Check out this fresh little downwind clip from the Gold Coast, which was filmed earlier today and features Paul ‘Jacko’ Jackson and Ben Tardrew on the new 17’7″ unlimited boards from ONE SUP.
Jacko is actually the founder of ONE, a new boutique brand that he formed with his wife and top ranked athlete Angie Jackson to focus on creating the fastest race boards possible (check ’em out on Facebook for more).
Meanwhile Tardrew, a highly under-rated paddle athlete in his own right, is not only a team rider but also the head designer, responsible for creating ONE’s slick new range of 14 footers as well as these new unlimited beasts that just arrived in Oz and are now available to buy (edit: already sold out but available for back-order).
Unfortunately the wind was only light today, so we don’t really get a look at the true potential of the boards in this clip. However the video above does highlight two other important points: The fact that many new brands are emerging as players in the unlimited board market, and the increased focus on unlimited racing in Australia in general.
For many years, SIC Maui was the undisputed king of unlimiteds thanks to Mark Raaphorst’s iconic Bullet design, however many other brands have joined the party in the past year or two. NSP certainly has the famous ‘modern’ unlimited courtesy of Travis Grant’s Molokai-2-Oahu heroics (their 17’10” board is even named the ‘Molokai’ in honour of his 2015 victory), but I know of at least half a dozen other manufacturers working on new boards for the 2017 season.
Apart the 17’7″ ONE in the clip above, fellow Aussie brands ECS and Sunova (where Ben’s brother Marcus Tardrew is the new head designer–he was the guy responsible for those crazy 18ft dugouts that a few of the boys raced at Molokai this year) along with Starboard and a handful of custom shapers are all pushing the boundaries of unlimited design, with several new 17 and 18 ft. boards expected to hit the water in the new year.
It’s no coincidence that many of these new unlimited brands are based in Oz (even NSP’s design team is Aussie), because while Hawaii has long been the realm of the unlimited, we’re finally seeing the big boards filter out around the world, particularly in Oz where downwinding and ocean racing is a major part of the sport.
In fact there’s been such a big surge of interest in unlimiteds over the past 12 months that I believe Australia’s premiere ocean race, the King of the Cut, will soon announce it’s becoming an unlimited ‘line honours’ event from 2017 onward. That’s an exciting prospect: For the first time ever, we’re going to see an elite, unlimited, open ocean SUP race outside of the Hawaiian islands.
This renewed interest in unlimiteds is great to see. While 14 footers (and to a lesser extent 12’6 boards) will remain the gold standard in 99% of races around the world (especially when it comes to flat water racing), for certain events that have certain ocean conditions, I’m all in favour of this new trend towards the unlimited.
For starters, unlimited stand up paddleboards add a whole new dynamic to racing. Switching from downwinding on a 14 footer to racing with a rudder is like making the move from an automatic car to a manual; it’s still the same thing but it’s a whole different experience and requires an additional skill set.
But even more important is the fact that unlimited boards are bloody good fun no matter whether you’re racing or simply just cruising (as Travis Grant explained). It’s probably the ‘purest’ form of paddleboarding–the image of gliding across large ocean swells off the coast of Hawaii or in the South Pacific has become an almost romanticized part of our sport.
Finally, unlimiteds also give shapers more freedom to experiment and tinker with board design.
As the name suggests, there’s virtually no limits in what an unlimited can look like. Combine this with the fact that the longer boards have never received much attention compared to 12’6 and 14 footers, and it seems like there’s a blank canvas just waiting to be explored. In the next few years, I expect we’ll see a massive leap forward in the performance of 17′ and 18′ ocean boards.
ABOVE: Travis Grant and ‘that wave’ from Molokai 2015, where he paddled to victory on the 17’10” NSP unlimited that was then named the Molokai in honour of his victory (photo credit: Edmunds/NSP).
BELOW: Matt Nottage, James Casey and Toby Cracknell with their custom dugouts in Hawaii this year. Although they were often stickered up in race team colours, these were all custom race boards from Aussie designer Marcus Tardrew, who’s just joined Sunova as head designer and whose brother Ben created the new unlimited for ONE.
Well that was a big day @molokai2oahu 🌴 Had a great start to the race battling with @travenormous and @kai_lenny in some super fun bumps then just somehow lost my bundle in the middle third, switched off mentally and got overtaken and then dropped by @conbax, @vinmartins, @mattnott1 and @toby_cracknell 💨 Pulled it together in the last third of the race as @kennykaneko121 was creeping up on me and managed to pull my way up to fourth overall by the finish 🌊 Can't thank everyone enough for supporting me the last few months in the lead up 🙏🏽 Special thanks to @custard78 for designing my board and being my hydration engineer, @elizabethedmonds40 for media duties on the boat, super caddy @lanahardiman for helping out with everything in the lead up and all my unreal sponsors for giving me the opportunity to do what I do @jpaustralia_sup @colcrawfordlifestylecars @suzukiaustraliacars @bravo_pumps @catfishdesigns @officialmauijim @hammernutritionaus @vmgblades @altitudeaustralia @velocitek @windsurfnsnow