Is there really any need to get a custom downwind board built for UK conditions when we already have some amazing boards perfectly capable of handling UK waters and providing the paddlers with the tools to perform.
What we don’t have in the UK are such huge open water swells due to the Atlantic shelf but that isn’t to say it makes our conditions any less challenging than somewhere like Hawaii. We certainly have larger tidal flows, cold water and wind.
So why would you feel the need to go for a custom downwind board?
Most people considering a custom build should have a good idea of what they want and have a good shaper in mind to work with. Building something 14ft long or more is no simple task , but aside of shape you have to consider a more complex construction to improve stiffness and rigidity as well as weight and balance.
Understanding the shape and how it is going to feel before you have it built is something that is going to be hard to explain especially if your shaper mainly shapes surfboards so looking for a shaper who has experience of larger paddleboards is crucial.
Could a regular surfboard shaper make a downwind board?
I would imagine that every experienced shaper can begin to develop ideas about downwind boards given a chance. It’s obviously not a standard build and from my own experience a lot of tested experience needs to get into a board in relation to rocker line and rail shapes as well as tail and nose design to maximise performance and usability.
Can you get a strong enough construction?
A standard build for a surfboard if glass layup on a foam core. Nowadays more and more boards are including carbon for layups or other exotic materials to increase strength, but something to consider is that materials alone do not deliver a balanced strength to weight ratio. A vacuum bagged board with a sandwich construction will increase strength and improve flex properties whilst keeping weight down, but don’t be fooled into the hype of carbon purely for its reduced weight properties. When you are paddling in 30+ knots and being bashed about the weight is the least of your worries and knowing your board has strength in its skin will certainly give more confidence in the downwind board.
Ultimately is a custom downwind board for you?
If you know what you want and cannot find anything to meet your exacting standards then obviously go for it, but do bear in mind that the proven shapes and ability to try a board before you buy will be important to make sure it is right for you. Boards by Jimmy Lewis are of the very highest build quality so construction won’t be an issue, certainly no heel dents.
If you are after super performance in downwind conditions then the new Rail by Jimmy Lewis is a real mean machine in carbon. Super fast in the smallest bumps and a great weight that isn’t too light or heavy so sits nicely when conditions get a bit more blowy.
Another great shape that deliver elite performance is the SiC Bullet. Elite performance, but a bit more expensive than the Jimmy Lewis brand. Both brands offer serious open water boards with shapes that have been tested both abroad and here in the UK. You get a guarantee with all purchases and Jimmy Lewis boards come with a bag that I seriously recommend using to protect your board.