The Rise of the SUP Unlimited Division
By James Casey, Sunova rider
Two years ago SIC were the only brand selling unlimited boards in Australia. In the last year the number of brands making unlimited boards has exploded meaning more choice for those wanting an easier and more enjoyable ride in downwind conditions.
SIC were the pioneers in open ocean downwind unlimited designs but interestingly they still don’t have a competitive 14’ ocean board. Companies such as Starboard with the Ace and Fanatic with the Falcon have long been preferred for most downwind races in Australia. It begs the question, what if we took what we knew about 14’ ocean boards and applied it to unlimited boards? Wouldn’t that make an unlimited board even faster?
Over the last few years, I think a lack of competition allowed SIC to have a strangle hold on the unlimited board market even though the design of their boards weren’t necessarily ground breaking. Now don’t get me wrong, when the wind gets over 20 knots, an SIC unlimited is as good as any other, if not the best. This is what these SIC unlimited boards are designed for, a board that works for the world famous Maliko run, which often gets over 20 knots. The problem is it doesn’t get that windy all that often in real world locations. Below the 20 knot threshold these SIC boards most certainly aren’t the quickest.
I’ve paddled with Dave Kissane and Jeremy Riggs on my 14’ Ocean board, both two of the best unlimited board paddlers in the world who use SIC’s unlimited boards. When its windy it is extremely hard to stay anywhere near them but as soon as it drops below that 20 knot threshold I will be able to put a gap on them. Basically SIC unlimited boards are designed solely for those 20 knot plus conditions and they have given unlimited boards a bad reputation for only working if its nuking.
Now lets roll forward to 2017 NSP, Billy Robello, Sunova, One, Starboard and Deep have now thrown their hat in the unlimited ocean board ring. Looking at last year’s Molokai 2 Oahu, in the mens solo there were only two SIC unlimited boards in the top seven, with three Marcus Tardrew designed dugout unlimited shapes. Back in 2012 the top ten of the mens solo was exclusively SIC. The past two years has seen Travis Grant win Molokai 2 Oahu on his NSP unlimited and Kai Lenny on Trav’s Billy Robello design. Both these boards are designed to still work for lower speeds between bumps or for lighter conditions.
Now the idea of unlimited boards is to make downwind paddling more accessible, easier and more enjoyable right? This new era of unlimited boards are designed to start working in less intimidating conditions below 20 knots. For real world conditions.
In Australia there is an increasing population of paddlers that love their downwind paddling with a quiver of downwind boards, a 14’ ocean board for conditions under 20 knots and an unlimited for conditions over 20 knots. Although recently there has been a bit of a trend occurring. This new era of unlimited boards, such as the NSP, Sunova and One, are becoming seen more and more often on those 10-15 knot days as well as those 20 knot plus days. Basically they are becoming competitive in all downwind conditions. This could potentially see a decline in the number of 14’ ocean boards with the downwind crew trading in their quiver of 14’ ocean board and SIC unlimited board for the new era of unlimited board to work in all downwind conditions.
In what would be a real coup, there are rumours that one of Australia’s biggest races, the King Of The Cut, will have all prize money on line honours instead of just the 14’ pro class. This means there is extra incentive for the brands and pros to develop a fast unlimited board.
2017 is really looking like an exciting year for the development of unlimited boards and I for one am excited to be working with Sunova and Marcus Tardrew to develop the best unlimited board for all conditions.