2018 Gear Guide: Board Test
Here we are again, the 2018 Alliance Wakesurf Board Test. After bringing you honest, relatable opinions last year, we figured it was a wise choice to integrate the wakesurf test into this years board test again. The boards ran the gamut from beginner-friendly cruisers to high performance shredsticks, but most of the boards we tested gravitated toward the performance end of the spectrum. Our very own Steve Reiley put them all through their paces during a bluebird day on the California Delta in early October. Along with the help of a brand new 2018 Axis A-24 from our friends at Larson Marine we had a pretty epic day on the water. Read below to find out which boards impressed him and what board you are going to want to add to your board rack for next year.
Wedge – None
Stock ballast full + 1 725lb bag
The Rating System:
Our rating system was set up on a scale of 1-10, but pay attention because in some cases a score of 1 does not necessarily mean “bad.”
On the water:
Speed/Drive (1=Turtle, 10=Cheetah)
Pop (1=Elephant, 10=Kangaroo
Slash (1=Mister, 10=Throws Buckets)
Stays in wave (1=Leg Burner, 10=No Effort)
Performance (1=Cruiser, 10=Contest Machine)
See this logo next to a board in the following pages? That’s a good thing. It means, from a purely editorial standpoint, the board has earned the Alliance stamp of approval. Just know it is not something we hand out to anything with fins and a graphic; it requires very positive ratings and dialogue from everybody involved with the board test (but some sweet artwork doesn’t hurt, either).
Blusurf Response 4’6”
Other Lengths: 3’- 6’
The Blusurf Response caught my attention as soon as I pulled it out of the box. With its super wide tail and pulled in nose, I knew it was going to be fast! The rails are really tapered making them seem thin but the wide tail block makes up for the thin rails and the trimmed down surface area under your front foot. This board had a lot of pop off the wave and plenty of drive to get you back in the pocket after landing. The Response is definitely a performance style board and not recommended for the beginner trying to get the hang of staying in the wave. My one suggestion would be more volume through the rails. Kudos to Blusurf on the Response.
Connelly Big Easy 5’6”
Other Lengths: NA
MSRP: $ 650
Toes on the nose! The Connelly Big Easy will have you surfing like the Duke in no time. It’s hard to have a bad time on a single fin behind the boat. Whether you want to hang 5, throw some soul arches or just carve the wave, the Big Easy is your calling. With plenty of speed and drive it stays in the wave really easily. This board is for everyone and won’t disappoint. As much as the Big easy is a non-performance focused board, it actually can get out of the water if you’re looking to catch some air too.
Hyperlite Varial Exacta 4’6”
Other Lengths: 4’4”, 5’0”, 5’4”
Hyperlite has done nothing short of making great a product. The Varial is new for 2018 featuring Varial foam and infused glass for a more traditional surf style feel. With all the hype about Varial foam, I was excited to give the Exacta a rip. The board is fast. The wide center point gives the Exacta plenty of drive and the pulled in tail allows the fins to release for some epic slashes. The rails are a bit knifey so you’ve got to make sure you are on your game at all times. A high performance board for those looking to step-up their surfing game.
LibTech Air’n Pro 4’8”
Other Lengths: 4’6”
I first learned that LibTech was making wakesurf boards on Aaron Witherell’s instagram. I believe I immediately DM’d him asking how we could get our hands on one for the board test. Mervin Mfg. is arguably one of the best snowboard manufacturers in the world, so LibTech is no stranger to making great products, which had me excited to try the Air’n Pro. Smooth, predictable and fast best describe this must have board. With its wide center point and tail the Air’n Pro releases with ease for some of the biggest slashes that can be done behind a boat. The design is great and the construction is bullet proof for those who like to put their boards to the test.
Liquid Force Sheila 4’6”
Other Lengths: 4’10”
Who doesn’t like hips? The Sheila’s outline mimicks that of a woman’s figure. No wonder it was so nice. In all seriousness the Sheila was super fun to ride despite our initial scepticism. It was incredibly fast and had amazing pop due to the extremely wide tail (pretty much the same width as the center of board) which released with ease. The side cuts before the tail created a little cavitation on my toe edge, but that was more of a learning curve than a deal killer. I would recommend this board to any level of rider who wants to catch some air and go fast! Way to think outside of the box LF.
Never Summer Woody 52”
Other Lengths: NA
Never Summer is another successful snowboard brand that has come to the wake market. The Woody is the perfect combination of surf style meets skim. With 3 bolt on 2” fins, the Woody has a little more hold than a traditional skim style board. This also allows for more speed and drive down the line. The Woody does much better in the pocket of the wave as it likes the steep transition. I would recommend this board for the person that likes the feeling of a skim style board but wants a bit more locked in feel. Not recommended for a linebacker learning to wakesurf for the first time.
Obrien Censor 55”
Other Lengths: 57”
O’Brien has been making watersports products for 53 years, so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two. The O’Brien Censor was the second board I tested and it had a good sturdy feel. Coming from behind the wave it was a little sluggish but worked well once in the pocket of the wave. The Censor had descent pop and released really well on slashes. It is a very predictable board and has a little something for everyone. If you are looking to add a board that the whole family could ride, the O’Brien Censor should be on your list.
Phase 5 Swell 55”
Other Lengths: 58”
Phase 5 has been at the forefront of the wakesurf market for some time now, so I’m always curious to try what they have cooked up. With so many models it’s nice to rely on Phase 5 to send a gem. The Swell didn’t disappoint. It was extremely fast in and outside the pocket of the wave. The wide outline gave it great pop and the diamond nose helped it from digging into the trough of the wave. A high performance board for the rider who wants to slash buckets for days. I would definitely have this board in my quiver.
Ronix Powerfish+ 4’5”
Other Lengths: 4’10”, 5’3”
New to the Ronix 2018 line, the Powerfish+ was a surprisingly really fun board. When the rep handed it off to me at VIP during the cable park board test, I was timid and wanted to ask for a different board to test. I am glad I listened to him. The Powerfish+ has a super wide flat deck allowing for great speed and staying in the wave with ease. What surprised me the most about the Powerfish+ was how much pop it had for being a fish and so flat. This board is great for everyone on the boat.
Rusty Urchin 4’6”
Other Lengths: 4’2” – 5’
New for 2018 is the Rusty Urchin. Saying that Rusty knows a thing or two about making boards would be an understatement and this twin fin machine will have you surfing like Kelly Slater in no time. The Urchin isn’t your standard twin fin. With the double venturi contour (which creates lift) it has incredible speed and drive and won’t wash out on your bottom turn. It also releases with ease while doing slashes for a feel like you’re actually surfing in the ocean. If you have had trouble staying in the wave on other boards give the Urchin a try and you will not be disappointed. A performance board that’s fun for the whole family.
Victoria The Captain 4’7”
Other Lengths: 4’8”
Look at me, I’m the captain now! Victoria has decades of evolution in their skim boards which has allowed them to transition into the wakesurf market with ease. The Captain has three removable fins giving you the option to ride it with more of a locked in feel, or you can set it up with just the center fin for a looser ride. The wide outline with the fish tail gives it plenty of speed and drive to keep you in the wave at all times. The Captain has plenty of pop too. So whether you’re rocking stock airs or you’re working on your 3-shuvs, this will pop and release for you. A skim style board with a surf feel that I would have on my boat.
Slingshot Gnarwhal XR 4’6”
Other Lengths: NA
The Gnarwhal XR is a technically upgraded version of the much loved Gnarwhal. With it’s short nose and fat tail the Gnarwhal has a progressive surf style feel. The wide tail gives it a lot of pop off the wave and drive down the line, allowing you to stay in the wave effortlessly. Overall, the carbon and metal flake make it a really good looking performance board with a relatively comfortable overall feel.