Some time ago, a shift happened around the mentality about what everyone surfs. Perhaps the biggest change comes in the shape of the humble mid-length, which has seen a resurgence in recent years from being written off a shape, to some of surfing's most stylish surfers swearing by the extra foam. Just look at Torren Martyn. And there's a good reason why these craft are permeating the horizon of locales across the globe.
Because 99 percent of the waves most people surf do not require anyone to 'force fun' through a high performance shortboard. A mid-length is versatile, especially in northern hemi summer slop. “In fact, a load of our surfboard sells, probably the majority, are of mid-lengths,” head shaper at Fourth Surfboards Luke Hart told MSW a while back. But, take a look at this thing! A six-channelled mid-length from Firewire/Tolhurst, modelled from instruction of world longboard champ Harley Ingleby (another style guru, there's a pattern here.)
Our pal from down under, Lincoln Eather, has been putting this mid through its gliding paces over the past couple days. Linc's view from 31,000 feet? “It’s forgiving enough that if you don’t manage to destroy an oncoming section, you won’t blow the wave. It’ll balance itself out and let you keep chugging along.” Here's the long version.
Words by Lincoln Eather
This shape is a Tolhurst/Firewire partnership. Its name, Mid6, refers to the design itself — it’s a mid-length with six channels. I expect a mid-length to be great for cut-downs, high-line trimming and generally surfing in third gear, which is kinda my thing, so I was excited to ride the Mid6 and see how it performed.
The Mid6 is currently available in two other sizes:
7’6” x 21” x 2 3/4” @ 47.9L and 7’10” x 21 1/4” x 2 3/4” @ 50.6L
“The Mid6 range is designed to give maximum mid-length performance in all wave types," said Harley Ingleby about the Mid6. "A fine round pintail with curvy plan shape, smooth rocker and a bit of nose flip, it’s equally comfortable turning deep in the pocket or long, open-face arcs.
"High nose rails through to mid tucked and low hard in the tail, foiled from the centre for a nice balance of drive through sections while maintaining hold through tight-turning arcs. While the Mid6 fires in everyday surf, it is tuned enough to comfortably handle some serious surf.”
The Mid6 is constructed with Thunderbolt Technology (EPS core with multi-component carbon fibre stringer systems) with six channels on the bottom and a 5-fin setup to indulge the curious. On face value, and then under your arm, you can tell this board is made to go fast. And fast it goes.
It’s got a traditional early-’70s single-fin outline, where the wide point’s further forward, and then pulls into a narrower rounded pin. This shape is made for clean lines and long walls (perfect for my amazing cut-downs). However, the rails actually make it feel more like a performance shortboard rather than a cruisey mid-length.
They seem more knifey and more refined than other mid-lengths I’ve ridden, so theoretically, you won’t skip, bounce or feel any chatter when putting the board on rail at high speed. I imagine this is part of the reason why the board goes in everything from one to six-foot.
Channels often scare people, but these shouldn’t freak you out. Harley and Tolhurst softened them up just enough so you can avoid that chatter and tracking feeling that’s common with six deep. They wanted to make it easy to break a line or adjust a turn on a wave, so you don’t have to totally reinvent your surfing just to ride a longer surfboard.
Stats: 20 sessions; 107 waves
Top speed: 37km/h (Burleigh Point)
Longest ride: 311m (Currumbin Alley)
It's a mid-length, so there's way more volume than a normal shortboard, offering that amazing paddle power. Especially where I live in Australia, where there’s a lot of points and sweep, it definitely saved my shoulders. At 7’0”, you have a lot of board underneath you, which caters well to those wanting to float over dead sections when the surf isn’t fantastic.
But with all that length, plus the channels and outline, it becomes very capable when the swell kicks. You really can ride this board from one to six-foot and have entirely different experiences, but maintain enough familiarity with the board to handle the shift in conditions.
One thing to be aware of, though: if you really wanna throw the Mid6 around, you’ll have to know where to stand
I’m a little hesitant to say this publicly, but the Mid6 feels like cheating. Seriously. You might get some angry looks for all the waves you’re catching.
One thing to be aware of, though; if you really wanna throw the Mid6 around, you’ll have to know where to stand. To rip turns around quickly, you should be back on your tail and pivoting off that last quarter-inch of rail. If you’re more about trimming, then it’s all front-foot glide. Either way, the Mid6 easily manages both.
If you’re coming up from your shortboard, you might find it challenging going vertical or fitting the board into various curves thrown at you. But if you’re coming down from a longboard, this thing will feel like a high-performance shortboard. I found that the best conditions for the Mid6 were two to three-foot chubby waves with both fast and slow sections.
To be honest, I didn’t play around with fins here. Normally I’m a fin nerd, but this time I just took the setup Harley gave me and ran with it. The quad setup felt so good, I didn’t bother switching out, and when combined with the channels, it really provided a solid feeling on the wave, allowing me to dig into turns and push for speed.
I was running the AM’s in the front and the Reactors in the rear. Alternatively, Harley suggested using the FCS Reactor Quad set, or otherwise aim for some large, flat-foiled front fins with 80/20 foil on the rears. And if you’re coming down from a log, he suggests his FCS XL Quad set.
The Mid6 is one of the best-performing mid-lengths I’ve ridden. Between the outline, the channels and the rails, it’s a dream for those who don’t suffer from a surfing stutter, and would probably be quite helpful for those stutterers among us. It’s forgiving enough that if you don’t manage to destroy an oncoming section, you won’t blow the wave.
It’ll balance itself out and let you keep chugging along. It balances performance and cruising across a wide range of waves, but I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my quiver anytime soon. As much fun as mid-lengths are, I’m still having more fun on twins and shortboards. (Right now at least, check back in with me in a few years.)
The price is at the high end for the mid-length market, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a mid-length surfboard that balances the trimming/ripping ratio across a wide variety of conditions better than the Mid6.
Where to Buy
Price is approximately €1,300
Price is approximately $1,000
Price is approximately $1,750