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The 7 Best Surfboard Models In The World

According to Julian Wilson…

Pro surfers are brand ambassadors. They’re paid to spruik a particular product or service. Any feedback reads as some kinda press release.

Enter Julian Wilson. A free thinker. Rather than being encumbered by one shaper or brand, we figure he’s sacrificing $100k a year from a potential board sponsor to ride what he pleases. It makes sense. If you’re going for a world title, why wouldn’t you ride what you deem is the finest and most suitable board on the planet. Julian works most with three guys throughout the year (Mayhem, Channel Islands and JS), and these guys make up his must-have board model list. What this list represents is a complete lack of commercial bias toward what the best board models in the world are right now, from someone who has done plenty of sampling. Insider talk on tour is that Julian is a surfer without a weak point. That makes this list even more important. When it comes to performance and hardware, Julian is one of the more articulate surfers in the world.

Yeah, we'll take board advice from this man. Hawaii. Photo: Ryan Miller.

Yeah, we’ll take board advice from this man. Hawaii. Photo: Ryan Miller.

“The last time I had a surfboard sponsor was Luke Short (LSD), four years ago,” says Julian. “The conversations with people trying to lock me down don’t really happen. I only really work with three guys throughout the year and I’m kinda at a point where they all respect each other and understand where I’m coming from. As long as they wanna make me the best boards that they can, then it’s always gonna work for me.”

You might’ve noticed last year that Julian, a lover of Mayhems, didn’t ride a Biolos shape at Lowers, the domain of Mayhem. Says Jules, “It was a big decision f’sure, but I think what happened this year was I gave Matt too much information on what I thought I needed to be riding, and ended up having this batch of boards that weren’t as good as what they have been, because I had too much input. Whereas past years, like the first year I was on tour and I made the semis at Lowers, he just made a board that he thought would work out there and obviously that worked really well.” (More on that at board number six).

“For me, these are definitely the seven best board models in the world. They’re the best board models I’ve found. It’s hard to rate them because they all have their own conditions. For me, looking ahead for the year, I know that between these models I’ll be on the best equipment at each location.”

Oh, and, just so you can get your head around this better, Julian weighs 80kg and stands 6’0″ tall.

****

7. Channel Islands Fred Rubble

(Ridden 5’11″x 18″ 5/8x 2″ 3/8)

JulesBest_Rubble

The Rubble sure makes tube-driving even more fun. Best enjoyed with quad setup. Kirra. Seq: Ryan Miller

The Fred Rubble is Conner Coffin’s step-down. It’s no fish, but nor is it a shortboard. This is the wildest and most unpredictable surfboard in the list. According to Julian, however, lock four fins in and it’ll hold a line like Donnie Draper’s brylcreem. If it’s barreling, the Rubble is one of Jules’ first choices. “I ride the 5’11″, but can surf it in waves up to six foot,” says Jules. “It holds in really well, and it’s super fast. It works well in the barrel. I like riding boards that feel different, I rode it a bit on my backhand in Portugal and it was really fun, really fast of the bottom. If you’re riding standard shortboards a lot it gets really boring I think, especially if there’s a lot of waves. To have something a bit shorter and ridden a bit different… it was just really fresh, and one of the reasons why I don’t really have a main sponsor, and why I’m always looking for something different to ride. Out of the boards that I’d travel to events with, the quad Rubble would have to be the most peculiar.”

****

6. The JS Lowdown 

(Ridden 6″0 x 18″ 3/4′ x 2″5/16′ – 27L)

ASP/Rowland

Jules’ Lowers performances in the biz end of the 2013 event were… really something. ASP/Rowland

Cast your mind back to Lowers 2013, where Julian finished runner up to Taj Burrow. His game to the final was without flaw. And the board he was on was close to a JS Monsta, but not quite. It was newer, more experimental, and something JS now calls the Lowdown. “That was the best board I rode last year,” says Jules of the Lowdown model. “At Lowers I felt probably the most in control all year. I’d ride that board up to solid four foot. Beachbreaks, lefts and rights, it goes both ways, and it’s really fast. It’s just got a lot of spark in it.” As previously mentioned, Jules shot himself in the foot by over-thinking the dimensions for his Biolos shapes at Lowers, but luckily it turned out that his JS felt “exceptionally good. Lowers isn’t that much of a down-the-line wave, it’s more timing and not catching rail, rather than having to go super fast. Those JS boards worked really well, there was a bit more foam in them than what there normally is.”

****

5. Channel Islands Proton

(Ridden 6’0″x 18″ 5/8x 2″ 3/8)

MillerR-Portugal_Proton_2

When it comes to beachbreaks with punch, Jules can certainly get down with the Proton. Photo: Ryan Miller

There are all kinda beachbreaks, which is what makes them so brill, but you can divide sand-bottom waves into roughly two types: Those that require you to generate your own speed, and those that don’t. The Proton is for the latter. And it’s Julian’s favourite knife for slicing thicker meat like France or Portugal, where you’ll generally get such shove that you’re trying to wash off speed rather than find it. “There’s also a lot of rocker in the board so you can really go for more front-foot, late takeoffs,” says Julian. “They hold in really well.” But just so y’know, and especially if you punch at the same weight as dear Jules: “His Protons are slightly thinned out,” says Channel Islands guru Travis Lee. “The original Proton cut has a pretty full rail.”

Though Jules is of the new school, he grew up in the period before boards were as short as you could ride em. “It looks better when they’re a little longer,” he says now. “I always reference when Dane used to ride his Protons in Campaign and those kinda movies. I always really liked that kinda surfing. They look like super long boards now, but if you look at the footage it looks really cool.”

****

4. The Mayhem Driver

(Ridden 6’0″x 18.63″x 2.25)

Photo: Ryan Miller

Mayhem’s tend to get Jules higher. WA. Photo: Ryan Miller

The Driver is Julian’s spade of choice when he’s required to pull on a jersey but the waves aren’t so great. Jules rides the Driver a shade shorter than he would the F1-Stub. Mostly ’cause it’s a little flatter, and a little wider under the front foot, which makes it a real good butter knife: “It’s easier to get over dead sections and link mushy waves together on the Driver,” says Jules. “I’ve found they work really good backside, too.” Wait, different boards for different directions? Yowser! Jules then drops some knowledge on us that is so oh, contrary to that other jive about riding the Driver in bad waves: “The footage I put together from an Indo boat trip two years ago at Macaronis, that was a Driver (*yes, you remember that footage). It was four, five foot and clean, and the Driver was only just holding in off the bottom, but then you could get pretty fruity off the lip with it, as long as you could get to the lip. But I think any bigger than that and it wouldn’t have really worked. It was kinda just on the edge of skipping out on the bottom. When you lose that half inch, you have a little more control all over, more control when you throw the fins, you can just take charge of the board a bit more.”

****

3. The JS Forget Me Not

(Ridden 6″0.5′ x 18″ 3/4′ x 2″3/8′ – 26.8L)

Photo: ASP/Robertson

The Forget Me Not digs the inside of a tube. This one is in Tahiti. Photo: ASP/Robertson

Thanks to the nature of Gold Coast waves, JS surfboards have traditionally been knifey. Fact. And while they’ve since come to encompass a wider scope, it was a razor Bruce Irons number that clued Jules into the Forget Me Not. “This is one I ride a lot when the waves are good,” says Jules. “It was actually a board of Bruce’s that I rode in Bali a few years ago: The Forget Me Not. Bruce’s name was on the stringer, it was a board that he left at Betet Merta’s house, and I’d gone to Bali right after I won the QS in Portugal my first year on tour, which is kinda when I turned my year around and started getting some results on the CT as well. I didn’t have many boards, and Betet had one lying around the house so I grabbed it. It was really small for me, but ’cause the waves were so good at Keramas it just worked really well. And that was what turned me onto getting more boards from JS in the first place. That’s a real Gold Coast kinda board, it’s really fine and holds in really well when there’s a lot of push in the waves. But it only really feels good on my forehand. I’d ride a Forget Me Not when it’s barrelling somewhere like France or Portugal. My boards in Tahiti and Fiji were that kinda board. Good in the barrel, but especially good going right.”

****

2. The JS Monsta

(Ridden 6″0 x 18″3/4′ x 2″3/16′ – 26.8L)

Photo: Ryan Miller

“I haven’t really found other boards that feel the same as the Monsta,” says Jules. French pick during the Quik Pro. Photo: Ryan Miller

And now we reach the business end, a close dance between two boards for the top spot. Number two, the Monsta, is the board Julian believes he’ll be ordering the most of in 2014. “I rode a lot of the Monsta in 2013,” says Jules. “Those boards are so consistent. I can pretty much pick one up and know it’s gonna go in the type of waves I need it for – I ride JS most as brand new boards in heats. I probably had 40 Monstas in this past year and this model is one of my moneymakers. JS pumps out a lot of boards, but he needs to ’cause his boards have that really glassy feel to them and they’re really fast, but they don’t always last. It’s one of the best feelings in the world popping out a brand-new JS when the waves are good. This model is super lively and has a lot of spark. JS boards break quite a bit more than any other board I’ve had. If you were ordering one and paying for it, then you’d definitely get a bit more glass on it. But the overall shape of the board, for when the waves are good and it’s got some push in it and clean faces, I haven’t really found other boards that feel the same as the Monsta. I riding it around the 6’0″ area.”

****

1. The Mayhem F1 Stub

(Ridden 6’0.5″x 18.63″x 2.30)

ASP/Hayden-Smith

“They just do whatever I want,” says Jules of the F1 Stub. “Which is the ultimate goal with a board.” ASP/Hayden-Smith

Here’s the creme. The money maker. The board that Jules has had more results on than any other. The board he’s ridden more of in the past three years than any other. “I loved it as soon as I first started riding it,” says Jules of the F1 Stub. The two Mayhem models that most pros order are the Driver and the F1 Stub, and while the Driver, as we’ve learned, is for less-than-perfect waves, the F1 Stub is the apple in Jules’ eye when it comes to good waves. And it’s also been Jules’ competitive bullet. “I rode an F1 Stub at Snapper last year, I rode it at Bells, I rode it at J-Bay the first year I was on tour and made the quarters. And Lowers the first year when I made the semis. I’ve accumulated more F1 Stubs than anything else over the last three years. It’s drivey but works well in the pocket. With the F1 Stub you wanna draw everything out a bit more ’cause the waves are really good and a bit more board doesn’t hurt when the waves are good. The Stub works really well in any waves that are clean and rippable. The good ones I’ve had, they just do whatever I want, which is the ultimate goal with a board: Feeling like you can put it wherever you want and being comfortable doing airs.”

****

Here’s a word from Matt Biolos on shaping for Jules:

“The board he started with was the F1-Stub. He got most his big results in his qualifying season on one. I have the board still. It was 6’1″x 18.56x 2.25. We continued to make The F1 Stub in similar forms over our relationship. I think most of them ended up around 6’0.5″ 18.63″ 2.30″.

“He used the F1 Stubs at places like WT event venues, Snapper, Lowers and powerful waves with walls. He rode an F1 Stub from the quarters, the semis and into the final of his maiden WT event win, in Portugal (2012). In the semis, he really put on a show. It broke after his first scoring wave in the final, then he grabbed a back-up JS off the beach, got his second score and won the event. He also won the Burleigh Breaka Pro on an F1 Stub.

“The Drivers, he tended to use in junky or shorter waves. Waves where he needed a bit more lift. The Drivers were usually 6’0 18.63x 2.25, with fuller rails than the F1s.

“He won the 2012 US Open on a 5’11x 18.63x 2.25 Driver. That one was a bit shorter, with a stubby nose. I have it as well. We haven’t been working as closely the last six to eight months, but he recently called and asked for more boards.

“He knows I am always here if he needs me.”

And, from Mr Jason Stevenson:

“He knows what he wants. He’s very particular, I’d say. He definitely keeps you on your toes. I reckon he got close to 60 boards from me last year. Most of the stuff from last year is all of my stuff. A lot more of the stuff this year is all his. The Lowdown is his direction.”

  • wally wombat

    Great post Stab. I’m going to cancel my JS order because it’ll most likely break, as do the majority of Billabong products.

    • Paul

      i’ve never had a js last more than 6 months. and it’s painful at $850 a board

      • sam

        I’ve had 3 and all have lasted over a year..

    • zbah

      I have had about the same durability/lifespan out of Js and merrick and biolos. I’ve had four out of the Js California production set up. All stock production ghost shapes. One thing I will say is they have been a bit more accurate/symmetrical in terms of template and fin position than the last batch of merricks

      • bitter guy

        same shop probably glassed them all (except that last batch of Merricks maybe) and its not like the Clark days when you knew it was just over-sanded

        • zbah

          merricks were glassed in four seperate locations, js all in san diego. js seems to have better control over calibrating their machine (aps), a little lighter touch with the screen, and a little more care setting fins. not a big enough sample to draw much of a conclusion from but it is what is is. your results may vary.

      • ASP Judge

        I wish I could ride half of these boards…But Im too much of a kook to surf anything else than a longboard.

    • curt

      @wally wombat:- JS is an independently owned company. Is not owned by Billabong. Please keep your comments informed

  • ando

    This article would benefit from dedicated photos of the boards. Can’t tell much about them from some of the photos of them being ridden.

    • Encunted

      Proof reading wouldn’t go astray either

  • Benítez

    fight for your independence the companies are your enemies disguised you are now a peon contributing to mass production and you will never be able to do anything about it

    • Encunted

      Why should I “fight for [my] independence” if I’ll “never be able to do anything about it”?

    • zbah

      I ride boards from lots of shapers but boards are getting more and more similar. And every shaper is looking at and cloning what the the big three are doing if they are shaping performance short boards. It’s not like jjfs boards from pyzel are different from what everyone else is riding. Just vary slight variations. It is very hard to compete with the knowledge and refinement being amassed by shapers with large stables of pros doing 50,000 boards a year on computer. custom shapes and hand shapes are still great but its pretty hard to beat the stock boards from the big producers if they fit you and thats the kind of board you want. It sucks, but this is the world we now live in.

  • Matt

    Great article. I ride a heap of JS boards and i’ve never snapped one and i surf some pretty solid waves in West Aus. i think the pro models are just glassed super light. I’d definitely recommend the forget me not. best board for solid waves that ive ever owned. and the JS monsta X is the best board i’ve ever owned for average beach breaks. I used to own a fred rubble 5’11 but didn’t like it and ended up selling it to buy the monsta x. never ridden a mayhem but keen to check them out.

    • zbah

      the monsta x I had (5′ 11″) was ok but in all conditions i preferred the monstas. The two models actually had identical rail rocker (not sure if they “should” have), slightly different concave (center rocker) and template and the monsta x side fins were toed in almost 1/8″ more than “standard” (1/4″ per fin over 4 1/2″ base or 1″ per fin per side at back dots plus 18″, i.e. 4 1/2″ x4) I am not sure if that is intentional. Monsta side fins were toed standard or 1/16″ less than standard depending on which board I checked.

  • zbah

    Great article. It would be nice if he went into a bit more detail about rockers, fin positionings, concave, how far up his wide points are, volumes etc. i’ve often wondered why he never rode the DFR much. Seems like the deep single and rocker of this board model has worked really well under the feet of a lot of pros. perhaps its a bit tempermental in bumpier conditions? most of julians favorites i would consider very neutral handling boards. JS and Biolos both shape much more neutral all around equipment than merricks which tend to be more agressive with a narrower focus. Even the board he considers the “wildest and most unpredictable” the fred rubble is probably merricks most neutral handling performance board. If he stays injury free I will place my money on Julian for the world title this year. I think it is all coming together for him. Seems a long shot with kelly and jjf rivalry, a re energized parko, the fanning robot, and jordy free surfing at the highest power performance level ever but I think it all spins Julian’s way in 2014. Gut feeling is Jjf and slates will battle injury and take themselves out. Jordys marriage will fuck his focus, judges will be leery of throwing bonus points to parko, and the new asp can’t give it to fanning again. They need a “new” world champ who reflects the “new” asp.

    • Kai Boy Boats Neville

      if the rest of the book that you started on this page is this boring….you’ll probably go bankrupt

  • .,

    Does anyone else using the lost driver find it slow as fuck on the forehand? I have no idea how he likes it in mushy fat waves, my one only works in the perfect stuff but maybe thats because my lost isn’t from Biolos

    • zbah

      the driver I surfed was 5’11 and I found it slow except in very hollow waves. couldn’t really get it to work for me. only had one so who knows but mine was a biolos shape. I preferred the ‘dfr in hollow glassy surf and the monsta in pretty good surf. and various flatter rockers and or curvy templates in shit surf.

      • .,

        Good to know its not just me then. It could be because I’m kinda front footed with my surfing and the driver is apparently a back footed board. Might replace it with a monsta because they seem lively and fast

        • sam

          +1 Monsta is a great board

    • Johnjohn

      I found it super fast actually.. Then again I wouldn’t use It unless the waves over 3+ ft which would have a bit of push anyway. If the wave was pretty full 3+ ft I would use something like the sub driver but I found the dhd boards work best for me so I go with Darren’s shapes. Find he’s putting that bit extra foam in his boards compared to a few years ago. I think they have been looking at matts designs and seeing foam is actually your friend

    • Johnjohn

      I found it super fast actually.. Then again I wouldn’t use It unless the waves over 3+ ft which would have a bit of push anyway. If the wave was pretty full 3+ ft I would use something like the sub driver but I found the dhd boards work best for me so I go with Darren’s shapes. Find he’s putting that bit extra foam in his boards compared to a few years ago. I think they have been looking at matts designs and seeing foam is actually your friend

      • .,

        My DHD switchblade is magic, so fast and sick for everything in waves that dont have shape or small waves. The driver I have is a bit more narrow with less foam than a biolos shaped 5’11 so thats probably why it feel super knifey and slow.

        • Johnjohn

          I have a switch blade and it’s epic. Super forgiving too. I just ordered a puzzle piece as a step up.. Think the mf duck nuts is too thin.. I had a project 15 but didn’t really like the way it turned with the boxy rails

    • sam

      Going out on a limb here but maybe it’s because you aren’t Julian Wilson?

      • .,

        A slow board is a slow board, of course Im not Julian Wilson but I can definitely tell which boards are good and bad at making their own speed. My one is narrow with less foam so thats probably it

  • Seabass120

    Great post. Wish we could get more of these instead of industry propaganda.

  • Average Joe

    the 7 best models in the world!.. *from a range of the 3 shapers julian uses.

  • hillbombert

    Volume is your best friend

  • Pingback: JULIAN’S 7 – Lost Surfboards by Matt Biolos

  • Mik

    Really cool insights, thnx Julian.

    Here’s another board model concept to consider:

    Usually a 6’0″ x 2.25 x 18.25 were my regular shortest board dimensions with my favorite board makers; Bob Pearson, Ward Coffey, Michael Baron (I’m in Norcal, Santa Cruz / SF).

    A few years ago I was intrigued by the FireWire Taj model, because of the technology and Nev’s shaping reputation, so I got a 6’1″. At first I was totally lost on it because everything was so different from my custom boards, but I decided to look at it like buying a skateboard. You choose the model, and learn to ride it. So I did.

    The outcome was it elevated my skills because it was a quicker, more reactive, and with more rocker my turns became more vertical and powerful. People noticed. Also, it paddled amazing because Firewires are a bit more buoyant than regular EPS, which are in turn more buoyant than PU. So I could ride a smaller board in bigger waves. Later, after doing some work for FW (i am a graphic artist) I had Nev make me a 6’3″ replica of Taj’s step up pintail for Indo, and those two boards were all I needed for a few weeks in Bali, with 5″ to 12″ surf the entire time.

    Here’s the other thing I found with FW’s: the glassing is so strong I had zero pressure dings top or bottom. Same, 2 years later. I’m light, 5’8 / 145lbs, but ALL of my other boards have pressure dings, which can really mess with water flow when they happen on the bottom. So as much as I like custom boards, I am totally into Firewire technology. It is flat out superior, if you can find the model that lights you up.

    Having said this, I can understand why other shapers don’t do the technology. It’s time consuming, and very technical… But more than that, surfers breaking boards means shapiers selling boards, so I can see how other shapers just won’t go there. And I want to see my shaping friends staying in business, and happy, because they all made me boards I truly loved. But I have to tell you, both of my FWs are 3 years old, are super thin, super light, and in amazing condition, and as long as I can get Taj models, I am freaking stoked…

    This rant is just sharing a POV that I feel may be of value to someone. And I have had locals in Indo complementing my surfing, so I am not just dreaming. I rarely boost airs, I’m mainly an on-rail surfer, but Taj did say that he broke something like 7 FW boards a year compared to 50 PUs, and he was ranked #2 on em, so there is clearly a great technology advancement in what Nev is doing. I think it deserves more mention than it has been getting in the surf media.

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