Gear Review: The 2017 Focus Bluefin
This is a race board. The production model of the 2017 Focus Bluefin is an extremely user-friendly and easy to learn race board that works well in all conditions and absolutely excels in choppy water and bumps. Stable yet highly maneuverable, the Bluefin is an excellent fitness and race board for paddlers of all abilities. Why? It simply works and will allow a paddler to develop their skills with the board instead of outgrowing their equipment.
Defining Characteristics of the Focus Bluefin
The product description on the Focus website makes the following claim: “The perfect combination of a slender outline and volume distribution will allow you to ride a narrower board than what you are used to.” This statement will sound like a bit of a tall order for many paddlers in the novice to intermediate range, however, after taking a Focus Bluefin through an intensive battery of testing it is as stable in rough water as wider, downwind specific boards I have paddled yet fast and agile enough to use in a technical course race.
The dimensions on the model I tested were 14’ x 24.75” at 264L. The Bluefin features a distinctive low entry nose rocker and single concave running the length of the board’s belly. These two attributes work together with the board’s hard rails and straight outline to give the Bluefin an enhanced level of stability at a narrower width than many other boards on the market.
Based on my experience, the Focus Bluefin shares some comparable design features to the Infinity BlackFish. I’m not going to go into all the technical nuances of the two shapes as I did not conduct a side by side comparison and the BlackFish has evolved since my initial review in 2015, but one noticeable distinction is the tapered tail on the Bluefin compared to the squared off tail on the BlackFish.
The taper is not so pronounced as to be considered a pintail, therefore I didn’t notice any degradation in the board’s stability when stepping back on the tail. Another attribute of the Focus Bluefin is its flat deck. You can comfortably hang five over the side of the firmly squared off rails, should you desire. Over the course of my time as a stand up paddler I have grown to prefer a flat deck over a scooped out cockpit and always feel a greater sense of freedom and flexibility with the ability to place my foot directly on top of the rail.
The Focus Bluefin has a firm neoprene handle attached at the center point in the style which has been adopted by many contemporary manufactures. It is comfortable and easy to use (having a solid handle is essential during race starts) and remains out of the way of your feet.
Paddling the Focus Bluefin
I’m a 5’6”, 150 lbs intermediate paddler and I had no difficulty stepping onto the Bluefin from a dock and paddling out in a harbor on my initial session with the board. The low entry nose rocker quickly skims along the surface without pushing water. As expected, the Bluefin was extremely stable in the flat water and had no difficulty popping over boat wakes or navigating through the wind chop buffeting over the harbor breakwall.
Buoy turns with the 14’ Bluefin were easily managed and I did not encounter a wobbly loss of stability when stepping back on the tail. This maneuver was aided in part by the texture and positioning of the deck pad. The deck pad extends back far enough to comfortably perform an aggressive buoy turn, but does not run so far back as to lure a paddler into a potentially compromising position directly on the edge of the board’s tail.
For the true test of the Focus Bluefin’s features I headed outside the protected confines of the breakwall into the open water proving grounds in the South Bay off Redondo Beach, California. Keeping a watchful eye out for canoes, kayaks and sailboats I rounded the tip of the breakwall and made a hard right out past the bell buoy where a group of California Sea Lions was gathered swaying back and forth in the mid afternoon windswell.
The 14’ Bluefin took a little bit of encouragement to turn as I was caught up in the intense wind chop as I immediately exited the harbor. A quick crossbow turn got the nose pointed in the right direction, a maneuver I picked up a couple of years back when I visited the Performance Paddling Adult Training Club in Dana Point.
The Focus Bluefin easily punched up and over the chop and swell. The conditions were heavy enough that there were times when the surging ocean washed over the nose. On every occasion, the ample volume quickly popped the nose back to the surface while continuing forward, much in the same manner as an outrigger canoe.
After reaching the pin I made a left shoulder turn and briefly surveyed the Redondo Beach Pier before setting off on a downwind run back to the harbor mouth. The Bluefin easily picked up a bump and with a couple of quick strokes I was off and running. It was as if the board had suddenly locked into a conveyor belt. It just wanted to run and I was happy to oblige.
After surfing my way down the bumps back to the harbor mouth it was clear, Focus had mastered what historic downwind board makers have fallen short of achieving – designing a board that excels in Southern California’s short chain bumps.
Make no mistake, the Focus Bluefin has been designed from the bottom up as a race board. With that in mind, this SUP is a fantastic fitness and touring board for due to its remarkable stability and shape which enables it to perform will in a wide range of conditions. The Bluefin excels in downwind and chop, yet these attributes make it an extremely reliable board for novice paddlers and anyone who predominantly paddles in flat water but wants a board that will not easily tip in the chop generated by a passing boat.
Will the Focus Bluefin on its own make you a better paddler? Probably not. But its design features will go a long way to allowing a paddler to focus on their technique and enjoyment of paddling while the board does the rest.