95L CROSSOVER BOARD TEST 2020
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Joe North, Dan Hallam & Alex Green.
Photos Tris Best // Test location Rhosneigr, Overcombe, Ringstead & Kimmeridge.
In windsurfing, the hunt for versatility in performance is nothing new. Ever since the excitement and freedom of short board windsurfing (or funboarding as it used to be known) took hold, the desire to find a board for all conditions has become an eternal quest. There have been some notable exponents along the way, and as new disciplines emerge, new directions in design have crystallised. There is of course always the risk that, in asking too much during the design brief stage, a product becomes the master of its own demise, fulfilling the undesirable motif of “Jack”, being ‘okay’ in all trades yet a master of none. It’s a place that will ultimately only lead to an end destination of mediocrity and historical obscurity.
This test was originally published in the January 2020 issue.
For 2020 the crossover category is as well contested as ever, with some fantastic boards available in this year’s lineup. The one notable omission is the JP Freestyle Wave – a board line with category-defining heritage. Unfortunately it just wasn’t available in time for this test, but watch out for the catch up test in the near future. In years past we’ve written at length during this test intro about the crossover classification. Are these boards in actual fact all freewave designs? Is freestyle-wave still possible, or it is a misnomer in today’s accepted design statutes? Without extending this intro out into a lengthy narrative, we thought the best way to open was to define some categories. So here goes:
Freeride: The largest discipline and ultimately the most important for the sport’s longevity. The most important attributes of freeride design are very simple – ease of use, forgiving nature and most of all fun, demanding little technical input from the rider.
Wave: Arguably the most iconic discipline, making it where most want to get to! In general, the more curvature in a board’s outline and rocker-line, and softness in its rails, the stronger its turning credentials, but to the detriment of its early planing, speed and straight line stability.
Freestyle: New-school stunts and tricks done on any water state from flat water to waves. Popping the board clear of the water to execute a freestyle transition is very different to jumping for height in the discipline below.
Bump and Jump: A term used for a long, long time in the sport. There are not many better feelings in the sport than getting long floaty air-time. Speed and control are the key ingredients for achieving height when the ramps are asking to be hit!
Freewave: Insert the word ‘free’ to depict an easier, more user-friendly personality. A freewave board has a definite wave sailing bias, yet has the early planing and speed to mix it up in sub-standard wave riding conditions.
Blasting: Load the board with a big sail, lock it down and push all its power into the board. Extending upon a board’s freeride aptitude, if it is to prove a coastal blasting stalwart, it needs genuine outboard strap positions and the ability to house a more upright fin as a minimum.
In the reports for each board we will outline their attributes and where they fit in relation to these disciplines. The key ingredient to all of it though is you – your sailing style and ambition. Where are you in your windsurfing career? Where do you intend to use the board and what conditions are you likely to encounter? Answer these questions honestly and you’ll have a clearer picture on which board here is a match for you when you start to delve in.
With developments progressing in board design, one of the most marked evolutions occurring in the wave market is the migration for most onto larger boards. Multi-fin setups have allowed bigger boards to still perform on the wave face, meaning you can make your life easier by having more volume under your feet to cope with invariably gusty or fickle conditions. The modern big wave board can plane earlier, feel looser and also be incredibly forgiving and easy to use compared to older designs. If this is so, then why not simply go down the large wave board route? For many, it’s a valid question… and if they’re solely interested in wave sailing, the large wave board makes a very strong case.
So what’s the argument for considering a crossover contender? Well, the first point to make is that many of these crossover boards perform superbly on a wave face. So much so that you’d be forgiven for repeatedly checking to make doubly certain you didn’t click into your dedicated wave machine by accident! There are some limitations there, but read the individual reports to find out more. As a generalisation, crossover boards tend to have less rocker, so plane more readily and reach faster speeds. All bar one of them here sport central Powerboxes, giving them the extra versatility of being able to take a larger more powerful fin for extra drive and straight-line security. (The Starboard is the only one using a US central box … yet covers all bases by supplying the larger central fin as standard!) And all of the crossover boards offer inboard and outboard strap positions, giving rise to the option of experimenting with setup to cater for varying conditions. So if your local spot isn’t blessed with regular clean waves to ride, or steady planing wind strengths, it might be worth considering one of these crossover platforms, making that vanilla session more fun and memorable.
We start with the standout high wind freeride contender – the RRD Freestyle Wave – it is just so easy and user-friendly that you can’t help but enjoy the ride. Effortless to sail, it is super comfortable, yet surprised us with its wave riding potential thanks to its unique tail shape. At the other end of the scale is the Simmer Quantum – a stunning all-round wave board, which is nonetheless accessible and accommodating for the inexperienced or sub-standard wave days. Not far behind are the freewave archetypes – the Quatro Power and Goya One. Both exude obvious wave heritage in their performance, the Quatro super smooth and fluid, the Goya wonderfully crisp and responsive. Both have get up and go, and offer more drive than a typical wave board, but when asked to carve up a face they showed just how potent a modern crossover board can be. That leaves the all-rounders in the group. The Fanatic and Severne both take design influences from their respective brand’s development down the compact wave board route. Both position the rider right at the back of the board, providing a direct connection with the fins. The Freewave from Fanatic is assured and confident in nature, with its more drawn out plan shape, whereas Severne’s Dyno is fast, compact and captivating to ride. The 3S+ is a great addition to the Tabou lineup, with a smooth and unassuming riding style, only to come alive when you demand more from it. And finally there’s the Kode from Starboard – a large rider’s wave board, or powerful coastal blaster. Whatever you ask of it, it willingly obliges. And when you consider it is supplied with two quality G10 fin sets, it certainly offers real value for money.
THE LINE UP