Tez Plavenieks is a freelance action sports journalist and digital content manager who lives and breathes saltwater, sand, wind and a little bit of hop and barley lubrication.
After seeing a similar review of his elsewhere, where he put two similar stand up paddle boards through their paces, we were keen to let him loose with a couple of Loco sticks.
Over to Tez…
When Joe Thwaites approached me to do a comparison test on two of his performance stand up paddle surf shapes I jumped at the chance. I love all forms of SUP but have to admit that it’s riding waves that gets my juices flowing.
As stand up paddle board trends continue to evolve I was keen on seeing what Loco, a British based brand, had to offer and how two of their popular surf shapes would stack up against each other.
After chatting extensively to Joe about which two stand up paddle surf boards to feature we agreed on the 8.11ft Pro (the board that Jersey based ripper Andre Le Geyt won the 2012 Watergate Bay Championships on) and the 8.4ft Pro which is Mr Thwaites’ board of choice when ripping up his home breaks in the north east of England.
The 8.11ft came in eye catching eggshell blue, full deck pad and K4 thruster fins. In contrast, the 8.4ft was a full carbon black beast that needed the application of wax, due to the board being ‘bare’, and features a quad/tri fin set up.
(Worth noting is the 8.4ft was a part of an initial batch of shapes and moving forward weights will come into line with Loco’s wood models).
Lying next to each other on the beach, both boards look the business.
The 8.4ft is a full volume, stubby wide tail stick that packs a lot of chunk into its relatively short length. Its full black carbon aesthetics make it a talking point on the beach.
Meanwhile, the 8.11ft is a leaner and more svelte design that appears more ‘gunny’ when compared to its mean looking sibling.
Before even hitting the surf it was apparent that even though the 8.4ft has a shorter overall length, the 30.5” width and 138L of volume would make for a more stable ride – a fact that’s completely at odds with other similar size stand up paddle boards.
At first I was also dubious as how to ‘whippy’ the 8.4ft would be on a wave. I weigh 80kgs and snapping a wide and voluminous SUP off the lip is usually harder work than with a narrower stick. Only time would tell…
Before continuing with the review it’s worth pointing out the kind of surf conditions these two Loco boards were up against.
UK waves are notoriously fickle and the early part of 2013 has been no different. I live on the south coast of the UK (not noted for its world class waves), which means hunting for clean waves can sometimes be a tricky prospect. Onshore winds often plague many southern surf breaks and this is why I make regular trips to the south west – Wales, Devon and Cornwall.
Over the past few weeks, the 8.11ft and 8.4ft have been used in everything from onshore gutless mush to pumping head high plus surf. This therefore should give a realistic indication of how these two stand up paddle boards work in the kinds of conditions that most UK SUP surfers will encounter.
Into the waves
There’s no doubt that jumping on the 8.11ft for the first time will prove unnerving for many. Its lower volume, narrower width and longer plan shape make for a slightly unstable ride – at first. Once you’ve worked out where the ‘sweet spot’ is, it’s not that tricky to keep it tracking in a straight line. Chop and whitewater do have a habit of chucking you off if your concentration lapses but ultimately staying on the board is achievable after a few initial sweeps.
For something of relatively small stature, the 8.11ft catches waves with ease. There’s a degree of familiarization with how ‘spinny’ the board is when setting yourself up for the take off – tail sink turns happen extremely quickly and could dunk the rider in if you don’t pay attention.
I found that keeping your front foot slightly weighted during tail sink turns slowed the rate of maneuvering which then allowed for accurate positioning. Taking the drop required me to already be in surfing stance and a few extra paddle strokes were usually needed to make sure I picked up the wave.
Once on the face the 8.11ft’s true colours shone through. Fast, easy to pump through fat sections, loose and whippy through top turns whilst remaining in control during full rail bottom turns; the 8.11ft is a pure thoroughbred wave slaying machine.
Its real forte is bashing lips. Due to its tight turning radius, snapping quickly off the bottom, with speed, is achievable in even the tiniest of swells and therefore makes small wave ripping a fun prospect.
On bigger waves, higher level surfers will love the speed of the 8.11ft while intermediates may initially be taken aback by this. However, a few rides in and you’ll get used to its ‘turbo’ nature.
The 8.4ft is a super stable platform that feels as easy to paddle as a board of a much bigger size. For such a short SUP this comes as a revelation and as such, during breezy, choppy spells, was my ‘go to’ stick.
Spooning out to the take off zone, the forgiving nature of the 8.5ft is confidence inspiring and allows the rider to concentrate on hunting down the best waves. Spinning the board round, ready for the take off, is easily achieved, with more back foot pressure allowing for a tighter turn.
Due to the bomb proof, but slightly heavier, construction of the 8.4ft, it does require more paddling effort to move this SUP forwards. I found that pumping the nose with my leading foot helped the 8.4ft get into slight fatter waves. However, taking off on a steeper and faster lump was no problem. If you’re on the slightly heavier side then this will be no trouble.
As a slightly lighter rider, carving the 8.4ft required more effort than the 8.11ft, due in part to the width of the tail but also the chunkier rails. Having said that, with a decent amount of speed, piling full power into the lip rewarded me with a thudding bash that whips you round with the whitewater.
The 8.11ft comes as a thruster set up and I found it best, and loosest, when the middle fin was positioned just in front of the mid section. This may not be to everyone’s taste and could induce spin out on larger waves. If hollow swells are your preference then moving the middle skeg back will increase grip.
I tried the 8.4ft in both quad and tri fin mode but found the quad set up to be too sticky. Weightier paddlers would be able to fly from rail to rail quicker though and not find this an issue.
Thrusters increased its maneuverability and once again it felt best with the central fin just in front of the mid point. Playing around with fins is always a good idea, as what works best for one may not be great for others.
Both the 8.11ft and 8.4ft Loco’s are great examples of what you can now expect with surf SUP shapes. Personally, the 8.11ft would be my first choice in all but the windiest of conditions. Once you’ve found the balance point, then even floating around in choppy conditions is feasible.
The loose and maneuverable aspect of the board suited my style (and waves I ride) perfectly. Belting the lip, sliding the tail out and charging faster waves at full power is perfectly suited to this stick. It’s a super fun wave SUP that would also be a good choice for lighter weight riders.
Loco’s 8.4ft is also a great choice, particularly for sweepers who are still looking for a good deal of stability, but not at the expense of wave riding performance. It would suit slightly heavier riders who are looking for a performance orientated stand up paddle surf board. With extra body weight, smashing the 8.4ft into a top turn would be extremely rewarding. If you live in a breezy location, then the 8.4ft would also allow for easier wave riding and more importantly, greater stability in chop.
The durable constructions are more applicable to the south coast’s shingle beaches I find myself on – with the added rocky reef thrown in for good measure.
Finally, upgrading your fins is always a worthwhile consideration as this too will increase the performance levels of each board.
words – Tez Plavenieks
pics – Tez Plavenieks and Fi Plavenieks