In 2016, I had the good fortune of riding a Sharp Eye on a Tracks magazine board test trip. I was given the terrible assignment of riding a Toledo model in ripable North Sumatran peaks. Evidently, I’m no board prophet, because the board clearly went better than my conventional boards I was riding at the time, yet naively, I chose not to act on the matter. I’m not exactly sure as to why, be it a mental barrier, marketing block or lack of knowledge and understanding of the shaper. Looking back now, I put it down to a simple lack of connection with the brand at the time. I just didn’t feel a relation to Filipe Toledo’s surfing and approach. I was a huge fan, but I didn’t envision myself throwing air revs into the flats and felt far too young for a double knee reconstruction, so my affair with Sharp Eyes momentarily ended at the conclusion of the trip. Toledo’s rail work and bar raising performances and subsequent victory at the 2018 Jbay event ignited that connection for me. Beyond that, it sent a message to the greater surfing population that Sharp Eyes are basically faultless.
For what seemed like an entire generation, the surfing fraternity was fixated on the big 5 designs (DHD, JS, Channel Islands, Mayhem and Firewire), as they were the key players in the saturation machine, ever present in our algorithms and basically walking themselves off board racks worldwide. To force a shift in mentality, surfers often need to feel a connection with a new brand of board design to justify their substitution. Enter Morgan Cibilic. Polar opposite in approach to Toledo and a knight in shining armour for conformed bread and butter surfing technique obsessed Aussies and weekend warriors all over. His trajectory is nothing short of astonishing, and somewhat mirrors the rise and journey towards recognition experienced by the Sharp Eye empire itself. This may need to be fact checked, but it comes from reliable sources that just 3 years ago, Morgan wasn’t even surfing for his local boardriders club in Australian boardriders battle events. For those unaware of this format of surfing, it basically suggests that Morgan was not considered to be in the top 3 or 4 competitive surfers within his local boardriders club. This speaks volumes on Morgan’s rapid rise to the elite level and current 4th position on the ratings. It could also be presumed that although Morgan was not as recognised as his established peers in those formative years, his work ethic and light bulb refining moments of progression were taking place in the shadows, steadily building the momentum towards his defining time to flourish. In certain aspects, I feel like Sharp Eyes journey has mirrored this trajectory and are now finally receiving and capitalising on the recognition they have rightfully earned.
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Looking at the current top 10 rankings on both world tour stages; Sharp Eye riders are currently holding down 6 of those 20 places. 3 on the men’s side consisting of Filipe Toledo, Morgan Cibilic and Kanoa Igarashi, and 3 on the women’s side, with Johanne Defay, Sally Fitzgibbons and Tatianna Weston Webb. It could be argued that the above 6 are simply the best surfers in the world at the minute and would be entitled to that position regardless of specific board choice. On the contrary, considering the professionalism of these athletes, it goes without saying that each of these surfers have experimented and had somewhat successful relationships with an array of domestic and international designs in years past, yet find themselves solely on the Sharp Eye stable. I’m a firm believer that the performance of a single board can dictate and enhance the level and speed of a surfer’s progression way beyond what even they, and everyone around them for that matter, thought imaginable. It’s the 20/20 mix of performance and confidence. If your equipment is feeling like a magic carpet, suddenly your mind opens, your body follows, and you start believing you might be Aladdin. Again, I’m no closer to being a prophet, but athlete confidence in their equipment looks to be the dominant factor in Sharp Eyes healthy real estate among the WSL rankings.
Away from competitive surfing, Sharp Eyes victory in 2021’s Stab in the Dark cemented their reputation as one of the world’s best. Everyone’s favourite surfer, Taj Burrow, tested 13, unmarked, Dark arts constructed surfboards in his backyard, putting them through their paces in waves he has grown up surfing and knows like the back of his hand. His performances were timeless and Sharp Eyes dark arts Disco Inferno 72 model, wrapped in a carbon fibre blanket, received top honours in a hotly contested field. Worth noting, it was the first entry from shaper Marcio Zouvi in the concept. That same boards journey didn’t stop there, it was later found under rookie Jack Robinson’s feet at the recent Surf Ranch world tour event and received a commendable rating from stab staff member Stace Galbraith’s inhouse ‘Joyride’ board test review.
The depth and variety of the current Sharp Eye team provides the perfect platform for new and established models to be trialled across the globe in all forms of conditions. Further, the feedback Marcio and his team would receive as a result of his geographically blessed team is pivotal to Sharp Eyes ability to continually stay at the forefront of board design. With a strong Australian, Brazilian, USA, Hawaiian and Indonesian contingent, the versatility in Sharp Eyes range reflects the blend of conditions and performance levels it aspires to meet. The world tour ratings are a good indicator of how the high-performance designs perform in everyday conditions. Relatively recent signing Barron Mamiya from Hawaii knifed his North shore quiver into some of the best waves at pipe and backdoor this past season and Indonesian standout Rio Waida has been unapologetically slaying indo’s quiet line-ups to the envy of almost every surfer with a pulse.
In this day and age, it’s essential for a brand to have boards dialled to all conditions, and Sharp Eye certainly caters for that. From 1 foot to 10-foot, introductory level to advanced, their range of boards hit the right notes. Here is my run down on the models I have had the pleasure of riding and how they have served me over the past year.
Storms – This board didn’t leave my car or the beach all summer. It was the first Sharp Eye model I experimented with and if it just so happened to be their only model available, I wouldn’t have minded. Very user friendly and reliable. I rode the Storms 1 inch down from my usual short board dimensions as it was my weapon of choice for when the waves were in the 2-3 ft range. The beauty of the storms was its adaptability. As long as the waves didn’t exceed 4ft, it handled itself equally in chop and clean faces, left or right, steep or slopy. It had plenty of drive and adored being put on rail, great release of the top and plenty of release off sections if directed that way.
#77– The best on rail, face surfing shortboard I have ridden. If you enjoy drivey, lightning-fast boards that just want to be buried on the face, this is your guy. It feels so on point in down the line, semi powerful style waves. Acceleration, drive and precision are its major assets. I have chosen to ride the 77 as a round tail to maximise drive and hold so I can capitalize on the speed it allows me to enter in and out of turns with. It enjoys being surfed top to bottom in a tight pocket also and if you’re fond of letting the fins breathe from time to time, I’m sure it would be all too obliging. I ride the 77 in my regular dimensions, but I feel it has scope as a versatile step up.
HT 2.5 – The all-rounders- all-rounder. An absolute beast of a board that gels in a range of conditions from 2-6 ft. To put it simply, the HT2.5 takes the strong points of the Storms and 77 and bundles them together for your enjoyment. It maintains maximum speed and drive while being super high performance and dynamic. It’s not hard to see why this is a favourite among surfers at the top of their game and endorsed by Filipe himself. Don’t be fooled into thinking it requires that level of surfing though. The HT 2.5 is super forgiving and drivey no matter where you put it. Again, I ride the HT 2.5 in regular dimensions, but it would work equally well going down or up a few inches to target your needs.