Review: Slater Designs Sci-Fi

Of all the boards in Slater Designs range, the Sci-Fi has attracted the most attention, both in the media and in surf shops around the world. Other Slater Designs models include the Banana, which is a high performance board for excellent waves, and the Omni, which might not fit your average surfer’s taste, or skill profile.

The Sci-Fi is quite obviously not your ordinary surfboard. It boasts flyers, channels and a double bat tail that would make Batman proud. It’s not a performance shortboard template, but it’s not really a fish. So, is the Sci-Fi a glimpse into the future, or are the Slater Designs team overcomplicating things?

Slater Designs Sci-Fi from underwater

About this Sci-Fi surfboard review

I tried a 5’10” Sci-Fi in a range of conditions, from fun-sized Cloudbreak in Fiji to the saddest of onshore mush in New Zealand. I surfed mainly with a quad setup of FCS medium fins, but also experimented using the board with thruster and twin fin configurations.

In the process I learnt a lot about the board – and about my own surfing.

It’s strange when you spend almost all of your life chasing waves, yet sometimes feel like you’ve landed back close to where you began. I had moments on the Sci-Fi where I felt I was re-learning the fundamentals of flow and weight transfer, unsteady in such simple manoeuvres as a cutback.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve surfed unconventional hybrids before. My favourite boards of all time were the Stretch F4, which also sports a bat tail, and the Firewire Potatonator, which has an unorthodox diamond tail.

The Sci-Fi, however, takes design complexity to a new level, with straight rails, an aggressively jagged tail, a broad outline and a quad concave within single concave that runs way up the bottom deck of the board.

Based on Daniel Thomson “Tomo’s” modern planing hull concept, this board is essentially a fish, which has been augmented to match, or even exceed, the surfing potential of a performance shortboard. In my books that is a pretty cool evolution, because a fish is usually a step down – something you reserve for substandard days, or for when you get a little older.

Yet, by enhancing the fish design and adding high-performance characteristics, Tomo has brought modern hybrid surfboard design into interesting new territory. It’s futuristic, developed based on proven scientific principles and, unsurprisingly, a collaboration with the master of progression, and the best surfer of all time, Mr Kelly Slater.

The double bat tail: an aggressive approach to reducing drag

From the shaper

Daniel Thomson describes the Sci-Fi as follows:

“This board has more of a straight rail, high-performance fish outline and then we break it into a really tech tail. The tail of this board features a flyer into a double bat tail and that gives you a release point for the straight rail, so you have a pivot point from your back foot. The double bat tail is a low drag template that pulls the tail in from being ultra-wide and gives it a real clawing effect in the water, so the board holds through radical turns.

That’s accentuated with a quad concave running into a channel out of the bat tail, and that helps with the grip. Running forward the quad concave is located within a single concave… basically what that does is allow the rail to be planing on the rail portions of the board, so it almost acts like little water skis. Once you’re on rail it scoops out the edge and you get increased sensitivity through your turns and a general sense of lift when you’re on the board. I think it’s a real step forward in performance bottoms and I’m definitely going to be using it in most of my work in future.”

Tomo and his creation – photo Firewire

How does the Sci-Fi surf?

In the beginning I found the board unpredictable, especially compared to a traditional shortboard. All of those tail “claws” make it somewhat cat-like in critical sections. You’ll have absolutely no problem generating speed and driving down the line – in fact, . The challenge is that after you’ve projected up towards the lip you’re going to come swivelling back down – and herein lies some unique behaviour. The board does claw, and you’ll find yourself able to kill your speed and execute dramatic, powerful top turns, with more precision than you’re used to.

The challenge is that you need to learn how this board will latch onto the wave face so that you can optimise your surfing and not disappoint yourself by braking too hard, or losing control.

Having caught a few hundred waves on the board here are my top four observations:

  1. It is tight around corners. All of those serrated edges from the wings through to the bat tail give you less drag and more grip on the wave surface. I found 80% of my rides felt amazing, with effortless pivot and flow. The other 20% felt awkward, with many resulting in embarrassing displays of “over surfing” – think a layback hack that results only in laying back, with the board continuing onward to the beach, sans rider. Sometimes, instead of clawing, it felt like the board got stuck. Now remember – this was most often in substandard conditions, or when I was trying too hard. Quad fins are also much tighter than thruster, so this plays a factor.
  2. It is fast. There is no denying that the Sci-Fi generates rapid speed both in big waves and small. Sometimes you need to get creative to lose some speed, especially if you’re surfing it as a quad, or want to lengthen your stay in the barrel.
  3. The fish design and added volume carry momentum. You’ll ease your way through fat sections that would sink a shortboard. When I found a rhythm on the Sci-Fi I felt like I had longer rides than on any of my other boards. I’d like to test this observation with a Trace or a Rip Curl GPS watch.
  4. The board feels capable of seriously radical manoeuvres. I have never proclaimed to be a great surfer and perform these tests based on my experience, rather than skill. I managed some cool close-out whacks and I know that a better surfer combined with a ramp section, will make this board fly.
  5. Works best in clean conditions. The Sci-Fi excels when the wave face is smooth. All the concaves and claws are designed to channel water in a very specific way, both beneath the board and along the rails. When you add chop and bumps I find that the Sci-Fi is way too unpredictable. However, on clean days where the wave face is glassy, you will not find a better performance shortboard.
The writer having fun on a small day at Cloudbreak

Best moments on the Sci-Fi

My favourite thing about the Sci-Fi is that it forced me to rethink some of my automatic actions and reactions while surfing. For example, I needed to rethink cutting back, while also adjusting my default foot positioning. You get so much speed on the Sci-Fi that you can find yourself on the shoulder faster than you’d like. So don’t go there when you can help it: surf more vertically.

I’m used to being really tail heavy, using my back foot to pretty much control the entire ride. This is probably because I grew up on closeout beach breaks where you often have only the tiniest of walls to execute a turn. For me, however, the Sci-Fi worked best with a balanced approach, less back foot and more flow (watch Stu Kennedy surfing below for the perfect way to ride the Sci-Fi). As always, .

My absolute best memory on this board is getting a proper barrel at Cloudbreak, locking in and then standing up backhand, no rail grab, and, by some miracle, actually coming out over Shish Kebabs. I thought I was going to get destroyed, but the wave opened up and let me out before I had time to even plan my brace position.

A Hawaiian guy paddling back out said it was a cool ride. Life is better when someone notices.

Who is the Sci-Fi for?

I think the Sci-Fi would be wasted on a beginner, so definitely recommend it for intermediate to advanced surfers. I class myself as intermediate, although certainly have kooky moments on an all-too-regular basis.

Tomo recommends surfing the Sci-Fi three inches shorter than your regular shortboard, yet being conservative with volume, so allowing up to half a litre more than usual. My test model was about a litre more than usual, so I’d love to try out a shorter 5’9” to see how that handles.

The board is really wide and fishy, so don’t be scared about choosing a smaller size than you’re used to. After all, .

If you want this board mainly because it has a black line down the middle and a Slater Designs logo, you might get more satisfaction out of something a little more conventional.

Stu Kennedy on the Sci-Fi surfboard
Stu Kennedy putting the Sci-Fi through its paces – photo by WSL

What are the best conditions?

Firewire say, “The Sci-Fi is a high performance all-rounder with impressive range (1-8ft), with usability for intermediate to advanced surfers.”

I completely agree. I have used this board in tiny mush and found it generates incredible drive and momentum. On the flip side, it was great at Cloudbreak, on my backhand, in way more critical waves.

Take your time to get the feel of that double bat tail, because your turns on steep walls will require tweaks to your usual approach.

As mentioned, this board is especially suited to clean, glassy conditions. If you regularly surf shoulder to head-high waves in mushy, onshore conditions then you might prefer a more conventional board outline and deck profile. The modern planing hull excels when it can glide over a smooth wave surface.

Who manufactures the Sci-Fi?

The Sci-Fi is a Tomo creation, manufactured by Firewire, under the Slater Designs label. Kelly Slater bought shares in Firewire, because of their focus on sustainability and environmentally-conscious manufacturing. Firewire boards are made in Thailand in one of the world’s cleanest factories, where the employees receive a fair wage.

I have no problem with getting my surfboard from Thailand. Everything else we buy comes from China, so there’s no point being precious about the origin of Tier 1 brand surfboards.

If you want a board that was created for you by hand, by all means choose a local shaper – those guys are artisans and deserve your custom to keep their livelihood, or passion, alive.

By the way, Thailand is actually an okay surf destination, and has a devoted little crew of up-and-coming surfers based all along the beaches of Phuket.

What about Sci-Fi surfboard technology?

Probably most significant is that the Sci-Fi features LFT (Linear Flex Technology) as part of its “White Deckskin”. In terms of build, the board is comprised of a high density EPS core with a dual carbon band providing strength along the bottom deck.

The ultra high density black 18mm wide foam stringer is the signature feature of the Slater Design range and, according to Tomo, a significant step away from traditional wooden stringers. It is called a “Springer HD” and is composed of an aerospace composite that provides optimal flex along the length of the board.

Linear Flex Technology – from Firewire

Who is using the Sci-Fi?

Ian Rotgans dropped a great little edit, showing him getting to know the Sci-Fi.

Brandon Clarke tested the Sci-Fi out on some fun little waves. He certainly had no problem getting airborne and generally flaring on his board.

Stu Kennedy blew minds and got a third place result on his Sci-Fi at Snapper Rocks in 2016. A wave like Snapper will provide optimal walls for a board like the Sci-Fi – long, fast, and not requiring too many cutbacks. Watch Stu fulfil the Sci-Fi’s potential in this excellent edit by Hamish Mackenzie.

The guys from Surfing Magazine gave the Sci-Fi a field test and got some great waves.

The Slater Designs Sci-Fi: our verdict

The Slater Designs Sci-Fi is a livewire and has been accurately described by Firewire as “electric”. The board generates speed on a dime, so be prepared to use that speed wisely. In terms of manoeuvrability, .

Don’t get disillusioned if you’re not surfing like Stu Kennedy after a few weeks. It will never happen, so you need to focus on surfing like you. That means selecting the right waves, using an effective fin combination, going back to basics, and positioning yourself appropriately.

All of this requires tweaking, so be prepared to experiment. If you want a board that rides predictably off the shelf and doesn’t require a learning curve, then choose a standard shortboard. If you’re keen to try something different, and enjoy variety in your surfing experience, then this could be your ticket to a brave new world of fun.

The Sci-Fi is suitable as your all-round board, because it handles pretty much any wave you can throw at it (under 8 foot). However, if it is going to be your only board (i.e. you have a single board quiver), and if you don’t surf very often – then something a little more conventional will probably suit you better.

My score: 4 stars. Once I got to grips with the, well, grip – this board quickly became my every day choice.

The Slater Designs Sci-Fi
Performance
Innovation
Construction
Price
Fun factor
Incredible speed
Firewire eco board construction
Excellent grip on the wave surface
Takes getting used to
Hard to turn on fat waves
4.3
Highly Recommended
  1. Dear Surfd

    my name is Paolo

    after your review Slater designs SCI-FI I definitely want to buy the SCI-FI.
    But not sure what size is right for me. I weight 68 Kg and I’m height is 1.67m what should be the right size for me?

    1. Hey Paolo,

      Thanks for your message. If you are a good surfer then I think the 5’8″ would be great for you. But the 5’9″ will also be a great choice that will work in a range of conditions.

      Cheers,

      Brad

      1. Hi surfd,
        I read your review and would like to by this amazing board,
        I love surfing but it’s only 5 years that I do it, would you recommend this board for me??
        I’m 74kg for 1’74cm which size would you suggest??
        Thanks
        Angelo

    1. Hi Caio,

      Yes Firewire construction and build quality is excellent. The Sci-Fi is more durable than your average PU board, or many of the epoxy boards I have tried. Thanks for the link to Powerlight – looks good.

      Cheers,

      Brad

  2. Thanks for the review. Nice to see something so comprehensive and from someone who actually goes surfing and knows what they’re talking about. Too many reviews are just some guy standing around talking. Interested to get a review of the Nano.

    1. Thanks Ryan, glad you found the review useful. I’ll add the Nano to my list of review boards. Forthcoming is the Lost Puddle Jumper – keep an eye out.

  3. Great review thanks. I currently surf (and have been quite happy) with my hypto Krypto but I need to look for a new board as the model I chose wasn’t mega resistant.
    Between Sci fi and an hypto Krypto which would recommend for an intermediate surfer? Read great review about both, seems that the range is similar and the quality (speed) is a benefit for both so not sure which to choose
    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    1. Hey Anthony, if you’re going to be surfing slightly more high performance waves go Sci-Fi, if the waves will be more mushy then the Hypto will be better. I find the Sci-Fi goes best in cleaner conditions with less bump on the face. It is a more complex design, so requires a little more adjustment than the Hypto Crypto. But I personally prefer the speed and performance of the Sci-Fi. Hope that helps.

  4. Hey, have you ridden the v3 rocket? If so, what are your thoughts between these two? Looking for something different for cleanish but fuller 3-5ft days.

  5. hi there,
    i want to buy a new board and the sci fi omni seems amazing.
    i started to surf only 5 years ago I’m not advanced surfer but i love to surf.
    would you recommend this board for me?
    if so, I’m 74kg for 174cm, which size would you suggest?
    thank you very much
    angelo

  6. Hallo ,

    I’m thinking of replacing my Channel Island DFR in 6’0 (28liters) and my Hypto Krypto 5’6 (28liters) with a Sci-Fi, as I’ll go for a world travel (Not only Surfing) and wanna travel with just one Board. I’m gonna surf mainly Pointbreaks in Peru and Chile, hopefully mostly clean waves. I feel comfortable from waist to double overhead and would call me an intermediate doing Barrels, Snaps, Cutbacks but no Airs or Fins out. I would call me a good paddler, not having problems catching waves with my present setup. I used to ride the K3 fins Medium sized and liked them a lot! I’m 5’6 tall and weight 72 kg.
    What size of the Sci-Fi and which Fins would you recommend.

    Thanks for your time

    Joe

  7. 3.9
    5'10'' Sci-Fi Construction

    I finally gave into the hype and purchased a 5’10” sci-fi. Well, the hype is real. I took mine out for a test run and the board performance was on point. Making sections that I normally wouldn’t have made and had the board skating through the wave. I was stoked on the performance. With all the good there must be some negative I guess. After an hour of surfing 3 foot inlet mush I had to call it quits on the fun I was having. I came off a little floater and made another section. I got washed around a but and felt my elbow contact the board, barely. Once I got back out I checked the deck and saw my arm went through. I was a but bummed, but not nearly as much as when I felt a crack on the side when I was paddling in. I flipped the board over to see the board had buckled. I have heard consistently that these boards were leading in performance and construction. I brought the board back to the retailer and everyone was super shocked. Between everyone I chatted with, the guys at the shop, the people on the beach the consensus was that something must be wrong with the construction of the board. We all thought for sure that Firewire would have a better response than saying that this happens and we can hook it up for another at rider cost,….without even seeing the damage. Can’t say I was too happy with this. I barely surfed this thing and the board was destroyed, completely destroyed. If you are looking for durability I am not sure this would be the board for you, if this is the common construction for the Sci-Fi.

    Not so stoked – Jeff

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review

    Performance

    Innovation

    Construction

    Price

    Fun factor

    0
    0
  8. 4.9
    Get on a sci-fi

    I’ve had 2 surfs on my new 6’2 sci-fi and love it.I’ve never ridden anything like it “insane” is the only word i can use.You catch waves that would normally pass you by and even the difficult take offs some how you make the drop even if the wave shuts down your still on your feet??…The speed is not normal”you fly”and you can get it vertical without trying…the volume is so well hidden and distributed within the board,mine is 37.5litres as i’m 6’3 and 210lbs or 14stone if your a brit…but it feels like”i cant ride this”then you get on it and it takes over…..MOJO is back bigtime,when you know..you just know

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review

    Performance

    Innovation

    Construction

    Price

    Fun factor

    0
    0
  9. I bought the 5’10. Have to say it lived up to the hype,…..for the 5 waves it lasted. I had to try out the new stick even though there was only 2 foot mush. 45 minutes later I had a nice ding on the deck and a buckle on the bottom. This all sucked, but what made everything even more annoying was dealing with Firewire. I have no need to lie about how the board was damaged, but they told me how I damaged the board,…..which was not how it went down. The rep didn’t even look at the board before he told me how I damaged the board. In my opinion,….horrible to deal with. Hey, but that’s just me. I don’t like dealing with people or companies that don’t listen, blame everyone else and won’t stand behind their products or actions. In all, sick board, but I won’t support Firewire again. Good luck if you get one!!

  10. Brad,

    I have a Hypto Krypto 5’8”, and love it, but also want to get a Sci-Fi, (local Mount breaks, our local high performance, secret wave… and world travel ) I’m 5’ 9” tall and weight 72 kg.; so think the 5′ 10” is fine.
    What Sci-Fi Fin size/ set up did you use and would you recommend?? Going futures.
    Also, we bought a painting (wave) from you guys and it looks stunning in the house. Picked it up from you last year. Where do we find more paintings?

  11. Terrific review, I have been literally captivated, thank you so much for details, but brandy is right: http://surfboard.science has great contents such as video reviews on shortboard hybrid … but your style is definitely better! No comparison, thanks for sharing, again great job!

  12. A lot of people have been going on about poor durability and it makes me kind of nervous about buying one. I am looking for a smaller board with a wider tail and a little bit wider like a fish, but don’t want to go all-in and I think that the Sci-Fi would work but I’m just nervous about durability. Is this a common problem?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Performance
Innovation
Construction
Price
Fun factor
Final Score