Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Imagine Surf Connector DW board - does this thing come with buttons?

Board Review:  by Joel Yang                                                                                                   
Board: Imagine Surf Connector 14’ x 29.5”
Type: Downwind
Days paddled: 1 (4 miles)
Conditions: light/moderate wind and chop

I had a chance to chat with our friends at Big Winds about this board last fall so I very curious to see what Dave Kalama was up to with this particular design.
The Imagine Surf Connector board is one of those that at first glance - your initial reaction will be "WhattheHELL??" it has a very unique silhouette and almost looks like it should have a control panel with a ton of buttons on it that go "Pew Pew" when you push them.

There are two versions of this board: and they only come in Imagine Surf's Intec custom construction: which is a combination of Vacuum bagged glass and reinforced wood
14’ X 29.5”, 293 Liters,
14’ X 27”, 269 Liters, 

I chose to go with the wider version because Coli has shown interest in wanting to DW tandem - so to my delusional stoke I have this idea that Coli and I will someday be jamming along downwinding and screaming wahoo's out with the crew here in the more volume was what I was after since I have a tendency to sink the tail - being approx 2.5 times Coli's weight.

At first glance:
- Do I need a super suit to ride this board?
- I wonder what this thing will paddle like once the swell dies down?
*(this is huge since most of the runs that we do - have flat sections - which is why versatility is key for us)
- That is a Super thick section in the front 3rd of the board - and visually that looks really.... odd
- That rocker is......really banana curve rockerrrrrdddd!
- Maia's first response to the "Reach" & "Breathe" was - " you'd better be doing your Yoga poses on that thing when the wind dies down 

The water conditions were not optimal for this board - but I was just hoping that it wouldn't be flat and glassy out. I had a limited amount of time - so I wasn't going to be choosy - water time is still water time!!!!

The board came with the FCS Touring 9" plastic fin which I immediately swapped out for my fave defaulted Larry Allison Ninja fin. Ninja fin is one of the most versatile fins for me that I have used flatwater paddling as well as Downwinding and it has not let me down – so I wanted a fin that I could count on for the small window of time I had with the Connector on the water. The Ninja aligned well with the placement of the fin box. The fin and board slapped High fives and it’s time to get this board on the water

The paddle:
I was curious to see if I was going to be fishtailing in the flat sections of today’s paddle with the volume built up front and quite the rockered nose. With that much rocker, naturally it will splash around and you will feel like a seal slapping its fin on the water – this board is built on the planning hull concept – so if you are used to how those boards sound on flat water – this wouldn’t be much different to that sound. It’s distracting if you’re not used to it – but then again when looking at the GPS numbers on my watch – I wasn’t going as slow as I thought I sounded, however, I’m also used to paddling with Coli which usually entails a whole lot more noise when we’re out on the water.

The board tracked very straight for flat water and that much rocker up front – I was able to get 14 approx paddle strokes per side - the Ninja fin felt right at home with this board. The rocker in the tail was perfect – super clean release and no wake-age going on behind me.

Looking down at the nose – the top down view was no different than a race board – you don’t notice that it has a thicker front section….other than the nose not engaging like other raceboards usually do it wasn’t visually distracting otherwise. I stepped further forward to see what would happen and if I could get the rocketship nose to engage ……when I noticed an interesting characteristic that I will bring up later.

The board width was 29.5” wide and I haven’t been on a board that wide for a while – so it was plenty stable for me to walk around lots and practice my fancy footwork.

The sky started to turn and the awesome Washingtonian crappy weather started to kick in – rain, wind, chop started to build…..AWESOME! I paddled upwind for about 1.5miles and although the connector has lots of volume up front I was surprised the nose did not get blown around as much as I had anticipated – and I felt like an axe wielding warrior trudging through the weather on my way to Mordor with no hesitation. Let’s keep in mind that this was average wind and chop and most paddlers could do this with the exception of a beginner on an inflatable - we’ll see if my answer stays the same when I paddle upwind with this thing in windier conditions… but for now I was excited that I was able to navigate this board upwind without struggling.

DW conditions of the day……….Micro…… but I’ll take it – considering I thought it would be flat. The Imagine Connector wants to play and it was even stoked on the micro swells……… the side to side rail engagement allowed for easy turn initiation without any sudden surprises. The Connector paddled well though the micro troughs, chop and swells, and the board tracked well through all of it and made for stress free navigation. Now here’s the best part…… there is a special control unit right at the front of the deck pad where the words “Reach” & “Breathe” are located and once activated – the board will take off like a penguin belly sliding down an ice chute. 

Dropping in has never felt so effortless. For those of you that pucker up slightly when dropping into the trough and watch the nose of your board get buried – this board slides right into it and slaps you a high five while doing it. The thickness of the board right up front and rocker profile prevent the nose from getting buried and allow you to focus more on connecting the next swell instead of losing your momentum and waiting for the nose to come back up and out of the water. I was able to walk the board comfortably, practice all of the pointers that the awsum crew up here in the PNW have helped me out on since I got into Downwinding. 

I’ve been on some fast DW boards in the past, and I’ve also spent lots of time swimming – but on this board I could not help but smile thinking that I’m going to have lots of fun on this board in much larger conditions and the delusional daydream of Coli and I Tandem Downwinding might not be so delusional afterall.

With the Imagine Connector - the mystery of Downwinding has just become so much more accessible to those who have been intimidated to try it. Dave Kalama designed this board to help improve your DW experience, not make it frustrating - and I think he nailed it with this design

For those of you that are looking to advance your DW skill set - this board will feel like hitting the sk8 park with a big cruiser and make you wanna go for it!!!

Thanks to Dave Kalama, Adam Cumming, and the team at Imagine Surf.

Things to consider:
Weight & construction - This board only comes in one construction – it is tough but on the slightly heavier side - it works for us at the Village of Stoke – but those of you that are looking for lightweight carbon race competitive DW board - you might want to call up Adam and Dave at Imagine and request that they consider making these in a Carbon composite.
Volume – this board comes in 2 sizes which might be limiting for some paddlers. It might be worth downsizing these for those that can handle a quicker board with less volume.

Final thoughts: This is a board where you can really work on honing your DW skillz
Stable – this board is easy to walk
Easy to maneuver – navigation is no longer your enemy
Dropping in has never been so easy – that’s right – connect more swells
This board has made Downwinding accessible - can't wait to paddle on a larger DW day now!!! (come on WIND!!)

I’m going to have some serious dumb fun Tandem Downwinding with Coli in the very near future on this board.

Imagine Surf Connector info here 

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