Beware of the Chupacabra
This freakish little board will have your running for the hills...or your nearest surf shop.
October 7, 2009, 11:54 AM
By: Matt Lundgren
The Chupacabra in all its funktacular glory.
The first sightings were documented in Puerto Rico, with tales of fear and terror chasing close behind. My first encounter was in La Jolla, where apprehension and astonishment abounded. I am speaking, of course, of the Chupacabra: bane of goats and barneys everywhere.
The love child of boutique boards and mainstream, Eric Christenson first dabbled with the beast after a customer brought in a Merrick Fishcuit. But over a decade of shaping and an inherent talent in the blood each gave Christenson an eye for detail and innovation.
When I first saw the Chupacabra, it was bittersweet. At a mean 5'6", the board looked like it was made to drain a wave of all its potential. But standing at 6'2" and dancing awkwardly around a buck ninety, I wasn't sure the board would float me. But even on a sub-par day, it did. And while the belly stretched rashguard lying supine on a nearby longboard may be more telling of the reason why, I was able to scratch into waves he couldn't. One reason for this supernatural ability? Foam distribution.
"A lot of foam is over your chest so it catches waves easily. We started playing around with the depths of the concave deck, and it varies from customer to customer," says Christenson. "If it's a skinny guy, we can go pretty deep. But the idea is to get the feet closer to the water without losing floatation."
The concave deck can allow you to truly tweak the board and make it your own, conforming to your body. Think Reebok pumps, but these work. "Outside the ribcage, that line is a little higher than normal, but then we didn't want this boaty rail where you lose a lot of feel for the board, and have to really dig into the rail to make a turn, or you land your bottom turn and have to push too hard off the bottom and mess up your top. So it was just trying to find the right blend of everything."
The Chupacabra, pre glass job. Check the rails.
And boaty rails these were not. At first glance, the chimed rails are evident, and on my first backhand wave they were appreciated. The wind had come up, and there was a good deal of chop, but the Chupacabra pumped fast and floated me up, over, and through some soup I hoped the 5'6", 20 3/8", 2 3/8" board could do, but wasn't sure. But what black magic lends itself here?
Evolution and natural selection through Skip Frye and Eric's older brother, Chris. "It all derives from a board that my brother did, it was really the first, true [Steve] Lis style, Frye style, twin keel fish. [Chris] had made one for me after getting one from Skip. He basically copied the Skip, but changed the rails a little bit, put a modern twist on it. Skip's rails are really Skip's rails, they're really weird. We gave it a little less edge, but basically you've got a vee entry into a flat front foot, into a single hull through the fins. That's what I still do today. Over the years I've refined it, but it's that same thing."
But don't get it pretzled, the board isn't a bite off. Just as Dr. Frankenstein is to his bolt-necked buddy, with one glance at the Chupacabra, there's no doubt Eric Christenson is the mad scientist behind the creation.
"It's kind of a mix between his Anthrax model and a fish," describes Ben Machtolf, Icons of Surf V.P., world-class longboarder, and surfboard sommelier. "I took it out at San O, and it was pretty glassy, probably chest high with shoulder high sets. It paddles super good. The first wave I caught, I was expecting it to be stiff since it's fatter, but it was so fast. Just going down there was so much speed off the take off, it was so fast and doing a roundhouse was so loose."
The goofyfooted test pilot also appreciated the backside benefits, "I took one right, and right off the bottom came up and did a hit. The board works so well." At six-foot, 175 lbs, Machtolf would order his own Chupacabra at 5'6" and a little thinned out, to about 2 ¼.
All supernatural allusions aside, the Chupacabra is one hell of a board, perfect for fish aficionados eager to up the progression of their surfing, or a daily driver thruster looking for some extra paddle power in fatter waves or even a quad for the quiver.
What does Christenson hope for those who dance with the Chupacabra? "I want them to go faster than they have on any other board. That's the goal. Whether they achieve that, I have no idea. But I want them to get a sense for speed."
No Name Ninja