Firewire is a brand that continues to design and develop some of the highest performing surfboards in the industry. Not only are the company constantly striving to better the overall surfing experience, but they are a brand who are extremely environmentally conscious and always looking for ways to improve their sustainability.
Firewire has one of the most impressive, innovative ranges of surfboards on the market. Shapers of shortboards, longboards, kiteboards, and grom boards, they ensure that there is a board in their collection for everyone, no matter your age or ability.
One of Firewire’s most popular models is The Sweet Potato. This board was the result of a collaboration between Firewire and one of surfing’s greatest shapers, Dan Man. The Sweet Potato is one that has created quite the ‘buzz’ in the surfing industry, now recognized as the board that was responsible for the emergence and popularity of the ‘groveler’.
We thought we would tell you a little bit about the history of Firewire before giving you our full review of their Sweet Potato board. We will go through the board’s specifications, its pros, and cons, what conditions it works best in, and what riders it is best suited to.
History of Firewire
The success of Firewire is solely attributed to the Australian shaper, surfer and entrepreneur, Nev Hyman. Nev began shaping surfboards with fellow craftsmen Phil Usher and Paul Rogers whilst they were at school. In 1973, Nev set up ‘Odyssey Surfboards’ in West Perth. After several years of success, in 1981, the brand changed its name to ‘Nev Surfboards’. From this point, Nev began shaping custom boards for some of the most established, reputable surfers in the world.
In 1989, Nev began to get involved with computer shaping. This infusion of technology with shaping allowed him to develop the brand further and eventually, Nev Surfboards was producing 5,000 boards a year. The brand was then renamed to ‘Nev Future Shapes,’ which Nev believed embodied the kind of progressive, high-tech direction they were taking in terms of their surfboard design and construction.
In the early 2000s, there was a huge influx of interest from surfers and investors who were intrigued by these high-quality, lightweight, and eco-friendly boards. It was then in 2005, that Firewire Surfboards was launched and it didn’t take long for them to become one of the major players in the global surfing marketplace.
Today, Nev Hyman is an internationally recognized member of the surfing community, and Firewire is a brand that is continuing to progress both technically and environmentally. The brand has some of the world’s most experienced surfers and shapers designing their boards which is why it is no surprise that Firewire is supported by thousands of amateur and professional surfers across the globe.
Sweet Potato Specifications
The Sweet Potato caused quite the stir when it first came on the market. This was because it was pretty much the first of these radically short and was incredibly voluminous boards which are now categorized as the ‘grovelers’. The board has a very wide outline, a soft rounded tail, and a full nose. The rounded tail shape allows for the water to wrap around the board without getting released too quickly, which works to provide you with plenty of hold. There is just a little bit of flip in the nose which is just enough to stop you pearling.
The deck of the board is relatively domed, meaning it carries a lot of volume through the middle of the board and out towards the rails, before doming down at the edges. This means that there is enough volume for you to float, but not so much that it becomes difficult to turn. The board has a massive double concave and a spine that runs right through to the middle of the core. This creates an incredible amount of lift which generates speed and that’s what gives you that really fast wave entry.
What these features do, is allow for a board that can get into just about anything. Because of its shape and volume, it also allows for easy paddling and increased maneuverability. What we will say, is that its liveliness can initially be very difficult to control, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you fall straight off the back on your first ride. Also, if you push from the back, whilst you may not be able to get the board completely vertical, it is still great for turning and carving.
The board is constructed with Firewire’s FST technology. FST technology consists of a Parabolic Balsa Rail which works to control flex and a high-density aerospace composite top and bottom deck for increased strength and durability. This makes the board highly resistant to dings and cracks. The Parabolic Balsa Rail features 12mm balsa wood composed of 3 x 4mm strips. This rail not only works to add strength and control the board’s flexibility, but it also works as a buffer against dings. The constructive materials of the Sweet Potato include high-tech epoxy resins and advanced composites. This unique formulation means that the board is not only 20% lighter than standard polyurethane boards, but it is a lot livelier in its performance.
You will be able to choose the height of your Sweet Potato, and it is recommended that you get your board approximately 8-12 inches shorter than your typical shortboard. This will allow you to get an extremely responsive board at a very manageable size.
What surf conditions are best for the Sweet Potato?
What’s brilliant about the Sweet Potato, is that it is able to get going in just about any kind of conditions. It performs amazingly in not only its optimum wave range of knee to chest high but is designed to rip in the mushiest and smallest conditions which would normally be left to the longboards.
Who is the Sweet Potato suited to?
The Sweet Potato board is brilliant for all types of riders, from beginner to expert level. It is a wonderful option for anyone looking for a lively, versatile board to add to their quiver. It is a great board to take away with you on your travels when you are not sure exactly what the surf conditions will be. It is an extremely fun board that would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s collection.
Who is Dan Mann?
Dan Mann is a professional surfboard shaper and paddleboard champion who has been designing and shaping boards for Firewire for several years. Dan grew up near the ocean, where his Dad, Lance, taught him to surf from the age of 2. At 10 years old, he moved to Coronado in California and it was here, that his passion for the ocean developed.
Between 1994 and 2000 he competed in professional shortboard, longboard, and paddleboard competitions before developing an interest in shaping in 1996. Whilst working as a lifeguard, Dan spent his free hours repairing and designing surfboards. It was not until around 2001 that this hobby developed into a professional career. Dan bought a glassing company called ‘Northwind Glassing’ which allowed him to understand the entire surfboard construction process. Not long after, Dan plugged his own brand into the company: ‘Mannkine Surfboards’.
After establishing Mannkine, Dan began designing boards for Firewire. Until 2008, he worked as the head of Design, Research, and Development for Firewire, and to this day, continues to work harmoniously with the brand. The Sweet Potato board is one of his most recognized designs.
Pros of the Sweet Potato
- Has the ability to catch a broad range of wave types
- One of the first boards to be categorized as a ‘groveler’
- Feels very fast and lively under your feet
- High volume for increased buoyancy
- The concaves provide an incredible amount of lift
Cons of the Sweet Potato
- Very loose feel which takes a lot of ability to control
- The rocker-less outline means that steep drops can be challenging
What’s the difference between Firewire’s Sweet Potato and Baked Potato?
Firewire’s Baked Potato Surfboard is a fine-tuned version of the brand’s Sweet Potato. The Baked Potato offers many of the same high-performing features as it’s ancestor, but with some very subtle design adjustments. Whereas the Sweet Potato is extremely voluminous and features a rounded nose, the Baked Potato has a slightly pulled in nose and some of its rail volume has been removed.
The Baked Potato also has very similar aggressive concaves with a v-spline running down the center of its core. This allows for increased lift and hence, faster wave-entry, which is very much like the Sweet Potato.
The difference between the two boards is that the Baked Potato is designed to be slightly more performance orientated than the Sweet Potato. Its refined bottom allows for much higher speeds, so if you are a more experienced rider who is capable of controlling nippier boards, then the Baked Potato might be the better option. If you are a less experienced rider who is looking for more buoyancy and stability, the Sweet Potato would probably be best for you.