18 July, 2013 18 July, 2013

The Hydro X – by Spider Murphy


DIMENSIONS: 5’11” x 18 5/8″ x 2 3/8″
SHAPER: Spider Murphy
FEATURES: Standard PU with six light hydro channels and thruster setup
RECOMMENDED SPEC’s: 3-4 inches shorter than your regular board, and ¼ inches thicker.
SUGGESTED SURF: All-rounder in waves from one to six foot.
WEBSITE: www.safarisurf.com
CONTACT: boards@safarisurf.com

Spider Murphy needs no introduction as a shaper: he has established himself in the upper echelons of foam along with the likes of Al Merrick, Matt Biolos and Rusty Preisendorfer, and has put boards under the feet of the world’s best for over four decades.

What is worth mentioning, however, is that some of Spider’s biggest developments in the past few years have been a reverse process. Let’s clarify that statement: a large majority of the world’s top shapers often work from the top down. That is, they take their cue from their team riders, develop boards that suit them best, and then tweak these shapes to suit the average Joe.

The Hydro X puts the cart before the horse. Or, in some cases, the cart before the donkey. The idea with the Hyrdo was to make a board from the bottom up, one that would allow the average, everyday surfer to squeeze the most performance out of their stick. Without getting too technical, this means a board that is easy to ride but does not compromise on its performance capabilities. This is clearly evident in the Hydro’s outline. No fat hybrid or funky retro shape here. Besides a few subtle tweaks, it looks and feels like a sleek conventional shortboard. And that’s a good thing.


While you may not notice the extra foam that’s subtly rolled up towards the top half of the board, you feel it immediately when paddling out or stroking into a wave. The hidden volume makes up for whatever you’ve lost in length and makes getting into waves a pleasure. The extra float also contributes towards the incredible drive you get out of the Hydro, so much so that at times it feels like you’re been flung down the line. Three different surfers, varying from intermediate to red-hot, all had the Hydro in their quiver for a couple of weeks and each said the same thing: the drive you get on the take-off is exceptional. If you flip the board over, the light single concave running through most of the board is noticeable and no doubt plays a big part in this acceleration.

This easy-to-generate speed may well be the key to unlocking the rest of the Hydro’s features, which Spider describes as “a smooth rocker with no push points, clean plan shape with quick release, and easy rail configuration.”

What we got out of that: this is a board that is user friendly when it comes to performance. We found the Hydro relatively forgiving on the turns and it tends to push you through the turn instead of getting bogged down, thanks to the slightly bumped-up volume and rails which are relatively soft, tapering into a hard edge towards the slightly wider tail. As one intermediate reviewer succinctly put it “It makes me surf like less of a kook”.

When you really put the board on the rail or in the pocket, it responds beautifully and has just the right combination between drive and looseness to throw big, powerful turns and (for the reviewer who could do them), airs. This manoeuvrability is also thanks to the board being ridden a few inches shorter than a normal shortboard, but it almost seems redundant saying that nowadays: smaller boards are here to stay. What was your standard 6’2″ is now more than likely a 5’11”.

The one other feature we haven’t mentioned yet is the “six light hydro channels”. Ever since they were invented, channels have been contentious. There are those who swear they give the board extra drive or “squirt” by forcing the water to flow faster between the concave grooves. Then there are others who poo-poo this theory, saying they make little difference and that, rather, it’s your concave / vee / rocker combination and plan shape that gives you drive. Whatever it is in this case, it works, and we say if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Anyone that has watched New Pier local Graeme Bird hold his line through some frothy pig-dog barrels will have an idea of how well the Hydro X handles in the pit.

If you’ve witnessed New Pier local Graeme Bird hold his line through some frothy pig-dog barrels on a grinding swell, then you will have an idea of how well the Hydro X handles in the pit.

We also got to ride the Hydro on a few barrelling days and the board responded very well in the pit. The extra drive in the tube was especially evident, thanks again to the volume bumped slightly further up towards the nose. The only thing missing that would have been nice to try is the ability to make it a quad setup. Oh well, next time.

There was little to be critical about with the Hydro model we were given to test drive. One of the fin plugs bust out after a couple weeks of solid surfing, but this was kinda weird and we suspect it was from a lip cracking the fin side-on, as the glassing on the board appeared to be pretty solid all round. One of the reviewers commented that he had owned a Hydro model previously and found the board frustrating to ride, as it was a bit hit-miss and it lacked the “smoothness” that the test model had.

THE VERDICT: We found the Hydro X to be an excellent hi-performance all-rounder for your intermediate surfer. That’s not to say advanced surfers won’t shred on it, but they already have the ability to make their hi-performance sticks do a lot of the work that the Hyrdo is specifically designed to access more readily. Surfers who prefer square or squash tails may be hesitant (the board only comes as a rounded thumbtail), but we reckon once you’ve had a couple of spins you’ll change your mind.

For more of the boards and products Zag has already put to the test, check out the Zag Reviews page.

Former World Tour surfer and World Masters champ Heather Clark has been loving her Hydro X, which has become her weapon of choice.

Former World Tour surfer and World Masters champ Heather Clark has been loving her Hydro X, which has become her weapon of choice.



The Zag Review is an independent editorial feature on surfing hard goods, ranging the full spectrum from boards and wetsuits to tide watches and travel bags. None of the reviews are paid for by advertisers or part of an advertising deal, and we retain the right to give honest, critical feedback that is in the interest of our readers. The product is reviewed by Zag staff and everyday surfers who rip, not pros who are paid to endorse the goods. We test the gear for a minimum period of two weeks (and a month for boards) to give you comprehensive feedback for the surfing layman. We know that surfboards are not a “one size fits all solution” and different surfers prefer different aspects on a board according to how they surf, even if they are the same weight and height. In the case of surfboard reviews, we’ve made sure to seek feedback from at least three different surfers to get well-rounded input.

Contact us here if there is a particular product you’d like to see reviewed and we will do our best to make it happen.


  1. Trevor
    18 July, 2013 at 8:41 am · Reply

    I’m no expert, but this board has def improved my surfing. I have three for different days. Easy paddle into bigger drops, fast takeoff and down the line and it turns easy without losing power. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck with weak fin plugs popping out, but if that’s a common problem maybe it needs to be addressed. Damn fine board tho.

  2. Andre De Wit
    18 July, 2013 at 2:38 pm · Reply

    Got me a Hydro a year ago and haven’t looked back. One of the best boards I’ve owned.

  3. hydroxide
    22 July, 2013 at 5:18 pm · Reply

    what bollocks !!!anything to sell more boards to the dorks…
    What a revolutionary design…???
    I;m still waiting for a few ex pro’s to get one and make the topp 44…come on…what scheizen !
    The only correct info is the fcs plug breaking…its the workmanship bru’s…

    • Squijibo
      3 February, 2014 at 1:01 pm · Reply

      Ahhh, the scent of an envious competitor. What’s wrong hydroxide, not moving any boards off the shelf? Ag shame man…

  4. Diederik
    24 July, 2013 at 9:18 am · Reply

    Well I have been lucky enough to have a custom Hydro X shaped for me this year and its been amazing, mine is super stable on take off and mind blowingly fast down the line, easy to paddle and just overall a very nice board. As for the fcs plugs I have had no problem with any of mine, but you are aware you can specify they fin system you prefer on your board. Loving my Hydro X. D.

  5. Globe Trotter
    12 August, 2013 at 6:59 am · Reply

    I have had two custom Hydro X boards and believe these have helped develop my surfing by giving me confidence on waves at both, beach and point breaks. In fact, I tried other models out between the boards but felt comfortable on this model. I can appreciate the fact that not everyone likes a particular board but when ordering these boards I noticed how involved Spider was in making sure that the board would suite me and it’s amazing to see his passion and knowledge. Regarding the fins, I have had a Hydro X with FCS & Futures and both have been great along with the overall quality. Thanks Spider & Team!

  6. Sambo
    13 August, 2013 at 2:35 pm · Reply

    FCS plugs popping out? weak sauce bro!

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