The (New) Surfboard Stab Won't Stop Talking About
Introducing the Haydenshapes Holy Grail, as tested by Michael Ciaramella and Damien Fahrenfort.
When I first rode Haydenshapes’ new Holy Grail model, it was under a confluence of great and terrible circumstances.
The great: I was in Australia for my first official Stab trip, and we had glassy three-to-four-foot Aussie Pipe nearly to ourselves.
The terrible: The Holy Grail I’d been given was a few liters too big, and it was my first time surfing after a two-month knee injury.
I was stoked to get in the water and ride a few waves, but my surfing was that of a weak, timid little monkey. It’d be hard to give a genuine appraisal of the board based off one gimpy session.
Luckily Hayden was willing to shape a Holy Grail to my specific dimensions. This would give me not only more maneuverability and control, but the board-making process would allow additional time for my knee to heal. Something told me Stab readers wouldn’t buy the old Injury Card if my surfing was shit.
The waves were damn fun in Oz.
Six weeks later my personal Holy Grail was delivered to California. My life has since changed for the better.
A little context into my first surfs on the board: California was lake-like for all of September. Like really fucked up small, to the point where I hadn’t ridden anything less than 20 inches wide for the entire month, and even those sessions were few and far between. The arrival of my Grail coincided with an early October swell, which was equal parts blessing and curse. The concept of “shortboarding” was beyond foreign to me at the time, so I had to relearn the basics of a proper bottom turn and off-the-lip.
My first session was at waist-to-chest high Blacks, a fun beach break in San Diego. I had a good time, figured out how to do a turn again, but didn’t feel anything crazy that had me running to the message boards.
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My second session was at slightly overhead Lowers, and it was a startling example of Einstein's theory of relativity. For the first chunk of the session, I rode my Channel Islands Rook 15 — an ADS reject that is my go-to in quality surf -- and I bogged. On. Everything. The board skipped out on basic turns, caught unfathomable amounts of rail, and lost speed unnecessarily. I surfed like an absolute potato, but was able to justify it with knee-and-rustiness-related excuses. If you think creatively enough, there's always something to blame a bad session on.
So I went to the beach to eat snacks, and to mourn, but was eventually revitalized by a 6-wave set on the horizon. I looked at the Rook 15 and thought you don’t deserve it, so I swapped the fins into my Holy Grail and commenced the Lowers rock dance.
My first wave was something of a religious experience. Never, in 20+ years of surfing, had I felt such a stark contrast between two similar “genre” surfcrafts. In this case, the Holy Grail kicked my beloved CI in the nuts and smashed its head into the cobblestones. The speed, flow, and maneuverability of this board was beyond comprehension when considered on a relative scale.
Since that session I’ve tested the Holy Grail in anything from waist-high wedges to head-and-a-half [Editor's Note—Read: three foot, tops] shorey tubes, and I'll go on the record saying it’s the best board I’ve ridden in performance-based conditions.
Oh that outline!
Now, an attempt to objectively break down the Holy Grail's pros and cons.
- Speed. One day I traded sticks with my mate and found his board — a classic PU-construction shorty from a reputable brand — to be roughly 63% slower than my Future Flex Haydenshapes. He too felt the difference and ordered a Grail the next day.
- Flow. This is deeply tied to speed and also dependent on the rider, but I found there was hardly a reason to pump between maneuvers on the Holy Grail. It transitions so effortlessly from rail to rail.
- Carving. Speaking of the rail, this board cuts through water unlike any epoxy craft I’ve ridden. On those really cupped-out sections where you’ll either do the turn of your life or skid-out and go butt-first into your fins, the HG tends to allow the former. Even on flatter sections I was able to generate that slicing-through-water sensation that typically evades most amateurs.
- Airs. I’d never call myself an “air-guy," but I’m certainly not averse to flight (hence the knee injury). The Holy Grail, perhaps because of its light construction and spring-loaded carbon rails, gets more pop than any shortboard I’ve ridden. Thanks to a little extra width through the center and nose of the board, it’s also ideal for landing lofty punts. This board can’t make you do airs, but it certainly isn’t stopping ya.
- Appearance. Subjectivity disclosure, I’m a fan of the line down the center in conjunction with Haydenshapes’ signature black rails. It looks clean going through the lip, and the epoxy maintains the board's cavity-free whiteness.
- Size. You ride the HG around your height or a touch smaller, which achieves two positive ends: 1. The board fits in tight pockets where a "standard shorty" might catch its nose; and 2. It looks great underfoot -- not too long like a Slater stick in 1998, and not too short like Slater stick in 2011.
Admit it. She's purdy.
- Wrapping. While I had no trouble getting the Holy Grail on rail, I did struggle getting it all the way back to whitewater for a proper rebound. Could have just been my itty-bitty chicken legs though.
- Hard offshores. The one session where I rode my HG in steep, hollow, heavily offshore conditions was one of the few times I didn’t love it. It felt like the board was getting lift through my entry and bottom turn, whereas I wanted to stay low and drive through the water. I’m not sure if this was due to the board's shape or the epoxy construction (which tends to sit higher on the water), but my Grail didn’t respond well to these conditions, and then it buckled on an especially girthy closeout. Haydenshapes are strong but not indestructible.
- Bigger waves. All boards have an ideal size range, and I've found the HG works best between waist-high and head-and-a-half. Beyond that it starts to bounce and skip a little.
- Cold(?) After filming his section for the board test, Dooma took his HG back to South Africa for an examination in “proper surf”. He returned to explain that the board worked just fine on the Indian Ocean side, but it felt like a buoy in Africa's frigid Atlantic. While talking with friends in Cape Town, Doom learned that nobody there rode Haydenshapes’ Future Flex boards because of a perceived lack of performance in cold water. I’ve never tried mine in anything under 60 degrees (F) so I cant personally comment, but it’s an interesting concept. Cold water should theoretically lead to less flex, which would negate the purpose of Future Flex construction.
- Appearance. I’d be lying if I said the shape didn’t throw me off at first. The tail is just so... strange. But where I see obscurity, Hayden sees a breakthrough in surfcraft design. You can read about the Grail’s shape theory here.
Now listen: I had to dig pretty deep to uncover negatives about the Holy Grail. Because if I'm being completely honest—and no, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a hokey salesman—I genuinely believe this is the best all-around performance board I’ve ridden in my life. It's just fucking fantastic.
Build and order yours from Hayden's revolutionary design software, here.