At first glimpse you may walk right on by the Stretch F4 surfboard  as it sits there on the rack in your local surf shop. From the side it looks unassumingly like a fat summer fish, albeit one with a strange indentation along the rails on the top deck.

I passed it many times whilst pondering which performance shortboard would be the next in my review quiver. Then, I pulled it out and took a closer look. It is a wide board, probably an inch wider than most people would consider for a standard shortboard. It’s also a quad, which for many puts it firmly in the experimental realm – would you really blow that much cash on a board that is both a Surftech AND a quad? Not to mention quite fat and featuring a Bat Tail… a Bat WHAT?

The boys at Stretch say:
The design of the nose and tail is fuller which straightens out the mid-section, thus inducing speed. The fuller template also affords riders to go about 2″ shorter than their normal shortboard. The fin configuration is such that it rides like a tri-fin yet produces even more drive and acceleration. A “fishy” feel that surfs off the tail; this design is quick turning, ultra-responsive, and fast! From small beach breaks to Tahitian death tubes to monster Mavericks, Nathan, as well as many other riders, are riding this design in any size, in any condition, and in any location! We like to think of this board as the next evolution of the surfboards!

All very interesting. The F4 certainly showcases the innovation Stretch has become renowned for. It’s definitely not a fish and it’s certainly not a fun board. So does the skill, technology and research Stretch have put into this quad creation pay off? Is it a board that will appeal to your everyday surfer as well as those looking for a finely tuned, ultra-high performance waveriding machine? Is it capable of taking you places you only dreamed of? Let’s find out…

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Fact File

  • Rocker – Relaxed entry with gradual, continuous curve throughout.
  • Rails – Soft 50-50 rails through nose & mid section. Sharp behind fins.
  • Bottom – Single concave with subtle vee out of tail.

Review
I was contemplating asking for the shorter 5’9” model but thought I’d better be sensible and go for the 5’11” seeing as I’d been surfing a 6’0” for a while. Paddling is super-easy on the F4 as it has plenty of volume and, as a Surftech, has plenty of that lovely buoyancy. Slotting in a pretty standard fin combination (two M5s and two smaller G-1000s) I felt I’d have most conditions covered, so enough with the details, let’s cut to the first wave. Perfect day, clean offshore two foot swell and I was frothing like a rabid Doberman in a Poodle parlour. Straight out the back and onto a nice peaky little right, take off, not even a pump required and I was literally flying down the line. I don’t remember getting so much speed with so little effort, ever. Hit the section and, I swear, the board launched a good half-foot off the lip (yep I was in the midst of popping a nice poodle-size air)… and all on my first wave! So, there I was hanging in mid-air contemplating the section below me when I landed, on my ass, in the whitewater – but still, somehow, attached to the F4 which rode on. Stoked! I didn’t quite nail that thing like, say, Nathan Fletcher who designed this board would have – but leave me to bask in my boost to ass-landing weird, kooky glory. Yeah.

Cut to some slightly more critical conditions as I ventured to the South Pacific idyll that is Tonga. Pan to crystalline three to four foot, super-hollow waves, generated by a north swell that had pounded Hawaii and now meandered down to the “Friendly Isles”. The boys at the surf resort were onto it like bed bugs on a backpacker, so I blazed a trail to a particularly shallow section, cleverly with reef boots excluded…

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Fun little bazzas on the F4

The board held super-tight in anything I threw at it. In waves where, for me, it felt pretty critical not to lose your line (with finger coral not much more than an inch or two below your fins) the board excelled. I would not hesitate to say, in all honesty, that I’ve had my best tube rides on this beauty, whether beach or reef, heaving or fun. Jamie O has been riding a quad at pipe, Slater has been threatening to break one out in contests and Anthony Tashnick even won Mavericks in 2005 on an F4 so there’s got to be something in this so-called evolution of the shortboard.

Now it’s not up to me to start the quad versus thruster debate as, to be honest, I really don’t care. I love all boards (send me more, more, more!) and I believe they all have their merits. Well most of ‘em anyway.

For example, on a slightly fatter wave I would probably choose a standard thruster over the F4 if I wanted to do a few cruisy turns and gently swoop my way down the line. You may even find that the F4 is not the ideal board if you’re into standard up and down forehand surfing, or have the grace of Parko. But don’t let that deter you from giving it a try, because if you’re after something that will break you out of your comfort zone and put a bit of spring in your step then this is an option not to be overlooked. To be honest, I get a little upset when I have to take anything else out at the moment.

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Quads are in and I don’t think it’s a fashion thing. Stretch believe it’s the evolution of the surfboard and I’m stoked that other progressive shapers are honing their skills in this area. Guys like Simon Anderson, inventor of the thruster, have a few sweet looking creations coming out of their stables. Like some of you, I remember a quad I had in the early nineties. It featured standard size fins throughout and went really fast in a straight line but, man, try to cut back on it and watch a guy stick a rail.

The F4 is another planet. Fast and fluid like your thruster, but offering way more options. Throw down a big hack, do a tight turn in the pocket, cut loose on the shoulder, then race down the line and feel the grunt this baby packs. If you’re up to the challenge, you might even eye up that crumbly section and let it fly!

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Pros

  • It’s fast and holds a tight line
  • It’s simultaneously loose and fishy
  • Use it in almost any size (mine held tight in surf much too big for a standard 5’11”)
  • It is a Surftech and is strong
  • The cool deck indentations give you a nice grip when duck-diving
  • Feel more confident in the barrel

Cons

  • May take a bit of getting used to, especially with your forehand re-entries
  • Expensive (but I think it’s more than worth it)

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