Standup Paddleboarding is growing by the day. It has been around long enough though for many of us to be looking at buying that second, more wave-specific, board. This is my own personal review of COREBAN’S high performance surf SUP’s. For credibility purposes, I have been surfing SUP’s for at least 3 years. I am 5’9″ 180 lbs, and I believe, and have been told, that I surf these things pretty well. Working in a board shop has allowed me to try many different kinds of Standup Paddlesurfing boards from many companies, and it still amazes me how the subtle differences in board characteristics can so drastically change the way they perform in the surf.
One thing is clear when you look at COREBAN’s line, their roots are in the surf. All of their boards are comfortable in the surf, even the Race SUP Boards, just go to www.coreban.com to see many videos of Ivan schooling it on any board, but the ones I am commenting on now are what they call their “High Performance Surf Board” line. They are the COREBAN Vibe, Nitro, Lithium, Fusion, Performer, and Icon, all pictured above from right to left, respectively. The review that follows is from my own personal experiences with each board in the surf.
Let’s start longer and work our way shorter. The longest in this line is the 10′ Icon. A great intro to Paddlesurfing board. At 10′ and 162 L of volume this board is very stable. We actually sell many Icons because it is a great crossover board, working well in flatwater with good tracking, and in the surf. If your surfing style is more longboard-ish then this is a great board. A fuller rounded nose allows you to walk all over it while on the wave, and the small swallow tail gives it good controlled maneuverability. I like this board for those smaller long-period swell days when the only thing you can get into the wave with is a fast floaty SUP. Excellent versatile board if you are only buying one SUP that you want to bring on flatwater, and in the surf.
Now to the 9’6″ Performer. I personally believe this is where the “High Performance” line really begins. If you have been surfing your 11′ or 12′ and you are now ready for something a bit more aggressive, but you still want something with good floatability, where you are not having trouble standing in the lineup, then this is an excellent board. There is a fine line between that give-and-take of when a board’s performance on the wave is worth its trouble in the lineup. More on this when we get to the Lithium and Nitro. For a 9’6″, the Performer is very floaty with 153L of Volume. Side note, I have also used this board on the river, and it’s tracking is actually not that bad, with decent paddling technique, of course. So, I have also had a few guys in the shop lately, looking to kill two birds with one stone, as in trying to buy that second wave board, and also trying to get their significant other on their first board. This one can pull it off, it’s pretty floaty for a smaller athletic newbie. The more defined nose and pulled in tail on this board allows for much more aggressive riding, but it’s fast also because it is 9’6″ with enough volume. At first I thought this type of board should have a squash tail, but I think the size of this board requires the subtle swallow it has to sink that tail. This is my personal choice in the COREBAN line for a goto Florida board (meaning, for the mushier weaker waves we get at least 75% of the time), only because I prefer the more aggressive riding. If you prefer a more mellow style of riding (more down the line and bigger arching turns), then the Fusion or the Icon would be the Florida board for you. This board comes with a thruster fin setup only, as it should. Please let me emphasize that I do not pretend to be an expert on tail design and fin setup. I’m only recently discovering what really works for me, only by discovering what does not work for me. There are many incredible local shapers that can give you way more accurate explanations of what it means to change board shapes and fin setups.
The Fusion is 9′ and 148 L of volume. It’s basically the smaller brother of the Icon, and behaves in a similar fashion, but with a snappier character. Great Florida board if you want something stable, shorter, and something with decent maneuverability. I rode this board a lot, and it was no problem for my 180lbs in the choppiest of conditions. To be honest, it took riding this board many times to discover that this is not my board of preference as it relates to shape/tail/fin setup. I definitely lean way toward the Lithium/Performer style, but again, that’s just me. This board is solid, and a fantastic versatile first wave board, or to round out your wave quiver with something for the smaller mushier days. This board comes with a five fin setup. I preferred it as a thruster, but probably only because I was trying to turn it into something it was not. I still have not embraced the quad fin setup.
OK, now to my favorite COREBAN Standup Paddlesurfing boards, the 8’5″ Nitro and the 8’11″ Lithium. They are basically the same board as in shape, so I group them together, but let me just get the Nitro out of the way by saying this board is way too light in volume for my size. They say it’s 112 L of volume, which doesn’t seem ridiculous, but it must be the shape as well that made it nearly impossible for me to hold my composure in the lineup. I actually owned it for a few weeks and sold it. I did get to ride it though while we had some great swell last fall, and I have to say, once I was on the wave, this board was sick! I’ll be honest, I was never a short boarder, only longboards, but when I was surfing this I felt like I had a skateboard under my feet. You just think of turning this board, and it’s already there. But as I mentioned earlier, there’s that fine line between a board being great on the wave and worth it in the lineup, and this board is just not worth it to me. If you are a lighter rider and like an aggressive board, you must try this out! Now, the Lithium is definitely more suited for someone my size. I picked this up after the Nitro, and it is what I currently ride on cleaner, bigger days. Only 6″ longer than the Nitro, but with an additional 18 or so L of volume. They say it comes in at 130 L, but again, I think it’s the shape of this board that makes it feel less than that. On calm glassy to semi-glassy days it is not a problem, but when the chop picks up I’ll go to my 9’6″. Once you’re into the wave, like the Nitro, this board maneuvers beautifully. It definitely feels and behaves like a much shorter length board due to its aggressive shape. It only comes in a thruster fin setup, again, as it should, with a board shaped like this. If you want a fast, snappy board for deep carves and off-the-lip “wapow!” riding (sorry, couldn’t resist the tosh.o drop), then PLEASE try this board!
Last but not least, the 8′ Vibe. Coreban says it has between 120 and 130 L of volume. Same fish style as the Fusion and the Icon, but with way more maneuverability. I rode this board a few times, in cleaner conditions, and again, not my favorite style board, but it was fun. It gave that “skateboard under your feet” feeling with a more manageable volume than the Nitro. For someone around my size, probably not great for more choppy conditions, but if you want a short fish style wave board with decent stability for its size, then this could be the board for you.
I believe the most important piece of advice I can offer from this review is to encourage you to try as many boards as possible before buying. DEMO, DEMO, DEMO! Don’t just go by length, or volume. There is a good chance you will be sorry. Right now we have an Icon and Lithium in our shop for demo that you are welcome to try. We also have a Performer in the showroom, and other models on the way. Please feel free to add to this review with your own personal experiences on any of the boards mentioned. I’m curious to see what others have found. Thanks!