Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Katia and the Fanatic Fly Wave 9'6 Review

What a fantastic time of year.  Last Tuesday the remnants of Lee were combining with a cold front giving a great S flow at the coast.  I didn't have time to get to the beach but did a quick sesh at Lake Waccamaw on the north end.  I got there just as a squall was ending and rigged a 4.7 on the 112L for a 1/2 hour joy ride in the swell.  The wind was dropping so I rigged up to the 5.8 to keep it going and had a ball until around 7ish.  I wish Belews pushed up swell as quickly as that 5 x 7 mile slice of heaven.

The first surfer to show at OIB

Wednesday was great fun at OIB.  Low tide was at 10:30am and high was around 4:30.  I planned to surf until early afternoon but ended up doing a 9 to 5er.  The wind was a factor but not nearly as bad as I first thought.  There was a weird SW swell mixing with the SE but when the tide turned it started cleaning up quickly.  The higher the tide got the cleaner and bigger the SE swell got.  I was solo until folks started coming out around lunch time and ended up meeting Will (long board), Justin (6'2 short board) and Kieth on what I guess was a 7ish.  One surfer (didn't catch his name) told me some of the sets were over my head while standing on my SUP.  I even broke my leash all the way on the outside when a big set closed on me- I wasn't even trying to catch it.  Took a long swim to get back in but luckily caught my board about 30 yards from shore and had a spare leash.  We did get some nuggets and though most rides were short they were high speed 1 turn and pop out the back if you were lucky.  Lots of longer rides were available to take all the way to the beach but then you had to battle your way back out so I mostly enjoyed the 1 turn then tossing myself out the back rides.  My favorite part of this sesh was I on a SUP next to a 9' longboard that was next to a 6'2 short board all catching the wave at the same point in the break taking the same ride.  That really gives some perspective on the type of break...  Fast and furious! 

Holden when the SW started kicking in

Sam came down and we hit Holden Beach Thursday morning.  My first time at Holden ever.  We were near the pier about 300 yrds down the beach at first.  The wind was side-off and directly into the incoming swell but the current was stronger than the wind.  Everyone was getting washed down the beached into the wind so it wasn't a big factor until the afternoon.  There were certainly some good surfers on those beefy waves.  It was a very similar setup as the day before but some sets were a little bigger and since it was low tide the bars were a little more shallow.  Everyone was making the same comment- they are beautiful sets but you have so little time to do anything with them. My biggest waves came during a period that all the surfers were down the beach.  I got close to the pier were the bar is farther out to hang a left on the biggest break.  Hence some of my best rides of the day came just before the end of our day.  Wild and fun!   

Mac and Sam at CB when the waves were getting smaller
Mac after a full day using his Starboard

After 1 whole year away from the spot I surfed HC Igor Friday we met Mac at the north end of CB.  DW and all the regulars were out on one break showing how it's done.  Sam and I got on a little break to the side of the CB locals since everyone was on a single break.  Most folks had to go to work so it got down to we 3 and 1 other.  The waves were dropping all morning but we had a blast until lunch time taking party waves joking around.  After a little lunch at the Surf House we came back for some SUP wave sailing on the same break.  The tide was coming in again and the waves did get a little nicer than they were when we left at lunch.  By this time the SW wind was getting puffy so I rigged the 5.8 on the 112L kode while Mac and Sam grabbed their SUPs.  On the outside I could plane in the straps but there was a wind shadow on the inside.  After a couple waves I switched to the Fanatic 9'6 SUP.  This was my first time wave sailing this board and I loved it.  The wind kept picking up and the wave sailing got better until the surf finally got completely blown out around 4pm.  The perfect way to cap off the perfect day of waves. 

The 2011 Fanatic Fly 9'6 Review
So I'm doing my little review on a board that has been out for quite a while and will be replaced in 2012.  I'm doing this because I've found so little information out there on the Fanatic surfing SUPs. 

The Fanatic Fly Wave 9’6 is wood sandwich construction with a 3/4 length traction pad.  It’s a beautiful dark wood grain design.  At 9'6 you still can cram it inside your minivan or suv.  Here are our initial thoughts on the board.

First, to establish a frame of reference.  I am 70kg, my wife is less.  I still have my first SUP which is a 2009 Starboard Drive 10’5.  I used only this board until last fall when I got the Naish Mana bamboo 9’.  I love everything about the Mana save that it didn’t have a sail attachment.  I met Eduardo Owen at the ‘11 Windsurfing Magazine board tests this past spring at Avon, NC and got to talk to him about the Fly Wave 9’6.  Since I was looking for a sailable SUP that paddle surfed as well as the Mana I was excited to try the Fly 9’6 since it was a similar squash tail shape.  I got the 9’6 since the 9’0 Fly didn’t have the sail attachment.  This review compares the Fly 9’6 to the Naish Mana 9’.

The summary for folks in a hurry:
  • 131L, 30” wide and 9'6 stable and has nice glide in flat water. 
  • LIGHT.  Easy to handle out of the water and in the impact zone after you get trashed.  21.8 lbs with the stock fins.
  • funboard surf board shape- surfs like a much smaller board
    • lightweights can engage the rail standing more in the middle rather than having to be on the tail
  • makes getting out through white water easier and even fun.  *Low tow factor.
  • pivots on a dime
  • tracks well while paddling if centered on the carry handle
  • traction pad is exactly as long as you need to step on the nose
  • nice thin rails toward the tail engage the wave face well, especially if on the kick pad
  • flat deck is more comfortable to stand on.  The Mana is slightly rounded.
What could be better
  • the traction pad material doesn’t have as much grip as we would like 
  • stock fins are OK but could be better.  Certainly smaller center for bigger surf
  • the sail could be a bit more forward

It suffices to say that this board surfs like a 6” longer version of the Mana I had.  It may have slightly less nose rocker but mainly the extra 6” makes the Fly a bit more susceptible to pearling.  I’ve surfed in nothing but shorebreak.  Size has varied from knee to well overhead and all wind directions.  With the stock fins it has little yaw and does well on late drops driving immediately into turns on the rail.  On the biggest waves I would take the drop on the nose and immediately step back to the tail.  The extra length is more board to throw around but fairly controllable from the tail.  A 6.5” center fin like the Mana came with would certainly help make the board more slashy than the stock 8” and I hope to try this soon. 

*Update.  I tried a RFC 5.25" rusty performance flex center fin along with the stock side fins.  I moved the fin all the way forward in the box for maneuvers in off & side offshore wind.  Loved it.  It definitely makes shorebreak more fun and also felt great in shoulder high lefts.  I used the fin in knee to some head high stuff and found it worked well for everything.  These were much more mellow waves than the previous storms but I think the smaller fin will be great in on shore close outs too.  The smaller fin keep the board from flipping over when riding backside to closeout. 

Wave Sailing
Well it makes crappy conditions fun.  So you’ve arrived late and you have paddle surfed in gorgeous clean sets when the wind picks up and you just don’t want to leave.  Throw up a sail and get back to it catching even more waves.  This is not a windsurfing board.  It will not plane in the proper sense of skimming on the surface.  However it is much more comfortable to slog around and get up wind.  I finally got side off conditions in thigh high shorebreak.  When the wind was really light it was positioning for late drops, stepping ahead of the mast, then after the drop using the rail with no sail power.  Here the board does feel a little sluggish (but won’t all SUPs in shallow shorebreak) and you ride the mush to shore.  Do a quick tack and head out for more.  Make the best of what you have.  As the wind picked up it was much more at home carrying speed and riding the shoulder DTL then slashing up the face to hit the breaking wave and ride the white water down.  What a rush even in small waves!  When the wind just isn’t quite there on the inside you can’t do that with a true windsurf board. 

*Update.  Believe it or not with the sail in hit & miss side-off wind the 5.25" fin was working like a champ.  It makes the board skate like what I would imagine a quad would do.  Same waist to shoulder with occasional head high conditions as the paddle it was lots of fun with the 5.8 sail.  In onshore wind it may not work as well as the stock 8" fin but I'm going to give it a try eventually anyway.

Flat Water Paddling and Sailing
We both love this board for flat water paddling and sailing.  It has good glide for such low volume.  It is more comfortable than the Mana since the Fly has a flat deck.  The one thing that sets it apart as the perfect higher performance SUP surfboard is the sailing option.  If you live inland this is the ultimate water toy.  The flat deck is great for freestyle windsurfing and generally mucking about.  Love it. 

So Who Should Own One?
This is the perfect type of board for folks that want to maximize bang for the buck on a smaller sailable SUP.  It is much easier to transport and carry with the sail, especially for women.  For folks that have to travel for decent conditions or go on set vacations you just can’t go wrong with a sailable SUP.    

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