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CRIME Soft-Tops Are Unlike Any Surfboard You've Ever Ridden

The Zephyr (left) and the CA Twin, are two brilliantly designed boards from CRIME and CJ Nelson. Photo: JC

The Inertia

Brushing the dust off my face, I could taste the metallic luster of blood. I didn’t know exactly what was hurt. When I flew over the handlebars, my head and hands hit the single-track first. A flash of light sapped my vision. My shoulder stung. Then, as I stood up. Something in my wrist moved. I looked down. My hand was mangled, all the ligaments were torn, and unbeknownst to me at the time, it was awkwardly dislocated.

Thus began the worst summer of my life. Thanks mountain biking – a sport I only did to keep the dad bod at bay. Four surgeries – the first being an attempt to pin a broken bone – led to a staph infection and the removal of three bones in my wrist. I couldn’t surf. Couldn’t kite. Couldn’t tie my shoes. I could barely type.

The road back has been a journey: I’m now left handed. I can’t bend my right wrist. In the last nine months, I’ve perfected a  popup technique with my knuckles.  And it’s actually worked. I dove into studying soft-tops to make it easier on my hand. During my research, I found CRIME, one of the raddest soft-top brands ever.

I didn’t want to use a Wavestorm. I wanted control. And that’s what you get in spades with the CJ Nelson-designed CRIME boards. It’s tough to even put them in that “soft” category. The wax-less EVA foam deck material is molded perfectly with the epoxy bottom to make the boards feel like a normal outline (they’re made with shaped foam and stringers). There is no awkward transition between foam and base material.

Nelson’s is a name synonymous with surfing. The Bay Area native has long been an enviable style guru, adept at making longboards and alternative shapes look, well, beautiful, in the water. And as a designer (and former competitor) his shapes have graced the wave-riding community for years now. But the man has reached his approachable zenith with CRIME.

I tested out the CA Twin and the Zephyr. Most of the CRIME line has interesting fin configurations – anti-thrusters, if you will. Both the  Zephyr and the CA Twin feature twin-fin configs and that means one thing: speed. Both boards were blessed with down-the-line get up, although the CA Twin is the faster of the two. Following are my thoughts on these under-the-radar classics:

The CA Twin

At 7’6″, the CA Twin is pretty much a do-it-all shape. Call it a mid-length if you must. Wanna go to San Onofre and ride something more mobile than a log? The CA Twin oozes speed and makes it easy to catch soft, slopey waves, and get the hell down the line. This is a simple board to use in mush, or catch any type of wave, really.

The CRIME EVA foam material is tough. It’ll take a beating. That said, like any board, it can be mishandled and abused into oblivion. I treat all my sticks with care, even these beauties. Other than a nose that got nicked up in the car (or check-in), I’ve seen very little wear in these boards.

But I digress. The CA Twin is so fun down the line. For average surfers, the thicker tail will take some getting used to. Combined with the twin setup it can feel stiff, but like any board, the more I got used to its heftier feel under foot, the better I could handle it. I would love to try a CA Twin with a thinned-out tail like the Zephyr. Speaking of the Zephyr:

Crim Soft-Tops: Unlike Any Surfboard You've Ever Ridden

The Zephyr

At 7’0″, don’t mistake this board for a mid-length. The wide nose helps with paddling, but the board likes a decent wave. Thanks to the rocker profile, it rides like a shortboard and the twin, combined with that nicely tapered, thinned-out tail, makes it super fun to turn.

When I was talking with the CRIME crew in their San Diego office, someone said, “yeah, you can get barreled on that board, for sure.” No doubt. The Zephyr is a blast at a well-shaped wave, but it’s also a joy to mess around with in closeouts at your nearest beachy. Yeah, it needs a wave with some oomph, but it’s still seven feet long so it paddles better than your average shortboard.

The rocker profile I mentioned limits it from being a more well-rounded board. You wouldn’t want to use the Zephyr at longboard spot. But it definitely could round out a quiver when traveling, and the tough material might save you some heartache. I’ve checked both of these boards on flights and was stoked on the durability.

Bottom Line

CRIME is a California company born of surf and skate. And their boards are definitely as high quality as soft-tops get – with plenty of well-designed options. I can’t believe this brand hasn’t blown up. But maybe that’s the point. These are made for surfers, by surfers. They certainly have my respect.

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