First Surf Reflections with Reef Mcintosh on the New Carbon Kevlar Technology

Heaving Backdoor barrels and hollow XXL Cloudbreak are some of the waves that come to mind when thinking about Reef Mcintosh. A humble and talented surfer who grew up in Kauai, Reef knows how to navigate challenging conditions and what equipment can handle. Partnering with Timmy Patterson, Reef’s shaper, we sent out a few boards in the new Carbon Kevlar technology to get feedback on their performance in solid conditions. Taking his new 6’6’’ out at a substantially powerful wave on the Garden Isle, Reef focused on getting the board in some quality testing conditions near his home. Here are some of his thoughts…

What were some of your first impressions when seeing and feeling the Carbon Kevlar boards?

Sometimes, you’ll have a preconceived idea about equipment; well, I had that about these boards. I was looking for kind of a bumpy day to take one out and test to really determine if they could handle the conditions.

Today was around six foot Hawaiian if you were in the right place. I thought, “I’ve got to get this board in the water no matter what.” I stayed in for about 2 hours, which was an hour longer than I intended. Considering the construction, It feels way more lively than a regular board.  

It’s so refined, like a military fighter jet wing, that I was questioning how it would surf. Once I got it on the wave, it was like, “Oh yeah, I can ride this board in this type of surf.”. I also felt like my surfing was a little sharper and faster off the top. I was left feeling like:


 “This is amazing; it feels good! I’m looking forward to riding it more in bigger and better waves.”


In terms of turning off the rail, like on a bottom turn going fast in a bigger wave. How did that feel during testing?

I could engage the rail as hard as I wanted to, you know? The wave I was surfing didn’t require a hard bottom turn, for the most part, but it was a pretty fast wave. I wanted to feel that transition from off the bottom to the top to really learn the feel of the board. When I test a board, I look for the transition from bottom to top to gauge performance. Once I got to the top of the wave on that board it kind of sprung out of the lip even though it was a 6’6’’. I’m like 6’4’’ so a 6’6’’ isn’t like a shortboard for me, but I could push the tail out like no problem.


 So, it’s kind of like you had a shortboard out there?

Yeah, if it didn’t ride that 6’6’’, I probably would’ve been on the 6’4’’. It was definitely on point from the bottom-to-top transition, and then it was springing off the top effortlessly. The wave I was surfing was like a barreling wave, where doing an “off the lip” is a little tricky because when you put it up there, the bottom of the wave drops out. I was just focusing on hitting the lip and the re-entry. 


How did the board handle chop and any imperfections on the surface of the water?

There was a little bump on the face. On a “clean” scale out of 10, it was a solid 4. I wouldn’t have surfed it if I didn’t have that board. If I had pulled up with my regular board in that kind of wind, I would’ve been like, “Nah, I ain’t going out." but I went because we wanted to know how it would do in somewhat imperfect conditions.

The board didn’t mind the bump at all; it wasn’t entirely on-shore, but it was a little 10 mph side-offshore. It wasn’t clean, but that chop didn’t seem to bother the board. In Hawaii, so much happens in like a two-hour span of surfing, like, oh, it’s offshore, it’s glassy, then it’s side offshore, there’s so much going on.

It’ll be interesting to try another set of fins in there, too. Right now, I have my "go-to’s," which are the Coffin fin (which is a medium for most people but feels like a small for me). It’ll be interesting to try John John’s medium fins or Timmy’s fins too. Sometimes if I have too big of a fin in a board, it’ll stick. For this board being a 6’6’’, there was not much sticking happening, and that is a good sign.


What do you think are some general nuances comparing the Carbon Kevlar to a general PU board are?

We know it’s lighter. If I rode my normal 6’6’’, it wouldn’t be as fast or as reactive. For the Carbon Kevlar board, all I had to do was lean on my pinky toe, and it was so sensitive that it would already respond and go exactly where I wanted it to.


Do you feel like you can surf it in a wide range of conditions?

Yeah, 100%! Based on what I rode in this morning, just from one session, I feel like it can go to Off The Wall, it can go to Pipe, and it can go to Teahupo'o.

I’ll be curious to see how it handles in a slabby situation, like an Off The Wall six-footer. I’m always looking for a certain wave out there, and I’m excited to see how it’ll feel on those types of waves off the bottom.


Yeah, engaging that rail and shooting through the tube.

It’ll be interesting just to take off and pull into the barrel with this construction because that's kind of all you get to do on certain spots on the North Shore. It will be fun to see how it does on a slabby wave where you’re knifing the drop into a barrel.


How did the flex pattern feel?

If I was going to say, maybe the pop off the lip felt like flex, but it all felt very connected in a way. If I were on my regular board, it would not have been popping off the lip like that. 

With these boards, there is a little more sensitivity, so you don’t have to work as hard. Coming from someone who’s surfed as much as myself, you’ll notice all these little teeny nuances. Like on that board, I didn’t have to do as much effort to go where I wanted. Obviously, the powerful waves helped, but riding something like that was exciting since it was a feeling you don’t normally get on other boards.


Any other comments?

Obviously, from the first surf, it was exciting. Surfing’s never boring for me, but trying something like a Carbon Kevlar board is super exciting. I don’t want to say I doubted it, but I never expected it to perform as well as it did! I’m definitely looking forward to trying the 6’9’’ in some bigger waves.

Photography by: Daniel Russo