The Stylemaster 10ft and Stubby 8.6ft are new for Fanatic’s 2016 range. Both are billed as ‘real world wave riders’ – tools that maximise paddler time on the water in small/moderate size surf. SUP Mag UK got its hands on the Stubby 8.6ft LTD and Stylemaster 10ft wood to put through their paces. Both are everything you’d expect from a high end brand like Fanatic in terms of construction.
So why put these two sticks side by side?
Basing board choices on looks alone can be deceiving. While one is certainly longer than the other, they’re actually not that far apart in terms of the jobs they’re designed for.
Surf conditions around the UK’s coastline can be up and down like a yoyo. One day it’s flat, the next overhead and clean. Arming yourself with the latest forecast and tidal data is one thing, but Mother Nature likes to throw us curve balls. Having kit to cope with these fluctuations is a bonus. If said equipment also spans a variety of rider moods and styles, then all the better.
A question of style
Fanatic’s Stylemaster is one of a new breed of surf SUP aiming to put longboard riding back on the map. Rather than slash/tear, it’s a board crafted for graceful riding. Maximising small to medium size swells, the Stylemaster could be the ‘go to’ tool of choice during mellower sessions.
And if the conditions ramp up or the rider wants a zippier sled, but without completely losing all the elements of a nose rider, enter the Stubby 8.6ft…
Fanatic’s Stylemaster 10ft comes in eye catching eggshell blue with wood reveal. The deckpad is super grippy and honeycomb fins are top drawer. At 30” wide, it should be a stable platform incorporating a domed standing area. Add a low volume profile (reduced rail thickness) to the mix and it was a bit of a guess how the Stylemaster would perform on the water.
The Stubby 8.6ft looks like an upscaled wakeboard. Twin tip esque with a duck’s beak nose, the Stubby displays a fun look that echoes Fanatic’s windsurf line of the same name. There’s a good deal of rocker up front with some deep concaves flowing along the hull. Coupled with five fin boxes (although supplied with only three quality honeycomb fins), the Stubby 8.6ft looks ready for action.
We headed to the West Country to put both boards through their paces across a number of different locations. We scored conditions from slow/mellow ankle biters right up to head high vertical waves. With rider weights ranging from featherweight to middle weight, we got a rounded view of what both boards can and can’t do.
On the water
The first thing you notice is the Stylemaster’s domed deck. We were expecting it to drastically affect stability but this isn’t the case. Instead your tootsies are rewarded with a super comfortable paddling position that alleviates stress placed on the ankles.
The thin profile of the Stylemaster 10ft drops rider centre of gravity lower, which helps improve stability further – especially if it’s choppy and/or there’s strong tide. Paddling out to the take off, the 10ft glides well and ample nose kick climbs froth with ease.
The Stubby 8.6ft demands an adjustment in stance. At 28.5” wide it’s quite narrow for many – especially those aspiring to ride more performance orientated SUPs. The Stubby’s girthy nose, however, aids stability – as long as paddlers are far enough forwards.
Glide and tracking is pretty good, although you’ll never be as fast as on the Stylemaster. Getting over white water needs proactive foot placement but, compared to other traditional shapes, but the Stubby 8.6ft is extremely forgiving and inspires a lot of confidence for a performance stick.
Into the waves
The amount of glide the Stylemaster 10ft has is surprising. Our initial thinking was that the low riding profile would require more oomph to pick up swells: not so. It catches waves super early and gives tentative surfers time to dial in their footwork.
For those not confidently carving, the Stylemaster delivers a quick but manageable ride and provides insight into how standing on the tail would feel. From the mid-point it’s a cruisy ride and that full nose is tantalisingly close for a bit of toes over action.
If nose riding is your thing then you’ll need to wax this section as there’s no grip forward of the deckpad. It was fun trying to get as far forward as possible without pearling. The Stylemaster’s length helps the tail engage and, as long as you have speed, riders will get pretty close to that magic hang 5/10 stance.
The real surprise is how rippable the Stylemaster is. Get above the fins and cranking top turns are possible. We’ll not lie, there’s a lot of foam in front of you to go vertical. Controlling this needs a deft technique but if high performance longboard paddle surfing is your thing then the Stylemaster delivers! Mid to heavyweights would also be happy on the Stylemaster in bigger waves.
Offering almost as much glide as the Stylemaster, Fanatic’s Stubby 8.6ft picks off swells efficiently. Feeling super loose off the bottom, the magic of the Stubby 8.6ft is generating speed and keeping it. Banging pro like moves relies on momentum and keeping it going – the Stubby 8.6ft feels like you’re almost cheating and will reward riders who play with slower swells in particular. A full vertical turn, slashy tail slide, floater or even aerial are all for the taking.
Another pleasing Stubby trait is how it lets paddlers finish off moves properly. During steep vertical carves, boards can sometimes nose dive. The Stubby’s nose rocker and width allows paddlers to rebound efficiently and pivot back in the direction of travel. All the time there’s no anxiety of being slammed.
Fanatic supply their gear with top notch optimised fins. Even with that in mind it’s always good to switch things up and experiment – after all, being able to tune your kit to conditions should be taken advantage of.
We swapped the fins from both boards and in both instances found the Stylemaster and Stubby performed as intended with both set as thrusters. Having the opportunity to change your skegs though is definitely a tick in the box for both SUPs.
If you’re a longboard style surfer looking for a more performance-orientated stick, or simply a different experience, then Fanatic’s Stubby 8.6ft and Stylemaster 10ft would certainly fit the bill as a quiver. Likewise if you’re after tools to maximise wave conditions across as broad a spectrum as possible then you’ve come to the right place.
Both boards can be driven as hard or soft as you please. The added benefit of the Stylemaster is being able to use it on flat water. Both SUPs also come with rig attachment options for windSUP action.
Lightweight riders would maybe do better with the smaller Stubby while heavy riders may take time to adjust to the narrow (ish) nature of the 8.6ft. As paddle surfing quivers go – for real world wave riders – this is one duo that’s hard to beat.
(And don’t rule out the Stubby Air for those looking to travel with gear).
Price: Stylemaster wood – £1,499, Stubby LTD 8.6ft – £1,899
Thanks to Black Project paddles and Ke Nalu UK and Ireland who provided paddles that helped with this article.