I love strange surfboards and so was excited to get my hands on the Firewire Moonbeam – a hybrid shape conceptualised by Rob Machado.
I’ve ridden a few signature Machado shapes over the years and found they didn’t suit my style. Let’s rephrase that – my attempts at style did not suit Rob’s boards. However, something eventually clicked with the Moonbeam. It wasn’t love at first surf but after my fifth or sixth session, I appreciated the design complexity and found ways to make it work for me. In this review, I’ll tell you why this board may work for you too.
About the shape
The Moonbeam features an unorthodox crescent-shaped tail. So, instead of opting for a more angular swallow design, they’ve excised a perfectly semicircular piece of foam from the bottom edge. While the benefits in terms of manoeuvrability are questionable it certainly looks cool. Unfortunately, the little pointed tips on either side of the crescent do bear the entire board’s weight when it is being stored upright on land. They quickly chipped and shattered, requiring repairs.
The next thing you’ll notice is the Board Eat Board concave. Well, it’s borderline a concave and more of a foam extraction. Super interesting concept and beyond my paygrade in terms of what it actually does. I get Tomo’s modern planing hull concept (featured on the Cymatic and Sci-Fi) but this is a new beast. Even the Firewire website describes Board Eat Board as, “Rob’s uncommon approach to enhancing speed without losing responsiveness… it draws much intrigue on surf shop racks”.
Does it really work or is it a gimmick? All will be revealed my friend.
In terms of rails, I found the board is on the fun side of the spectrum, rather than being a serious shortboard, which it most definitely is not. You can draw sharp lines on this board if you’re Rob Machado, but for me, I had to chill and take a more relaxed approach. Attempting anything too radical quickly resulted in frustration. To compare performance, I used both the Slater Designs Cymatic and Moonbeam in one session. The Moonbeam felt sluggish and fishier, which it is. However, it was no slouch if you position it perfectly in the pocket.
The board has a nice rocker on the nose, meaning you can take off on waves that might challenge your everyday fish. It also has a high tail rocker which makes the board more responsive than your fish.
The surfing experience
I’m not going to try to pretend that I understand how this board works. Soft rails, massive concave, lifted tail rocker, wide nose and a moon tail – there’s a lot going on under the hood. Before surfing it, I expected that it would surf like some of the older Firewire specials, such as the (still one of my favourite boards of all-time) Potatonator. The Moonbeam is different.
I rode it using a Quad setup after not really enjoying the thruster configuration. Instead of wax, I experimented with the RS Pro deck grip system.
The first few surfs felt clunky.
In slightly onshore, shoulder-high surf: felt like I was willing the board to go to places it just isn’t supposed to go. I experimented with shifting the back foot around, leaning heavily on the inside rail, etc, but it didn’t really work for me.
In clean, shoulder-high surf: Suddenly things clicked. The board seemed to appreciate the lack of bumps on the wave face and responded more decisively to weight shifts. Managed a few floaters and was surprised at how well the Moonbeam handled the landings. Attempted an air and landed with the arch of my foot on the inside of a fin. The swelling took around two months to subside.
In clean, just over head-high surf: I was yearning for a performance shortboard but thought I’d give the Moonbeam a run. It was super fun. The board was responsive and forgiving. Seems that the better the waves get, the better the board goes… duh. It’s the same with every board. That was an epic session, though. Would I rather have had a shortboard or something a little more high-performance? Actually, no. But I wouldn’t be taking this board to Cloudbreak.
In waist-high, onshore mush: The board makes it through fat sections easily and likes to tap away at the face, generating good speed. It’s not as much fun as a board with a more simple concave but if a rogue good set comes through it is more versatile than a fish.
I’ve surfed the Moonbeam for over a year in a range of conditions. While I’ve had some seriously fun sessions in good surf I wouldn’t designate this as my go-to board or choose it for a single board quiver. The Moonbeam is a marvel of technology and design. To pack so much complexity into a shape and for it to work as well as it does is amazing. However, I think you need to learn to ride this board rather than it being a magic ticket to Rob Machado-esque style.
People certainly stop and look at the board, so you’ll make new friends trying to explain what the Board Eat Board concave is all about.
If you’re a good surfer who enjoys experimenting with unorthodox shapes, then I highly recommend you try out the Moonbeam. If you’re just after something fishy for the summer then maybe choose a fish.