As SUP racing’s popularity continues to increase we have two boards under the microscope for this particular comparison test – 12.6ft x 28” x 243L and 14ft x 28” x 267L Fatstick Race. We delve deep to see what you get from the cost effective end of the market and how these two shapes stack up against one another. After all, from previous experience, we know boards aren’t simply scaled up or down versions of the same design…
Both Fatstick’s are eye catching in bamboo wood reveal. This was confirmed every time we had them on show. Passers-by would comment and other paddlers would hover close in the hope of taking them for a spin. In that instance alone Fatstick has done a good job – making kit appealing is half the battle.
Lying side by side the 12.6ft and 14ft look ready for business. The padded standing area is slightly hollowed out to drop centres of gravity closer to the water whereas aft sections are raised and naked – i.e. no traction. If buoy turns are going to be in the mix then it’d be wise to wax this area up otherwise you’ll be in the drink.
Underneath is where there’s considerable difference between the two designs. While both have keel-like water piercing bows it’s the 12.6ft which features the most extreme – it really is pronounced when compared to the 14ft. And it stretches a little closer to where paddlers will be standing before flattening out. How this affected performance was going to interesting.
Finishing off the tail has a moderate amount of rocker to help deal with bumps and fin boxes are US in style. Both boards have secure carry handles although the updated 2016 12.6ft version is more rounded, with knuckles easily fitting inside, and therefore most efficient. The deckpad on the 12.6ft also covers the middle spine.
Now we’ll not lie. Due to their bombproof construction Fatstick’s 12.6ft and 14ft race SUPs aren’t the lightest kiddies on the beach. But this also reflects the price. That said carrying either SUP is no issue – our lightest tester (58kg) had no trouble. OK, if the type of race events you’re thinking of entering have BOP running starts then you may be at a disadvantage. But once on the water a slight amount of weight could be good – as long as you’re on the right model.
Although the fins supplied with Fatstick’s 12.6ft and 14ft were fine, we swapped them out for a pair of K4’s. K4 Fins are some of the most affordable on the market and therefore compliment these boards perfectly. Offering race suitable performance these plastic foils are good choices for those wanting a high performance skeg without breaking the bank.
On the water
We were expecting the 14ft Fatstick race SUP to be the quickest out of the blocks. Yet this wasn’t the case. With its slightly lighter lay up and efficient hull shape the 12.6ft leapt ahead instantly leaving the 14ft for dust.
Up to full speed and the 12.6ft keeps on going – with efficient paddle technique it knifes through water, wavelets and froth, the water displacing either side of that pronounced keel in satisfying fashion.
At 28” wide it’s not necessarily that technical on paper, however, but be aware there’s quite a bit of ‘roll’ due, once again, to the deep vee. Side chop, for instance, can catch riders off guard. Fortunately there’s a good deal of secondary stability built into the 12.6ft, which if you trust it, won’t trip you up as much. We also felt moving feet a tad further back helped alleviate ‘roll’ – just don’t stand so far back that you end up creating unnecessary drag.
In contrast the 14ft is much more planted. The extra board length and construction means it sits lower in the water and while the pointy nose does indeed displace water it doesn’t do so as efficiently as the 12.6ft. The 14ft therefore needs a much more powerful stroke to shove it through the brine – bigger, heavier paddlers apply here. Once up to top speed it keeps momentum and glide between paddle strokes allowing pilots to back off and get into the groove – it’s a sweet sled for drafting.
Fatstick’s 14ft is a much less technical ride and really holds its composure in rough, less than ideal sea states. Chop and waves do their level best to buffet and knock paddlers off but it just won’t budge. It’s a great confidence booster for anyone entering SUP racing for the first time and will allow riders to develop and evolve in a slightly drier fashion than the 12.6ft.
One thing both the 12.ft and 14ft do well is catch bumps, relative to the style of board they are. Neither is a dedicated downwind machine but you’ll be surprised how much get up and go the two have when presented with a few rollers – great for coastal racing.
Riding from the tail both 14ft and 12.6ft Fatstick’s are pretty lively and will reward accurate trimming. That’s not to say they’re technical to ride in this domain but they will help tutor and allow riders progress.
Neither of Fatstick’s race boards are pretending to be something they’re not. If you want the absolute highest level of racing performance then look elsewhere. What the 14ft and 12.6ft do offer, however, are versatile platforms that can hold their own with adequately skilled pilots at the helm. Both boards provide a tool for honing skills while being rounded enough to cross over into other areas of stand up. The 14ft, for instance, would make a great touring board.
Lighter riders or those looking for a more technical race board would do better with the 12.6ft. Super efficient for its size and weight the arrow sharp nose cuts an extremely smooth line through all manner of water states. In contrast the 14ft offers a more relaxed experience that bigger/heavier riders would find the most fun with. And the prices of each, as we’ve said, are extremely kind to bank balances…
12.6ft x 28” – £799
14ft x 28” – £849