Review: The Fred Stubble

The Fred Stubble by Channel Islands is the missing link between what many would call a performance hybrid and  a shortboard. The boundaries between such labels are so blurred that perhaps we won’t use them at all. Rather, lets think about why this surfboard was created, and who it was designed for.

Conner Coffin is one of the most exciting surfers around. People who weren’t aware of him before his debut on the WSL in 2016 could be forgiven for declaring him a new sensation. His power surfing during the Bells event certainly was sensational.

Conner lays it on the rail like Taylor Knox, yet with an elegance reminiscent of a young Tom Curren. He also exhibits a Dane Reynolds-esque flair and unpredictability that makes watching him surf heats a refreshing change from some of the usual contestant antics. But he’s not all layback hacks and giant killing carves, possessing a repertoire of aerial manoeuvres that puts him firmly in the category of guys like John John Florence and Gabriel Medina.

Conner is not an overnight sensation. He has been refining his competitive surfing act for years, winning events like the 2013 US Open Juniors along the way. It was Conner who designed the award-winning Fred Rubble – and we all know how well that went (both in sales for Al Merrick and as part of Conner’s rise to prominence).

Why the Fred Stubble?

There was something missing. The Fred Rubble, while certainly different to your standard high performance shortboard (think The Rook model), is not that different. The Rubble has plenty of rocker and an outline that won’t feel alien to someone who is used to surfing on a standard 6’0″ thruster. It is however most definitely a board for surfers looking for a somewhat different surfing experience.

Designed for driving off the back foot, you’ll get heaps of speed and flow on the Fred Rubble, especially on less than perfect waves. By less than perfect, I mean just slightly. You know, shoulder high, maybe a little onshore, but generally pretty fun.

Reality, however, dictates that a fair bit of our surfing life is spent in far less than perfect conditions. Most of us spend our lives navigating waves that are messy, close-outs, onshore, weak, fat, you name it. But in every surf there is always the potential for a good wave. You just need to be equipped to ride that wave in a way that enables your surfing to be expressed in the best possible way. Enter the Fred Stubble.

Conner: a trademark layback hack on his Fred Stubble
Conner: a trademark layback hack on his Fred Stubble


Don’t get me wrong, the Fred Stubble is no groveller or fun board. It is an intricately refined version of its predecessor, the Fred Rubble, yet honed for smaller conditions. Conner Coffin wanted a board with the same feel as the Rubble, but flattened out and widened for optimal performance in small wave contests.

The crew at Al Merrick took his request to heart and a few months later, to much media interest, the Stubble was unveiled. Sharing names with characters from the Flintstones, you might think these boards are rudimentary surf tools, perhaps not as  high performance as The Rook or Proton. But .

Shape characteristics

The Stubble certainly does sport a wide nose and tail. It’s not quite as wide as boards like the Firewire Potatonator, but in the same general category.

Fred Rubble Shape


Conner Coffin said of the predecessor Rubble, “It is actually quite a bit different than my other boards. It has a lower entry rocker and a wider outline. It has more volume than a Proton, but it isn’t really short and chunky like a Dumpster Diver. It’s just a fun board for waves from waist high to a little over head.”

The Stubble took this idea even further, hacking off a few inches from each end, flattening it out and sharpening the rails.

Channel Islands say, “The Fred Stubble has a reduced nose and tail rocker, single entry concave with magnified double barrel concave through the fins and vee upon exit. The rails are also thinner than a Fred Rubble at the same center thickness. The design change produced a board that stays on rail even in flat spots, glides over reo sections, draws tight arcs in the smallest pockets, and paddles like a board 3 inches longer.”

Conner recommends riding this board around 2 inches shorter than your regular shortboard. The extra width under your chest certainly does make for easier paddling and increased drive through fat sections. That Conner won the 2013 US Open Juniors riding a Fred Stubble is testimony enough.

Enough talk, want to see Conner put his creation through its paces? Watch on.

The Fred Stubble excels in conditions where you want fast acceleration in a short amount of time. With a performance shortboard, you need good waves to provide you with a platform to set up powerful turns. When conditions are right, you can’t beat a high performance board like the Proton – a favourite of Conner, Dane Reynolds and crew.

But in average conditions the Proton won’t be the magic carpet you need to get speed and drive through fat sections. A board like the Stubble with wide curves in all the right places will get you there. Want evidence? The crew at Sunset Surf Shop took the Stubble out for a session in less than average conditions. In fact, it was positively gutless. However, you’ll see that the board provides a viable option to resorting to a fat fish.

Ben from Compare Surfboards didn’t agree. He felt that the Stubble didn’t quite live up to the hype and was a difficult board to ride.

Our verdict

I rode the Fred Stubble in 2 – 3 foot slop, on a hazy day on the East Coast of New Zealand. First thoughts were that the board paddled well and felt really solid. It was easy getting into waves and generating speed off the bottom turn.

I may be biased because I love wider boards like the Dominator, but this surfboard had awesome projection and turned on a dime. It definitely feels more fluid under the feet than one of the Pro models like a Proton, which can be skittish under the heels of an intermediate surfer. , right? And the game is all about skills + equipment / conditions = surfing experience.  Or something like that.

The Fred Stubble was the right board for the conditions the day I took it out. Why? Because there were a few runners that doubled up on a shallow bank, close to shore. If you were riding a performance shortboard you’d be left high and dry before reaching that section, because the approach was fat and slow. If you were on a fun board, or some kind of fish, you’d get there but wouldn’t be able to do much with the fun little closeout section.

The Fred Stubble was like having a little caveman club. You’d drive your way to the end section and then give it a good clobbering, before landing in inches of water on the sand. It was the kind of session where before you paddle out you’re almost thinking of pulling the plug. Why bother. But the ocean is a fickle beast, a subtle temptress, and if you make the effort she can change her mood in an instant, and send you some lines of energy.

When such gifts arrive you’d be happy to have a Fred Stubble under your feet.

The Fred Stubble
Fun factor
Fast and bouyant
Works in all conditions
Available in several materials (including eco friendly)
Al Merrick quality
Excellent small wave rider