Review: Slater Designs Cymatic

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The Cymatic is a performance shortboard designed by master shaper Daniel ‘Tomo’ Thompson and manufactured under the Slater Designs label by Firewire Surfboards. Being a fan of the Sci-Fi and having recently enjoyed riding an Omni, I was intrigued to discover whether the Cymatic bridges the gap between these two, very different, surfboards.

The Cymatic appears, on the surface, to be an Omni with a Sci-Fi tail. Or a Sci-Fi with the sharp end rounded off. Is it the next evolution of Tomo’s shapes or simply a gimmick devised to lure Firewire fanboys and girls to splash out on the next Slater Design fad?

My mission was to find out, so I took up the challenge over 8 months, placing both board and body on the line at surf breaks across the Pacific Ocean.

Review Conditions

I surfed the Cymatic across a range of conditions, from 1-foot beach break slop to 5-foot plus, deliciously smooth walls at Wilkes Passage in Fiji. My fins of choice are medium-sized FCS in a Quad configuration. I didn’t enjoy surfing with a thruster setup so reverted to quads after a few frustrating attempts. Quad fins are sometimes perceived as being a little too stiff for proper arcing turns. This is not the case with the Cymatic.

Sometimes the best ideas are those that seem obvious in hindsight. Carving a double bat tail into an innocent Omni was a stroke of genius by Tomo and the team.

A note about the Omni

The Omni is a great all-round board. It generates immense drive and offers a smooth and reliable surfing experience across a range of conditions. The model I tested had a bit more volume than I’d usually choose, but was nevertheless fast and responsive without feeling boaty. The rails were forgiving and tended not to stick, despite my sometimes lame attempts at throwing spray. I’m not usually attracted to round nose shapes as they’re a little reminiscent of mini-mals, and I’m not ready to go there despite my age.

We live in a surfing world where we all want to emulate the pros, who ride wafer thin boards with pointy noses and three fins. If they ride these boards they’ve got to provide an optimal surfing experience, right? By that logic, an F1 race car would be the optimal streetcar for everyday drivers. However, most of us wouldn’t know how to handle a race car. The nuances in handling, the super-light construction, the sheer power would result in traffic chaos. Most of us would prefer to be cruising around in a Range Rover, Jeep, or a car that suits surfers. While the vast majority of us are not professional surfers, we do aspire to occasionally hit the lip or float a section in a way that wouldn’t look out of place in a WSL heat. The cool things is that we all actually do manage this from time to time and it sure as hell feels good. The pros are just more consistent and able to perform the maneouvre in wider range of conditions. While we may celebrate one good turn in a session they will manage that same turn four times on a single wave.

In this video I prove my point:

So, the Omni, it’s a good board with a lot of stoke factor. If you had only this board in your quiver you’d be pretty happy with the performance and fun factor the board allows. It’s a great all-rounder.

A note about the Sci-Fi

I like to think of the Sci-Fi as being a two-year-old tiger. The board is dramatic, fast, temperamental and exceptionally fun. The only thing is that you need good waves for it to shine. Bumpy wave faces and anything a little fat and the board becomes agitated, even unwieldy. On good waves, however, the board is a dream.

In head-high clean surf, you can’t go wrong with a Sci-Fi.

Reviewing the Cymatic

On paper, the Cymatic should have that tiger-like clawing effect, as exhibited by the Sci-Fi, with a whole lot of cruisy flow like the Nano. Right? Wrong.

The Cymatic is a completely different beast. My review model Cymatic was smaller in length and lower in volume than both the Nano and Sci-Fi I tested. This may impact my perspective on performance because I was riding less foam. However, I found the Cymatic to be agile. It turns on a dime. Quad boards do have a tendency to be a little more sticky through turns but the Cymatic allows sharp pivots with minimal fuss. Just watch Kelly do those radical, tight turns in the pocket.

This is how you feel – but not necessarily look – on a Cymatic. You push on the back foot and the board is pointing back at the foam almost immediately. The board is skatey and almost begs for tail slides and tight carves in the pocket. The small profile and quad setup is ideal for recovery when you almost lose control, meaning that you get to experiment at the edge of your limits. From my perspective, it is a whole lot of fun.

Firewire’s perspective

The manufacturer, Firewire, have this to say about the board, “Fans of the Sci-Fi will immediately notice Tomo’s double bat tail. Much of the Sci-Fi’s popularity in 2016 and 2017 has been this tail design coupled with Tomo’s Quad Inside Single Concave.

Functionally, the marriage of these two design elements has been brilliant – the double bat adding much needed grip to the wave’s face, offsetting the extreme lift and speed created by the Quad Inside Single Concave.

By melding these elements with the reduced swing weight of the Omni’s nose, Daniel Tomson has created an evolved version of both boards that surfs most similarly to the Sci-Fi but with slightly more rocker, and an increased ease of use in waves 1 to 5 feet.”

Reviews from the web

MIchael Ciaramella took the Cymatic for a spin and found it to be great on the rail, good for airs, not for novice riders and probably best suited to smaller surf.

Noel Salas absolutely ripped on the Cymatic when he reviewed it for Surf n Show reviews.

Beachgrit said that board has a learning curve but their masked rider managed to score some fun waves.

Choosing the Cymatic

In average waves, I would choose the Cymatic over either the Nano or Sci-Fi. It holds a steady line and encourages you to perform tight carves in the pocket. You may feel as if your turns lack the power you’d have on a bigger board and this was true when conditions got really good. I found myself tapping the lip instead of performing proper re-entries. Maybe a larger Cymatic would go even better, but then you’d sacrifice the tight, arcing turns. Surfing is a game of compromise. I like agility and find the Cymatic provides a great combination of flow and maneuvrability.

Paddling is easy and the round nose doesn’t prevent late drops. Why have that excess foam up front if the board goes just as well without it? Being able to ride shorter is definitely a freeing experience. I look forward to seeing surfers better than myself really giving the Cymatic a good working in everyday surf.

However, when the waves got really good I found I didn’t surf the way I’d like. Something was missing. I wanted that conventional shape, the traditional feel of a performance thruster. The Cymatic was good but not optimal. I’d have traded it for the Sci-Fi in an instant (and did at places like Cloudbreak).

However in average to good waves, onshore, offshore, cross-shore, I’d pick the Cymatic any day. It is wild fun and encourages progressive surfing. You’ll push your limits and find yourself in interesting places on the wave. This board is not a marketing gimmick and holds its own within a formidable line-up both at Firewire and beyond.

The Cymatic is not a hybrid or fun board. This is a serious high-performance shortboard that deserves to be taken seriously. It encourages intermediate surfers to push themselves to the next level.

Therefore, the Cymatic is our choice as the best all-round surfboard for the intermediate surfer in 2019.

Review: Slater Designs Cymatic
Build quality
Fun Factor
Best features
Double bat tail
Needs improvement