FANATIC VIPER AIR 358 2017 REVIEW
The Viper Air remains unchanged for the 2017 season, and having tried the smaller of the two in the range last year, we’ve got the 11’0” / 358L version here. As with the 9’10”, it is produced in what Fanatic are calling their “high quality Double Layer HD technology” to achieve the best stiffness and durability characteristics, whilst keeping weight to a minimum. Fittings are excellent, with grab handles at nose and tail as well as in the centre, an expansive EVA pad covering much of the board’s deck and an elastic bungee on the nose for transit storage. Visually clean and uncomplicated, there are indicator marks on the board’s nose, showing where to fold the board in order to achieve the best roll, once deflated, to fit the board into the supplied ‘premium Wheely Backpack’. The pump supplied is the ‘Power pump HP2’ and seemed to do the job admirably, pumping the board to 15 P.S.I. comfortably for testing.
“Windsurf enthusiasts and SUP lovers are equally stoked about the diversity the Viper Air has to offer. With years of experience in building the best entry level windsurf boards, we made sure that the Viper Air is spiced with similar characteristics; optimum glide, stable platform, great turning potential and all-round manoeuvrability.”
With the same width and thickness as its smaller sibling, the 358L is just that bit longer, hence the extra volume. The only 6” thick board in this group, it is easy to pump up, feeling stiffer at lower pressures thanks to the extra thickness. On the water this translates to incredible stability, sitting high in the water and providing an excellent safe platform, particularly useful for the heavier rider. In paddle mode it glides well and tracks in a straight line easily. The board’s outline is almost rectangular, with long parallel rails, tucking late to a rounded nose and tail. And with little rocker in the nose, such is the similarity in the nose and tail shape that some novice sailors got confused between the two whilst using the board! Easily corrected, the Viper’s long wetted area only adds to its practicality for the beginner in both SUP’ing and windsurfing, masking over any clumsy footwork and remaining secure and planted underfoot. The wide tail also allows the rider to tread confidently as they develop their skills, stamping on the tail to help pivot the board through transitions. As the wind increases, the Viper’s extra thickness does become apparent, its high stance in the water invariably resulting in some loss of traction as speed builds. It won’t win any races and feels out of place in planing conditions, but that is not the Viper’s intended arena. A safe durable platform for all the family to enjoy, it provides a super accessible and dependable introduction to both sports.
The safest of platforms for all the family to enjoy, the Viper Air provides the most secure platform for learning the basics in both sports.
Other boards in this test: