With the epic Hurricane Bertha swell fresh in everyone’s minds, it’s a great time to talk about step-ups and boards for more serious waves. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, everyone who is old enough to have been there had a board that was in the 7’+ foot range with a super narrow tail. Yea, it worked on the best day of your life, but more often than not it was too long, too narrow and too pinned out in the tail to work well if the waves dropped just a notch. Plus when it got ever so bigger, it wasn’t big enough…..The result was a board that looked awesome and inspired greatness, but actually just grew mold in the wax as it yellowed in the back of your garage.
Today’s step-ups look completely different and have a MUCH wider range of use on both ends of the wave spectrum. In fact, many of them work efficiently as single travel boards if you are headed to a place with consistent waves. This means that instead of using them maybe once a year, you can break them out whenever the surf gets “good” or better. The boards we will speak about in this article are all “hybrid” based step-ups, so they are super easy to paddle, even at short lengths. If you are looking at them for the first time, the short lengths are almost a shocker, but listen to the board builders’ recommendations when sizing yours, because if you get one in your “classic” step-up length it will have way too much foam for your weight. The three boards that rise to the top of this list are the …Lost Mini Driver and Rock Up, as well as the Roberts Dreamcatcher.
…Lost Mini Driver
This board is Mayhem’s better wave hybrid, based off his popular Driver shortboard. It’s basically a Rocket with a reversed rocker profile. Where the Rocket is flatter in the front with accelerated tail rocker, the Mini Driver has more entry curve with a flatter tail rocker. This makes it really nice for late drops, as you will find the nose less likely to hang up and send you over the front. This type of rocker favors back footed surfers, but no so much that a front-footed surfer can’t adapt to it fairly quickly. The round tail (or even a very round pin) takes out the extra Rocket tail area and makes the board more neutral at high speeds. The norm on these boards is a convertible 5-fin set up and it works equally well as a tri and a quad; some surfers ride one or the other, while other surfers vary the fin setup for different conditions.
Just like the …Lost Driver shortboards, the …Lost Mini Driver works best in punchier waves and for surfers who favor their back foot more. This rocker profile is common in Mayhems Driver series, as well as all the other major brands, so if you’re coming off one of those boards this will be the easiest match to your style. The Mini Driver packs a lot of foam under your chest which is great for paddling, so make sure not to go too long, otherwise you will end up with a giant Mini Driver that will be really easy to catch waves on, but stiff and bulky in the turns. As far as surf range, the Mini Driver kicks into gear in punchy waist/stomach high surf and feels good to about head and a half high.
…Lost Rock Up
The Rock Up is the step-up brother to the …Lost Rocket with slightly more rocker throughout, a shallower concave and a drawn in round pintail. Of the three boards we’re talking about, this board is one of the best paddlers in serious moving water, plus holds in the most powerful, larger surf. The drawn in round pintail has the least area of these three boards giving surfers the most control and neutral ride when the surf gets pumping. The Rock Up is marketed as a chest to double overhead board and that’s fairly accurate – maybe even a conservative esitmate. A lot of Rockup fans swear by this board and ride it in smaller surf as long as it is round and has punch.
The ..Lost Rock Up is a no-brainer step up to the thousands of surfers out there that own some version of a …Lost Rocket (or similar). It has a flatter entry rocker with accelerated tail rocker so works both with front and rear footed surfers. It’s the foam under the chest and flatter entry rocker that makes this hybrid design such a paddling beast. It’s not as good of a single board quiver as the Mini Driver, unless your single board quiver is headed towards tunnel heaven. If you think of taking all those moldy guns in everyone’s garage and recycling them into something that is actually useful and will score you the best waves of the year, month after month, this is that board. Due to the reduced tail area, tri-fin is the norm, although 5-fin is available on some stock and all custom orders. If you like the Rock Up concept, but want to tweak the range just a hair toward the smaller/less powerful side, the …Lost Roundup has been a popular underground custom order for us with great feedback from our customers. The …Lost Roundup features a fuller tail template more similar to a Mini Driver.
Roberts Dreamcatcher is a new board from Robert Weiner focused on average to really good waves. You can ride this board the shortest of the 3 boards mentioned in this article due to it having the fullest template forward with the most foam directly underneath your chest. With so many Robert White Diamonds and White Diamond 2’s out there, this is any easy choice for better waves for the devout Roberts followers, plus it also makes a great step-up to any standard hybrid out there.
The Dreamcatcher takes the paddle power of the Rock Up and deploys it into every day or better surf. “I caught every single wave I paddled for” is common feedback after everyone’s first surf. The fuller template and roundtail give this board a bit more low end, probably the best of the bunch here. We’ve even seen 200lb+ Robert Weiner ripping on his 6’2 Dreamcatcher in waist to stomach high surf – surf much better suited for his Dream Machine, but he didn’t seem to care! The fuller tail template works equally well as a tri and a quad, and therefore you will see most of the stock and custom boards coming out with a 5-fin set up.
Pure and simple paddle power. If you are looking for the highest wave count and a wave range tweaked slightly lower than some of the more pulled templates, this is your stick. It turns on in clean waist high + surf and will hold to head and a half. Great one board quiver for punchy beachbreak towns or for those traveling to better destinations.
The Next Step (Up)
It seems we’re in the mix now with plenty of storms on the map and solid surf ahead of us. Pull out your go to favorites, write down the dims/volumes and give us a buzz to discuss sizing one of these boards up for you, either stock or custom. We’ve got a great selection of all three models in stock 5’6 up to 7’0 for immediate deployment when that next pulsing blob appears on the weather charts. If custom is your game, we can also help there too as shapers are past their summer crazy peak and starting to catch back up on custom orders.
Hope everyone’s been getting some! – Trip