From our September issue of Windsurf Magazine we look back to our test teams review of a tasty line up of freeride foil boards.
To compliment the foil test in the last month’s issue, we’re looking at foil-specific boards this month, and as with all things foiling, the backdrop is continually changing! The notion of strapless wind foiling, introduced last year, is now commonplace in many brand’s lineups … and it wasn’t much more than twelve months ago that wing foiling really began to grab some attention. Foiling continues to blur the boundaries between watersports and disciplines, but just as a foil can be enjoyed in various sports, can a board do the same? We sent our team in to find out.
TEST EDITOR: Tris Best // SECOND TESTERS: Joe North, Maurin Rottenwalter & Alex Green // TEST LOCATION: Portland Harbour
The iterative design process is always a marvel to stand back and behold. Fads continually come and go, but genuine concepts get embraced, pushed hard to understand their limits, before being relaxed and adopted into contemporary thinking. It’s the natural cycle of progressive development. Foiling, and all its component parts, are going through the same process as we write this, not least wind foiling boards. What is different though, is that external forces are seriously at play in the foiling world. Experiences and lessons learned in other sports have been incorporated … and just as a foil design can be relevant across various sports, the hunt is on for the platform that transcends previously insurmountable boundaries between defined sports. As with everything, there is always a risk. Versatility leads to a necessity for variables in setup, which in turn can lead to confusion! For example, when using any of these boards for wind foiling with a plate-mounted foil, the foil needs to be located towards the back of the track. If you start in the middle of the track (as most people sensibly would), you’ll wonder why you’re struggling to generate any lift, let alone maintain a straight course when you do eventually get airborne! If you’re unsure in setup, ask the shop that you bought the item from … or better still, have a foiling lesson! It’s the one golden nugget that windsurfing and its proponents are slowly but surely learning from other sports such as kitesurfing, i.e. that a little bit of tuition goes a long way.
The demand for crossover platforms is undoubtedly going to explode, and rightly so. Why make a niche product when some small tweaks can massively increase market appeal …and with minimal collateral impact on performance in its primary role? The feel and performance of the foil the board is partnered with will come through at all times, so it’s worth anticipating this and choosing accordingly. And one final point worthy of note: a foil significantly increases the stability of a board as you move rearwards and unlike conventional ‘fin’ windsurfing, the smaller boards (110-120 litres) are actually easier to use than their larger-volumed siblings. Their straps are closer to the centreline and easier to locate, as their tail width isn’t so enlarged. The best advice is to try them for yourself if you get the opportunity, and when choosing, be honest with yourself. What’s your foiling (and windsurfing) experience to date? What style of windsurfing are you most interested in (as your foiling interests will no doubt mirror this)? Are you looking for crossover appeal? There are lots of great boards out there in the market and the choices are only set to increase in the months and years to come.
Looking at the wind foiling specific boards in the group first, the Fanatic Stingray is just such an easy and enjoyable board to use, flattering the rider and defining how a plug and play wind foiling board should behave. The Foil-X from Starboard is at the sharp end of the spectrum – a tiny shoe-sized machine with instant response and tactility. The Pocket Rocket from RRD is the same design as last year and has lost none of its allure, feeling fun and playful underfoot. Its size has unwittingly lent it to the new emerging sport of wing foiling and we’ll have to see if the 2021 modifications extend upon its crossover appeal. The Shred Sled from Slingshot is undoubtedly more SUP foil and wing foil than purest wind foil, although that’s not to say it felt out of place with a sail strapped to it. Big, buoyant and amenable, it can get going with just a few well-timed pumps. That leaves the Magic Carpet from Tabou – the board with an incredible amount of variables and potential permutations. It is heavy in its MTC construction … but if you’re looking for a ‘one board that fits all’, the Tabou is an awesome all-rounder and admirably demonstrates just what is possible.