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6’4 GONG ‘ANGEL’ short sup review

Andrew Brimelow writes a review for SUP gower on the 6’4 GONG angel short stand up board.

Review of 2011 Gong Angel 6’4 and thoughts on short SUP boards

I have been SUP surfing for 3.5 years and longboard surfing for 10 years before that (and regrettably no surfing at all for the first 37 years of my life.) In recent times most of my SUP surfing has been on a custom Escape 9’2; I’ve also had a couple of holidays when I’ve rented a Starboard Pocket Rocket.
I was keen to go a fair bit shorter with a new board in the Autumn. Both the Escape and the Pocket Rocket felt bigger than I needed – I am 5’11/1.80m and weigh 11stone/70kg. I mainly surf beach breaks where I am racing to get a few turns in before the inevitable closeout. The waves are usually small (overhead faces being exceptional.) The theory was that the short SUP board would excel in these conditions. Big boards catch small waves well but are then far too cumbersome to do anything with.
The smaller Naishes and Starboards were very expensive or unavailable or both and I opted to have a go with the Gong Angel (6’4 x 35.5” x110l.) This was advertised as being excellent for small waves and pretty good for large waves. To be fair, most of the Gong forum chat did stipulate that a short SUP surf board was an ideal addition to a quiver of SUP surf boards rather than a one board does all option.
Matt at SUP Gower looked after me well through the purchase.
I’ve had about 15-20 sessions on it in SE Scotland, Tiree and Rhosneigr. I’ve really enjoyed it, even had the best waves of my life on it but it doesn’t quite fit the bill as a single do it all surfing SUP board for me (remember my heritage as an old longboarder.)
I would recommend anybody interested in short SUP boards to spend some time on the Gong website. It is mostly in French but I find I can understand most of it with Microsoft Translate and my residual O-level knowledge. There’s a thread specifically on the Angel that is very flattering and a lot on specific short SUP board techniques.
The board is fabulously light and compact. It fits in the back of a family estate with room for a passenger in the front seat. It’s so light to carry to the water.
Paddling is OK but rather ponderous on flat water. It gets out through the break really pretty well partly because it is so small. It’s not great in chop.
You have to take off on a steep peak. If you’re in the right place the take off is easy enough with just a couple of paddle strokes. Being in the right place means sitting exactly where the short board prone surfers sit, significantly further in than longboarders and regular SUP surfers. If you are not quite in far enough and try to power on to the wave with a series of strokes it doesn’t work because of the inevitable short board yaw.
Once up and surfing the board is fantastic: it’s very fast, turns brilliantly and gets much closer to vertical than any middle aged longboarder has any right to expect. Although it’s wide it has really fine rails and it doesn’t feel too corky. It absolutely fulfils its brief as an excellent board for sharp beach break waves. I can regularly grab a few turns before the closeout hits me.
When you fall (and falling is much more common on a board of this size) it’s amazing how much less tug there is on your leash due to the small size.
You pay for the additional excitement: cruising along the beach looking for quieter peaks is unrewarding; it’s much quicker to surf a wave in and walk along the beach. Some days the waves are just too fat for it. You need to have that steepness in the wave otherwise it’s just not fun. At Rhosneigr a few weeks ago there was a big swell running (over head high faces) but slow and crumbly. I really struggled and had to sit about 30 metres in from a guy on a Pocket Rocket who had a far better time than me. Back hand take offs are significantly harder. Wind is a bigger problem than on longer boards.
I had thought that such a short board would be a good travelling option. I think it would be good if you were going somewhere quiet but I wouldn’t fancy taking it to Taghazoute where I would have to compete with all the shortboarders with no inherent advantage from early take offs.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that I miss my old “king of the break “sensation. I like feeling in control of what’s going on. I want to be able to sprint 50m to be in the right spot. I’m not going to hog all the waves but I prefer to give the waves to somebody else while standing up and in charge rather than missing a set because I’ve fallen in due to the paddling difficulties.
I already have a 12’6 race board for cruising and windsurf and kitesurf gear to cart around so I really only want one surfing SUP board. I will happily keep this board if I can’t sell it but I am on the look out for a compromise board: one that gives up some turning ability for better paddling performance. In the meantime the Angel is for sale. Someone will love it.

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