Joyride: We Tested The Haydenshapes Black Noiz In Quality California Surf
A mini step-up for those better than okay days.
It was a cold, wet, January morning when I finally unsheathed my Haydenshapes Black Noiz—a sharp railed, round-pinned, mini step-up board—somewhere near Noriega Street in San Francisco’s Sunset district.
Prior to this morning, I’d ridden two Haydenshapes boards: a Future Flex Holy Grail, which featured in the recently released Forward to Past; and a PE (poly-epoxy) White Noise, which is Craig Anderson’s go-to shorty.
Both worked well.
Naturally, the Black Noiz is a sexier, more lithe version of the White Noiz, with a pulled in nose and tail, shallow concave on the bottom deck, and continuous rocker throughout. It’s typically ridden an inch or two longer than the White Noiz, both because the tail is a round-pin (inherently adding to the board’s length) and because it’s a step-up shortboard, so a little extra rail line is to be expected.
This is a board you’re meant to ride in quality, 4-6 foot surf.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite what I found when I walked over the dunes on that January morn.
The size was decent, but a chippy south wind had turned Ocean Beach into a swirling, crumbling mess, albeit with quality air sections on the rights, if you could get there fast enough.
Nevertheless, I slipped on a 4/3 and made my way through a foamy gauntlet before reaching the empty lineup. The entire beach was empty, now that I think of it. It was that kind of day.
As you might have imagined, session one was a bit of a struggle. I found it difficult to set my feet in the right place, partially due to my unfamiliarity with the craft, but primarily because it was my first time using boots in months. A year?
Who’s to say, but the reality was that slightly overhead, junky beach break conditions didn’t suit frigid old me, nor did they the PE Black Noiz. So we left to drink tea and scour the maps.
Turns out, a pro’s “air day” is pretty miserable for the rest of us.
Let’s talk about construction
As previously mentioned, my Black Noiz was made in Haydenshapes’ PE construction. That’s because, for nearly a decade now, HS has used exclusively epoxy resin on both its PU and epoxy core surfboards.
Here’s the official explanation of PE, and why HS believes it to be an objectively superior build:
PE combines a polyurethane foam core with high-grade timber stringer, which is laminated using fiberglass cloth and a high-quality epoxy resin. Haydenshapes opts to use Epoxy resin, PE construction for three key reasons:
- The optically superior brightening ingredient significantly enhances the whiteness of the board.
- Our exclusive epoxy is more flexible than polyester and maintains the lively flex pattern typically associated with a new board.
- It’s better than PU. PE is more technical to manufacture and the result in the performance of this construction speaks volumes.
Here’s what I found:
Yes, PE is significantly brighter than a typical PU board—so bright that it almost has a blue or purple hue to it. This will be seen as a pro for some and con for others, but either way, it’s irrelevant to the board’s performance.
PE is exceptionally light compared to standard PU. While the core remains polyurethane, something about epoxy resin must be lighter than its polyester equivalent. This meant my Black Noiz had more maneuverability than other boards of its same size and nature, but it was also more susceptible to environmental factors like wind and chop.
Hayden says that one of PE’s greatest benefits is its ability to maintain flex and “memory” over time, meaning the board should retain its pop longer than standard PU boards. I was unable to verify this claim, because my Black Noiz snapped around session five.
Overall, I’d say that PE is no better or worse than standard PU construction. Both have their pros and cons, but for a model like the Black Noiz, which is designed to tackle beefier surf, I would have been open to having a little more weight.
So light it can be held erect against a moderate breeze.
Luckily for us, the next day of waves looked far more promising than our first, ill-fated attempt.
With a long-interval swell smashing the California coast and a high-pressure system whisking the weather away, we decided to venture south of the San Fran region, as 8 ft. @ 16-seconds requires a board, and skills, far beyond my own at a place like Ocean Beach
So down the PCH we went, in search of surf that was solid but not-too-solid to honestly examine the HS Black Noiz.
After several disappointing and time-consuming wave checks, we found California’s version of Narnia—a peaky, powerful beach break with very few people out and even a couple tubes to pack—literally what the Black Noiz was made for.
I’m not sure I’ve ever sprinted to fast to the water—partially out of excitement, but mostly due to anxiety that the tide or wind would cause the surf to deteriorate.
Which it did, rather quickly, but we mined a few diamonds first.
The type of waves that make one forget about all their earthly troubles.
Late drops, tubes, and turns. The Black Noiz excelled in every facet of my favorite type of surfing.
Knowing there was limited time before the conditions went to shit, I caught every wave in range and surfed them with great vigor, scoring one quality tube and a few decent turns in the process.
At this point I wasn’t thinking about the board at all—I was just reacting to whatever laid before me. A steep wall? Hack it. A lurching wedge? Shoot it. The Black Noiz performed these tasks seamlessly and without trepidation.
Within an hour, the tide was fatter than a whale and the wind howled like a wolf. Devastated that we’d wasted so much time checking inferior spots, but also elated that we found this place at all, I returned to the beach knowing, at the very least, that my Black Noiz had a purpose. A calling. And that calling was perfect, overhead surf.
All fiberglass, all the time.
Let’s talk about fins
When the waves were smaller and more performance-based, I opted for Futures’ AM1 Techflex fins. With a Ride Number of 4, I knew the fins would be stable but not stiff, and the extra rake meant I could produce plenty of drive and arc. Essentially, the AM1 Techflex is a carver fin with performance capabilities, and they fulfilled their duty in suboptimal surf.
However, when the swell jumped in both size and power, I employed the stiffest skegs in my arsenal—the Pyzel Control—which are made strictly for harnessing speed, thanks to their fiberglass construction. The Pyzels elevated my confidence on the Black Noiz, whether it was knifing in from behind the peak, driving hard off the bottom, or laying the rail over at top speeds.
While the AM1 Techflex fins performed well in smaller conditions, the truth is, this board is designed for true power and speed, so surfing it in anything less than head-high is a fool’s errand. For that reason, I’d have to choose the Pyzel Control as my preferred fin on the Black Noiz.
Yes, it cuts a rug.
I rode the Black Noiz a couple times after that morning of ephemeral bliss, but always in smaller, weaker waves, and it ended up feeling both long and sticky. This makes sense, as the Black Noiz is a baby step-up, meaning it isn’t designed for waves that lack size and/or power. Unfortunately, while filming, that was all I got.
Then, on a day that was somehow better than the aforementioned session (though not filmed!), I snapped my Black Noiz on the very first wave, leading to both panic and despair. But I suppose good things must come to an end.
In summary: the Black Noiz is a specialty craft made for pumping conditions. Depending on where you live, that might mean using it between 10 and 40 times per year. But however limited those days may be, you’d have a hard time finding a better option for pumping surf.
And now to break down the Black Noiz in five specific performance categories:
Despite being classified as a baby step-up, the Black Noiz was surprisingly adept in the sky, probably due to its feathery PE construction. I was able to fly the Black Noiz like a slightly oversized kite, and even rode out of one three-quarter frontside rotation, thanks to some offshore wind assistance. The quest for a proper full-rote continues…
A light board is typically an agile board. For that reason, the Black Noiz had plenty of spark—nothing like a small-wave-destroying Holy Grail, but for a board that was three inches taller than me, I was able to whip the Black Noiz around and tackle quick transitions with ease.
Was the Black Noiz easy to ride? I wouldn’t exactly say that. It took me a little time to figure out my foot positioning, especially on smaller days, when performance was king. However, when the waves came up and it was more run-and-gun, the Black Noiz reacted exactly how you’d want a baby step-up to—mindlessly and consistently.
I think head-and-a-half to DOH is an ideal size range for the Black Noiz. This is when the board really kicks into another gear and its best features come to fruition. You can push as hard as you want, drive into any section, and have complete confidence that the board will perform its intended duty.
As you could probably guess from its shape and title as a baby step-up, the Black Noiz will hold the rail like an elderly woman on an escalator. On a clean surface, this board grips the wall as hard as any board I’ve felt; the only caveat is that with a little wind or chop, the PE construction chatters more than I’d like.
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