To start off this review I will make a very bold statement. I believe this board to be the most advanced SUP surf shape on the market today. Wow – those are pretty bold words! So what on earth has made me come to this conclusion?
When I first saw this board at the first BSUPA event in 2010 at West Wittering beach I knew straight away that this could be a fantastic surf board. The shape is basically a classic surf board fish/retro rocket shape. In fact my favourite shortboard for the majority of UK surf is a Gulf Stream 6ft 6” Retro Rocket. The Nah Skwell looks like a SUP version of this board, and surfs like it as well. Richard Marsh, the distributor in the UK, had the board on a stand and warned me “watch your face” as I picked it up. I did not understand what he meant until I lifted the board and almost took my face off, as it is a super light construction (in fact I almost dropped the board in surprise, sorry Rich!).
Sometimes you might worry that an exceptionally light board is going to mean a fragile construction, I certainly did, but I can say that I have been surfing the board for almost 5 months now and there are absolutely zero rail chips on the board, only the smallest of dings, which are hardly noticeable.
The board is 8ft 8” long, has a pulled in pointy nose, with a nice rocker line, and a great swallow tail. There is a tiny amount of vee running through the bottom of the board. The board clocks in at 29 1/2” wide 4 1/2” thick and the weight is 8.2kg. The fin set up is thusters with a fin box in the middle and two screw in side bite fins. It has a carry handle in the middle and full deck grip with a nice tail kicker on the back.
I am 82kg, 13 stone and 6ft 1”, there are two bigger brothers of this board available at 9ft 3” and 9ft 7” for heavier riders or for intermediates who don’t want to take the plunge onto to sub 9ft board.
So how does the Nah Skwell Surf, erm, surf?
I have been SUP surfing longboard shape SUPs since 2006, I have reviewed a few “pointier” shaped boards such as the Imaigne Eco wave rider and the GONG crusader, but the first thing that struck me about the Nah Skwell surf as I dropped into my first wave is how little weight there is in nose, this really allows you to be super aggressive on turns which can then either lead to huge amounts of spray coming off the rails as you power surf into turns or you can really over cook it and slide the tail out. The difference with this board is that I found I was able to recover from full 180 layback slides and twist the board back into the wave very quickly (most of the time ;)), something I have not been able to do with higher volume, longer boards. The first few sessions were a revelation into how far I can push my SUP surfing, they also taught me a lot about how to paddle a shorter board, there is a row effect here, in that you need to reduce the number of strokes you take each side to ensure that you are travelling in a straight direction, you get used to it very quickly and now I no longer think about it.
So after two sessions at my local break it was time to return the demo board to Richard…..oh dear…..I had to buy one for my own quiver as it was developing my SUP surfing exactly in the direction I wanted it to go, so Richard managed to get the only other one in the UK at that time over to my door and over I have been surfing it ever since, which has allowed me to really understand the board. I have owned boards in the past that I have come to the end of my learning curve with, I suppose I am privileged to be in a position where I can keep trying the latest kit so that I know when that point has arrived. I am no where near the end of the curve with this board. I have been attempting some 360 off the lips, and, although I have not pulled one off yet, it feels pretty close on the right wave, I have also had two aerials out of this board – I have not landed either, but once again, unlike some of my past boards, landing these tricks seems to be a distinct possibility and not pie in the sky (excuse the pun).
I have taken this board out in conditions as varied as 1ft south coast slop to 8ft Irish reef breaks and it has performed equally as well in both. Where I struggled on it was in strong winds and choppy conditions, although to be fair to the Nah Skwell I always struggle stand up paddle surfing in these conditions.
So who would the Nah Skwell 8ft 8″ Surf board suit?
I think you are going to have to be into surfing to enjoy this. If you are a competant intermediate surfer, who wants to own a board that will really allow you to push your surfing to new levels this is the board for you. Since getting mine both Neal Gent (2008 BSUPA surf champion), our very own blogger Steve Coram and Simon Bassett have all bought one each. I think the best way of describing this board is that you will only be held back by your own ability, not by some failing of the board.
Other advantages are that the board is light, and short, so it is easy to travel with on the car, in the van or on a plane.
I have a feeling I will be using the Nah Skwell Surf 8ft 8 for some time to come.
In the UK the distributor is Richard Marsh at Kai Sports Ltd, tel: 023 8089 4333.
All Photographs below were taken by Simon Bassett.