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Jack vs. Poacher: D33 "El Nino" picks for the beginner/ intermediate rider

October 03, 2015 4 Comments

(photo courtesy of TrueAmes fins)

Though it's been pretty light on swell, at least in SoCal, for the last couple of weeks, surfers across the Northern Hemisphere are keeping tabs on the ever-present "El Nino" conditions and licking their chomps at the slightest hint of a warm offshore swell.

Advanced riders are turning up in droves with their rhino hunting imaginations. Shapers are bringing in their lines, glassers are turning over hot coats like pancakes. The surfboard building industry is quietly turning the gears at an impressive rate with no signs of slowing down.

If you're a beginner working towards intermediate surfing, you're probably wondering what all the hooplah is about. "El What?" Here's the short of it... 

Part A = Warmer west coast water creates convection closer to shore which brings storms closer to shore. Storms create waves. The longer a wave travels, the less strength it retains. Closer storms = bigger waves. There you have it. That's why everybody is building their quivers. We've all got our fingers crossed for a swell-ridden winter.

Part B = Warmer weather = warmer water = less neoprene = less restriction = longer sessions

What does all this mean to the beginners moving towards or into intermediate surfing? It means you're going to need a more advanced board to navigate more advanced waves. Since you'll have no excuse to weasel your way out of a surf invitation with "I don't have booties..." You're going to want the right board to show the boys/girls, or yourself for that matter, that you can hang.

Enter the Jack and Poacher hybrid surfboards. They're hybrids because they embody advantageous characteristics from more than one type of board. So let's get into it. Here, we'll lay out why these two boards are PERFECT options for surfers that are making their first go at a real winter season.

The Poacher: Best suited for beginner surfers still learning their turns.

This is a combination of a longboard and a shortboard built into a compact yet forgiving package. The front end begins with low rocker for easy planing both while paddling and surfing. This is the user-friendly portion of the board. If you're on an Ultimate in the 8'-10' range and just learning how to surf in the face and pocket (power source) of the wave, this is your cup of tea. While the front end is all party, the back end is all business. The poacher boasts a tapered, rounded pintail. Tails of this type are designed for control and hold (grip to the wave face). A rounded pin has low surface area so the back end of the board tends to sit lower in the water than wider tails. A tail that sits lower in the water engages more rail, providing good, clean traction in bigger surf. It's flatter front end will provide you the planing ability to keep your speed up, the advanced back end will let you control that speed. We've squeezed a fair bit of volume into this shape while still giving you enough taper down the sides so you can bury your rail through clean, arcing turns.

Sizing: If you're coming down off of a 9fter or bigger, the 6'10 will be a progressive adjustment that will ask much of you, but will reward you greatly in the end. A 7'2 is the safe bet that will provide instant joy and relaxed, confident control even when it's pumping.

If you're coming down from an 8'6 or shorter, the 6'6 is the aggressive choice, with the 6'10 being the safe call. These sizes arm strong-shouldered or lightweight surfers with incredible ease of paddle and wave catch-ability. At the same time, the rounded pin tail, coupled with a tri-fin cluster, will give you the control of a step-up shortboard. The 6'6 is all about grip and rip in the pocket! Rule of thumb for the winter: don't bring a knife to a gun fight. Size up.

The goal of the poacher is to make bigger waves more manageable for beginners without giving up too much stability or control.

Read more about the Poacher here.

The Jack: Best suited for intermediate surfers typically riding smaller boards.

We call it the Jack because of it's ability to fit the bill in almost any surf condition. It grovels at 2ft and charges at 2ft overhead. No other board in our quiver can quite cover that span with the grace of the Jack. It's a combination of a fish and a shortboard. The trend in the past was to go with long, skinny boards. That trend was started by the surf industry and marketing the exploits of professional surfers in big surf. The truth is, that only really worked for advanced riders who wanted to go fast and straight. The new ideology is to stay on the shorter side of things and hide some extra foam where you need it. The Jack is Bill Minards answer to that formula. We had him keep the rails fuller and more forgiving with the extra planing power of a fuller nose and relaxed rocker, for a shortboard that is. Longboarders can drop down to our larger length Jacks for more speed and control. Surfers that are still feeling out the Poacher or Codfather can move to the Jack for a better shot at making steep drops and generating speed on long walls. The double bump in the tail narrows the shape so that it sits lower in the water for more bite and a tighter fit in power pocket. The swallow tail adds even more bite so you have control over this wide template shortboard.

Jack Sizing: There are two approaches with sizing up the Jack. The first is for our riders that are fairly comfortable on their longboard and want something more agile in bigger, faster waves. With this surfer, we're going with our larger sizes so that the drop in size from their longboard isn't too obstructive. If you're a bigger guy or gal, or only get to the water once or twice a week, and you ride a longboard, go with a 6'8 Jack or bigger.

If you're on a Poacher or a Codfather for the summer and your shoulders are accustomed to less board and duckdives, stay under 7ft. This is also a good fit for lightweight riders.

The goal of the Jack is to jettison newer surfers out of the beginner realm and onwards toward intermediate turns, snaps, floaters, etc.

Read more about the Jack here.

Here are a few examples of Poacher and Jack sizings for comparison.

30yo male (5'7, 165lbs) - 1 yr exp., rides 9ft Ultimate, surfs 1x/2wks - 7'2 Poacher/Epoxy

20yo female(5'5, 130lbs) - 2yrs exp., rides 8ft Ultimate, surfs 3x/wk- 6'6 Poacher/Nexgen

65yo male (6'2, 225lbs) - 3yrs exp., rides 9'/9'6 Ult, surfs 1x/wk - 7-7'6 Jack/Epoxy

40yo male (5'10, 175lbs) - 4yrs exp., rides 5'8 Codfather, surfs 4x/wk - 6-6'4 Jack/Fiberglass

These are our best bets for those of you that are working hard towards the intermediate level, whether you just picked up an Ultimate a month ago, or you've been charging hard on the Codfather that used to be too small for you 2 yrs ago.

*If you're already putting together multi-maneuver lines and your concerns are less about making the drop and more about where you're planning to crack the lip or stall for a head-dip, you're already in the intermediate/advanced stages of your surfing, we've got your quiver check coming next. With 4 new models to fill this range designed over the last 2 years, we've got you DIALED. Stay tuned next week for the breakdown!

4 Responses

Gary Clisby
Gary Clisby

October 09, 2015

I bought a 7’6" Epoxy Jack four years ago and shifted to it from a 9’ high performance longboard. When I bought the board I weighed in at 210, and am now down to 185. It floated me great when I was heavier, and is almost too buoyant for me now. I have surfed it in waves from 2 foot to 10 foot and it works like a charm, although on bigger waves the lack of flex from being epoxy has caused a few “speed chatter” wipeouts. I actually buckled the board about a third of the way down from the nose about a year ago, had an expert repair done and it’s still working great. All in all, one of the best boards I have had in a while – and I am 62 years old and started surfing in 1969!


October 08, 2015

Very nice thoughts. I just went from a 9-6 D33 ULT LB to the 8-6 and I found this to be a lot of work and humbling. The poacher is a great board but I am 230lb and need the float of Ultimate LB. I will likely end up with a poacher but was glad to have transitioned to the 8 6 first.


October 08, 2015

I just now got back from surfing my 7’6’’ Jack in shoulder high and under surf in Ventura. I cant express how STOKED I am on this board! I cant wait to take this thing into some overhead surf tomorrow Offshore.

A little about me for the sake of the Artical above. Ben surfing for 35 years but took a 6 year gap off. Im on my 3rd year of getting back into it…..wish I never stopped. Im almost 53 YO. 220lbs right now.

When I started back up again I was soooo out of shape at 245 that I bought a 9’0 longboard. As Ive progressed Ive surfed everything from long fishes to Hybred Fun shapes to now the Jack. I’ve only surfed it once today but the way the board hooked up when dropping in ,and the way it turned and stayed tight in the pocket I know I made a great choice by ordering The Jack!

Also the Customer Service from Degree 33 spanks anything we have up North. Order 1. you wont be dissappointed.

Thanks Guys!


Doc Watson
Doc Watson

October 03, 2015

Great Article Garek! As soon as I can afford a 7’6" Epoxy Jack you’ll get my order! Cancer bills and such are taking priority now. Also, Great job on the 100 Wave Challenge!! Glad I was able to be a small part of this great program! Doc

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