Channel Islands Soft Top Surfboard? Performance? WHAT???

While soft-top boards were all but written off 10 years ago, these days it seems like everyone has one. From total beginners to pros who rip the snot out of them and paddle them into double-overhead Pipe, foamie surfboards are everywhere. Jamie O’Brien has pretty much built a career around surfing critical barrels on soft-tops, and pulling stunts like mid-barrel transfers from foamies to normal boards. Kalani Robb has seen his career revived after signing with a soft-top brand, and Koa and Alex Smith are notorious for breaking and returning so many soft-tops to Costco that they forced the retail giant to change its return policy.

Shore breaks used to be the domain of body surfers and body boarders, but these days there are just as many stand-up surfers pulling in over dry sand on the soft, nearly indestructible boards. But soft-tops are just as popular at small, soft waves, where beginners can learn to surf without many of the dangers of “real” boards.

There are a number of reasons for the popularity of soft-tops, such as affordability, durability, and of course the fun factor. After all, it’s hard to take your surfing seriously when you are on an eight-foot funboard made out of body board material—and the last thing you want to do when the surf is marginal is take your surfing seriously. But for most beginners, probably the best thing about these surfboard/body board hybrids is the fact that they don’t hurt too bad when they hit you. That’s great news for newbies, and for surf schools and rental companies catering to kooks.

The downside? They aren’t exactly high-performance boards. Plastic fins, weird flex patterns, and an over-all awkward feel means that while soft-tops might be fun and quirky and good for a novelty session, you probably aren’t going to boost a styled-out air on one. At least not yet.

But a company called INT is out to change that, and renowned board brand Channel Islands has decided to throw their hat in with them. A line of hard-bottomed soft-tops has been released, with two models from Channel Islands in the quiver, including the MINI and the Water Hog. These boards have a standard epoxy-resined glass bottom with high-performance fin boxes, but a durable, more forgiving soft-top deck on a core of Marko foam. In other words, they combine the performance of a glassed board with the forgiveness of a foamie.

Here at Hawaiian South Shore, we currently carry the MINI, which is somewhat of a hybrid groveler—short and stubby, with straight rails for speed and a round tail for control. The MINI was originally a popular collaboration with Kalani Robb and MINI Automotive, but the updated MINI x INT model is the next level of soft-top surfboard design, and is changing our idea of what foam boards are capable of.

We are also excited to announce that we will soon be adding the Channel Islands Water Hog x INT to our lineup. This mini-longboard equipped with the INT technology is revolutionizing the funboard design.

While most soft-tops (up until now) have been essentially oversized bodyboards with fins, or spongy pseudo-longboard clunkers, these cutting-edge soft-top/hard-bottom boards are as friendly to your top turn as they are to your shins. The fact that they are nearly indestructible only serves to make them even more utilitarian.

Channel Islands MINI x INT boards are available in 5’6″, 5’10”, and 6’2″, and Water Hogs will be available in 6’6″, 7’0″, and 8’0″. Stop by the shop and check them out!

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Surfboard Tail Designs – What’s the difference between them?

A note from HSS owner, David Kelly…

In our Oct 2017 newsletter, Spencer Chang said that the MR Super Twin is by far the best board he’s ridden—and that says a lot, because he’s purchased a number of boards from us over the years. He said he liked the way the swallow tail felt. That reminded me of the Hayden Untitled I once rode. It was a friend’s board, and I remember it actually had way too much float for me. The first wave I took off on was overhead, and I thought I was going to get pitched. But I remember the board just grabbed the wave and I was able to control the descent, and it had tons of drive down the line. I think part of the reason was that, just like Spencer said, the tail gives it lots of control.

I found a lot of varying information online, but I ran into a few YouTube videos… and one that I thought was legit was how Michael Baron, a shaper at Quiksilver surfboards, explained the swallow tail. It was so good, I have decided to get an MR Super Twin or the Lost Sub Scorcher II! 

For this surf tip, I have asked our resident big wave rider and surf writer Matt Rott to go over the different tail designs. I know there’s a lot of info out there, so I wanted to give you an easy, comprehensive primer on what each has to offer.

Surfboard tail design has evolved over the years, and, as with most things, necessity has been the mother of invention…

The original square tail was crude and utilitarian. It provided lift, a good planing surface, and a semblance of maneuverability, but very little stability. The pintail, on the other hand, was designed to give gunny single-fin boards control. The pin tapers to a point, which lengthens the outline of the board without adding too much volume, allowing it to anchor in the face of even the biggest and hollowest of waves. Today, pintails are still used on big wave guns to provide ultimate control at high speed in powerful waves, whereas a true square tail is largely a thing of the past.

Round Tails

Round tails (and all of their various nuanced manifestations, including rounded pins and thumbnails) are essentially a softer, less extreme evolution of the pin tail to provide smoother maneuverability and more lift in the tail, but without completely sacrificing the stability and control of a pin. These rounded tails fit into the concave face of a hollow wave, and lend themselves to high-performance surfing in barreling waves, providing control in the tube and a smooth, powerful arcing turn at high speed. They are commonly used on mini-guns, stepups, and other shortboards intended for punchy, hollow waves.

Original Deep Swallow Tails

The original deep swallow tail was developed as a response to twin-fin boards. While we often think of the swallow tail as a good design for a loose, rippable thruster, it was originally intended to serve as a pair of pintails—one for each of the two keels on a twin-fin fish. These early swallow tails were very deep, so the two tips of the tail actually looked somewhat like two pins—and again, this pair of pin tails served as two points of control behind the fins. Due to the width of the “tail” created by the outside edges of the two tips, these boards had straighter rails, more tail volume and a greater surface from which to turn, which made them more skatey and responsive. However, the v-shaped cutout that essentially created two pins also provided some control and bite. These deep swallow tails are still commonly seen on retro fish.

Squash Tails

The squash tail essentially takes the volume of a round tail and adds corners, providing even more volume and rounded angles from which to pivot, while the flat rear surface of the board allows for more slide and release out of a carve or snap. This high-volume, highly maneuverable tail is typically combined with a thruster setup, which makes up for the diminished control that is inherent in a squash tail. While a greater variety in board shape and tail design is being seen in shops these days, for many years, the squash-tail thruster was the high-performance design of choice.

Modern Swallow Tails

The modern swallow tail is essentially a squash tail with a shallow v-shaped cutout between the two corners. Like the deeper original swallow tail, this allows a board to maintain a straighter rail back to the tail, increasing volume, lift, and planing speed while also adding a little more release and pivot due to the missing foam between the slightly more pronounced tips. While modern swallow tails are often associated with small-wave grovelers (since they work well with quads, and provide added lift without completely sacrificing pivot and bite), they are also sometimes used on boards intended for power carving in beefy waves. They even show up on guns and barrel boards from time to time, although these big-wave swallows are typically combinations of a narrow, drawn-in pin tail rail with a little extra width right at the end of the board (provided by the twin-tips of the swallow tail, rather than the traditional single pin).

If this seems like a lot of information to digest, you can always boil it down to a few basic concepts…

Generally speaking, all tail designs are combinations between square tails and pintails. The wider a tail is, the more lift and planing speed it will have, but at the sacrifice of control. For this reason, wider, more voluminous tails are typically used on small-wave boards and grovelers. Narrow, pointed tails will provide less speed and maneuverability, but more control at high speeds and in hollow wave faces, which is why pin tails are typically used in guns and rounded pins in mini-guns and stepups. A softer, rounder rail will lend itself to holding a carve in a hollow face, while corners and tips will provide a pivot point from which to release into sliding maneuvers. Every tail on virtually every board ever shaped is essentially a combination of these four elements, including bat tails, diamond tails, and just about anything else you can dream up. By taking into account the style of surfing you do and what waves your next board is being built for, you can work with your shaper to hone in on exactly what your tail should look like.

Photo Credit: Petra Bensted

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Surfing in Iceland: Staying Warm When the Water’s Cold


I’m on a surf trip in Iceland at the moment—that’s 66 degrees north, just a hair shy of the arctic circle. In other words, it’s cold. At the moment, the water is around 48 degrees, the air is a bit less, and the wind is ripping at a solid 40 knots. But it’s ripping offshore, which means that I’m doing multiple sessions per day. After all, the wind could turn tomorrow and it could be onshore for weeks—gotta get it while it’s good!

Having grown up in Hawaii and spent 15 years on an island in the south Pacific, these temperatures are not exactly familiar to me. To say I am out of my element when completely inundated by the elements is an understatement. But if you want to see and surf the world, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, wetsuits are so good these days that it makes frigid surf zones much more hospitable. But sometimes thick rubber isn’t enough—especially if you are an island boy who isn’t used to traveling with neoprene. Here are a few extra tips that can come in handy in the colder latitudes—and that I’ve been taking advantage of here in Iceland.

1. Don’t skimp on your rubber

I’ll be the first to admit that I cut corners when possible. Finding ways to get by without spending a lot of money means that I can do more trips, and who doesn’t want that? But one place I never skimp is with wetsuits. Especially when you are heading somewhere really cold, it makes a huge difference to have fresh rubber that is thick and secure. Since I don’t surf in wetsuits every day, my suits usually last a season or two, but any longer than that and they start to break down. At the moment, I’m in new booties, gloves, and a hooded R4 from Patagonia, and my core temperature is staying good for hours in bone-chilling water. Can’t complain about that!

2. Take care of your suits

Particularly for those of us who don’t use wetsuits very often, it is very important to make sure we take good care of them when they are in storage. Always rinse your rubber with fresh water after every use, and hang them to dry rather than dumping them in a corner. When storing wetsuits between trips, hang them on a clothes hanger per the garment instructions.

3. Strategize when you suit up

When the air is below 50 and the wind is howling, you can’t really take your time when suiting up. When at all possible, change into your wetsuit before leaving the house. If the drive to the surf is too far to accommodate that, then strip down and suit up by layer. I usually drop my pants first while keeping the rest of my body insulated, then pull on my wetsuit up to my waist, followed by my booties. After that, strip your top layers off but keep your beanie on to maintain head heat. Get the wetsuit zipped up and gloves on before trading in wool hats for rubber hoods, and make sure you have all of your other surf gear ready before you get suited up. After your session, strip off your wetsuit and get bundled up in clothes in the same way, just in the opposite order.

4. Bring a thermos of hot water

I learned this one from the Milo surf charter guys in Alaska. Before heading out for a freezing surf, fill an insulated bottle with hot water. Then, when you paddle in and your core temperature is way below where it should be, you can pour the water down the chest of your wetsuit and wallow in the joy of pure, unadulterated heat for a few minutes before stripping down and changing into dry clothes.

5. Use a plastic bag for your feet

This is especially helpful when pulling on a wet wetsuit, but is worth doing even when your suit is dry. Take an old shopping bag and wrap your foot in it when pulling on your wetsuit, and you’ll be surprised how easily that rubber slips on.

6. Tips for booties and gloves

It might seem silly to think that there is a right and a wrong way to put on booties and gloves, but in reality a few simple strategies can make your session way more enjoyable. The main goal is to avoid flushing and ballooning. Before you put on your booties, roll up your cuffs of your suit legs. Once the booties are on, roll the cuffs down over the booties (so they can flush) and make sure that seam and cuff is straight and flush. Then do the same for the gloves, making sure to roll both arm cuffs up before pulling on either of your gloves (since your fingers will be very clumsy once your gloves are on). Pull on your dominant hand’s glove first, as that hand is probably a bit more dexterous, and will have a better chance of pulling the other side on even in its clumsy, gloved state. And again, make sure that the cuffs of your suit and gloves are flush and don’t ride up, to minimize the chances of getting water flushed up into your wetsuit.

7. Have a changing bin

Chances are, when you are changing after a cold session, the last thing you are thinking about is keeping your suit clean and safe. But changing on the ground can not only get your suit muddy, but can also cause unnecessary wear and tear on rocks and plants. If at all possible, try to carry a plastic tub that you can stand in to change out of your suit. This can also double as a storage bin for wet neoprene. If you can’t travel with a bin, you can also use a piece of tarp or heavy plastic sheeting to stand on and wrap your suit up with.

8. Dry your suit as soon as possible

Wherever you are surfing, hopefully the waves pump for you the whole time. If they do, you will probably be doing both evening and morning sessions, which means only 8-10 hours between surfs. There’s nothing worse than a wet wetsuit, especially when it’s freezing cold during the dawn patrol, so get that suit hung up and dried as soon as possible. Or, better yet, bring two suits, so you always have one that is dry. Putting on wet gloves and booties is no fun either, so make sure they are turned upside down to drain while drying.

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How to Survive Wipeouts and Hold Downs


How to Survive Wipeouts & Hold Downs


If you watch Game of Thrones—or your calendar—then you know that winter is coming. And if you are from Hawaii, then you know that winter means big waves on the North Shore. The days of knee-high dribblers are almost behind us. In a few short weeks, we will be in the midst of the north Pacific winter season, with the most notorious stretch of heavy-water coastline right in our backyard. In other words, it’s time to start thinking about wipeouts and hold-downs, and how to survive them.

How you survive during a bad hold-down has a lot to do with what wave you are surfing. If you are somewhere heavy and shallow, that breaks over reef (like Pipeline, for instance), you probably don’t have a lot of control. At best, you should try to maintain spatial awareness so you know if and when you are close to the bottom. Depending on the situation, you may want to use small strokes of your hands to help keep you off the reef, rather than kicking up from the bottom and possibly dinging your feet on the coral. If you feel that you are upside down, try to protect your head—the last thing you want is a concussion. And don’t be afraid to open your eyes underwater so you know what is going on around you.

The good news with shallow reef breaks is that you aren’t likely to get held down too long, so barring a head injury that knocks you out, you aren’t likely to drown. At deep-water big wave spots, however, the opposite is true. While you are unlikely to hit bottom, you could spend a long time in a very deep, dark place (depending how big of a wave you wiped out on). When you go down on a big one, the best thing to do is relax. Rather than burning your energy and oxygen tensing your muscles and fighting against the beat down, simply go with the flow and let the ocean take you where it wants to. Chances are, it’s going to take you anyway. Some people find that its helpful to count seconds while under water to remind yourself that you haven’t been down for as long as it feels. Others count things like somersaults that they are forced to do by the whitewater, or relax and go into a Zen state.

In general, the thing you are trying to avoid is panicking, as that is usually what will end up killing you. Unless you suffer a two-wave hold down, you are very unlikely to be down for more than 20 seconds, so just cruise and enjoy the ride, and have faith that the ocean is going to let you up eventually. If you do find that you have been down too long and need to get to the surface, make sure you know which way is up. People have been lost because they got disoriented and swam down rather than up (especially during situations that involved ruptured eardrums). If your leash is still attached to your leg, that should give you a pretty good idea of where the surface is, since your board will be tombstoning on the surface above you. You might also want to invest in a floatation vest or impact suit, as this can mean the difference between making it back to the surface or not, especially in waves of consequence.

Most importantly, make sure that you only paddle out in waves that you know you can handle. Freak accidents can happen in any conditions, but more often than not, when people get in trouble in the water, it’s because they are out in conditions they aren’t prepared for. Be safe and have fun!

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Photo Credits: Paul Wordingham and Jeff Rowley

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

The Devil is in the Details… Banks Journal 100% Organic Cotton Tees

We won’t bore you with our biased opinion of why we love our tees so much, hell, we designed ‘em, we had better like them, right? But it’s what we can’t show you on screen that you should be paying attention to. 

All the cotton we use throughout our range of tee shirts is 100% Organic. “Ah yeah, cool man. Pretty cliché though. What isn’t organic these days?” Actually, it’s not as common as you may think, and the global benefits are pretty amazing. You see, conventional cotton accounts for about a quarter of the world’s insecticide usage, 10% of pesticides and it’s only grown on 3% of agricultural land. Organic cotton contributes to zero of this, all while using 71% less water and over 60% less energy and only 1% of cotton is organic! 

That’s something to be proud to wear on your sleeve. Pun intended.


Click HERE to check out our full selection…