Stand up paddling has captured my soul and I’m sure it has countless other wave junkies across the globe. Yet carving and manoeuvring SUPs in waves is no mean feat – enter JP Australia’s new Slate board concept.
I believe this style of SUP is for a specific customer – the weekend warrior or the paddle surfer looking for plug ‘n’ play performance from the get go. No bogging about trying to dial into your session, simply straight out to the peak and ripping turns from the off.
As a paddle surfer the question has to be: do you realise where your back foot is when riding a wave? Is it anywhere near the tail pad? Is your trailing foot over the fins? Turning a SUP takes motivation, concentration and the ability to instinctively know where each foot is on the board. This is the only way to keep flowing turns going. Most beginner/intermediate SUP wave riders try and surf from mid-way along the board – i.e. their back foot too far forwards and away from the tail. Trying to turn from this position is where paddlers run into problems. This is where JP’s Slate 7.2ft fits the bill perfectly.
The Slate, with its chopped off diamond nose and double diamond tail, keeps the board stable in relatively choppy conditions, which is great when waves aren’t at their optimum. Once you dial in the board’s slight row effect (weaving from side to side with each paddle stroke), the board’s short length really comes into its own – on a wave. (Worth noting is the row effect I mention is alleviated by setting up the Slate’s fins in thruster mode).
Now you have a board with little to no swing weight and narrow enough to ride from the middle of the board and still deliver fast and easy rail to rail turns. The Slate is super light (the 7.2ft x 26” tested was 6kg) which is another tick in the box and helps with achieving that all important smooth surfing style.
Paddling out to the peak is relatively simple; the wide nose facilitates a stable climb over approaching white water. Stance can either be slightly offset or prone, depending on how comfortable the rider is.
Once you understand that speed is the all important factor in paddle surfing everything becomes easier. Speed is a given on the JP Slate 7.2ft, and you can start to focus on other aspects of your riding – carving and lip smacks become more achievable. The Slate doesn’t, however, like being driven too hard (which is my style of SUP surfing). As such I didn’t ‘bond’ straight away with the Slate. After a while though I dialled into it’s characteristics – as will other riders.
SUPs with wide tails have to be ridden smoothly and your turns need to be fluid and progressive. They are never going to compete with narrower SUPs which are better for vertical ‘in the pocket’ style surfing. However, the lack of stability you get with narrower stand up paddle boards will make the 7.2ft Slate preferable to many. The JP Slate instils an instant feeling of happiness – it’ll give you everything you want most of the time.
Nobody has just one SUP board in their quiver anymore. Surf conditions, your mood and other factors all have a role to play in what SUP you choose for your precious hours of water time. It’s about efficiency, options and, most importantly, fun and enjoyment on the water. It’s by riding different boards that we improve and if you practice doing that you will get better. The JP Slate 7.2ft may appear tiny but it’s actually easier to ride than it looks – if you have a degree of prior paddling experience.
In my honest opinion JP’s Slate 7.2ft is for the intermediate paddler surfer looking for a fun, versatile and progressive board without needing the skills to use narrower boards.
There are compromises, however. Taking time to learn and understand how the Slate 7.2ft likes to be ridden will pay dividends.
Matt would like to thank Agent Eight and JP Australia for arranging the JP Australia Slate 7.2ft as an early Christmas present – one he still feels like he’s unwrapping every time he goes in the water. For more info about Matt Barker-Smith head over to the www.standuppaddleboarding.co.uk.
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