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FANATIC OLD V NEW: NIK BAKER

31/03/2021
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Fanatic have celebrated their 40th anniversary with visual designs in some of their 2021 range inspired by a blend of iconic graphics from their history. Their Ultra Grip Mosquito Edition wave board for example celebrates the famous graphics of the Ultra Mosquito from 30 years ago. But how would an older shape like the Ultra Mosquito stack up against Fanatic’s latest wave board designs, the Grip and Mamba? It was an interesting question and nobody better qualified to find out than the UK’s most successful professional windsurfer, Nik Baker. John Carter headed down to visit Nik at his stomping ground of Shoreham to capture the action.  

Words Nik Baker // Photos John Carter

This feature was originally published in our 2020 November / December issue.


NIK BAKER 

ULTRA MOSQUITO 

I bought the Ultra Mosquito on eBay. I knew it was our 40th anniversary so I thought it would be quite a nice board to take to our demos. I thought it would be fun to let punters try it. The old Mosquito compared to the new one felt about six feet longer, although somehow it has about 20 litres less volume! It was quite hilarious to sail. The mast track is right up the front end of the board, nothing like the boards of today.

I set the deck plate at the back to try, so it was not so far forwards, and even then, it felt it was like ten inches too far towards the front. Trying to find the footstraps was a challenge. I could work my foot into the front strap, but then struggled to find the back strap. Normally your foot is not far enough back to get in the back footstrap, but with the Mosquito, my foot was about ten inches too far back and I had to bring it forward. It felt like my feet were right together. The designs over the years have radically changed. I put my boom up virtually to the top of the cut-out, and even then, it was not high enough. The mast track was so much more forward and the sail was so much more raked back in those days. We were not closing the gap like we do now. I had to put a touring SUP fin in the board just to have a big enough fin. I knew with the mast track so far forwards that I would be standing near the back of the board, I needed a fin with a big area on it to stop me going sideways.  

It was an interesting experience sailing it. It was nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be. It got planing reasonably well. I was on a 5.3m and it was quite windy. Because it has a long waterline, it started moving forwards fairly easily. The board was a lot less stable because it is so narrow; the volume is over the whole length, rather than in modern boards where it is all in a more concentrated area where the mastfoot and footstraps are. We are using the volume a lot more efficiently nowadays. To be fair, it did get moving ok. It was reasonably fast, but that is just one aspect of a board. The rest of it was where the problems started. I did manage to ride some waves. I landed a back loop on it and I even tried some head dips for a bit of old school fun and games. With that board you just don’t have the same control.  

Obviously, it did not turn anywhere near as tight as the new boards. It did not drive through the turn and you could not change direction through the turn. It was the same with the jumps. You were headed towards the ramps and you could not suddenly change your mind or direction. You set your aim and you don’t have a lot of choice after that, you become a passenger! I think the Mosquito must date back to the late eighties. I seem to remember it coming out a year or two after I started racing at the age of 15! It must have been 1987 or 1988 that the Mosquito first came out and then the Ultra Mosquito was first released in 1990. 

It was amazing to sail the Ultra Mosquito. It brought me back to my childhood in a way; just walking down the beach with it put a smile on my face. I could barely see the mastfoot it was so far away from the front footstraps. I was a bit nervous those old footstraps would rip off in the air while I was sailing, but it actually stayed together. The board was built to be almost bulletproof, but they are quite heavy compared to the new boards. I was surprised how quickly it got going. The footstrap placement did feel strange when sailing, it felt like my feet were only shoulder width apart. Nowadays the boards have the straps an extra 3-4 inches apart between front and back. It was weird having my feet so close together as I was flying out to do jumps. I had no control compared to what I can do on the newer gear. The board was just dead! It ploughed across the water as opposed to skipping across the water like the new boards. You wiggle a new board a little bit and once the front part of the board breaks the water surface it lifts, and off you go. The old board is a bit like a steam engine. It slowly winds itself up and then it finally gets under way. As for gybes, surprisingly it gybed ok! It was a bit dead and there was not a lot of change in direction, but it plodded through the turn. Considering that board was made thirty odd years ago it must have been quite an amazing board in its time. I actually had a few fun rides on it. You had to aim it and hope for the best that the wave would do what you envisaged. You drop through your turn, push as hard as you can to get it to go and keep the power in the rig to keep the drive through the turn. I was quite happy with a few of the turns considering my feet were so close together and my mast track was so far forwards. This summer there have been lots of guys out on the water who have been dragging all their old gear out of the closet. I have seen all sorts on the water! We had quite a lot of wind since lockdown so why not I suppose! 

MAMBA 94 

The Mamba 94 is a new board to our lineup this year. The Mamba has three fins, while the Grip is a quad. The new boards are quite different in themselves to be honest with you. The Mamba is a bit more free feeling and a little bit faster to get going and it is quite smooth running over the water. It is quite a free feeling board through the turn. I can change direction quite easily and pivot off the tail easier than I can on the quad.

The reason I use the Mamba quite a lot here in Shoreham is that you can change direction easily and pivot off the tail and snap off the top. Sailing at Shoreham I like to snap off the back foot quite a lot. If I had better waves I would probably just sail the Grip, but in sideon and softer waves where I live, the Mamba comes into its own, with that pivot off the back foot style of sailing. It is halfway between our old Stubby and the Grip. The Stubby pivoted off the back foot incredibly well. It accelerated very quickly. The new Mamba is not quite as snappy off the back foot but it drives more through the turns. You can snap off the top but it will follow a line better than the Stubby. With the Stubby you would snap and stop. Then you would have to accelerate for the next turn. The Mamba will snap and keep on driving, not as much as the grip, but you get a bit of spray from the snap and it also drives into your next turn. That feels quite nice. For consumers, I think this will be an amazing board. You can bump and jump it, wave ride it and snap off the tail. The new boards are so much more responsive than that old Mosquito, they change direction and do what you expect them to do. When you get on a wave with the Mamba you can wait, wait, wait, and as you see the wave jacking up you can start your bottom turn. Then you can decide where you want to be. Go to the right, fade off before hitting the lip or whatever you wanted. On the old Mosquito there wasn’t any of that.  

 

MOSQUITO GRIP 92 

I sailed the Grip Ultra Mosquito edition, which was a 92 litre. The grip has four fins and is a very fast board and incredibly controllable. When the wave is reasonable, anything from shoulder high upwards, the board has incredible grip through the turns, funnily enough! It cuts through the chop really well and is a much more ‘drivey’ board. You can change direction on it, but not as easily as the Mamba. As you are going through the turns from frontside to cut back, when you start carving off the top, it feels like somebody is hanging onto the rail and the board just drives through that turn. You are really using the entire rail and all the fins. You don’t necessarily create so much spray, but it is more ‘drivey’ through the turn and when you get it right it feels amazing.

The guys at Fanatic have done an incredible job in making this board work for real world sailors. The 2021 Mosquito Grip has 92 litres of volume, while the old one was a mere 73 litres. In this day and age that is tiny. I don’t think I have sailed a 73 litre board for ten years. A 77 litre board is the smallest I generally sail and that is in 3.7 weather. I was on a 5.3m, the old style board is so long at 252 cm that it just about gets away with its low volume due to its big long waterline.

In some ways that really helps and got me going on such a low volume board. Unfortunately, in every other way compared to the new models, it radically lacked. I could still get planing quicker on my 92 litre Grip. The length in the old board is all largely wasted. The volume is all around the mast track, which is about four foot too far forwards! You look at the new style boards and they are much shorter, much more compact and wider, with thicker, fuller rails. That puts all of the volume under the weight of the rig, the mast track and your footstraps. Basically, when you gybe and stop start on a modern board the volume is all there where you want it to be. The new boards are much thicker and more domed in the deck, which gives you a nice feeling in the footstraps as well. It is quite radical how boards have developed from back in the day. The gap between the footstraps was insane, that was one of the big things I struggled with. Your feet are so close together on the old Mosquito it was hilarious.  

DESIGN MATTERS 

The new designs of wave boards are relatively short. The tricky thing with these modern shapes is to get those very short in length boards turning tightly. This takes a certain amount of rocker. You have rocker through the centre line and rocker through the rails, which are both different. To turn a board with rocker which is that short is actually not difficult to do. But to get a board of that short a length that turns well and planes easily too, that is another matter.

There are three parts to a rocker line – the tail rocker, the nose entry and the flatter section in the middle of the board. The nose entry needs to be high enough so it doesn’t catch, and high enough so that when you are on the rail, that is still turning when the whole front of the board is in the water, so the board still follows the arc of the turn. If there is too much nose rocker though then you will never get planing. On a longer board like the old style Mosquito I was on, that curve is spread out over a much longer length. The downside is turning a board like that, I had to really line it up without much choice to change direction.

I saw one picture where the front of the board was out of the water because I was really trying to pull it through the turn. If I didn’t line it up I could not change direction or do anything. I managed to get a few decent snaps considering! It was a laugh that was for sure. I will take these boards to some demos so clients can try it for themselves. It is nice to see people have a go on the old stuff. There are always things you can take from the old gear that you can learn from. Look at the construction, it was heavy, but the board is still here all these years later!     


VITAL STATS 

FANATIC ULTRA MOSQUITO 

VOLUME: 73.1 litres 

WIDTH: 57 cm 

LENGTH: 252cm 

FANATIC MAMBA TE 94 

VOLUME: 94 litres 

WIDTH: 59 cm 

LENGTH: 220 cm 

FANATIC ULTRA GRIP MOSQUITO EDITION 92 

VOLUME: 92 litres 

WIDTH: 59 cm 

LENGTH: 226 cm 

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