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READER POLL 2017
We promise this won’t (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Close
Close READER POLL 2017
We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

10 Photos Of Dane Reynolds Testing The World's Best Surfboards

As you'll likely be aware, our Stab In The Dark project for 2016 launches in two days' time. It's been a labour of love, undertaken with our pals at Swell and Corona Extra, and we're truly thrilled for you to enjoy the film in its entirety. Dane Reynolds (our test pilot) was lucid, analytical, and surfed... beyond adjectives. The boards our shapers submitted for testing were gorgeous, blank weapons and rose to the challenge of Dane's critical performance (and judgement!).

Oh, and just in case you're new to this concept...

We wanted to answer the question: Is it possible to call a surfboard, or a shaper, the best in the world?

Like art, it’s all subjective, relative. And there’s no way to answer either of these questions definitively… But, we can get damn close. And that was the aim of Stab In The Dark 2016.

We commissioned 13 of the world’s best shapers to deliver their top line, high performance boards (sans any recognisable logos), and had one of the world’s best high performance surfers test-drive them. The catch? Neither shapers nor surfer knew the others’ identity.

No logos, no brand association, no preconceived notions: Just one of the world’s best surfers and a pile of nameless magic, with 10 days to test and flex. Is it a flawed concept? Absolutely. But, it is the least subjective platform we’ve got.

And now, here's 10 photographs to grease you for the approaching online premiere...

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At first, Dane was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of models (13). There was only one week to test them. By the numbers, if he was to surf each board twice, that’d mean 26 sessions. Three times? That’d be 39 sessions. When was the last time you clocked 39 sessions in one week?

Photo: Alan Van Gysen

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Dane could’ve simply ridden a couple of waves on each board. Then, made a quick, superficial appraisal on the first boards before surfing the rest of the week on the ones he liked. But, he took this test seriously – he wanted to give each board a proper, in-depth analysis. And that he did. With gusto.

Photo: Alan Van Gysen

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Last year in West Oz, Julian Wilson put 11 boards to the test and declared Darren Handley (DHD) the best shaper in the world. This year, we added two boards to the equation (there were meant to be 12 boards in 2015, but the John Pyzel-shaped 6'0" was delayed by Fedex and missed its flight from LAX – don't worry, his board made it in this time).

Photo: Alan Van Gysen

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Blank, blank, blank! The brief to our shapers? "No dimensions, no markings and don't you dare sign it. No decals, no glassing stickers – completely blank and white. Include the dimensions and specs on a print out that comes along with the board upon delivery. Did we mention it has to be blank?" Upon delivery, Stab asigned each board a random number, and stickered accordingly.

Photo: Alan Van Gysen

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Here we see Dane kick the tail of William "Stretch" Riedel's entry, the number 23. A good surfer can tell pretty quickly when a board is good. A great surfer can so so immediately, even in sub-par conditions. Dane didn't need great waves to rate anything – including the Stretch.

Photo: Greg Ewing

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Dane is a rare breed of perfection when it comes to board test pilots: He's powerful, can jump with the best and there aren't many motions that are off-limits for him. Variety in approach is crucial to discerning the roundedness of a craft.

Photo: Greg Ewing

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We wanted variety: Variety in surf performance (Dane Reynolds), variety of shapers (13 of the world's very finest), and variety of waves... the latter of which led us to South Africa, where the punchy beachbreaks of Durban served up all manner of juice. And Dane didn't discriminate.

Photo: Greg Ewing

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It's rare to see an entirely blank Haydenshapes board without the signature FutureFlex white with carbon black rails look. But, that's what Stab In The Dark is all about – judging the board without any preconceived notions about the shaper. As Dane discovered, HS has far more game than just the Hypto Krypto.

Photo: Greg Ewing

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We had to throw in some *Disclaimers for our shapers: "1) There's a chance the board could break first wave, first turn, first air. If it does, apologies, but you're out. 2) We can't tell you the talent until after production. If you've ever shaped him a board, you could pump out his ideal design from file. And 3) There's no special treatment. Oh, and one more thing: This isn't a paid-for magazine guide – our readers are too savvy for that. The goal of this is to celebrate shapers and their craft, while having a world class surfer articulate genuine feedback. Yes, there will be honesty. Every board will have positives and conversely, every board will have negatives. We want this to be sincere, fair, and most of all, human."

Photo: Greg Ewing

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