Tested: G-Lite Fun Machines
The Fun Machines! Sounds like a 1960s movie, possibly starring a model and a Frenchman with a sketchy car. But it isn’t! It’s a new range of softboards from G-Board. We surfed two of them for a week, here are the results.
If there’s one thing in the, err, surf industry you could call an unqualified success over the past decade, it’s been the softboard. Once derided by the core lord brigade as a floppy beginner-enabling joke, it’s been turned around in the surfing imagination by a weird combo of core-embrace stuff like Jamie O’Brien’s Pipe softie charging, widespread availability, improved quality, and simple ease of access. If you’re a young family and want a board everyone can ride, the modern softie’s gonna tick that box for sure.
That said, personally I’ve never really climbed on the softie wagon. Too many other things to ride, probably. I don’t even want to go into my garage some days, I just get confused.
But ya know, open mind and all that, so when G-Boards asked us to test a couple from their new range and said “Pick what you want!” I did just that. Chose a 5’6” double wing swallow three-fin and a 7’0” squash-diamond 2x1 set-up, and got into it.
The Fun Machine range is a performance version of G-Boards’s entry level board and is a classic example of how softies are edging closer and closer toward normal surfboards, without giving up the sense of family-friendliness that’s been key to their success. That said, they have their own special little tweaks and curves, about which buyers best be made aware.
Let’s start with the 5’6”
Like its big sister (below), this Fun Machine is built from extremely sturdy materials: a wood stringered foam core with full double-layer fibreglass lamination, a 1mm bamboo veneer sandwiched between the glass layers and overlaid by multiple pieces of EVA decking. The rails — some kind of black foam that looks faired in under the deck and bottom layers — are the softest parts of the board. The bottom is the hardest. It’s a very tough layer of recycled EVA plastic clearly designed to hold the shape in place.
Fin boxes are Futures, and a thruster set in opaque green fibre-plastic mould are supplied. The GBoard crew reckons this lil thing goes next level if you switch the supplied fins out for normal hi-per glass or carbon layer fins. We’ll give it a go and report back.
At a bit under 5kg, the board is a fair bit heavier than any high performance craft. Also unlike a hi-per board, much of that weight is concentrated in the blank, which causes the board to be very “quiet” in the water — it does not jump up to planing or instantly beg to be turned. Instead, it’s quite docile and just sits there underfoot without any unpredictable stuff happening. This, plus its ease of paddling, means it can be ridden by anyone with any ability level, which I guess is as good an advertisement for any softboard that I can think of.
The concave lead-in and flat exit means it handles a surprising amount of wave energy and likes a wave that can push it along; when I got a chunky little left it suddenly took on a slightly sparky aspect, which encouraged me to try to make it do something it was not designed to do, ie a vertical backside bottom turn to full rail carve. Yeah, not today buddy.
This was a hint as to what it does not like, which is being pushed too hard. The mini Fun Machine wants to be stood up on, then kinda played with — eased around without too much pressure being brought to bear. While figuring this out, I found myself re-designing it in my mind. The swallow wing combo is a snap-turn outline, it wants you to gain speed then change direction abruptly, 1980s-style, but the materials involved in the Fun Machine do not fit this approach. These materials would benefit from a constant curve outline, round-pin style, which would let you modulate turns, flowing from one to the next rather than catching on the straight rail line above the wing of a swallow. Sort of a Hypto Krypto look more than an MR twin.
Then I slapped myself for taking this all too seriously. WTF? Why was I trying to re-design a softboard? I am an idiot.
On to the 7’0”
This one seemed more, I dunno, congruent with the materials. Overall the 7’0” felt slightly lighter in comparison to volume. It has a fin set-up catering to either a single fin, twinnie or 2/1 mix, with a screw and plate box in the centre framed by a Futures box on either side, set a bit further up. I stuck in all the fins provided (a big black single and generic thruster sideys) and took it out in semi-chunky 3-4’ lefts and rights.
This board is super super buoyant and paddles like a dream. It does wobble around a bit thanks to the mass being very much concentrated in the centre, but the wobble vanishes as soon as you begin to come up to wave speed. Once riding, this board responds really well to its bottom shape, which is a flat entry coming back to a slight vee through the fins. It happily rolls up on to the back rail and does sensible turns off the bottom and top with little effort.
Because the board catches waves so easily there’s no pressure in a takeoff, and you can stand back and plow down the wave face without having to set the front rail at all. This takes out one of a hi-per board’s little complications and makes the 7’0” very relaxing and fun to ride.
The G-Board crew told me later it’s designed to be ridden as a single or a twin. A 2x1 fin setup seems to suit it OK, but I did think you could possibly swap out the supplied side fins with something a bit smaller, thus reducing the drag in the tail and releasing this board into something faster in a glide down the line. I’ll muck around with all this in the spirit of Fun and get back to ya (see below note).
I found no damage on either craft after repeated surfs. There was a slight abrasion on the rail foam at the nose of the 5’6”, I think from carelessly putting it down on the carpark’s bitumen surface for people to check out. We’ll subject these boards to a range of humans and surf, and check back on their condition at the end of January 2020.
Things to know
You don’t need wax. The slightly pimpled deck layer is plenty grippy enough. I waxed up but it was more out of habit than anything, and when the wax wore off there was no real difference in grip.
Wear a rashie. Or better still, a long sleeved wettie. The Fun Machines’s black foam rails are safe enough on impact, but they are a major body rash waiting to happen — unless you are very broad in the shoulders, your inner arms will contact the rails on every paddle stroke, and bare skin will feel it immediately. I don’t know if anyone can solve this perpetual softie dilemma, which has been with us since the days of Coolites in the 1970s, but just be aware of it and save yourself the sting.
It’s OK in the flags — maybe. I took these boards to lifeguards at a couple of different beaches (pro lifeguards, not volunteers) to get their feedback. One crew said, yeah, no worries. The other crew said no, based on the hard fin set. Our advice would be to check with the lifeguards at your beach before surfing them in a flagged area.
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