TABOU 3S 96L 2018 TEST REVIEW
The latest compact 3S designs were introduced to the Tabou range last season and represented a step up in performance for most, being faster and livelier than their predecessors. Nevertheless, Tabou recognised that there were those that found the old 3S designs more to their liking (being more directional and forgiving), so have reintroduced the ‘3S Classic’ range of three boards to satisfy all rider abilities and styles. With a hard edge to its rail throughout (albeit tucked in the nose) and one of the more complex bottom shapes in the group, this new 3S 96 is very distinctive, with its wide stubby nose and rounded squash-tail. Its dual-density deckpads extend over much for the board’s tail, and the straps can be positioned further outboard than most, giving some indication of the board’s crossover potential. It comes supplied with a G10 MFC fin this year and remains the only board in the test group that has a solely single-fin application.
“The shorter outline makes turning much easier and therefore allowed us to use a straighter rocker, which makes a faster board. The 3S uses a double step tail cut-out to increase both speed and manoeuvrability. In a straight line, the cut-outs have less wetted surface area and therefore less drag and a higher top speed. On the rail, the cut-outs act like a kick tail so that the board turns in a much tighter radius.”
Feeling its size and carrying rigs of 6.5m easily, the 3S is a little more technical to release than some here, responding best to a positive turn off the wind before it pushes clear and accelerates with interest. Used with outboard strap positions (double strap in the rear), once planing it sits high on the water’s surface and simply asks to be driven hard, the MFC fin providing excellent traction to push against. It was quite easily the fastest in the group, and has a lively engaging nature, really involving the rider and making it fun to pick the cleanest path through the troughs and crests. Fast on all points of sail, the fin is an excellent compliment to the board in this blasting mode, letting the board ride right on the tail and keeping the rockered nose clear of any danger. Change the straps to their inboard positions and the 3S is still fast, yet encourages a more upright manoeuvre oriented-stance, the pads making the deck much flatter underfoot. It may feel a little more directional and corky than some of the more wave-focussed designs in the group, but commit to the rails and the 3S bites beautifully, its compact shape and short rail length helping it to adopt a tight carving arc. This dependable response bestows the confidence to take the 3S into any environment. It may not have the smooth rail-to-rail glide of some in wave riding mode, but when conditions are less than ideal, its speed will bring a smile to the most demanding rider’s face.
Speed makes everything more expressive …and the 3S has an abundance of it! Best described as high wind freeride / bump-and-jump specialist with the life and response to mix it up in any environment, the 3S is engaging and fun to ride, whatever your level.
Other sails in this test: