Photo: Ryan Miller
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.
"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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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."