Can the average surfer enjoy the same board as the GOAT himself? Well here’s my full review of the Slater Designs FRK Plus Ibolic…
When the GOAT releases a new board model, the whole surf industry can’t help but sit up and check it out. So when Kelly Slater showcased the FRK Plus Ibolic, the latest collaboration with shaper Dan Mann I was intrigued.
And in fact it launched the day before I was heading off on a surf trip – so I decided to take a punt and swap out one of my other boards to give the Slater Designs FRK+ a test and see if it was the more accessible, yet high performance design it was made out to be.
So here is my full hands on review of the FRK Plus…
REVIEW: Firewire FRK Plus Ibolic By Slater Designs
Who’s It Aimed At?
The FRK+ Ibolic is the follow up to Kelly Slaters go to board, one that was aimed at high performance surfing, and suited to high performance waves.
I’m not afraid to say that the original FRK was well out of my comfort zone, with dimensions that didn’t even make it worth considering for my own quiver!
The FRK Plus on the other hand, seems to be aimed at a broader range of surfers, specifically in the higher intermediate and upwards range.
A performance daily driver version of the original, so if you’re looking for a performance optimised stick, but also one that can also cover more everyday conditions (in the 2-6 foot range) then the FRK+
Board Breakdown & Dimensions
When it comes down to the dimensions of the FRK+ it’s certainly got a little more chunk to it than the original version (which is great news for most people!) and runs from 5’6 right through to 6’2:
- 5’6″ 18 1/4″ 2 1/4″ (24.1L)
- 5’7″ 18 3/8″ 2 5/16″ (25.01L)
- 5’9″ 18 11/16″ 2 1/2″ (28.2L)
- 5’10” 18 3/4″ 2 1/2″ (29.0L)
- 5’11” 19″ 2 5/8″ (30.6L)
- 6’0″ 19 1/4″ 2 11/16″ (32.2L)
- 6’1″ 19 9/16″ 2 11/16″ (34.1L)
- 6’2″ 19 3/4″ 2 13/16″ (36.1L)
For me at 185cm and 82kg I opted for the 6’1.
Now usually I would’ve gone for the 6’2 and had a little extra foam under me, specially given the fact the board is a lot narrower than my go to boards, but I decided if I’m going to put some performance based under my feet, I should keep the volume on the lighter side.
Having surfed it in a range of conditions I can’t say I went wrong either and the 6’1 feels pretty good under the arm and out in the water too!
In terms of changes from the original, as well as that little extra foam the biggest change is the move from a rounded pin, to a squash tail. This will give a little extra pick up in smaller conditions as well as the familiar release of a squash tail, which is one of the most popular choices for performance shortboards.
The new Slater Designs FRK+ comes in Firewires latest tech, Ibolic.
Now this further their stringerless designs, with a reinforced fibre I Beam running down the centre of the board, with two parabolic rail springers running from nose to tail.
A bit lost with all that tech stuff? I don’t blame you!
Essentially though it brings together the weight and PU feel of Firewires LFT tech, with the strength of their Helium tech.
So you get a board that feels super lively underfoot, but also has heaps of strength and durability.
Having been a huge fan of the helium boards for their lightness and strength (making them great for travelling) I can see the Ibolic build certainly feels just as great and is certainly a lot stronger than LFT.
I have to say though, my FRK+ has picked up a pressure ding on the bottom of the board, but this was no doubt more down to some baggage handler mishaps after Qantas lost my boards on the way home than anything in water!
In Sept 2022 Firewire made the big decision to go Futures only with their boards, slowly phasing out the FCS2 options and the FRK+ is the first big launch since that announcement that only comes with a Futures fin setup.
Now personally I prefer Futures over FCS2 but it’s worth keeping that in mind if all your fins are currently FCS2 only!
The FRK Plus comes with a 5 fin setup, allowing you to decide between quad or thruster setup – and as a huge fan of quads that’s the way I went. I’ve never really got on with a thruster setup to be honest though, so I’d go with what you’re comfortable with.
My go to quad set recently has been the Rasta Quads, and as well as they go in the FRK+ I do think that it would be better suited with a larger set of quad fins and the board has felt somewhat skitish and twitchy sometimes.
This could be the fact the board is certainly more narrower and pulled in at the tail than my usual boards, but I think tightening it up slightly with some bigger fins would certainly work well for me and I’ll keep you posted when I give that a go!
Obviously the gold standard for the FRK+ would be the fins that Kellys riding in his – his Endorphins KS1 Template – although I’m yet to add those to my kit list.
Ideal Wave Conditions
Having tested out the FRK Plus Ibolic in a good variety of conditions (including a recent surf trip to Sri Lanka and back home in Byron Bay) it can handle a good range of waves size and has plenty of paddle power.
It is certainly more well rounded than the original FRK, but don’t get fooled, this is certainly not a grovelling board by any stretch though and if you’re surfing in smaller conditions it’s going to be best off on a wave with a bit of punch to it.
That being said though you can surf it in smaller, less punchy conditions, but you’ll quickly find that once the wave has a bit more shape to it, this board certainly lights up and does what it says on the tin.
The FRK Plus will be at home on punchy beachies and reefs for sure and although it does seem to lack a lot of forgiveness daily drivers like the Pyzel Phantom, DHD 3DV and even the Dominator 2 (another Dan Mann design), it does still have versatility in less than optimum conditions.
What’s It Like To Surf?
So what’s it like in the water, under the feet of someone who isn’t Kelly Slater?
Well there were a few things I was pleasantly surprised about when I first took the Slater Designs FRK+ out for a spin.
- It paddled really well
- It was pretty easy to catch waves
- It was fast, straight off the bat!
Now those 3 things are a pretty epic combo and certainly make the FRK+ good fun in the water!
My first few sessions over in Sri Lanka though I quickly realised that the FRK+ wasn’t really the board I needed under my feet for those waves, which were slightly fatter and lacked a bit of punch. That being said though I could see the potential on a couple of session and a friend of mine took it for a blast and absolutely loved it!
Back in Australia though, it was a different ball game
One of the things Dan Mann and Kelly both talk about in their promo of the FRK Plus is how it’s a board that “gets out of your way and just lets you surf” and I can see how it can quickly feel like that.
That being said though, if you at the lower end of intermediate I can see how this quality would quickly emphasis your shortcomings as well.
As I’ve touched on before I for me a slightly bigger set of fins would be the go to tame down it’s twitchiness, but I can see that this might be more for my own lack of experience on something this performance oriented, rather than the board itself. I’m certainly more at home on a wider, more cruisey style of board than trying to snap big cutbacks in the pocket!
I was bit daunted by dropping the cash to test out the FRK+ (despite what some people might think, I don’t get the luxury of free boards for my reviews!) but I was also pleasantly surprised at how it went under my feet.
Although it’s marketed as a more daily driver version of the original FRK (which in a way, it certainly is) I think it’s going to check a few egos in terms of where people peg their surfing, versus where they actually are, so give it a good thought before adding one to your quiver.
If you’re in the lower to mid end intermediate range, or will be surfing in slightly smaller or less punchy waves, then I personally think the Dominator 2 would still win out if you’re looking to progress and won’t take full advantage of the top end of the FRK+ performance side of things.
But, if you’re an experienced surfer, looking for a high performance daily driver then you can’t really go far wrong with something crafted for the GOAT himself right?!
And of course if you’re a fan of the original Slater Designs FRK then the FRK Plus is going to be a perfect addition to your quiver.
Have you surfed the Slater Designs FRK+ Ibolic?
What did you make of it?