The third generation Choptop combines the wave abilities of a small-wave surfboard with superb onshore performance and compact manoeuvrability.
Incredible light-wind fruition owes thanks to its wide tail and flat rocker entry. Its surf rail allows for slick driving carves and controlled bottom turns, and a hard-tucked edge makes for ideal light wind planing. The 5'3'' features a concave deck with a low centre of drive that improves strapless performance no end, and its wide platform and outer buoyancy make transitions significantly easier than with a skimboard or traditional directional. The light-weight core is used in conjunction with unidirectional, biaxial glass and a full wood sandwich. Sky hooks can easily be removed and repositioned for personal preference and there is also the option of foot straps.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
You may look at the size of the surfboard we've chosen to review here and think we're crackers including it in a light wind test, and ordinarily, you'd be right. But this little Choptop 5'3 does actually get going pretty early. At 19'' it's got a fair amount of width and is also chunky throughout, right the way up to the nose and especially in the rails. We initially chose to include it to represent the idea of getting a surfboard to use and practice the skills you need on it in stronger winds in more manageable flat waters, calmer winds and with a bigger, more stable kite.
But then we got to know the Choptop and realised that it's a cracking board in the sort of mushy and shifty conditions that most of us kite in. For starters it's not heavy but does feel fairly strong. It comes with a big pad that you have to stick down yourself - just make sure you line up the holes in the pad to allow the 'sky hooks' to be screwed to the board if you choose to use them. If you're not familiar with them, sky hooks are half way between having foot straps and riding strapless. A bit like cheat strapless riding if you like, but you could always attach foot straps to the board if you wanted to. The whole package is well finished and the fins are top notch FCS, which we really like as it gives you the option of easily replacing them should you need to, or to try from a whole range of different sizes as they are so common in any surf shop anywhere in the world.
The board itself is a really fun looking 5'3'' with a rounded outline and a grip groove running all the way around for easy handling and freestyle. Given its short length initial impressions were that the Choptop would be a bit boggy but it actually had loads of drive off the fins and you didn't have to stand with your feet right at the back. Instead the full rails and overall buoyancy mean you can bring your feet forward, level it off and shoot upwind without the board feeling bouncy. The wide base gives you a solid platform to work from and even in tiny white-water slop it's so turn-able that you can whip it round and come off the top time and time again. On a wave we were actually really surprised by how refined a bottom turn and top turn it had given its chunky, rounded shape and light wind planing characteristics. When the waves get much bigger you're going to want to be on something bigger that will lock in more, but for the regular onshore mush we all kite in a lot of the time, it's so manoeuvrable, fun, fast and forgiving of imperfect kite positioning. Like the bigger more performance focussed Converse, also in the Airush range, the Choptop has a solid bottom turn and snap off-the-top, but in a fashion more suitable for smaller, messier, less powerful waves and is easy to throw about for freestyle airs.
The Choptop is a robust, fun little multi-purpose surf vehicle. Holding down power well, it also generates its own lovely drive, allowing you to carve around white-water sections without bogging so you can plant yourself squarely on any section of small to mid-sized waves. As it's quick to get going and provides a very stable platform making it very easy to pick up basic surfboard skills, such as foot positioning, carving, gybing and tacking. An ideal board for surfboard rookies, advanced riders will also love it in less than ideal conditions when their performance stick is struggling out of its comfort zone. Highly recommended.
KW LIKED: Ease-of-use and ability to perform so well in less than perfect conditions, turning mush to magic.
KW WOULD CHANGE: If we had to change something, we'd probably find a more luxurious front pad with a little more grip.
SIZE: 5'8'' x 20 ¼'' and 5'3” x 19''
This test is in issue #46