Ocean Rodeo ‘Surf Series’ quad fin 5’11 review
In October I recieved a pre-production Ocean Rodeo Surf Series quad fin 5’11. Since then, it’s the only board I’ve kitesurfed, mostly without straps (though a couple of times with when things were a bit mental), and I’ve even surfed it three times. This write up is me describing how the board goes after an Autumn and part of a Winter in the North Atlantic.
Strength and Durability
This is a tough board. Epoxy top and bottom coat, wood stringer, bamboo veneer – not unusual construction amongst high end kite-surfboards, but it’s passed all of my strength tests, and here they are in (a sort of) order:
1. The squeeze test. I take a new board and squeeze it as hard as I can between thumb and forefinger. If it compresses, I am not happy, if it resists my vice like squeeze, I know I’m going to be enjoying a long relationship with that board.
2. The fin test. I’ve done this on a couple of boards now; basically too much sideways pressure on the fins results in them breaking out of the bottom of the board, taking the fin box with them. The first time it happened I was landing powered after coming off the back of a wave, the second time it was just from riding a board hard for about forty minutes in good surf.
3. Impact resistence test. More of an accident than a test, though it’s bound to happen at some point. Simply ride into a rock just under the surface of the water and see what becomes of your board.
4. The wave snap test. This test has been the undoing of many a kitesurf board. Simply ride out powered over a huge line of white water and see if it breaks into two peices upon impact.
These tests allow me to assign a board to four simple categories that describe board strength.
1. Disposable glass surf board, doesn’t even try to be tough.
2. Badly designed kite board, supposed to stand up to the rigours, falls short very quickly.
3. Well made kiteboard, will last well with proper use but don’t take the piss.
4. Strong kiteboard, barring a bad accident (aircraft doors etc…), you should have a keeper on your hands.
I can safely put the Surf Series in category 4, for yes, I did hit a rock and it’s merely dented the underside. Basically I feel very safe when riding this board and slamming around on it that it’s not going to blow a fin our or snap after a heavy landing. Sure, you can break any board if you treat it with total disregard, but after a few months of this particularly brutal winter and some solid surf under mega-powered kites, I can say this board is completely pressure ding free (except the rock impact).
You will find the Surf Series heavier than your lighter built surfboard (really?!), personally I like a little extra weight when kiting; it smooths out chop and riding in strong winds more comfortable and certainly the extra ounces won’t mean you have to hold back from punting airs and so on.
This board is made for dancing in tight, punchy snappy movements. The quad fin set up gives it a tighter turning radius than a thruster, and I’m pretty sure it gives you superior upwind advantage too. I’ve ridden plenty of thrusters, plenty of quads, and I reckon this is the case. Maybe it’s because you are able to ride the board flatter and quads inherently come with a wider tail.
The tail width suggest this is a board for lively surfing in a good range of conditions; it’s not specialising as a trick board for sloppy wind-driven drivel, nor does it attempt to sell itself as a tow-board. What we have here is a tail shape that will drive out of turns with barely any loss of speed in surf from say, knee high to head high plus.
The rocker is moderate, there’s enough lift in the tail to slam the board round in a tight pivotal carve without stuffing the nose, and plenty of nose entry to take some stomach lurching steep drops without pitching.
There’s enough volume here to make the 5’11 useful in the lower end of its wind range, so naturally if you regularly ride in mantal winds I would suggest you take the 5’7. But for 15knots – 25knots, IMHO the sweet spot of kiting, this board is a good fit. You don’t need to rely on wind to move you around on the wave, this is a proper surfboard.
You can do pretty much anything you want on the Surf Series 5’11: full rail gouges, fast flashy snaps with the board much flatter, sharp stabbing pokes under the lip…I’d say the only thing you potentially might miss is the classic drawn out carve of a thruster’s three fin design, and maybe in huge surf with wide open faces a thruster would theoretically fit better but I find a lot of the arc of a board’s turning is dictated by the kite once the face opens up a bit.
During the paddle surfs on this board, I’ve been surprised at how lively and maneouvreable it is, then again I am comparting to my regular 6’4 thruster. For typical rolling Cornish breach break swell I’d prefer a longer board, but as a one-board travel quiver and suckier faster waves (as can occur here at low tide) I think it would be fun.
I like to ride this board strapless, the flat full EVA deck is grippy, comfy (no nasty foot arch cramp!) and wide and expansive to nail your gybes and tacks on. I enjoy it most when there’s a chance to poke it vertically up against a lip, or to slam a tight speed hack in the pocket – it seems to love high pressure situations! It really suits having your back foot situated between the fore and aft fins, like this, you can get an almighty satisfying WHACK! against the lip.
I’ve passed this board around to a few mates and they’ve felt pretty much the same as me about it – they love it! It’s a smooth, quick, fun ride that shoots upwind and lets you get really creative in the surf. It cuts back really nicely and always seems to find its way back uderneath you, and this translates to drawing much more ‘surfy’ lines on the wave face rather than the typical and slightly unfulfilling kitey-drag lines.
For ‘recreational’ surfing, Ocean Rodeo have got the shape spot on. For charging thunderous barrels, I’d pick up the Surf Series Thruster instead. But for competitions where you could encounter anything from slop to good surf, the Quad Fin is a perfect fit. It excels with snappy, pivotal turns and a willing loose feel but will shudder immense grip down through the fins on screaming bottom turns as you line up for the next whack.
I predict I’ll be using this board for about 90% of my sessions throughout the year, regardless of where I travel to.