I picked up this Scott Burke 5’2″ Fish surfboard for surfing at River Run Park, not because of stellar reviews I had seen (I couldn’t find any) but because it was a short soft-top board with some nose rocker, and I thought it might be a good fit for the wave at the park. It was also pretty cheap, which didn’t hurt.
River Surfing Board Review
Fortunately, I was right, the board is a good fit for the wave, though it wouldn’t work on something with significantly less speed or with a bigger pile. Though I still like my Loco Poco for River Run, after trying out a few different boards I realized that I didn’t need the volume (though it made some things easier), and I could get away with a lot less.
The Scott Burke 5’2″ Fish isn’t particularly well-made; its a far cry from custom shaped boards like these. But it also costs about 1/5 as much (or less), and since it’s a soft top you can smash it into things and not feel like its too precious or fragile to get knocked around.
The shape works quite well on the wave, allowing for nice flowing turns. I also appreciate the nose rocker a lot; it helps you keep on top of the wave when coming down the face. A lack of rocker seems to be the biggest problem people have with other short ocean-focused boards on this and on similar steep river waves. And the large planing surface means that you can recover from pearling on occasion as well.
My biggest gripe is probably the fins; the soft plastic fins just don’t have much snap to them. The wave/rail combination makes the ride plenty sporty, but it may be worth springing for FCS plugs to upgrade things a bit. I haven’t tried them, but it seems like standard plugs might work, or there is this softboard specific plugset. At the same time though, it seems a little silly to add a ton of time and effort adding decent fins to a pretty low-rent board. At that point it may be worth getting a hardboard from a local shaper. While I’m a fan of soft tops for a lot of reasons, most of their advantages fade at a place like River Run where you’re not smashing into rocks much, and you don’t need the extra floatation.
Overall, the Scott Burke Fish is a great entry-level river surfing board for fast waves like River Run Park at a solid price point.