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Preliminary SeaLion 8-3 windSUP Review
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Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 18412

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:36 pm    Post subject: Preliminary SeaLion 8-3 windSUP Review Reply with quote

The only people who might want to wade through this tome are folks considering a small windSUP for its versatility, extreme wind range, portability, something new, light-air freestyle sail handling, and/or pampering a knee or ankle injury.

Refresher: Knee surgeon said no WSing this year. I countered with the idea of a strapless board to avoid the major threats: jumping and twisting. He said OK. My criteria morphed into something like 75/25 WSing vs SUP capability, with lots of maneuverability in either paddle or sail mode, on flat water and Gorge chop and swell. Various experts very strongly advised long windSUPS with footstraps. Both a SeaLion dealer and a widely experienced coastie correctly pointed out that SeaLions are designed for smooth ocean waves in side-off winds. A group of very experienced Gorge SUP converts who do major downwinders on very windy days in the Gorge and can access almost any SUP or windSUP on the market laid down the law: "paddling (and by implication, sailing) down ANY significant Gorge swell on ANY SUP (or by implication, windSUP) short of 14 feet long -- 16 feet is far preferable -- Will. Not. Work. It WILL pearl into the back of the next swell EVERY time."

I blew Ďem all off on a gamble. I went with what fit into my Subaru, with videos of SeaLion pros making it look easy, and with a bud who likes his in the Great Lakes.

I wish all my gambles paid off this well. For a strapless, oversized, jack-of-all-trades board that works with paddles (and with sails in winds averaging from single digits to mid-30s), this odd, fish-tailed duck is all I hoped for and more. Itís essentially two 70-liter wave boards joined at the hip; get it up on a rail and the other 70L wave board is just along for the ride until I set it back down and use them in tandem for transportation, including planing straight downwind without pearling even in big gusts.

Jingerbritsen was right on when he said its forte is snappy turns at slow speeds. Holy CRAP but this thing cranks turns! Even from a slog, given a little sail ďEnglishĒ and a knee-high piece of chop, it will snap onto a plane and pop 90 degrees off the wind in a heartbeat, often turning 180 degrees unexpectedly if I donít rein it in. I gotta learn to anticipate and control that more often so I can flip the sail and declare it a jibe rather than just an over-exuberant slash requiring recovery. Not being strapped in lets my feet roam free from one instant to the next, so the only adaptations involve sail handling and balance.

IĎve gotten caught well upwind and well downwind WAY overpowered (even by strapped-in wave board standards) when the wind built, and the board really surprised me. Not once in prolonged winds averaging 25 Ö 30 Ö 35 mph has its hull been blasted/lifted off the crests more than desired, even when pinching like hell to avoid beam-reaching this 30Ē-wide behemoth when overpowered in rough water. Not once has it pearled when planing or slogging dead downwind in swell up to shoulder high. In fact, part of its appeal is learning to control its attitude (nose clearance above the water) by walking fore and aft on its expansive padded deck as I run downwind; on wave board sinkers I just weight the back foot heavily, try to retreat into my rib armor, and pray.

The primary challenge when truly overpowered is transitioning from survival pinching to survival deep downwind; hesitate, and without a back footstrap youíre doomed. SNAP it through maybe 120 degrees, and youíd never know youíre one to three sail sizes over-rigged at the moment. This lets me rig to plane most of the time without fear of getting stuck way above or below the lawnmower lane. In fact, I WANT to be well above or below that lane, so I can avoid HAVING to beam reach overpowered and can snap off those 90-120-degree turns at will without getting in othersí way. Yet when I cross the lawnmower lane running before the wind (i.e., directly across their path), Iím still in control because I know the board will carve 90 degrees left or right instantly, even if slogging, to align with their path and stay out of their way. Its rocker blurs the line between carving and pivoting, so snappy turns are always at hand.

My arms, shoulders, and hands are getting a workout they normally get only in the gym. I normally sail hooked in even when maneuvering like mad, but thatís suicide on a board without straps. Iíll have to work on that, as running downwind for a mile or incessantly maneuvering across a mile of river using muscle rather than hardware is freaking WORK. I donít envy DTL sailors in that regard.

When every other board I own would struggle through extremely puffy shoreline wind/no-wind zones in maddening starts and stops, this thing just POPS onto a plane. (I can only imagine what itís like to do that on a 135L flat-hulled racy board; they must feel like an ejection seat.) Despite being all width and rocker from its fat tip to its twin tails, this board is EAGER to plane, taking me from shoulder-deep to fully planing in well under two seconds when waterstarting powered normally Ö one second in a gust. It very often planes the instant my butt clears the water; I can often just throw the sail up snag the wind hop to my feet or even just one foot on the deck and plane away all in one fast & fluid motion; itís often planing while Iím still trying to get both feet in the general vicinity of where I want them. Its exceptional waterstarting ease is a blessing, considering that I seldom get more than a few hundred yards between falls because Iím pushing my own performance envelope on it every moment. (How else does one learn?)

Is it slow? Of course. Hell, even the better kiters pass it if Iím not going for speed Ö not something Iíd want to do in big, rough terrain on a 135L, 250 X 75 cm wave board. Itís a dancing pig, in a good way Ö not a greyhound. It points just fine for recreational sailing, especially when Iím seeking a point of sail for refuge from being overpowered or just want to return upwind so I can run downwind again. Even without a current it can go upwind a few hundred yards per reach on the River.

Is this thing more fun than actually strapping into a waveboard half its size in a windy day and fugheddabout getting launched or having to walk around on the deck? Of course not. But it does offer some unique advantages, challenges, and opportunities in some circumstances, and many onlookers have already expressed surprise at what it can do.

Iím already using about the same size sails on it as I would use with an 80L wave/B&J board, which lets me play in much deeper lulls than 80L would and planes or slogs me home much better when the wind quits. Itís at ease overpowered on a 3.7 and underpoweed on a 5.7; Iím certain it will be equally at ease with a 6.2 and I expect it to work just fine with a 3.2 and a 7.0. The biggest remaining question I have about its sail range is how well I can throw around a 7.0 on it when up on one rail.

I canít wait to see what it can do once I actually learn how to sail it well.

And, oh yes Ö it paddles just fine. My impaired balance prohibits my paddling it (or getting to my feet on it after a fall) on appreciable chop and swell, let alone the ocean waves it was designed for, but paddling it for miles on flat water on the Columbia and adjacent river mouths and estuaries is downright relaxing Ö for people interested in relaxing.

Mike \m/
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice review Iso, I have two questions;
1. Should there be a disclaimer? are you pimping this board in exchange for getting it free or getting a deal on it? Such as several people on the forum are pimping goods in this way? Like our politicians should be wearing NASCAR jackets listing the donors. I'm guessing not, but just to clarify.
2. If you were allowed by your Doctor would you put foot straps on it?
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Paid full price and shipping for it. Zero deals, kickback, payola, considerations, beholdings, agreements, etc. Just pleased how well it suits my specific needs and expectations. Wish to hell I could even approach the level of expertise the videos present even in paddle mode in the swell, but my WSing experience is paying off big time on it when it really gets windy. It feels secure far beyond the wind speeds the very knowledgeable dealer expected, but then I'm very accustomed to too much power and I haven't had it out yet in 6-8 feet of sharply peaking swell where the wind impulses at the peaks are insane.

2. Thought at first about adding one rear center strap just for launch prevention, but ... they'd be in the way BIG TIME when paddling, and I use the expansive deck to my advantage when working the swell. I'd love to learn to use the whole deck, but that's not going to happen with my balance; I doubt I could even tack it without getting completely disoriented despite having been expert in them before that problem struck overnight. I can see using straps on a windSUP with a narrower tail, but this thing isn't amenable to heel'n'toe steering. OTOH, how much highly dynamic foot-steering could one do from a rear strap with a board 2-3 feet longer and much bigger? One can see the pros really working the deck when working the terrain; pure surfing experience would be invaluable.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone use one of the Sea Lions in large waves?
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Their literature recommends them up to about 8 feet. I presume that means wave face, not backside, height. The many videos might help answer the question.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Isobars,
On one of your earlier posts in a different category I believe you had indicated difficulty in balancing on the Sea Lion in a swimming pool. Did it just take persistent trying or was that related to your balance problem. Did you find the pool difficult, but out on the river in calm conditions, the horizon helped, or what?
I am rather big for the board and fell much and often when going on the ocean with it first time. Had to go to a lagoon and lo and behold, I never fell. Practiced there and then back on the ocean and all was fine.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The root of the problem is clearly in my balance, but on really flat water I could quickly paddle a few miles between falls. Falls carry no penalty on flat water, but I doubt I could get back to my feet and stay upright long enough to get moving again after a fall in knee-high bumps. It can take me several tries even on perfectly flat water even though hopping from belly to feet is quick and simple.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isobars, I know nothing about the board you described. What construction is it? Does it come in epoxy construction? The Exocet line comes in 3 different materials. I think the pure epoxy ($2k+) would be amazing, but I don't want to pay this kind of money before I try one.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevenbard wrote:
What construction is it? Does it come in epoxy construction? The Exocet line comes in 3 different materials. I think the pure epoxy ($2k+) would be amazing, but I don't want to pay this kind of money before I try one.

I was going to say in earnest, "Mine's "construction" is red and yellow and lime green, they come in a huge variety of colors, their finish is immaculate, and my 8'3" weighs around 21 pounds", which about all I know or care about construction. There are brands and shapers whose products I avoid due to construction infamy, but AHD is not one of them. Their owner got extremely angry when I reamed their construction in print following our magazine tests decades ago, but their quality did improve and I now own several AHDs.

But then I looked at their website ( ) and found this for you:
O.S.S Technology
AHD boards are built in "One Shot Sandwich" (OSS techonology), a specific process we have developed with our factory. For all our boards, deck and bottom are moulded simultaneously in a closed mould, which is compressed then heated at 50įC for the epoxy resin to polymerise. An outside pressure of 5 tons on the mould, countered by the inner pressure of the EPS core, ensures an excellent compaction of the sandwich skin. To achieve this, we very precisely shape the EPS cores with a five-axis CAM milling-machine.
This exclusive technology ensures a faithful reproduction of the original shape by dispensing with any additional stratification and re-shaping by hand, which can only induce subtle, but important, changes to the boardís lines.

The outside skin, itself, is a true sandwich, for the full deck and bottom surface, or part of it, according to each modelís program and sophistication.
This sandwich lay-up is carefully designed, according to each type of board, with either a PVC or wood core which, due to its thickness and mechanical characteristics, strengthens the composite stiffness and minimizes local deformations. The cloth plies in the sandwich structure are of different weights and fibre-type and laid-up at specific angles, again in a special arrangement for each board type and its specific program.
O.S.S is a modern technology, significantly outomated and "cleaner", but offering greater flexibility in the design and lay-up of the external and intermediate skins.

Mine's still red and yellow and green; both its shape and its finish get a LOT of stares, questions, and comments on the beach; and even in my windSUP novice hands its performance on the water also generates a lot of positive buzz.

Dude, you live across the street from Iron Man. Googling his house confirms that the neighborhood is not a slum. If epoxy -- or carbon or unobtanium -- floats yer boat, go for it. But I'd place much more emphasis on how a board sails, its purpose and features, size, etc. than on price. I figured ~$1380 wasn't a big gamble, it has resale value, and if I buy a 7.0 rig for it that $1380 will seem cheap by comparison.

Given your access to the ocean, I'd try my best to discern the performance differences between the candidates relevant to light-air wave sailing, then spring for the winner in that venue. I can't compare them, as I've not sailed or paddled any other SUP or windSUP. At first blush I'd say go for one with footstraps, but a) I'm getting used to having none, b) there are some advantages to having none, and c) there are more important performance factors, IMO, than having footstraps. MUCH depends on what one wants to do with the board, and the videos prove the board is capable of very impressive performance.

I think Exocet, Starboard, etc. are missing the boat in not emulating AHD's SeaLion video presence online. Their videos are great PR, even though it's obvious that their team riders are exceptional watermen.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The standard Sealion is epoxy construction. It feels very light. They do make a carbon version but I think Jurg has to special order it since it is expensive @ $2K. Bruno Andre,who has been their pro rider forever, says that the carbon is a weight savings of around a kilo but the real difference is the stiffness and liveliness.

I've demo supsailed the 8'3" standard version and I thought it was excellent. No worries getting out at 175# in thigh to waist high, sideshore conditions. It was really maneuverable going DTL compared to other sups that you can stick a mast base in. As a sup, I had trouble catching waves with it in marginal conditions which may be operator error. However add 5-10 knots of wind and you are having fun in mushy waves.
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