Coming back from vacation a couple of years ago, my wife said something that gave me the chills. “Your board is too big. I don’t want to take it on vacation again.” Why did she make this soul-crushing pronouncement? She had just finished wrestling a bag from our van because the back hatch would barely open. You see, that’s what happens with a big paddleboard on the roof.
So, two things. First of all, she was right. Boards make traveling a royal pain. There was the reduced gas mileage, the roof noise, and worrying about theft. On the other hand, how could I go on vacation without a board? I mean seriously! No surfing? No exploring new waterways? No paddling with dolphins, or spotting sharks?
Then I got an idea. I have a paddle buddy in Cape Cod named Rick Weeks who has a terrific YouTube channel, with SUP reviews, tips, and surfing. (Totally check them out!) But my favorites are of him paddling the backwaters and shallows on his tiny Sunovas, for which he’s a rep.
A small board would address that transport problem. It would also be great for those few times I did hit the waves. That thinking brought me to Bic. I had always like their boards but only paddled one once, a 9’2” off Jacksonville Beach. That seemed like the right board to get. It’s funny how I’d spent my entire SUP experience on big boards: cruisers and all-arounds, so now it was time for something small, convenient, and light.
I ordered the 9’2” in Ace-Tec construction. The 2019 model is a mold Bic has been using for years. They’ve changed the color, graphics, and materials, but the shape is the same. (Ditto for their 10’6” and 11’6” surf models.) This shape might not be winning surf contests, but it’s a classic, perfect for a cruiser/occasional surfer like me. With two tie-downs in the front, it can take a water bottle or deck bag.
And what a pretty board this was. Bright red! The Ace-Tec build felt pretty durable but the 24 lbs felt like a feather compared to the Tough-Tec counterpart that weighs just under 30 lbs. For an expert, this might be heavy, but I’m not at a level where that makes a difference.
I wanted my first cruise to be a three mile loop, a course I’ve done dozens of times. A short run, but it would take me into the open river. That meant chop, currents and tide, pretty typical conditions. But when I stepped on the board for the cruise, the nose went down instantly, and I stumbled.. This felt completely different from any board I’d paddled. Maybe I’ll need to learn how to work this first?
I started with standing position. This board had a much smaller standing position than my others (which does seem kind of obvious). I had started out straddling the handle, but that submerged the tail. So I shuffled forward a little bit which evened things out.
I was also turning too much. No more long, deep strokes. Short strokes straight back from the nose worked much better. Four on a side then switch, with the blade always in front of my feet. After these adjustments I finished the loop without much trouble. Slowly, but without much trouble.
On my next run I replaced the 8” FCS fin with a 9” FCS. What a difference a fin makes! The four strokes each side turned into 6–8 strokes. A few days later I put bungies in the inserts and mounted my Seattle Sports Deck Bag. Now my Bic really was a micro cruiser! Of course it still had disadvantages. As I said, it was slow. The board like this really wants to surf over waves, not through them, so the small-period Hudson River chop was tricky. (Translate to English: I fell a lot.)
Even with these issues, I was onto something. I had a durable short-range tourer, a board I could teach from, and a great ride when finally I hit the waves. Not only that, it was easier to get off my roof and pack up, which meant more time on the water. I know this idea was kind of crazy. There are so many boards that are better at cruising than a Bic 9’2”, especially when you’re over its “suggested weight range”, but how many are so convenient? How many are this durable? And how many will keep both me and my wife happy?