Gear Review: LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper

Did you hear? Lib Tech and …Lost have teamed up! My god, what is this? Snow and surf companies can’t collaborate! That’s like, so backward dude.

Incorrect. It’s actually very much forward in a few ways.

To start, this is not the first time snow and surf companies have collaborated on a product. Back in 2015, Bataleon Snowboards put out a special version of its Camel Toe powder board in partnership with legendary longboard pioneer Bill Stewart. I’m sure there have been others as well, especially in the pow riding department.

That said, this might be the first time a snowboard company has contributed something new to the surfing world. If you don’t know what all this hype is about, let me explain.

When Lib Tech first announced they were making surfboards a few years back, I for one was not sold on the idea. Others would agree – I spoke to several surfers who hated the shapes that LIB came out with originally. That’s because LIB decided to make their own shapes, without any help from experienced surfboard shapers.

LIB had one big thing going for them though, and I saw this first hand on a surf trip to Cape Cod in 2015. I walked into a surf shop and was checking out the new LIB boards – one of the salesmen saw me and came over to give me a run-down of the boards. Before I knew what happened, he took a board out, threw it on the ground fins up, and stomped directly in the center with both feet. Everyone in the shop who saw this had a look of horror on their faces – that is, until the board popped back into shape perfectly about a half second later.

I say this because LIB’s surfboard construction is truly insane – what other surfboard material is capable of popping back into shape after a board-snapping blow like that? Nothing I know of. Firewire? Yea ok, test that theory and see what happens.

Lib Tech’s surfboard material is no doubt a heavily guarded industry secret – that said, they explain what they can here on their website. I can tell you from experience that it is lighter than foam/fiberglass, slightly more buoyant, and much better at not snapping in half. Also, the material doesn’t absorb water. That’s key since the material does puncture relatively easily, so be careful when putting it down on pavement or rocks. The good news is you can cover any punctures with stickers and be totally fine thanks to the material.

puddle jumper web 2

The Review

Around the time I saw proof of LIB’s insane materials, LIB went and teamed up with …Lost to produce some of …Lost’s shapes with LIB’s insane space-age construction. The result was a line of boards that performed really well (just ask surfers) but were virtually indestructible. The best part? When I got my LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper, prices for these boards were about the same as your average brand-name fiberglass shaped board.

I own a 5’3” x 20” x 2.32” LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper with a volume of 28cl. Keep in mind that because of LIB’s materials, you could get a LIB board with a little bit less volume than you normally would and it would still float just fine. I am a smaller guy, and this is the shortest surfboard I have ever ridden, but this thing floats and rips even better than my 5’6” stubbie with the same volume. For someone who mainly surfs in New Jersey, I ride this board during 90% of my sessions. It will make a 2-foot day into something amazing, but that is what they designed this shape for. Credit where it’s due, hats off to Matt Biolos and …Lost for this shape. Best small wave board I have ever ridden.

I say that because this thing generates speed very quickly. That extra volume/float combined with some cool shape features like a concave bottom that transitions to vee in the tail make it almost effortless to fly down the line on a weaker/smaller day. I also love the fact that this thing is shorter than my average shortboard because it makes it so maneuverable, especially on those smaller days. I have been able to do things on this board that I never have before.

I have ridden this board in waves up to 6 feet. For a small wave board, it held its own and frankly, it made me love this board even more. Anything bigger than that though, and I would want something a little longer and skinnier. For waves from 3-6 feet, I ride this board as a thruster (it has 5 fin boxes so you have options). My favorite setup is with the small lightweight FCS PC-3 fins. That’s because for me these fins are the perfect happy medium between twitchy/loose quad and less responsive larger fins. Speed is not an issue as a thruster thanks to the clever shaping by …Lost, and the response and power from these fins are immense.

Keep in mind that LIB’s fin boxes are their own design, but they will accommodate most major brands of fins. LIB’s fin boxes actually have a pretty cool feature – you can adjust the spacing of your fins by sliding them forward and back within the fin boxes.

A closer cluster = more twitchy, quick pivot and loose turns.

A spread-out cluster = more drawn out, gradual turns.

This adjustment actually makes a big difference in the feel of your board, for both thruster and quad setups. Experiment with it, find your sweet spot and mark it with some permanent marker.

Speaking of quads, this board is a riot when ridden as a quad. The first time I set it up like this, I almost got bucked off. The setup was very lively, almost too much. Speed was noticeably faster than the thruster. Turns were easy with instant response and crazy pivot stomping right on the tail. For this, the cluster was closer together than centered. Later, I tried spacing out the cluster as much as possible and it made the twitchiness go away for the most part, but it still had that looser, faster quad feel. Side note – I would love to try this setup with a nub fin as the 5th fin.

Bottom line: I love this shape from …Lost, and I love Lib Tech’s construction. It’s everything I wanted in a small wave board, at a reasonable price, and hopefully with a really long lifetime. That said, I would not recommend you purposefully try to stomp on your board to test its strength.

FCS PC-3 vs. PC-5 – Fin Size Matters

This is sort of a review, sort of a comparison, and sort of some advice for fin choice in general. I say that because fins depend on you – your ability level, weight, height, etc. Even the size of your board comes into play. Keep all this in mind when reading on below…

 

The reason I am comparing these fins to each other as well as on their own is because of something I learned the hard way – fin size matters. Before I knew what I was doing on a surfboard, I rode almost exclusively the entry-level FCS M-5 thruster (medium size fins), and sometimes as a quad with G-X trailer fins. Down the road, I acquired the PC-5 thruster set and began riding this (same size as M-5 fins). Just in the last year did I finally try the PC-3 set and I can confidently say that these small size fins are the right size for me (I’m about 5’8” 140lbs).

It took me years to realize it but I had been riding the wrong size fins for almost my entire surfing life. Side note – I have found that keeping a journal really helps in all board sports to get your setups dialed in exactly as you like with things like fins, board dimensions, etc.

So, I rode “-5” medium size fins for a long time but they were too big for me. This hurt my progression and my ability didn’t improve that much because I could not make the board turn as fast or as hard. Switching to the PC-3 and the smaller fin size was like putting performance tires on a car – suddenly, I could get the most out of my wave-riding vehicle. This definitely gives me more confidence in the water.

 

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FCS PC-3 thruster | 5’3″ LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper

 

The Review

These two fin models from FCS are arguably some of their most popular. They are relatively cheap, solid fins ($82 from FCS directly) with good response and drive through turns. Both feature what FCS calls “performance core”, and FCS says they are lightweight performance fins (can’t argue there). They are both sold as quad and thruster packages, but this review concerns the thruster versions.

Once I found the right size fins, the PC Series became my favorite fin. I have been riding them on a 5’3” LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper – the PC-3 thruster is my go-to setup for this board. I can get so much power and response out of these fins, it really opens up the possibilities for me. Speed is definitely not an issue, but a quad is still faster with these as side fins. That said, the thruster is good enough to get barreled.

The PC Series material is definitely snappier than the old M Series I had been riding for years. The snap is more aggressive as well, so a hard bottom turn is essential if you want to get these to release a bit. That is kind of the fun of it though – you really have to lay into it sometimes. If you do it well, the rewards are priceless. This forces you to work on technique and perfect every step – the drop, your line, the bottom turn, etc.

That said, I could never get this out of the PC Series when I rode the PC-5 due to the size. The PC-5 felt much less responsive and much less snappy. Even if I laid into turns on these fins, I never felt the flex doing any work to help me out. That’s really why size matter when it comes to fins – when the size is right, the fins respond and you can actually feel the flex working. That’s how it should be.

Overall, I would recommend the PC Series fins for intermediate-advanced surfers who want something predictable and responsive. They are priced right and widely available. I would say these fins work best in rippable, punchier waves where you want to go hard off the lip – the snap and response really helps these fins come into their own here. Don’t be afraid to really lay into these fins, as they will respond.

Just make sure you have the right size.

Gear Review: FCS Mark Richards TFX Fins

So, first thing’s first. These are some carbon FCS twin fins with MR’s name on them. I have the tri set, which includes a small third fin for some extra drive and control. I’ll talk more about the differences between two and three a little later. I have been riding these fins for about a year at this point on my 5’6″ Pyzel Pyzalien. The Pyzalien is a sick board. It’s a little shorter, fatter, and thicker than your standard shortboard since it’s a “stubbie” basically meant for summer surf. That said, I’ve ridden it in waves a few feet overhead and it still works although the speed wobbles get intense if the face is bumpy.

I would not recommend riding these fins in 8 foot waves though, at least not on the Pyzalien. Any twin fin setup is going to make a board feel loose, so combine that with the Pyzalien’s nimble shape and you have a really rippable, but sorta twitchy setup. In head high waves the twitchy-ness is manageable and adds to the fun. Anything smaller than that and these fins are exactly what you want. I would describe the feeling like riding a skateboard on a wave just because of how nimble and fast these fins make a setup feel. Turns become almost effortless and the speed is immense.

As for the difference between two and three of these fins, I’ll put it like this. With two fins in you may get more speed but you’ll slide around way more, especially when you don’t mean to like during hard bottom turns. Three fins holds much better and the speed and drive are just as good. Unfortunately, I think the three fin option is a few more dollars but I would say it’s worth it.

The bottom line: I would recommend these fins for a small wave board, but they’re good up to head high. The main thing with the TFX fins is that they will make your setup feel pretty loose, which I like but some may not.

First Impressions: Winter Park

I just got back from an epic few days snowboarding in Colorado. Before this, Pennsylvania is probably the farthest west I’ve ever been to snowboard. Let me tell you, nothing on the east coast compares to the Rockies. Winter Park is actually made up of seven different areas, each about the size of an average east coast mountain. Each area has different terrain, from moguls to glades to bowls to chutes.

If you ask locals, they’ll all tell you different when it comes to the best time of year to ride or ski in Colorado. I’ve heard mid March is usually a great time to score some powder, but according to the locals this year was a little odd. Every local I spoke to mentioned the sub-par winter and meager snow conditions. They complained about the ice and suggested I sleep in (and drink some beers) to give everything enough time to soften up. I thought to myself, nothing out here in the west could be as bad as east coast ice.

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View from the top of Parsenns Bowl, Winter Park, CO

On the first morning, I woke up to about 4 inches of fresh. It snowed most of the day too. Above 10,000 feet, the sun hid itself behind the clouds all day which meant the ice I had been warned about stayed solid underneath the little bit of powder. That made many spots a bit hard and chundery. That said, the Parsenns Bowl area actually had a good bit of powder on this day, if you could find it. The center section of the bowl was incredible with all the powder mixed in with the trees. As you got farther down the bowl, the trees got tighter but the powder stayed the same. The right side (rider’s right) of the bowl had some sick tree sections also. Every run I found new, untouched lines through these sections right through the end of the day. By that time, everything below 10,000 feet had warmed up enough that there were spring conditions. I’d never experienced such a difference in conditions at one mountain during one day, but that’s how the weather works in the mountains.

Despite being a snowboarder, I like riding in tight trees and moguls, so I spent most of my time on the trip riding the Mary Jane area. On my second day riding, I did explore some other parts though. I immediately noticed conditions were better in general because there were no clouds at all. The sun had all day to soften things up. When I did get over to Mary Jane I was expecting softer snow, yet there were still lots of icy patches. Parsenns Bowl suffered from the same conditions. It sort of felt like an east coast day until I hit the trees. Somehow, conditions in there stayed pretty ice-free. Again, I spent most of my time at Mary Jane, bombing from powder pile to powder pile.

I had some unreal runs on both days, despite the wonky conditions. One local I spoke to was baffled by them, but I had to think he was just jaded after living and skiing there his whole life. I’m sure he had scored some insane powder days at Winter Park, but unfortunately I didn’t. I will definitely be back to Colorado with my snowboard, and hopefully a big dumping of powder follows me there.

First Impressions: Whiteface

Ok, so Whiteface… I’ve heard some call it “Iceface.” I’ve heard it’s got the most vertical in the east. Both have truth to them.

I had never been to Whiteface before this past weekend. Just the thought of going got me so stoked. I checked the maps and conditions before going, and that got me even more excited. I found out that Whiteface has “slides,” basically backcountry chutes that you need to hike to from the summit. Couple that with a forecast calling for snow day and night, and my stoke level was almost through the roof.

The first day we rode was Saturday. Saturdays are crowded, but that’s every ski mountain. Straight away it was obvious, Whiteface is huge. It makes Tremblant look small, but that’s because Whiteface is all about vertical. The mountain is tall, not really wide. Tremblant may be shorter in height, but it’s wider and longer. Whiteface is steeper. There’s hardly any flat sections (at least where I rode) and your legs constantly need to work hard to lay into fast turns. By the end of our second day, I really noticed this. Saturday was also pretty icy, living up to the  mountain’s reputation. By noon conditions started to deteriorate and winds started gusting over 50 miles per hour. We appreciated the ol’ gondola even more because of that. Still, somehow they were able to keep all the lifts open.

Snowy, cloudy view from the top of the gondola. Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY.
Snowy, cloudy view from the top of the gondola. Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY.

On Sunday, we woke up to four to six inches of powder. We got out there as early as possible, which is 8:30 a.m. It was empty! Every trail for the first few hours had untouched powder. The Cloudsplitter glade was definitely the trail of the day for me. I really dig tree riding (and mogul riding) and the amount of powder in those woods made it heavenly. Whiteface also had some cool park features. For the larger jumps, you had to be cooking. I knuckled one pretty bad the day before so I stuck to smaller jumps for working on 1s and 3s. The small stuff was sick too. They even had a mini half pipe which was super fun to rip. The ice started to show up this day also, but not until later in the day. Even then, there was less of it and plenty of powder to aim for.

All in all, I loved Whiteface. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to hit any of the slides since they were closed. I’d love to go back on a real powder day and see what’s up. I was able to get pretty comfortable with my switch riding and 180s though, so I left feeling pretty damn accomplished. I’d love to go back for a week or something. This season still has some good time left in it so hopefully I get to post some other “first impressions” before everything melts! Must go west..