I've owned or ridden custom or "usual suspect" LB's, mid lengths, fun boards, and mid lengths, including a big fish thing that was more or less designed for mushy San Diego summers. The best straight up comparison is between the Thunderbolt Silver boards, with heavier glassing, and a fancy local to high end PU board, and I would include the Smooth Operator in this camp since it's glassed heavy. Shape aside, the construction feels like the PU boards in the good ways with a little more spring in torsion, particularly off the tail. Usually really stiff or oversize fins will make a board feel dead and stiff to me, so I could really feel flexy fins, especially in mush. On the Thunderbolt Silver boards (in my case, Sprout and Neo Classic), stiff fins don't deaden the board and I find myself preferring stiffer fins (I'm 190 lbs, so take that into account).Been some good contributions on this thread....and hard to argue with a concensus these boards are putting grins on folks faces...why the hell else would we surf?
The common underpinning is obviously the appreciative characteristics of a well built, light board with pop - excellent paddler, highly responsive to minor adjustments, fast down the line.
Makes one wonder how many of the fans have ridden customs with similar properties, vs a Nelson being their first exposure to light and highly responsive..
the LB's I ride achieve this by using either Red or Blue US Blanks, depending on length, and glassed 4/4,4 in S cloth...highly responsive with plenty of pop, have yet to break one in Oregon winter beachbreak, have yet to lend one to someone who didn't rave about how responsive and fast they were to ride.
so, more than one way to get there...conversely, with the wait time for a custom from the majority of shapers these days...not surprising the Nelson's are flying off the shelf..
On the lightweight Red boards, they are lighter than the light PU boards like my old 8'0" fishy thing and have much better spring to them. It is more subtle than the heavier boards that exaggerate bending movements, but again...I am preferring really stiff fins like NVS G10 quads to stuff I used to like a whole lot. Worlds away better than any EPS longboard, except the Timbertek ones which I think are more "ok" like a PU board with a damped feel. I think the bigger a standard EPS board gets the more corky it feels...my original beginner board is a pretty ok, standard log shape but its pretty dead and corky...completely dependent on fins for feel. Same with some oversized hybrids I have tried in the continuous search for a better summer cheater board.
I would say if you like to put any power at all through the fins off the back foot, particularly for pumping...it's a big difference in fin and rail feel. Stomp on the tail with a stiffer fin and try to say it's not better :lol: If someone is just strictly trimming and gliding or riding from the middle, they might never see much difference.
I still like the PU Smooth Operator way more than most things, but if I could get the same kind of thing in Thunderbolt anything I would go for it. Not a whole lot of mid length or other Thunderbolt options yet. I thought the Mid 6 looked interesting in photos, but if I recall correctly, when I checked it out at the store the rails were a lot softer than I thought it would be.
I don't think toughness is really the reason to buy or not buy any board. But...I've never owned a board this resistant to damage, period. The first thing I did with the Moe when I left the store was to whack the rail across the sharp edge of my truck door. Not a scratch. The other day I thought it had a crack, but just as I started to do the first few rubs of sandpaper...gone. Nothing. I thought Timbertek was super tough but this is crazy stuff.