At roughly the same time last year we had the opportunity to try out Fanatic’s 2016 10ft Stylemaster as part of a comparison test which you can read here. We liked it then and we like it now. As a progressive wave rider that copes with both toes over styling and being thrown around, it was a new type of surf SUP that moved away from smaller traditional shape designs. We therefore couldn’t wait to try the brand’s 2017 9ft version – a board which promised to be even more rippable.
Out of the box
Coming in bright white accented blue livery, it’s a sexy looking sled straight out of the box. Fanatic’s Pure construction is, as always, top shelf with pinpoint attention to detail given to all key areas. The deckpad is superb, being grippy but comfortable and running two thirds of the way along the SM’s deck. As with the 10ft version, toes over aficionados will need to wax the front section if they’re considering a walk along the plank. While this is fine it does seem a shame to cover up the 9ft’s graphics with a layer of wax. But needs must…(You can always try HexaTraction which SUPM uses to good effect if wax isn’t your cuppa).
Flip the Stylemaster over and the supplied fins come as a 2+1 thruster configuration, with Futures and US box style fittings. Fanatic’s high end performance skegs look great in blue honeycomb with a 6” central foil and two smaller 4 1/2” side bites. Being able to position the middle fin forwards or aft allows for a degree of tuning – riders can loosen the ride and stiffen it up accordingly.
Featuring a wide round nose, for hanging five or ten, a single into double concave with V bottom, domed deck and super thin stepped rails, it’s most definitely not the perceived all round SUP you have in mind when first laying eyes. The Stylemaster may appear similar to your everyday 10.6ft but it isn’t.
On the water
The first thing riders will spot when jumping aboard the Stylemaster 9ft is that dome deck. Having transitioned from flatter deck SUPs, this will be an odd sensation. The reason for the dome is twofold: comfort and to allow unwanted foam to be stripped away from rails making it more performance orientated and better in punchy waves. This isn’t to say it won’t lap up slack swell, but more on this in a mo…
At 115L the ‘float’ properties of the 9ft aren’t going to be as much as boards with a higher number, obviously. That said, 29” width is enough to give the Stylemaster 9ft stability – after a few sessions even intermediate paddle surfers will become used to the SM’s ways and as such it would make a good SUP to transition from bigger wave riding vehicles.
Gliding effortlessly, it’s a swift process gaining access to line ups and even in choppy conditions is pretty composed for its dimensions. Within no time at all paddlers will be hunting swells down and making the drop with reckless abandon.
The Stylemaster isn’t a board which catches waves super early, but neither is it a technical surf SUP where riders have to perch right on the peak. Having picked up your chosen liquid wall it accelerates like a whippet after a rabbit. As with the 10ft Stylemaster, riders can pilot the 9ft from slightly further forwards. Super thin rails and aft section does require a wave of substance (not size) to allow paddlers near the kick pad.
On fatter swells it’s possible to chuck the 9ft around in moderate fashion. It’s also this type of wave that will help tutor newbies in the ways of getting toes over. As rewarding as this is, with a bit more punch to the swell a whole different beast shows up.
Mid to heavier weight riders will find the 9ft Stylemaster easily as manoeuvrable as a more traditional looking surf shapes – yet without the technical paddling difficulties associated. As such this could be just the ticket for your all round paddle surfing shenanigans. Maybe even a one board does all?
Whipping off the bottom, Fanatic’s 9ft powers up to the lip for a full round house whack. Even lighter riders will find the SM fulfilling and shouldn’t discount it as being too big. Our feather weight tester had immense amounts of fun.
Dare we say it, the Stylemaster is also primed for new school rippers to make good use of. While care would need to be taken, we can’t see any reason why modern moves couldn’t be hammered home (aerials for instance). And there’s no reason to not use the 9ft SM in all types of waves, right up to well overhead.
The perception of performance paddle surfing is that riders need to be utilising super tiny boards, when that’s simply not the case – Fanatic’s Stylemaster 9ft proves this point. For medium to heavy weights, with a degree SUP surfing skill, there’s no reason the SM couldn’t be your one and only performance surf machine. Accommodating nose riders and lip rippers equally, it performs in slack waves while really ramping up when surf gets punchy. Intermediates and light weights will also find favour in the Stylemaster – the former using it as a progression tool while the latter finding it a great quiver board. We love the fact that Fanatic have embraced the performance longboard SUP surfing concept and have run with the idea. As an evolution of 2016’s 10ft version 2017’s 9ft Stylemaster offering will win all paddle surfers over, wherever you choose to ride.
9ft and 10ft Pure Light – £1,049
9ft and 10ft WE Ltd – £1,599