| 1st SUP day 2014...

The weather has been finally genial in the past few days, Spring is here despite another snow storm menace in the horizon. I decided to take the Sub-Vector 10 out and check the water temperature. It would be a good test for both my new Xcel Drylock neoprene boots and the Ocean Rodeo Soul drysuit.
So it all started well and putting on the drysuit was pretty straightforward, it has a very interesting unique design which makes it look like a 2-pieces snowboard suit and separates it from the horrible kayak/river usual drysuit type.
I ordered mine all black and grey and it's an amazing piece of equipment, waterproof/breathable, very comfortable and well adjusted, you can tell it's been designed by surfers (kite surfers and SUP aficionados alike). The service and advice at Ocean Rodeo were really good and the size (MK) is perfect, i am 1.78m (5.8) tall.
The UltraStretch booties by Xcel are 7mm thick and supposed to withstand even the worst winter surfing conditions, i was really curious about how they would protect my sensitive toes from the cold. It's definitely easy to put them on as the neoprene stretches a lot, they also have a thin sole too and overall the boot has a comfy snug fit.
Then, i took my PFD, neoprene gloves, my paddle, a GoPro and en route to the river which is about 4mn walk distance from our apartment.

The grass is starting to grow green again and the river is almost entirely free of ice in this area, it's reassuring but you can still see some floating translucent plates here and there, especially close to the shore in the shadows. I filmed my shaky entry in the cold water (12°C), the boots are working surprisingly well and the drysuit is really waterproof but you can feel the fresh walls on the legs, my hands were freezing in no time without the gloves. It was the 1st time in a while on my C4 and i forgot how small it is, hence very unstable for my weight, i should have taken the inflatable because it was windy and there were a lot of waves. It always feel a bit awkward to start over after so many months away from the water, my balance was way off, the paddle was slippery with the neoprene gloves and it felt funny but what a good ride anyway.
It was so windy in fact that when idle, the board was moving upstream and after 5mn of paddling i came across a large floating ice block and decided to take some photos, even though it was difficult to stand still. I took the camera in my jacket's pocket and try to take photos while keeping my balance ;-) of course the inevitable happened and a larger wave almost made me fall, the camera escaped my grip, in a classic slow-motion scene and... plouf... the GoPro Hero 3 disappears under the brown water without a bubble, it dove straight down as i laughed hysterically at my distorted reflection, no way i just couldn't believe it!
I do hate myself when doing stupid things like that, it was sooOooo predictable, how dumb! Now the experience tells me that next time i'll buy a floating pad or use a leash. This summer i'll try to dive to locate the camera, hopefully, if it doesn't move too much with the current or won't be hidden under a thick layer of mud. At least it was a nice day, i fell only once and was well protected, it's good to live so close to the water!

| REVIEW: Minus 7 Parkore...

I have received a new snowskate, the Minus 7 Parkore 43", a few weeks ago and wanted to write a quick review about it. Even if this harsh winter doesn't want to end, i had only rode it twice in different snowy conditions, at least just enough to give some early feedback.
My quiver is constantly growing larger but overall i keep coming back to the Lib Tech and this season the main change has been the swap from the Lib ski 43" to the Harfang 43", they are very similar anyway and the adaptation was minimal. Recently i took off the risers and my ollies improved instantly, that's the beauty of snowskating, the tiniest details make a big difference so keep experimenting!
Minus 7, a Californian based company has been on my wish-list for a very long time but they are quite difficult to get in touch with (FB is surely the easiest way), once in contact their service is great. They have a very wide sub and it's exactly what i wanted to test, unfortunately the season is almost over and trying new boards on the last days could be frustrating. On top of that Post Canada took almost 2 weeks to deliver it and made me miss a few good snow storms.
The board came in a well-protected box with lots of goodies inside (t-shirt, stickers, magazine and badges) so it was a nice surprise, the deck had no hole pre-drilled on the tail for the leash but the snowskate is ready to shred out of the box.
Next to the Ralston 41"/Rayne deck
  • CONSTRUCTION:
The "new skool" symmetrical deck's dimensions are 9x36" (~22.8x91.5cm) with a smooth concave, steep nose/tail tips and clean round contour shape. It comes with the infamous closed-cell foam grip which is very comfortable and grippy but also quite fragile. You can always add patches of XtremeGrip if necessary (see on my other decks). I like the addition of the transparent grip bands on the side and nose under the deck to facilitate grabs and transportation, nice touch! The colors are basic but this is not very important for me in this case, though i think snowskating companies in general are really far behind on the art subject compared to any other snow-sport products, hopefully we'll change that soon and push it to the next level.

The Parkore comes directly equipped with the latest Rocker trucks Classics, they are solid and light and allow your ski to flex naturally, this is a must have especially if you count on doing tricks and save your board from early delamination. I really like the fact that without risers the board stands quite low from the ground (easier for balance) but you don't need extra clearance for hard turns thanks to the width of the sub.

The transparent base on the camber sub is a pleasant feature, you can see the wood core as well as the ABS sidewalls, it's thick and feels solid, dimensions are 43" (109cm) long and an impressive 5.1/2" (~14cm) in width (tips are 6.3/4"), see photos below. The only thing that i found weird is that pronounced asymmetrical offset of the inserts and edge cut, it didn't look that way on their website photos and sounds like a strange design choice. Despite having a thick sub/deck the board feels light overall, it's wide for sure and i couldn't wait to try it out.
  • RIDE:
I went to St-Bruno for an evening session with my partner, it wasn't that cold but the snow was hard-packed, jumping on the skate gave me a good 1st impression and a large smile. However, as soon as we moved out of the chairs i almost fell right away??? WTF? ok ok it's a brand new board but man i have been trying new skates every year since 2009 and the differences were never that big. The rest of the evening was a mixed bag of emotions, from total disappointment (in my riding skills) to intense moments of satisfaction.
The board feels good on a straight line, it's comfy and quite reactive but you need to get used to the height and width which changes the way you put pressure on the edges as i expected, because the sub is so large it takes more time and attention to transfer your weight from one edge to the other.
The big problem is that i couldn't stop over-turning on my heel side like a beginner, GRRrr... you can't understand the frustration! usually it's the strongest side for skaters when you have to stop or rest and now i felt like Achilles, losing all confidence when going down and taking speed. I attribute that to the edge cut design and shorter tail, my back foot was putting too much pressure somehow. On my other 43" twin tip skis everything is centered and you place both of your feet in regards to the inserts and pockets of the deck, there are no surprises as the flex is well-balanced and the length of the sub-tips identical. Here everything is different, all your weight is put backwards on a very short section of the sub, it was very difficult to find some functional feet positions, although i was trying to move around like a longboard dancer.
During the second session, the conditions were different, softer spring snow and the experience was also much better. I kept over-sliding at low speed but it was easier to cut through the snow and to finally pushing the limits, but in the park aiming for the box or even the jumps was just too difficult so i went back to my Lib :-(
That day, the ride was quite stable and landing ollies was certainly easier, if only i could control this thing better!
On a more positive note i do like this board for doing tricks on a mellow slope, it kickflips easily and it's very easy to pop shuvit frontside/backside, the short tail isn't the most subtle option for controlling manuals but it works well enough (it reminds me of the Lib 39"). I personally don't understand why you would make such an asymmetrical design for a freestyle/park board, in my opinion it really is not a clever way to use the overall flex of the entire 43" length, it's probably better to offer 8 insert holes so you could move your trucks up and down depending on your preferences but at least you keep a consistent edge line between your trucks... anyway i really need to give it another go as it worked well in deeper snow.
  • CONCLUSION:
I can see the wider subs beginning to be a pretty common option for park-oriented boards in the future, it's stable and more forgiving on rails, boxes and landings but you need to find the right balance of height /width with your trucks and deck, remember that it'll never be as nimble as a thinner ski. The Parkore has a really solid build, lots of nice details and an interesting shape, however i never felt really comfortable riding it at low speed on steep terrain - turning on my heel side - especially on hard-pack but that's a personal issue, i wasn't able to adapt my stance this time, am i simply too used to symmetrical boards and their predictable ride?
(UPDATE) I found out that my sub is actually warped a bit so it may be the reason behind the control issue! Kurt from Minus 7 is sending me a replacement soon (with a surprise).
My search for the perfect wide sub is indeed an ongoing adventure and I hope Minus 7 will make a twin tip version of their Parkore model because there is so much to like about it.