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Gibbon Surfline Review
Cons: Ratchet tricky to release, not durable and wears down webbing. Bulky.
The Gibbon Surfline is designed for the aerial slackliner looking to take the sport of slacklining to X-Games style extremes, and at 90+ feet in length also offers a line that can be used for a variety of other purposes. The Surfline comes with an extra long ratchet handle for leverage to crank this 90+ foot trickline extremely tight, and offers great movement, bounce, and feel. This is a specialty line, and because of the higher cost and specificity of function we only recommend this line for those looking to take this sport to the extremes of dynamic tricklining.
For beginners or those with children looking for a great value, we recommend starting out with a Gibbon ClassicLine.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Slackline Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
New Version of the Surfline vs. The Older Version
The Surfline has received some upgrades since we last reviewed it and now goes by the name of SurferLine. See below for a quote from Gibbon regarding the changes that have been made.
"The SurferLine has changed quite a lot. The handle has improved (ergonomic handlebar) and the line now has a new color coating, double cogs, the webbing was improved (different weaving technique), and this line has a new print. In addition, this line now offers higher durability."
Unfortunately, this updated model was not available during our 2015 review update. See below for a side-by-side comparison, with the latest model being on the left and the older version being on the right.
Ease of Set-up
The Gibbon Surfline is the longest of the Gibbon 2" lines, and as a result requires a bit of specialty hardware to setup. Instead of the traditional 2" ratchet the Surfline comes with an extended lever allowing for more leverage when tensioning. The 90+ foot strip of 2" webbing feeds nicely into the ratchet, as with all Gibbon lines, however once secured this more bulky ratchet allows one to tension the line to an extreme tightness that provides a trampoline like surface for aerial assaults and insane feats of "bravery?".
At double the length of its sister product the Gibbon Jibline, it is amazing how easy it is to setup and tension the Surfline with one person at heights only a few feet off the ground. The much improved ratchet system with an incorporated safety lock makes this line extremely easy to setup and does a much better job of preventing the line from catching and getting torn in the gears of the ratchet. Note that this line does get caught in the ratchet so for the sake of your line and for the purposes of safety please be careful and precise when setting it up.
One small complaint about the Surfline ratchet is the direction of pull on the ratchet. Most ratchets are configured so that you can put a foot against the tree to brace yourself while you pull, but the configuration of this ratchet makes it so you have to pull away from the line, rather than away from the anchor. This makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, to get good body position to pull hard on the ratchet.
To truly test ease of setup with this and other kits we had newbies that have never been on or setup a line before try to setup a few of the slacklines we evaluated. We found that while this line was a bit more difficult than the Gibbon ClassicLine to setup, in general it was fairly intuitive and only required some significant muscle when setting it up at its full length.
The Surfline was not the most versatile of the lines we tested, but at 90+ feet and with the option to setup short, long, tight or loose, the Surfline does provide some flexiblity in how and where you use the line. The webbing has more stretch than the Gibbon ClassicLine, and while not as stretchy as more traditional lines that come with 1" military spec or climbing grade webbing, this in-between level of stretch allows it to be used for walking, static balance poses, surfing and flowing, as well as aerial tricks. Setup from 30 to 60+ feet, the Surfline can be cranked extremely tight, offering a trick line that compares to the Jibline which is presently used in most competitions. Setup longer and left a little on the looser side, the Surfline offers a challenging longer line to walk and experiment with to build core, center your focus, and push your concentration and skill to the limit.
Although good for several things, the Surfline is mainly a bouncy trickline. One thing that it is especially not is a travel line. With a larger ratchet and such a long piece of 2" webbing this line is bulky and not easy to travel with. For those on the go we highly recommend considering a more primitive setup such as the Gibbon Travelline.
The Surfline falls at just slightly above average when it comes to rating quality. While the ratchet is heavy duty, strong, and seemingly well-built, we have had issues with the ratchet breaking, springs popping out, and other problems with the moving parts of the tensioning system. The Surfline kit is shown to have a maximum tension of three tons on the Gibbon website, but we damaged the ratchet at around 2400 lbs. We tested multiple Surflines in our review process, and each had different issues. On one ratchet the handle bent. On another, the spool bent under the load of the line, causing the teeth to come out of alignment with the locking mechanism of the ratchet.
One of the biggest problems overall with this and other 2" lines that use a ratchet tensioning system is the tendency for the line to get caught in the sides of the ratchet during tightening and release, often resulting in the line fraying and becoming unusable in only a year or so of use. This is specifically an issue with the Surfline as the 2" webbing is designed to function like a trampoline, and as a result is a bit thinner and not as durable as other 2" lines. With the Surfline ratchet, we damaged the webbing the first time we detensioned. Detensioning the Surfline is abrupt and a bit scary. The edges of the ratchet are sharp. With repeated use at the same length, the ratchet abraded the line so much in the same spot that it was rendered unusable after only a short time. We would love to see Gibbon add the same plastic spacers Mammut used on their ratchet as this would probably solve the problem entirely.
That said, overall the Surfline is a high quality, specialty product and is one of a kind in what it offers. We understand that sometimes there is a tradeoff between durability and longevity of a product with performance, and the Surfline provides an excellent example of this. A thicker more durable line would not perform as desired, and a "better" ratchet system would likely add to the already somewhat high price of this product.
As already stated we have noticed a significant issue with the Gibbon Surfline with respect to disassembly and de-tensioning. With a new and well cared for ratchet we found that once you get the hang of it the line can be taken down with minimal scare. However if anything starts to go wrong with the ratchet, a spring comes loose, the metal bends in certain places, the webbing starts to get caught in the side; well de-tensioning can be quite scary and potentially dangerous. On several occasions we have resorted to using sticks, metal rods, or other levers to try to take down the line as sticking our fingers into the belly of the beast was just not an option for anyone wanting to ever climb again. Even in good working order this system holds quite a bit of tension and can release with a jolting pop. We recommend those using the line to be very careful and very precise when setting up the line. Make sure that the ratchet sits square to the opposite anchor point and that the line feeds in straight and clean. Keep your ratchet in good working order and add a "tool" to your kit so that if or when you are having issues releasing the lock you can substitute something for a precious well appreciated finger.
The Surfline is a complete slacklining kit, and comes with everything needed to setup and enjoy it. Unfortunately aside from the basics the Surfline does not offer much more in the way of features. Other products from Gibbon and other manufacturers offer adjustable tree anchors, ratchet padding, rubberized coatings for more grip, longer anchor slings for larger trees and more. The Surfline, however, is unique in its longer length and extended lever ratchet system, intricate necessities for setting up the line but not necessarily added features to make the slacklining experience safer or more enjoyable.
The Surfline performs in a range of situations, but is most specifically designed for aerial assaults and tricklining. The thin trampoline like webbing and enhanced tightening system allows you to rig up an advanced line for the more daring out there. The longer webbing and increased stretch over other 2" lines offers more movement to allow for flow and surf. This line can also be easily setup over water or with more sag to challenge your balance and train for walking longer slacklines over 100 feet.
The Surfline is one of the more expensive lines on the market and offers great value for those looking to take the sport of aerial tricklining to the extreme. For beginners, those interested in a more zen approach to slacklining, or anyone who plans to graduate to walking longer lines including high lines, we recommend getting something a little more suited to your intention and need, potentially sticking with a more primitive 1" setup and graduating toward pulley-rigging systems.
The Surfline is one of the most popular tricklines on the market today. At higher tensions, it has one of the fastest, strongest rebound speeds around. This means when you want to jump, the line really throws you. The new wave of tricks (butt bounces, chest bounces, etc.) can be thrown down comfortably on this line since the landing surface is double the width of a traditional one-inch-wide slackline.
The Gibbon Jibline is half the length of the Surfline and made of the same material. Tree protection is available from several slacklining manufacturers and is highly recommended, especially when setting up a line on public trees in parks.
— OutdoorGearLab Review Staff
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