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140-150 Freeride Intro-681x453



(This feature appeared in the June ’13 issue of Windsurf Magazine. Print and digital subscriptions are available here.) Report by Iain Hunter Pic Mark Kasprowicz

This month we’re taking a look at some of this year’s brand new 140-150l freeride boards that are all in the region of 80 cm wide.  

Apart from being the top pick of the intermediate looking to master planing skills (footstraps and harness etc.) they also offer a nice compromise between speed, manoeuvrability and accessibility to water time in moderate wind. 

Some of the models in this test are particularly suited to those wishing to make the transition from learner equipment to shortboards, some a little more on the freerace end of the spectrum and a few that can do both and be the kind of board you’ll want to keep for family use or simply for enjoying lighter breeze once you’ve reached legendary wave or freestyle status!

For this test we set up camp at 2XS in West Wittering for two weeks. This allowed us to sample a mix of conditions from flat water in ‘The Trench’ to mega chop, wind swell and breaking surf – all with gusty UK wind (12-25 knots) and strong currents that we don’t experience at test locations abroad. In short, the kind of conditions you’ll probably want to sail these boards in. It’s also worth noting that the extreme ends of this wind range bring out the key characteristics in a truly night-and-day manner.

For those of you who don’t know, Wittering is a big, south-facing sandy beach on the south coast run by Simon Bassett. Simon and his team at 2XS and West Wittering Windsurfing Club have a great set-up and were very accommodating to our storage and beverage requirements. With Quad bikes to help us ferry gear to the low tide mark and superb safety cover, we ended-up wondering why we’ve been hauling 150L boards to the Read Sea for so long!

So, our special thanks got to 2XS, please check out their website at www.2xs.co.uk. We’d also like to thank Nik Baker from K66 distribution for the loan of a set of North Shox XTR extensions and bases, Platinum booms with adjustable harness lines and a set of adjustable outhauls which are incredibly useful when sail testing.

The variety of conditions was a real eye opener. The main takeaway from the fortnight was that using ‘control’ sails (a set of identical rigs) is not necessarily as sensible a choice as it might seem. The variety of sails from compact to traditional, tall and narrow outlines can make such a difference in boards’ behaviours that we’d end up slamming them if restricted to a set type of sail. Using the test sails (see some of those used later in this issue) gave a much better overview of what each of these models can do. Of course the variety of conditions also played a massive part of examining each hull in more depth and so we definitely got a wider perspective than we  would in controlled and consistent conditions abroad.

The trend for boards getting wider and thinner continues in general. The RRD in this test is an extreme example, although over the last few years, many boards have moved in this direction. (Starboard, probably the first on the concept, and Fanatic, have also pursued this theory.) The combination of being thin and wide carries with it a feeling of ‘perceived volume’, where the board feels like it has more volume that it really does. (The RRD is wider than boards with 20 litres more volume in this selection. We did invite Fanatic to submit their new Gecko shape to highlight this trend, but they preferred to submit their ‘benchmark’ Shark model instead.) A wider board is more stable, both at non-planing and lower planing speeds. For intermediates this is a great advantage in many areas, uphauling, beachstarting and gybing to name just a few.  A wider board also means the rails can be thinner which in turn gives the board a more responsive, smaller feel underfoot both on and off the plane as well as through transitions. As well as stability and manoeuvrability, the extra width can allow the board to carry a bigger sail whilst the lower volume keeps the boards controllable when powered up.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty exciting to take delivery of a whole bunch of brand new boards but as we unwrapped and strapped them up, we try to avoid making too many assumptions based on appearance. Apart from weighing them (‘dressed’ with straps and fin), it’s only after we’ve taken them on the water that we take a closer look and make some detailed measurements. This means sailing with fewer preconceptions and enables us to determine whether what we’d experienced on the water can be attributed to one or more of the technical details.

These boards all have a few different foot strap positions. We opted for a ‘target market’ stance with the middle or inboard (depending on the individual options) strap placement that novices might choose when mastering planing and took an averagely wide stance of ‘one back’ and ‘one forward’ with the front and back ‘spread’ respectively. Luckily a few pairs of testers’ feet were long enough to test the top speeds out on the rails as well!

We started with our mast foot in the centre of the mast track and adjusted them forward and back from there relevant to the conditions, noting any observations from each incremental change.  All the boards in this category had fixed Powerbox fins so there was no scope to adjust fin placement.

We have to say that it’s staggering how large the fins supplied with these boards are. Is this born of desire to win magazine tests after receiving admonishment for spin-out or sluggish early planing? We think that fins in the high 40s or 50 cm range are excessive and prohibitive to the target customer. Beach starting is not easy in half a meter or more plus we didn’t really think they gave much benefit in the 6.5 to 7.5 sail size wind bracket that we tested them on. Sure, in fresh water and with sails up 9.0 that these boards may carry could demand a monster fin but we’d like to see less intimidating ‘keels’ under this type of board. Gripe over.

Depending on what you want to achieve and get from a board, you’ll see in the individual reports that there’s a range of suitability, from transitional boards to racier models – such as the Tabou Rocket. As you’d expect from the wide-and-thin trend mentioned above, the RRD Firemove is hard to beat as a ‘suitable for everyone’ option and we’re expecting a deluge of this kind of board to hit the market shortly. The same would go for the Starboard Carve that is also a real yardstick product, or the Goya One, which ticks a lot of boxes. But if making swift progress is your primary aim then there’s real value and long-term use to be had in the cheaper constructions, so consider likes of the Naish GT Sport and the HRS version of the Fanatic Shark LTD we tested here. One last thing to bear in mind is the types of sails you pair with your new hull. If you’re hanging on to higher aspect sails consider the narrower outlined boards more, but if you have more compact sails or are thinking of buying into the concept then examine the wider-and-shorter models closely. Read on!   IH


Fanatic Shark 150 (LTD)
Goya One 144 (PRO)
Naish GT Sport 140
RRD Firemove 130 (LTD)
Starboard Carve 141 (Wood)
Tabou Rocket 145 (LTD)


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