Sunday, March 20, 2011

Naish Mana 9'0 - ULI 9'3" Fat Ass Quad

Desperately needed to get in this Sunday come hell or high water, as it happened it was neither. The forecast was for two and a half feet South to South Westerly light winds with high tide at 5:17am. Not brilliant but it would do. My 9' Mana pitched up on Thursday and I wanted to see if I had made the correct decision in moving the 2011 9' Hokua on in favour of the Mana. The cunning plan was simple. Keep my 9'3 Hokua for decent, clean and meaty days, and the Mana for choppy conditions and small days to hoof about on. At least that's the plan. Today was small, therefore it was Mana time.

I had already rail taped the board with a clear bike frame protector and had applied Versa Traction to the nose hoping that I might be spending some time up there. The Mana and the new ULI quad were loaded up Saturday night ready for an early Sunday morning getaway. The ULI was sporting a rather fetching homemade GoPro mount that I had crafted from the base of the GoPro presentation box. This was then zip-tied to one of the four D rings that Jim fitted to the quad's nose for me to tie down my fishing box. I was counting on the Quad's 33" width to give me a stable fishing platform for the summer.

Anyway - steady with the cider on Saturday night and I woke fresh and early getting to the car park at 6:30ish. Empty - good stuff.

There were a few clean lines pushing in but really nothing to get overly excited about. Good to see that Naish have sorted the issue with the fins not matching the slots in their board bags, they have stopped putting slots in the bags altogether!! Stroke of genius that. The board with fins will now go in the bag but she flashes her tail as the zip can't be done up, which is a shame as it's a really decent quality bag!

The fins look stunning as well, sort of bamboo in clear resin. 2 plus 1 set up and not too big.

Off down the path dodging the little plastic sacks of dog shit that owners insist on decorating the Towans with and onto the beach for the maiden voyage. ( Just realised that I didn't notice the handle depth or any out of balance carrying issues at all - it's just perfect.)

The conditions were hardly going to test the Mana but she paddled out easily and turned without fuss in her own length with a minimum of paddle strokes. I think that I was expecting the board to paddle faster than she actually did, in my head she is a big board and I need to remind myself that she is only 9' x 29 5/8", that's not big.

Stability was great with foot adjustments coming easy. Sometimes on new boards the first few minutes feel like my feet are glued to the sweet spot, like I'm scared to move them, this one was easy to move around on.

First wave was a nice, easy, smooth catch and lazy glide down the line - no fireworks but there was not a lot of punch in the swell to really get the board going. Next wave - same thing no drama and easy to catch, in fact I think that I caught every wave that I paddled for.

Initially I thought that the Mana felt a little 'stodgy' but that was not really the case - the Mana reacted superfast to my input the second I thought about doing something, the Hokua reacts a second BEFORE I actually think about it. That's the difference. (Bear in mind I think very S L O W L Y, if someone accused me of being retarded I would take it as a compliment!)

As the session progressed the tide dropped back and the waves weakened further, even so I began to identify more and more with the boards character. It definitely responds best to an easy, relaxed style totally unlike my Hokua that needs me take it by the scruff and hustle it. The Mana gets you there without the hectic bullying and hustling. The more waves I caught the more 'kicked back' and relaxed I was. I almost managed to slide the tail around on one wave and even with the lack of speed in the waves tried to make progress with my sorry attempts at cross-stepping. Decent nose riding was looking like it was going to feature heavily in the future.

So - I like it, in fact I like it a lot. Given the lack lustre waves I was managing to wring out some reasonable rides. Can't wait for a decent swell.

Back to the car and I swapped over the boards in order to give the ULI 9'3" Quad a bash. Having agreed to sell my 9'11 ULI Lopez I was using the funds from that to go towards the FAT ASS QUAD.

The Quad material is of a heavier built construction, similar to that ULI used prior to the Lopez X1 models. My old 11' and 10 Steamroller were totally BOMBPROOF, and this newer version feels like it's one tough board. I believe it has been designed with river running in mind where it needs to shrug off boulders and rocks in the rapids. From my point of view as a fishing board this was comforting.

So how did my intended fishing platform surf?

The FAQ (FAT ASS QUAD) is as stable as a planet (at 33" wide it should be!) yet it still retains that amazing super skatey, loose feel. The pulled in nose and rocker dealt easily with the white water there was just no way that I was going to fall off this one.

The 33" waist and superwide tail makes for an interesting combination in late breaking, going no-where, beach mush - you don't fall, but you need to get your paddle-in angle bang on square or the tail gets kicked around.

Bigger waves with more shoulder and entry speed and I reckon the board will fly. One things for sure - at 9'3 I have got a very short, stable stand up fishing board that surfs well and I can carry on my bike, and it don't get much better than that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011



The amazing run of swell over the last few weeks finally petered out in time to coincide with my day off. So whilst everyone has been coming in and telling me what bloody good waves that they have been slicing up I have been keeping an eye on Magicseaweed and hoping that the swell would stay Northerly, the Easteries would drop to a manageable sub 20mph and I would be able to get my sorry ass out of bed in time for a morning session. BUT the evenings are getting longer and the mornings lighter so before and after work sessions should be on the cards soon.

It wasn't looking overly promising. Swell was levelling off at a dizzying one and a half feet at 10 seconds thankfully Northwesterly and with the wind between 12 and 17mph from the East we were in with a shout of getting wet at least.

Pitching up at the car park at 8:45 and I could see that Gary was already fully testing the Glide characteristics of the 9'Hokua. I think this was his 2nd outing on it and it looked like he had the little Naish firmly under control. I find that when it's small the more performance orientated boards are harder work, they need 'juice' to get them locked in and tight but my 9'3" Hokua actually copes really well with small conditions and from the clifftop it's 9' replacement was picking up everything that Gary was paddling for. My old 10 C4 BK Pro was an amazing surfboard but a total mare to catch waves in small swell and if it was at all choppy - forget it. Naish have certainly got something special going on with these boards.

Changing quickly and fitting the GoPro to the nose of my board I trogged off down the cliff track. The recent combinations of rain/freeze/thaw had seen off some major portions of the cliff face slipping away down to the cove - it can only be a matter of time before this way down to the beach is going to be off limits.

Finally managed to get my head into gear enough to work out how to turn the GoPro on to shoot video - not sure but think that the stills slideshow may look a bit better, anybody out there actually reading this care to leave a comment and let me know, I wont charge. The whole self-picture thing does feel a bit odd and feels faintly like I might be somewhat up myself but the blog's going to be pretty dull with just my keyboard drivel.

Conditions were hardly 'EPIC' knee high with the sets almost towering over our waists! But it was clean and apart from a soul longboarder who was practising some pretty nifty footwork we enjoyed endless amounts of waves to ourselves until 10:30 ish when the wind started to pick up and mess things about. Credit to the boards though, the only time they felt at all unhappy, mine anyway, was at the end of the wave when the speed had dropped out leaving a slightly nervous feel as the dynamic changed from planing to displacement. Bigger swell makes kicking out of the wave whilst carrying some speed easy, slow it all down and it begins to wobble, but it was fun.

A decent session in conditions that were at best less than average and you could get a tan off Gary's stoke! That's why we do it! Because it's fun, and it levers the best out of the least.

Playing around with some heavy editing on the video makes it all look good, well I think so, but apart from all that it gives me an excuse to play 'Give up the Ghost' as the soundtrack. Amazing stuff from the new Radiohead album King of limbs, it's a slow burn album but I reckon it's every bit as good as OK Computer, well almost.

IF you are a Radiohead / Thom Yorke fan you may have already seen this but it's always worth checking out again. It's a live, solo performance of Give up the Ghost played at Cambridge - absolutely mesmerizing - treat yourself and give it a go - trust me!!

How good is that - of course it might just be me - I played it to Charmaine who said

'I'm bored now' and got up halfway through to turn the TV on. AArrrgh!!

Anyway the ULI Fat Ass Quads have pitched up - looking forward for some inflatable fun time.