Pau Hana Big EZ –  Finally surfing my one board quiver

It goes without saying that the Pau Hana Big EZ should be surfed. Look at that shape! Duh, it’s a big surfboard! Why wouldn’t you? Yet most of the time all-arounders live on flatwater, far from their native breakers. I was as guilty as anybody, so it was high time to fix that. Unfortunately I live almost two hours from the beach, so going surfing isn’t a casual undertaking. Getting snaked by bad conditions means wasting four hours behind the wheel, which has happened.

I finally made it to Rockaway Beach to join my friend Rick Weeks, who is a Sunova ambassador. He was taking part in a small event sponsored by A-Team Paddleboards, a local SUP business. Conditions were looking good, even for a surfing beginner like me. Unfortunately I ended up finding parking about half a mile from the event (welcome to New York) and had to shlep my kit half a mile along the boardwalk. Word of advice: if you need to do this, do not carry your 32 lb SUP on your head. Your neck will not appreciate it!

After hanging out for a while, Rick, myself, and some other SUPers took to the waves. I was a little nervous because they were bigger than the ankle-biters I was used to. What I saw were some of the biggest waves I’d ever been on. (Like I said, I don’t surf much.) This was chest to shoulder-high surf, which is big for an 11’ SUP. By contrast, everyone else was on 8’ and 9’ Sunovas, so I was the barge pilot of the crew. What made things a little better was that I was so comfortable with this board by now, getting knocked around wasn’t a big deal.

The speed — which I’ve honed over a couple of hundred miles — was a real asset. I was catching pretty much any way I wanted.  Though once I was on it was a different story. A board this big needs to be walked, and boy did I have to walk it — forward towards the nose to get on a wave then back as I slid down the face. It was a lot of fun, but it took a few spills before I got the hang of it.

I was surfing right at the edge of my ability, but wow! Lots of falls and a couple of times through the rinse cycle. Turning was tough too, although maybe that was just my inexperience. I learned that my board isn’t really made for conditions that big, and I ended up bowing out when the conditions got bigger. Boards of like a Big EZ are great for knee and chest-high breakers, but the big boys play with smaller rides. My board has so much surface area it was hard to control. Sometimes when I hit the bottom of the wave the board would bounce into the air! As I said, the experienced SUPers zipping up and down the waves were on 8’ and 9’ boards, and that was what the conditions required, not my monster. Later I got the treat of seeing expert paddler James Casey do his thing on an 8’ board, which was the very best SUP surfing I’d ever seen.

This doesn’t mean the Big EZ is bad in the waves. It catches waves pretty well! It’s just made for smaller stuff. It was nice and stable and turned fine with the side bites installed (although most of the time I was in survival mode and was basically going straight in). The minimal rocker means you need to watch for pearling the nose — hence the walking the board — but that’s kind of fun too. You’re not going to be doing fancy cutbacks or tricks, but that’s not the point of a board like this. It’s made for playing in the small stuff, and this board is fast enough and with enough surface area to do fine there.

Taken in that context, that small wave limitation isn’t really a problem. Most SUP surfers are casual surfers like me. You do a little on vacation and maybe a bit more here and there, but you’re primarily on flatwater. Until surfing becomes the main act, the Big EZ is fine. And when you’re done riding the waves, you’ve still got a nice , short-range mini-cruiser.

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Ian Berger

Ian Berger grew up in love with the ocean, so discovering stand up paddling was a bit of revelation. Once he bought his first paddleboard, he realized this was the sport for him. Ian Berger lives in Peekskill, NY with his wife Kirsten and three children. He teaches middle school English and drama, and also has a passion for writing, which he shares with his students. Every morning Ian wakes up to write — sometimes science fiction or comic Young Adult novels, sometimes plays, but very often about stand up paddling. The Hudson River is his home turf, and you can usually find him there when the weather is good.