I am the wrong person to ask on this one because I think the board classes should go away.
The weight/volume ratio is arguably the most important metric when comparing like-class boards; you want to have the lowest ratio you can and still have the power to move the board.
Stock boards (any size) are built for average sized men to slightly than larger average sized men. Other things being equal, lighter paddlers have an easier time on the same board if they can move it. Heavier paddlers, especially with weights past the board’s threshold, tend to sink the board and drastically affect the hull performance (most shapers will support this vehemently).
So, put Maximus on an unlimited and me on a 14. Does he have an advantage? I would say no. He is about 30 pounds heavier and a bit 😉 (a lot) stronger than me. He can move his board, he would sink mine.
Put me on a 12’6″ next to Dustin, 30 pounds my junior, I would sink my board relative to him. Advantage Dustin.
This is oversimplified, admittedly, but I think we should all be able to race on whatever length we are fastest on, given weight/volume ratio and what we can physically push through the water.
I am lucky because most boards are built for my size; 6′, 175 lbs. Guys like Renick and Patrick, lean but big and strong, are being forced to race in board classes that don’t support their body sizes.
So, to answer the question what board class is fastest? It’s like the answer we get in any profession that we hate… “It depends.” It depends on your weight, board volume and strength.
Makes what Cyril does even more impressive, given his size!
The quick answer would be a 14 foot raceboard, as the trend is now and if you prefer to have competition in your class. There are not a lot of Unlimited Class competitors in Seattle at this time.
The 14′ division is also a good compromise between speed and maneuverability, as the board gets longer it becomes more difficult to control, especially in chop or surf.
If you are not sure about what board to choose, check out the Godfather Test Center or read the most recent article on the subject here: http://team206.org/stand-up-paddle/race-board-speed-test/
I like Stock, It’s definitely not as fast as 14′ or unlimiteds, but its fun surfing on lil waves and Turns on a dime for buoy turns! Sprint races and courses with alot of turns makes the stock class fun to be in. If you wanna Add style to your Bouy turns, the stock 12’6″ class can take you there. If you wanna win races, 14′ or Unlimiteds for sure!
Completely agree with what Mr.206 and Hawaiian Thunder said. I’ll also add it also depends on what style race you will be racing the most. Are there going to be lots of buoys? Is there surf or is it just flat water? Like Hawaiian Thunder said, if there is a lot of turning, or surf 12’6’s are quick and surf very well. A 14 foot will also surf fairly well and turn nicely too. You may only loose a little control surfing, or turning radius going from 12’6 to 14′. The speed that you do gain from 12’6 to 14′ is worth it in my opinion. An unlimited board is great in big long flat races, like Round the Rock. But they can quickly fall apart in chop.
Also as stated, it depends on your body type and what you feel good on. Most people will find the 14′ class to work for them really well. It offers the most versatility and speed in the different classes.
So like said above, there is no easy answer. And while that may sound like a cop out answer, it is the truth. What I would suggest doing is trying every board you can get your hands on. Stock,14, unlimited. Try as many as you can. You see someone win a race and want to know what they think? Talk to them. Ask questions. One of the great things about SUP is how approachable it still is. At many of the races there are board demos, and most shops will have rentals. Once you start to get a feel for what works for you and the conditions you ride in most, then you can start to get more of an answer.
Mr. 206 putting some science in the racing aspect. Nice analogy on that. Yeah, the lighter and stronger racers definitely have the advantage. Strength to weight ratio. Top guys in the world like Danny Ching, Kai lenny, conner baxtor all are relatively lean and strong for their size.. Suzie and Mr. 206 will be knocking at there doorsteps soon! Darn it, There goes my racing career. 😉
I would have to agree with most saying that 14′ is the popular class around here, mostly because it allows us to race against the most people I think. I would love to see 16 ft boards become popular because they could support my weight and allow me to go faster.
Only time I will be knocking on those guys’ door is to sell real estate!!!