2014 105-LITRE FREESTYLE-WAVE BOARDS TEST REVIEW REPORTS
JACK OF ALL TRADES
What is a freestyle-wave? Why would I need one? Why don’t I just make up my mind and either buy a freestyle board or a [big] wave board?
Until recently, a freestyle-wave (FSW) shape was more or less a flatter rockered, i.e., faster version, of a more bananery waveboard’s bottom curve. The idea was to make ‘getting around the park’ and planing easier, help us approach ramps faster – and subsequently go higher – all while we’re still able to tear into some half-decent ‘real world’ waves.
The original popularity of these shapes, that suited a lot of us more than the dedicated wave board we really wanted, came about as many people saw them as a sensible, floatier partner to their smaller, hard-core wave toy, being a more suitable pick for lighter wind conditions. (A good way to ‘justify’ getting that shiny pro wave model as well!)
However, the arrival of more ‘compact’ (shorter and wider) shapes across many brands’ ranges of all types of boards, has seen more and more large wave boards that rival these bigger FSW offerings appear on the market. They bring increased turning ability on the waves with them thanks to their reduced length fitting ‘in-the-pocket’ better than before.
PRINCIPAL TEST TEAM
James Randall 70 kg. Med. Height
Julian Da Vall 83 kg. 1.95 Tall
Toby Gibson 87 kg. 1.90 Tall
Brian McDowell 98 kg. 1.90 Tall
Thanks also to: Kevin Salmon 85 kg. & Kevin Pijl 70 kg.
However, when we want to try some freestyle or go for a blast, the FSW always hits the mark better, especially when we move the straps outboard, pair it with a larger sail and maybe a deeper fin for the sake of it too. Away from the coast, we also see FSWs as excellent ‘change-down’ boards for lake sailors who, often, effectively use them as high-wind freeriders that, from time to time, enjoy a day trip to the seaside.
But, as overall board lengths continue to reduce, we’re now seeing FSWs that also fit the curve of more challenging surf better – plus they help you catch it more easily too. Yet compact wave boards now too have faster/flatter rocker lines just as FSWs are seeing multifins added to aid turning – and so the lines are blurring more than ever. (And you’ll notice 4 multifin options in this selection here.)
‘BUT I CAN’T FREESTYLE – AND I’M NOT LIKELY TO EITHER’
In this selection you’ll notice some shapes are effectively large waveboards, (Quatro, Simmer, Goya) some are true crossover outlines (Fanatic, JPAustralia and RRD) a few are sort of ‘high-wind freeriders (Tabou and Naish) that can go in the surf a bit’ – kind of modern takes on the ‘wave-slalom, think Sunset Slalom if you’re old enough – which only really leaves us the Starboard as clearly more oriented to freestyle use.
Don’t get us wrong. You can, with a bit of fin swapping here and there, achieve some high-enough-level freestyle tricks on all of these boards – not that they’re ideal for learning freestyle mind – and you can ride every single one of these in half decent surf, but there is some bias, understandably, in each to be aware of as you make up your mind.
One other thing to consider, if waves are your ultimate aim, is that some large waveboards might be worth considering, but bear in mind the surfier shapes here are not a million miles away – very close in fact regarding the Simmer, Goya and the Quatro – and are well worth a spin if you can’t make up your mind – especially if it’s the 105L territory you’re assessing the landscape of. (So potential one-board quivers for heavier riders or lighter wind shapes for medium or lightweights.) But remember the scope for outboard/blasting straps that FSWs offer if that’s important to you.
In slalom tests boards don’t come supplied with fins and in freeride and wave tests we’d expect the fins supplied to be the ‘best possible’ options. Yet, with FSWs, there has to be some scope to change fins according to use (e.g., smaller fins for wave use and specialist freestyle fins) so the ones supplied are probably, especially being powerbox in a lot of instances, understandably going to be limited in their range of use. However, for testing purposes we have to focus on the ones they come with, so our conclusions are based on those rather than what, in an ideal world, would see us try all sorts of fins out given the time and conditions.
THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND ABOUT THE TESTING
• We’ve tested individual models, NOT ranges, so have an open mind if it’s other sizes of the products we review that you’re considering.
• We only had two bona fide freestylers in team.
• We mainly used these on 6.0 crossover sails.
• Most of these shapes are available in cheaper constructions too.
For this run-out we spent two weeks in Dahab with good conditions, (12-33 knots) including some uncharacteristically cold, dense air with onshore wind that was more reminiscent of ‘home’. Egypt is fantastic and consistent and all, but there’s no real current and the air is thin. But, you need a reliable fortnight for a genuine test, a good base like we have at Harry Nass’ Centre 1, plus we had other freeride items to work through, so, although there aren’t really waves to test their true wave ability, there is chop and swell to explore the different characteristics. That said, ironically, on the flat water you can learn a surprising amount about their carving performance and rail-to-rail ability.
You can definitely feel the wavier stances and deck shapes and, as they’re all pretty short and therefore able to fit into the pocket of half decent surf, we know from the rocker line in the turns on unbroken swell which ones have more bite in the rails and kick in the tail and of course which ones possess the most pop!
All these boards feel different, but they nearly all tick the same boxes. They nearly all ‘do it all’. Outside of the two extreme ends of this selections’ FREERIDE/FREESTYLE< >WAVESAILING spectrum, if you got on one independently somewhere and liked it, you’d probably not believe there’s a better one available. You really have to sail them all side-by-side to get the best perspective.
In fact we think that ourselves and a few other mags are the only ones to really get a good cross-section of the market in each segment. Most brands even don’t get the chance to comparatively test all their competitors’ boards – not the new year’s ones anyway …
Basically, there is quality across the board, but some match some briefs more than others and some suit some styles of sailing, sailor, sail and location more than others. In writing, the differences might sound subtle, but in feeling they’re not. Trust us, if we say they do everything and are wonderful, they are. BM
Special thanks to Harry Nass Centre Dahab, F-Hot/Dave White for the loan of their mast mounts, I Love Meet and Greet Gatwick Parking Services and North Sails / K-66 for adjustable outhauls.
NOW READ THE REPORTS