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Alright, it may not FEEL like winter at all (it was 80 and humid when I went out for dinner last night), but the northern AND southern hemisphere are in full force and ready to bless us all with a good run of swell and keeping water temps above 60 degrees (Garek and I have been in trunks since March, and we're eyeing the goal of completing a whole calendar year without putting a wetsuit on...stay tuned for that one).
You've got to make sure you have the proper equipment to handle the big stuff. I'm talking the well overhead days, the days that only the committed are suiting up. This may be a silly article coming from me, since the last 8-10ft day in Carlsbad I was out on my 5'7" Cloud. We all need to be a little more realistic with what we're going to paddle out with when its big and firing, so I'll keep my recommendations reasonable instead of the weird shapes that I will paddle out on.
In medium sized El Nino surf, we're recommending the T9, Optimist and Karma Chameleon. See Garek's writeup here.
When the buoys are showing 7 foot plus on the way, going with either an Optimst Pryme or Over-Easy are going to help you make the bigger drop and keep your confidence high when you are out battling the elements. When there is so much water moving around, you need more board than your average day. Determining between the two can be tricky based on what type of surfer you are and where you are surfing. Allow me to help break them down for you.
The Over Easy. Certainly the more "mature" option to go, but there's nothing mature about its performance in big, heaving surf. It's got a ton of float similar to our poacher, but the overall template is a tad narrower with a sharper nose, allowing to still have that volume and float for an easy paddle. It's sort of the love child between the Poacher and Jack. Keeping the nose pulled in and tapering the rails with a diamond tail keeps you locked into the face of the wave on the hairier situations, where as if you had paddled out on a poacher, or something with a rounder nose might not handle the drop. Single to light double/vee concave with medium rails lock the board on-rail when you need hold AND speed.
The versatility of this board even when its not gigantic has this as one of my top winter board choices. It's even easy to ride in knee high waves. This board is the one I would lean towards if your local spot is either a reef or predictable point break, something with a little more open face to work with as your drop in, as opposed to a fast hollow wave that has little time to spare. For the older dude who loves to charge hard and sit on top of the pack, this board will have you doing laps around the younger folk in serious style.
We really recommend riding the Over Easy somewhere in between 7' to 8' depending on your skill set, or about 1.5ft shorter than your longboard preference. Since this is a board available in PU/Traditional Fiberglass only, we have the ability to custom create whatever size or dimensions you need.
The Optimist Pryme. The go-to for the real big, fast and hollow stuff. This was the board I was DREAMING of having when I was in Puerto Rico this past winter during a week of 8-15ft Barrels in Rincon (I instead had a 5'10" Quad that maxed out when it was over 10ft and was left watching ridiculous tubes rifle through while I had a beer in my hand). Now Don't get me wrong, it's still an absolute blast to holler at huge perfect waves from the beach. But I wanted that stand up barrel and numbing rush of adrenaline, but knew I needed the right equipment so that I didn't land face first on the reef. This is where the Pryme thrives.
This step up option is more geared for those who are familiar on shorter boards, and like driving down the line looking and chasing for the tube and maximum speed. the longer, skinnier profile is prepared for those heart-in-your-throat moments, and will give you maneuverability when you need to chase out a long section or climb up a wave the size of a small building. There are certain times when your standard shortboard just isn't enough board to get you into the giants. The length we add on the Optimist Pryme helps with paddle speed on your take off, getting in earlier. Light single concave all the way through with low rails provide reassuring hold and precision speed. While everyone else is hung up and bailing out, you can set your focus on where to tuck under the lip and set your line.
If you're planning your next winter surf trip to Hawaii, Mexico, or anywhere that has fast and hollow waves, or really any type of hollow beach break, you need to add a Pryme to your quiver. Order 4-8 inches longer than your everyday shortboard.
So there you have it. When you pull up to the beach during the swell of the year, you're going to want one of these sticks in your trunk ready to go. You'll look like a vet out there.