End of January 2023 in Dusseldorf - we are present at the Boot Show to present the SUP tent BAJAO Cabin (www.bajao-sup.com). A product that gets the most attention in the surf hall. I'm fully focused on the touring theme and I put everything else aside for the time being. And yet it always drives me to a booth at the other end of the hall: Jimmy Lewis.
Jan, who acts as a distributor for Jimmy Lewis throughout Europe with his company Haiku Sports, I only knew from social media and from a phone call.
ONLY YELLOW IN THE HEAD
Strolling across his stand for the first time, all of a sudden all I can think of is “yellow”. It takes me a while to find the board that colored my subconscious yellow: M14. A 14-foot downwind dream in yellow. Classic shape with lots of nose rocker and a width of 28". Immediately it shoots through my head: I have to try THIS. The Rail, a somewhat more modern shaped downwind board, also catches my eye.
It takes six months for the plan to be put into practice. I have scheduled a downwind workshop for July 16th. The perfect opportunity to test both rockets in the conditions Jimmy Lewis designed them for. I want to paddle the same route twice in one day. Julia, who supports me in the course, drives the first tour on the Rail, I take the M14. On the second tour we switch.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JIMMY LEWIS M14 AND RAIL
When the trailer with the boards arrives at the starting point, the wind has already shifted from south to west. We've been waiting for this. After a short briefing and tips for my participants, we start. The M14 already makes a good impression on the way to the water. It is amazingly light and perfectly finished. The rocker line is much more pronounced than the Rail and the shape is less technical compared to the in-house competitor. Where the Rail comes up with a slight double concave and a more pronounced keel line, the M14 is kept simpler. The flatter rocker line and the slightly offset rails are particularly noticeable on the Rail. This makes it faster and also stable at a little speed.
The M14 takes the full 28 inches, the rails just drop off. This makes the M14 a bit more stable, especially in wobbly conditions, but it's also a bit slower than the Rail.
Both boards are purebred downwind boards, but of course they are also suitable for fast touring on lakes or rivers. Both boards have 4 plugs to stretch a luggage net on the nose.
THE FIRST TRACK WITH THE JIMMY LEWIS M14
On the first few kilometers of the tour, the preceding south wind causes larger side waves. Some participants in the workshop do struggle not to go swimming too often, but everyone is doing well. The M14 shows what distinguishes it from the very first few meters. It is incredibly stable even with side waves.
After the first few kilometers, the waves settle down. They are now coming from the stern and are becoming significantly larger. By no means the fiercest downwinder, but there are also downwind novices in the field who obviously enjoy the conditions.
From here I really have to concentrate on not driving away from the other participants in my class. The M14 instantly jumps at every wave and pushes forward. Due to the 14 length, I've mainly been on shorter boards lately, it's easy to ride from one wave to the next. It all feels so incredibly familiar, like I've never stood on any other board.
This brings back memories of my first downwind board. A Naish Glide, similar nose rocker, a little narrower at 26.75 inches but not nearly as agile as the M14. Steering is also no problem on the M14 in the almost 70 cm high waves. The pintail makes it easy to maneuver in the desired direction.
Actually, I don't want to try the rail anymore because it can't get any better. Nevertheless, the first tour is over and I have a big grin on my face when we drive back to the starting point.
CONTINUE WITH THE JIMMY LEWIS RAIL
Now I have the Rail under my feet and Julia is visibly pleased to be able to switch to the M14. Especially the first kilometers with the waves from the side made them struggle. The Rail was noticeably more jumpy than the M14 which she had previously tested on flat water.
The wind has gone and with it the waves. We still had side waves for the first two kilometers, but nothing compared to the first tour. An incipient thunderstorm forces us to take a break on the Danish side and it takes a while before the wind picks up again. But in the north you can always rely on the wind. So the second round starts with a little delay and smaller waves.
But the rail also convinces me 100% and I start thinking: "Which board do I like better? M14 or Rail?” In this careless moment, a characterless side wave throws me off the board and I can look at the rail of the rail at eye level.
WITH ANGER ON THE WAVE
With a good portion of anger in my stomach because of the unexpected cooling, I hop back on the board and now I want to know what he's made of. For a brief moment I stop thinking about the workshop and just want to hit the Rail through the waves for a moment. I see a decent set coming behind me. I wait, let the first wave through and am on the following wave with just a paddle stroke. And the rail goes off! It pushes forward so quickly that I have to cross step backwards onto the tail to keep it in the wave. The nose vibrates slightly in the air. Shifting my weight a bit forward, the rail picks up speed again, the V-shape glides over the wave in front and with another paddle stroke I push myself one wave further forward. And then another. And another one… I can't get enough and look back at full speed. I have now left my fellow paddlers far behind and I decide that the Rail has proved enough. I sit contentedly on the deck, let my legs dangle in the water and wait for the others. Julia shoots past me on the M14. Even though the Rail is the faster board, the M14 is just as much fun.
The Generations and Sunovas of the other course participants are slowly catching up and together we catch a few more waves on the way to our destination.
"DOWNWIND IS FUN ON ANY BOARD AS LONG AS IT'S JIMMY LEWIS"
Everyone had fun and success that day. But the day brought back my love for 14ft boards.
I finally came to a decission - to keep the M14. But the choice was not easy for me. It was 50:50 and I was finally won over by the all-round surf shape. Because the conditions in the workshop were rather comfortable for downwind cracks, which already sounds a bit boastful. But I wanted that little bit more stability for tougher conditions where I wouldn't do a workshop for downwind beginners anymore. Also, downwind, at least by my definition, isn't about speed at all, it's about the ability to catch and surf as many waves as possible. That's why I still stand by my opinion: Downwind works on every board! From now on, however, I always think afterwards: "If it's by Jimmy Lewis"
If you still put more value on speed and you also spend a lot of time on flat water, the Rail is a better choice. On flat water, the M14 has nothing to oppose the Rail. What both boards have in common is the ingenious sandwich construction that all Jimmy Lewis boards feature. Very light, very robust, not too stiff... Actually, I should have both boards, but the budget just doesn't allow for that. I prefer to take an iSUP for longer tours anyway (now it's out) and as already mentioned, the plus in stability brought me to the M14.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY DOWNWIND?
If you want to get closer to the subject of downwind, why not book a downwind workshop. The good downwind days are only just beginning and I can promise you: There is almost nothing nicer than surfing a long stretch from wave to wave.