iSHAPE Vacation...thoughts on our newest paddleboard after 10 days in Maui.
I just returned from 10 days in Maui visiting my son, Miles, who has been living there this winter. My family has been traveling to Maui off and on for the past 14 years and we love the island. Many of my first experiences with stand up paddling took place in Maui and I taught both of my kids to surf there. I love the variety of experiences you can have on the water there: downwinders, surfing and paddling, but maybe my favorite daily routine there is what I call surf cruising. I just made this term up so don't bother googling it, but its an experience unique to stand up paddling. It basically means you go for a paddle along the coast and stop and surf at various peaks on the way out and back. I am certain I am not the first paddleboarder to use a SUP in this way, but I started paddling this way on the west side of Maui on one of my trips and always look forwards to mornings out cruising. This year I traveled with the iSHAPE hoping it would be exactly what I imagined when we designed this SUP.
The west side of Maui is perfect for this type of paddling because between Lahaina Harbour and Launiupoko (a beach park) there are something like 8 distinct breaks that can be surfed. If the surf is pumping I will often just go to the closest break and surf, but on this trip there was little swell on the west side which made for perfect surf cruising conditions. It is about a mile between where we were staying and Launiupoko so my routine was to be on the water by 6:30am with glassy conditions and start paddling towards Launiupoko.
For this type of paddling you want a board that is fun to paddle and has some decent glide since to goal is not simply to surf, paddling the smallest surf board you can stand up on doesn't make sense. However you also want to have fun when you catch a wave. I brought the iSHAPE this year with high hopes that it would be the ultimate surf cruising platform for a traveling paddler like myself and I could not have been more stoked.
I found the iSHAPE to be the perfect dimensions for this type of paddling. At 12'6 you can catch even the smallest green bumps long before they peak and at 28" wide it feels plenty stable for the length while it paddles efficiently and doesn't feel too chunky under foot. However it's the Wiki Rail that makes the iSHAPE really unique for an inflatable.
Let me just say that I love taking an inflatable board with me on vacation. I really appreciate having my own board, rentals are expensive and I have dinged rental boards before and then have to haggle with the shop about a fee for ding repair. I have surfed plenty of inflatables on small waves and been totally happy despite the reduced performance, but the wiki rail eliminates the need to compromise. I am not going to try to sell you that the Wiki Rail alone is the difference between an epoxy board and an inflatable. I had an epoxy board on this trip that I borrowed from a friend and used when I just wanted to surf, but the Wiki Rail goes a long way towards bridging the gap. The Wiki Rail creates a clean release from the tail which eliminates the drag created when your board starts hydroplaning on a wave. Once you start surfing you can initiate a turn on the rail and both of these advantages give you the feeling of surfing an epoxy board.
I love starting my day on the water, watching the sunrise behind the West Maui Mountains and the island of Lanai glowing to the east. I usually start out just paddling to the south towards Launiupoko, warming up outside of the surf zone. Then I will start to fade towards the coast after about 10 minutes so I can pick off waves as they appear in front of me. Seeing a wave building and putting in some hard strokes to catch up gives me a bit of an interval workout, then once you catch the wave the surfing is the reward. When I am heading to the south I try to go right on the waves as much as possible so I am surfing in the direction I am traveling and on my way home I surf lefts. The iSHAPE easily glides into waves and once I was surfing I could step back and surf in the pocket. Keep in mind these are small (2'-3') waves that were perfect for a 12'6. I played with adding some air to the shape chamber to increase the nose rocker and help with keeping the nose up on a steeper drop, but even with just a few pumps in the shape chamber I really appreciated having the displacement nose to punch through the surf and keep the nose from pearling while surfing.
I am just so stoked with this board! We always design boards that we want to use in our personal paddling and the iSHAPE nailed surf cruising. As I am sitting here back in Colorado where the snow is still piling up in the local mountains, I can't wait for summer and am feeling more ready for paddling season thanks to the iSHAPE. -Mike Harvey