Gong SUP is not a company that could ever be accused of not trying. Over the last years, the French brand has taken a step further the concept of Shortboard SUP. At first the vast majority of SUP surfers, not to mention other brands, were skeptical about the functionality of such short shapes, but Patrice Guenolé, master shaper of Gong, firmly believed from the start in this SUP boards downsizing process and with hindsight we can safely say that he was right. Six years on from introducing the Nanogene 7’7’’ a board that, simply put, seemed to break the rules of conventional SUP board design, Gong SUP has produced shorter and shorter SUP boards, case in point, the 6’4’’ Angel Bamby that we are reviewing today. Notice that the Gong SUP program features an even shorter board, the 5’9’’ Finch Bamby. So, the Angel Bamby is the second shortest board of a dedicated line in the Gong SUP catalog, the – yep! – ShortSUP series. Before proceeding with the review, please, notice that we have tested the 2012 model.
The board, egg shaped, has a rounded-point nose and a square tail. The maximum width of 28 9/16’’ (72,5 cm) is located at about the midpoint of the length. The bottom contours feature a subtle single concave right from the nose to slight V in the tail. The scoop-rocker line is characterized by a generous nose and a moderate tail kick. The rails, pretty thick, are more defined in the tail and get softer towards mid-length. The board can be configured either in a Tri-Fin or Quad-Fin setup. All the fin boxes are FCS, so no US Box for the centre fin.
• Construction & Features
Before delving into the Angel’s constructions details, take into account that the construction quality of the new version of the board has been greatly improved. Despite the almost (more on that below) total absence of construction issues on our test board, a few have been reported, such as cracks occurred in the handle and fin boxes areas, hull and deck prone to dings etc. Apparently, the new and vastly improved Bamby technology addresses these problems, so take with a grain of salt the only construction issue we’ve experienced with the Angel, namely hull slightly prone to dings. As for fins quality: the ones (4) provided with the board are cheap Nylon FCS but the new model is reportedly bundled with good quality fins. The camo pad is nice but lacks a Tail Pad but, again, not anymore in the new version of the board. Not only the pad is already glued to the board (it comes separately on the old model) but it does feature a nice Tail Pad. Common to the two versions is the self-regulating Goretex air vent. Finally, the board is pretty light at just 15,7 Lb. (7,1 Kg). with fins. So, as far as we’re concerned construction quality of the board that we’ve extensively tested is from average to good.
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We have tested the Gong Angel 6’4’’ in beach breaks with waves ranging from mushy and clean waist high to solid overheads.
Stability – Lateral stability is respectively good and average for light and medium weight paddlers. Poor for the heavyweights. Notice that longitudinal stability might be an issue for SUP surfers that hadn’t ridden a shortsup before.
Row – The row effect is very pronounced regardless of the paddler’s weight.
Takeoff – From sufficient to poor. Staying closer to the lineup is mandatory with the Gong Angel 6’4’’.
Nose sinking – Not really an issue thanks to the generous scoop and moderate rocker.
Carving – As a SUP shortboard, the Gong Angel 6’4’’ board must be driven aggressively, gathering as much speed as possible in the section so legs pumping is required in order to ride it proficiently. The relatively wide tail generates a lot of lift and acceleration even with small and mushy waves. Not the fastest board we’ve ever tried, the Angel just turns incredibly fast with a good vertical projection and a remarkable skatey feeling. With such an outstanding degree of looseness, the drive abilities of the board are average to good depending on the paddler’s weight. Speaking of the Angel’s multi fin setups, after testing the board either with a Quad (Scarfini HX3, HX2) and Tri-Fin (Raptor Hex Core R5) we ended up riding the board almost exclusively on a Quad-Fin setup. In short, the Angel is an extremely lively board but it must be ridden properly, the shortboard way …
Making it out – Easy for light to medium weight paddlers. Way difficult for the heavyweights.
Nose riding – Nope. This is THE SUP shortboard!
Suitability – The board is best suited for intermediate to expert stand up paddle surfers.
Ideal conditions – Clean beach breaks are the ideal playground of the Gong Angel but it still performs well among fat and mushy waves.
Tips – Get as much speed as you can and try to keep it throughout the turns. In that regards, legs pumping helps a lot as well as staying close to the pocket. Remember, this board must be ridden actively to make the most out of it. Try different fin setups and of course buy better fins than the cheap ones bundled with the board.
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• Conclusions & Verdict
The Gong Angel 6’4’’ is adaptable to a wide range of conditions and provided us hours and hours of total fun in the water with an outstanding looseness. Aside from its awesome performance, this shape is extremely compact and easy to carry around and that comes as a huge added benefit, not to mention the very competitive price. The drawbacks, consisting in a few construction issues and the very cheap fins, have been assessed and fixed by the producer in the new version.
The 6’4’’ Gong Angel Bamby feels just like a skate under your feet but does require skill.
Very loose, self-regulating Goretex air vent, multi-fin customizability, the board is pretty light.
No Tail Pad, hull slightly prone to dings, cheap plastic stock fins.