Can Darren Handley’s Phoenix EPS breath life back into a 40-something’s small-wave froth? Well, it worked for Mick Fanning. We’ve been looking for this board for a long time … but does it meet our small-wave expectations?
Like a lot of surfers in their 40s and with a bunch of frothing grommets nipping at my heels, finding the right board is never an easy thing to do. No, I’m not ready for mid-lengths and fishes … just yet. I still want to jam the occasional turn.
That’s where the Phoenix EPS comes in. This super lightweight board has been designed with a low entry rocker and plenty of meat under the front foot to enable fast paddling and quick wave entry. But the tail is designed to be more like a conventional performance board that wants to turn square off the bottom and excels in a vertical reo. Somehow shaper Darren Handley has managed to merge two shapes and two concepts into one board. Most of the time when this happens the boards either don’t work well, or they compromise too much in either direction. The Phoenix EPS seems to have found the right balance.
DHD Phoenix EPS Dimensions
5’5 x 19 x 2 5/16 – 27 L
5’6 x 19 1/2 x 2 3/8 – 29 L
5’7 x 19 5/8 x 2 3/8 – 30 L
5’8 x 20 x 2 7/16 – 31.5 L
5’9 x 20 1/4 x 2 1/2 – 33 L
5’10 x 20 1/2 x 2 9/16 – 35 L
5’11 x 21 x 2 5/8 – 36.5 L
6’0 x 21 1/4 x 2 5/8 – 38 L
6’1 x 21 1/2 x 2 11/16 – 39.5 L
6’2 x 21 3/4 x 2 11/16 – 41 L
6’3 x 22 x 2 3/4 – 43 L
6’4 x 22 1/8 x 2 3/4 – 44 L
We’ve only had a dozen surfs so far on this board (I’m riding a 6’0″ and our tester Brett Wood is on a 5’7″), but there is something special about this one underfoot. For Brett, that has been instant confidence in turns and even in grunty waves 3-4 foot waves at Indies. They’re designed for small waves, but are proving to be a lot of fun in the bigger stuff, too. For me, getting used to the wide point being so far forward and all that foam (the 6’0″ is 38L) has taken a bit to get used to. Mainly it was psychological. The board feels great paddling and on take-off, but the turning arc feels like it will cork the fins out. Once I got past this mental block the board actually turns on a dime and feels surprisingly easy to turn. I’m still learning how hard I can push it but it’s a lot further than I first thought I would.
Surf conditions for me have ranged from punchy 3-foot beach breaks to wallowy 1-foot onshore New Brighton. I’d have never gone out in 1-foot waves before getting this board. That gave me another chance to surf with my son and I have to admit I caught way more waves than I expected. It turned a throwaway session into something enjoyable.
We have chosen the Phoenix EPS over the Phoenix EPS Pro because the Pro refines the dimensions toward the performance end and we wanted a board with volume to keep us frothing on the 1-3 foot days. There are also PU versions available. We went epoxy for the extra float. I paired my 6’0″ Phoenix with large FCS II Filipe Toledo fins – a good combination for this board.
We reckon the DHD Phoenix is aimed right at the more seasoned surfer who’s not able to spend as much time in the water as they did when they were a grommet and wants a board that will hand them back a decent dollop of their youthfulness. I’m certainly looking at small waves in a new light.
We bought out Phoenix EPS off the rack at Backdoor for $1050. We’ll keep testing for now and report back with a full test in due course.