew, and the board seemed to just rise up over wash with ease. This was too good to be true. Finally I was in the Impact Zone proper. Water was rising up, threatening disaster, and melting away all around me like water boiling in a kettle. I was working very hard to stay on the board - but I was on the board. The paddle was deep in the water most of the time for balance but I was making way albeit slowly.
In these conditions there was no way I would have normally gone in and I have been thrown off much bigger boards in far more friendly seas. Then out of the blue I got caught side on in a trough and tipped over by a chest high lazy breaker.
Back on the board point the nose into the wind and up to my feet - steady - and away. Ok lets see if there was any possibility of turning into a wave and paddling in. It was hard to spot the sets coming - suddenly one wave would jack up from nowhere bigger than the rest of the chop and it would be followed by three or four more in close order. The swell direction was supposedly Westerly but with the Northerly wind the faces were running at 45' to the beach mainly from the East.
In strong winds I always try to turn into a wave away from the wind. This seems to avoid the wind getting under the front of the board and throwing me off. I know thats what I should do but most sessions it takes me a few wrong turns to remember this. As usual I turned the wrong way into my first wave - and caught it. No bother - it wasn't pretty and I basically just rode it down, but the wind did not seem to affect the paddle-in at all. Being rocked and knocked about was harder to contend with.
I suppose with such a short board there is less of it to catch the wind. Compared to other SUP's the board is not actually that wide - or that thick, it's just that the perspective of it is unusual with it being so short, plus it carries it's width all the way to the tail. That coupled to a reasonably flat hull and sane rockers seems to keep as much of board in the water as on a 10' board with heaps of rocker. Maybe even more.
So the scoreline was - NS78 : 1 Rest of the World : 0
By this time the wind had blown me a hundred metres or more down the beach - I thought that I should at least try to paddle my way back to my starting point. I could only make two or three paddle strokes to each side before switching but amazingly I was slowly making my way back into the guts of the wind back up the beach - again I think a longer board would have been more of a handful. Something else I noticed, with my weight, 90kg being pretty much at the boards limit in these conditions the deck was sloshing about with water - I was not sinking it, but there was not too much showing for the wind to get hold of either.
I turned and caught a few more waves en route and enjoyed some half decent rides, no major heroics but fun, long rides in conditions that were less than perfect (way less). Two sessions and I'm really getting to like this board. I managed to get the board on it's rails a couple of times but the waves were not really conducive to any smoking turns.
So good points so far?
It's 7'8" (cant get used to that) It's Light (It makes a difference guys, honest) It's surfable It's more stable than Valium It's great in slop It's actually very attractive (Sorry Dom - but you have to see it in the flesh) It's 7'8" (Jeez) It's got Shane interested enough that he might have a bash (thats saying something) It's going to be a useful addition to any quiver.
It's deck grip seems a bit slippy sometimes (might have to wax the pad). It's handle is a tad shallow and the balance point is a fraction off. It's got lot's of sharp pointy bits - Big fins - Tail swallows (I just know its going to cut me) It's not got Glide - (I'm not going to race it!) It's not been mine longer (did I just say that) Nah Skwel
The Nah Skwel has only just lifted her skirts and I have to say I like what I have seen. I reckon that she has loads more to offer. My gut feeling is that here is a board that has been designed by people in Brittany, who have extensive knowledge of what makes the water / hull interface work and more importantly design and use their products in pretty much the same conditions as I surf in, rather than that warm, mystical, magical Pacific perfection that is plastered all over the forums screaming 'you too can ride like this on our products'. And that makes a huge difference.
It also makes me think that I could be clearing out more than a few boards shortly.
It's fair to say that I was pretty revved last night, still am really, I just can't get over the fact that I'm standing on a Paddle board that's only 7'8" long.
My first board was the Jimmy Lewis 11' and I can remember thinking that was challenging. Last night was not challenging just great fun. In fact I cant think of a board that I have ever tried that has been as easy right from the off. I was desperate to get back in the water tonight to see how it would go in a proper wave or choppy conditions or wind or anything, to be honest I just wanted to get back on it. Unfortunately work conspired against me, but it did get me thinking. Where the hell is this all going to end up? If the board is this easy to use then it stands to reason that the limit (my limit) has not yet been reached. God I love this sport!
It took me weeks before I was comfortable on the Naish, at least to the extent that I would not worry about turning to it first time every time if I was going out. The Nah Skwell is easy from the very first time. It makes me want to experiment and play about and fool around like taking off the fins altogether and try and slide it IVV style. Steady - take a breath and get a grip. . . . and breath.
I think we (I) can get a little too serious sometimes and forget how to just arse about - it's harder with a bigger board to just goof around especially if you are surfing around other people - which I tend not to do. With friends though all the normal surf politics and etiquette shoot straight out the window. Well mine do anyway.
I'll drop in on Shane or Gavin or Steve or Jason, ride the same wave and generally do all the bad stuff you read about on the forums, and expect them to do the same to me. (When it's just us and no one else about). The problem is you sort of hold back a bit on a Sup because the consequence of getting it wrong and cleaving someone open with a 9'plus epoxy scalpel would take a bit of explaining. But with the NH78, well it feels like it's a hot dog board - full on fun for nothing other than fun's sake. Plus and this is the big one - It's not a bloody mission to go out. Easy to store, easy to load, easy to carry, easy to ride. Its so convienient.
I can't imagine where this range is going to go but already I'm thinking 'Slightly slimmer - a little more nose rocker, tuck that ass in slightly . . . make it more serious !!
One thing I forgot last night was the nitty gritty.
The board is distributed by AHD UK Limited - telephone number 023 80894333 and costs £879
Sometimes things come at me from left field - totally out of the blue and make me rethink everything that I have taken as granted , things like
'My kid's are so much like me could I have been that wrong at their age?' - 'So we are mortal!' (didn't get that one until I was about 22) and 'I can ride a Stand Up board under 8' long!!'
No Really I can - I did it tonight - it was bonkers, in fact it was so far beyond bonkers I'm still pinching myself.
I had first seen this shape some time ago on the Standupzone in a French video clip and pretty much dismissed it as being sort of quirky and . . . well French really - I mean that in a nice way because they seem to have things sorted, but things that work for the French in France you just can't get away with outside of France like hairy armpits and smoking in Restaurants - errgh big hole getting deeper - I know what I mean and it's why I want to live there (probably won't be allowed now. Anyway back to the Nah Skwell ( if I say it enough times it will start to sound normal) Nah Swel nah skwel nah skwel. Apparently it's Breton for Playground. Nah Skwel . . Nah Skwel . . Nope! That don't work. The NS78 (that's better) shares it's DNA with a board called the AHD Sea Lion. That was a multipurpose do it all. The NS78 (oh yeah that works) is a much more focussed SUP and the shortest of a range of three boards - this is the official blurb on them
The Nah-Skwell 7’8, is a highly competitive stand-up paddling short-board. Already very radical in smallish waves, it will allow the most experienced riders to attack waves up to 2.5m. In less than 1m waves, this is the ultimate weapon which allows to throw curve after curve with a true high speed. With no other comparable board in today’s market, this is a board for fully dedicated SUPers looking for extreme sensations and high performance. Surfer < 90kgs
(I weighed this morning, I'm 91kgs, 200lbs in my birthday suit - not nice).
The Nah Skwell 9’6 is a perfect compromise for those who like SUPing in waves. A very compact and lively board, it will complete short radius and fast turns, while retaining a stability known only on 11’ « old-generation » boards, till now. Surfer < 120kgs
The Nah-Skwell 10’6 is a fast board. With a flattish shape and a pinched tail, it will slide easily whether cruising or playing with small and medium waves, no need to get the trouble of carrying a 12’ weapon anymore. Surfer < 115kgs
Nice descriptions - obviously not direct translations from French.
I also have some official pics on them - but as it's quite possible some of you might be reading this whilst eating I am not going to post them - But here are some of the pics I took on my phone this evening - AFTER RIDING THE 7'8" - proper riding like standing up and everything and it's 7'8" (pinch . . ouch! Charlie)
Now argue if you disagree but I reckon that looks pretty good. In the flesh this board with it's Techno Europe deck grip actually looks quite sexy in a Miss Piggy fetish sort of way - It's blatantly not a full blown - blown up shortboard and it might look like it's got mixed up in a blender with a dozen other boards but in the flesh it looks pretty bloody good. And it's not that much longer than my paddle!!
The officicial pics are taken without any perspective and make it look odd, almost comic book like - it really does look much better in real life.
Have another pic.
It's different. So whats it all about? More of the official stuff -
Length (cm) 238 (7'8") Bloody Short width (cm) 75 (29 1/2") Fat (ish)all the way down Thickness 12 (4 3/4") Thick (ish) Weight 8,5kg (18 3/4lbs) Bloody light Volume 127 ltr Fin concept Twins (bloody huge) Who’s that for? - Advanced surfer - (Nah - I'm not read on) - Small to medium frame - (well that rules me out)
This board is easy to stand on - It's very very stable - ok I have gotten used to my Naish 9'3" but this puppy is just nuts. I ran down the beach with it - conditions were not ideal the tide was pretty much fully high and quite a big one that ate most of the smallish swell that there was. It was dead clean and only the odd set wave made for anything resembling a rideable face but jumping on the board for the first time and - Nothing - no death wobbles - no falling straight off the other side - no rinsing. In fact everything seemed to work in slow motion - this board is super stable - obviously being only 7'8" the standing spot is fairly small BUT I can't say that it was critical. The super splayed tails seem to keep the house in order at the back and the full fat nose did the same at the front - this was a real surprise. Within a few minutes I was looking for a wave to bash.
Paddling - well you dont need me to tell you that G l i d e is not one of this boards strong points - it paddles fine and the yaw is manageable but stop paddling and the brakes come on - The first few excuses for waves that I paddled for passed me by with me flailing wildly with seemingly no effect. Hmmnn - tried for a few more - nope, nothing - so I can stand on it and it turns on a sixpence but I can't catch a wave.
I paddled around a bit more stepping back and forward - parallel and surf stance, which the board seems to prefer, and generally messed about trying to get the feel of it.
I decided to go late into the next wave. Bingo - one paddle start and away, ok the wave was knee high and pretty much breaking on the beach but I had time to catch, turn and trim before stepping off the board onto the sand, not something a longer board would have been able to do.
It sort of reminded me a bit of the Starboard Extremist 9'0 - only less glide and a little more 'skatey'. There were a few occaisions when the nose pearled a bit, but to be honest the waves were too short to draw too many conclusions from that.
Another wave, go late - and after that I did it again and again. The board surfs fine - sure it's not got that, 'I can handle anything you shove down my throat' sort of feel that the Naish has, but it certainly surfs and it makes me want to get it out in bigger faces and more adverse conditions with more swell and chop and wind and cack and see what it can do for me.
I reckon that there is loads of tuning potential with the fins - Two monstrous white outboard finbox 8-9"ers I did not measure them - just felt that they needed to be smaller.
I carried on until it got dark, and you know what? I loved it. I love the speed it turns beneath your feet in front of the wave - I loved the no fail stability (except that I did fail a few times) - I love the confidence the board gave me (enough to make me fail and fall through arsing about) - I love the slo-mo recovery feel that gives me a fighting chance to level the board long after I would be off on my other boards and I Love the stupid fat grin on my face that I had playing about like a total cock in rubbish conditions on a board that looks like it shouldn't work. But most of all I love the fact that it's only 7**$ing 7'8".
In itself being 7'8" is no reason to go out and buy another board - BUT I was looking for a more stable board than the Naish that I could use to get the best out of, in the worst conditions that I'm likely to go out in. I was prepared to go a bit longer than the 9'3" to get the right board - hence the Bonga - But the Bonga although more stable than the Naish is actually fairly close in performance and is just a bit too heavy, It's a top board and a great price at £619 but for me the Naish is the one when conditions are average to epic and that makes the Bonga redundant because it's aimed at the same territory so no real gain for me over the Naish.
But this Nah Skwell - this board is fun - I don't expect it to be the full on wave rocket that the Naish is but it is very managable, and interesting enough to make me want to play more, and it's 1'7" shorter than the Naish - you don't need a van or an estate car - hell you could even strap it to a push bike or a moped, it would almost fit in a bodyboard bag on your back (IMAGINE a two piece version). It's a convienient SUP, shorter than any of my surfboards and with a bit more use I reckon there are more surpises to come.
Bonga 9'6" for sale anyone - shortboard performance as new £475 - NS78 to buy
Nah Skwell . . Nah Skwell . . Nah Skw . .
As far as prices, distribution, availability and a bit better wave report is concerned - watch this space.
Edit - It was fairly late when I posted this last night so forgive the errors and omissions, hopefully most are tidied up now - Steve