Last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to test some new SUP gear here in Hood River. Conditions were relatively warm, calm and beautiful here in the Gorge, so I grabbed the new 2014 SIC X-14 Pro Race board and the new Quickblade Trifecta paddle to give them a test drive. Typically, I prefer testing new boards with a paddle I’m already familiar with, but I thought I’d get the Trifecta on the water, too.
I’ll begin with the board. I paddled the X-14 Pro once at the Open Air demo in Utah last summer and once at last summer’s Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Both were quick, little “there and back” sprints, testing stability and balance, as both days were relatively choppy and windy. I didn’t remember the X-14 Pro as being as light as the production boards we just received, so I went directly to our scale here in the shop. The board blew us away with an actual weight of 22.4 pounds without the fin! SIC listed an average weight of 26.4 pounds, which is still acceptably light in the racing world, especially for a board that retails at $2799. But 22.4 pounds? (The only board that we have here in the shop that light is the new Naish Javelin 14, which came in at a featherweight 21 pounds!) The X-14 Pro has an easy to manage handle dead center on the board, which allowed me to maneuver it to the water with ease. It also comes with two inserts on the port side for a beach start optional handle, something we will be looking forward to adding come race time this season.
Once on the water, I balanced out the trim line and found my feet pretty much dead center around the handle, nose slightly engaging the water. The “hole shot” is a term taken from the motorsport world, describing the time and energy it takes to get up to racing speed from a standing start. Combined with the new Quickblade paddle, I got the X-14 Pro up to this speed quick and effortlessly. It accelerated to a glide and kept gliding as quickly as any 14′ race board I’ve tested. After taking the board across the Columbia River to the Washington side, I found a nice little spot within the White Salmon River that was deep enough to practice pivot turns, but shallow enough to fall. (I’m always hesitant at first with new boards to whip it around when the water is only 35 degrees!)
The X-14 Pro is super easy to pivot turn, leading to a very maneuverable and agile feel. The stock fin works great and will shed weeds better than the fins SIC has offered in the past. Although the X-14 Pro doesn’t come with a board bag, it deserves one and the FCS 14′ Race Cover fits it perfectly.
The Quickblade Trifecta is a new paddle designed by Jim Terrell and Travis Grant. Grant was the recent winner of a trio of trophies (M2O, BOP and Gold at the ISA Worlds; hence the name “Trifecta”).
The blade shape is relatively long and slender compared to the Quickblade Elite Racer and has a new flex pattern in the shaft, designed for long distance racing. The paddle I tested has a 96 square inch blade, with a round tapered shaft and carbon handle. For the past few seasons, I’ve come to really enjoy the feel of a smaller blade as long as I can keep up a relatively high cadence over long distances without burning out. 96 square inches is bigger than I’m used to, but it felt incredibly easy to pull the board past the blade. With the same amount of effort I put into the smaller blades I’ve been paddling, I felt more power coming from the Trifecta. Less effort, more reward! With little tension on the shoulders, I fell in love with the new design. The new evolution of design in the Quickblade’s Trifecta is evident in the blade shape and the seamless connection from blade to shaft, too. The back of the blade has a distinct spine running down the center, virtually eliminating any flutter. Even tugging hard on the blade, it remained rock solid and stable. Quickblade continues to lead the evolution in SUP paddle design and the Trifecta is one that will be hard to pry from my hands this season.
To sum things up, the new board and paddle I used last weekend provided a whole new eye opening experience in flat water. The sport of SUP continues to evolve and keeps getting better every year. We are excited to get out and test the new 2014 gear this season and will continue to post blogs and answer questions the best we can, so please keep checking our Big Winds blog, Facebook page, or give us a call to get the best information we can provide!