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Road Test :: Channel Islands #4

By Tim Hawken, On December 11, 2013

Ordering surfboards has become extremely easy over the last few years and you’d have to thank CI for popularising the model approach to selling surfboards. Rarely do people get straight up custom boards these days, with most preferring to tweak a current model that’s on offer. Taking this recipe to a new level, we have Dane Reynolds and Channel Islands new model – the #4. It’s like a match made in marketing heaven right?

Considering Reynolds has the skills to do crazy bat shit stuff riding just about anything, we thought it would be good to have a mere mortal put it through its paces. Here are the results….

The Board

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It’s hard to argue that CI have the approach of selling models down pat. Seems every new model they release is met with boatloads of excitement.

The #4 is the latest instalment in Dane Reynolds’ signature line with Channel Islands. It gets its name from the fact that it was the fourth board in a series of numbered concept craft built for Dane (just prior to the 2012 US Open). Each concept board incorporated a blend of single to double with vee running out of the tail, 13”+ nose and 15”+ tail with a double bump. After quite a few months of tweaks and refinements, CI have finally released it to the general public to much anticipation. Many wads were dropped once it hit shelfs, both literally and figuratively.

Shape

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The #4 comes in two versions: a groveller and utility model. The guys at Channel Islands recommend that if you want the grovel model, then drop about 3-4 inches from your regular length. But if you’re all about the Utility model, then only drop 2 inches..we all know 2 inches can make a big difference to performance.

Since I’m 5’11”, I ordered a Utility: 5’9” x 19” x 2 3/8”. From first impression pulling it out of the bubble wrap (is there a better feeling?), the board felt nice and balanced. It fit snuggly under my arm, which is always nice. You know how you get that feeling when you pick up a craft and you just think, yeah, this’ll go. Well I had that here.

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As mentioned above it has a single to double concave, which is really deep through the tail, accentuating the vee. The double bump in the tail gives it a cool design flourish without being too over the top. There’s plenty of foam kept in the board in terms of thickness and the widest part sits right under where your chest is when you’re paddling. The tail on this is a rounded squash, which is pretty standard (Dane rides a squash). There is quite a bit of width kept in the tail too, despite the double bump pulling it in from the start of the back fin.

Glass

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This particular board has ‘team’ glass on it, meaning it’s pretty fukn light – too light? maybe, all depends on how you treat your boards I guess. If you look at the shot above, you can see how dented Dane’s boards are. In tech specs, team glass means it has 4oz glass on the bottom and 4oz on the deck, with a 3/4 length 4oz patch. There are also carbon fibre strips on the tail, to give it extra strength right where you need it. I’m a shocker for sinking the tails on my boards and getting cracks along the rails, so for someone like me, those strips are a must. It is a really good weight: super light as you’d expect for a ‘team’ glass job.

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I have to admit, I was a bit worried about this holding up, because I was testing the board in Western Australia. The combination of lots of 4WD tracks and me going over the falls in punchy surf means the chances of getting a ding or worse, a snappage, occurring are pretty high. Hence why a lot of people make sure they get their boards glassed a bit heavier here. However, durability wise it was great (that, or I’m a pussy foot). It defied my expectations in strength, taking its fair share of poundings from me not making take offs. After a month of surfing it now has dents where my front heel and toe rest, along with a few pressure bumps in front of the tail pad when my knee goes duck-diving. That’s very standard for all of my quiver, so considering this is a lighter glass job it stood up brilliantly. There are a few marks on the bottom from being bounced around in the back of my 4WD, but again, that’s me not putting it in a cover, just to see how it would hold up. No complaints on this front.

Fins

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The #4 we tried out is a thruster, using a Futures fin system. (some of the shots used here show FCS) I used the Rob Machado bamboo signature fin because the guys at Country Waves in town were kind enough to lend me some for the test (most of my other boards are either glass ins or FCS). How this worked for me comes under performance a bit further down, but I had no complaints. Futures are super easy to use and that template of fin felt really solid in the board. I didn’t feel like I had to try other types of fin to make the board go better. Plus, fins are gnarly to understand. Rake, width, foil – it’s all a science that takes a while to really grasp and understand before you can apply optimally to your boards (and surfing). All I know for sure is, if you don’t have them, a board won’t go all that well.

Paddling

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Because of the width under the chest, the #4 let me get all sorts of paddle speed happening. Which, considering that normally a 5’9” would struggle for me, was a nice surprise – especially in slightly bigger waves. But even up to 6ft there were no issues getting into sets, the rest was up to me (see above in ‘Glass’).

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Duck-diving it was a bit harder than I expected, which is weird, because who actually has expectations on duck-diving? I actually got flogged on the first proper set I went under, because I figured a 5’9” would dip under the water easily. No. While the width is a plus for paddling, that’s not the case for getting it below the waterline. Hello floggings. Still, I’d prefer the extra paddling speed and it is a 5’9”, so it’s not like it’s hard to duck-dive and wrestle with underwater, just harder than first expectations.

Performance

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Excellent. A Utility board should go in all conditions and it did – from 2ft to 6ft the #4 felt really nice underfoot. Drive, which is something we need loads of over here in the West, was there in spades for such a short board. Speed is a shitty movie, but on a surfboard it’s essential. Fortunately Keanu Reeves is nowhere to be seen on the #4 and keeping speed over flat sections is a non event, down the line you hum and generally you’ve got speed to burn. The double concave pushes back at you, so the more pressure you put on your back foot the more you get in return. It offers plenty of release off the top, making it easy to ditch your fins when the time arises – it won’t help you make said ditching of fins, but at least we can all try right?

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For airs, I have no idea and besides, airs are stupid. Stupid because I don’t do airs. But carving felt like a dream – I felt like the hot knife ripping thru butter or better, carving the turkey at Thanksgiving – that’s how good this thing carves.

It did feel a little sketchy topping the 6ft mark, but isn’t really made from those conditions. The sweet spot for this board is head high. At that size, it’s proper amazing. The worst it went was when the wind was blowing crossshore (think devil wind at J-Bay). It didn’t handle bumps all that well. Sloppy onshore was great though.

Price

The Groveler is $895
The Utility is $845

But that’s in Australian Dollars, if you’re from NZ, it’s really expensive. In the US they start from $630 and go up from there. So if you’re comparing it to a regular local shaper it’s definitely on the more expensive side but then your local shaper doesn’t have the magic fairy dust that CI seem to have. I’m sure a standard saleperson’s line to combat this would be: “That’s the difference between a Ferrari and a Holden.”

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Conclusion

Overall the #4 Utility is a good all-rounder for your quiver. Is it an essential addition? Probably not, but if you have the extra cash to burn you’d be hard pressed to find a better board to spend it on. Plus, everyone wants a little Reynolds in their lives right?

The extra width meant it delivers in smaller waves, but still holds in slightly bigger conditions as well. It was durable considering it’s team glass, paddles well and has that amazingly awesome new board smell (but what freshly glassed board doesn’t!). If you think airs are awesome (read – can do them) then odds on this board would take off for you.

On the negative side of things, it didn’t seem to handle very bumpy conditions too well and duck-diving was a little harder than other boards around that size, because of the volume. This was something easily overcome after a single session of getting used to it. The combination of Al Merrick having shaped the #4 and Dane Reynolds riding it, means it’s a marketers dream. Luckily, it lives up to that hype.

Pros

Excellent performance in a variety of conditions
Paddling speed for its size
Durability pound for pound
Making you feel like you surf like Dane when you don’t

Cons

Duckdiving (minor)
Cost compared with other options
You’ll keep wanting to go and surf on it, when you should be working
Making you feel like you surf like Dane when you don’t and you’re friends are watching.

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Note: Dane rides a 5’8” x 19 1/2 a 2 7/16 as a GROVELER and a 5’9” 19 1/4 x 2 7/16” as a UTILITY board.

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