WITCHCRAFT HAKA ST 90 HDD 2019 TEST REVIEW.
Described as their ‘Control Wave’ series, the Haka ST has recently replaced the Haka in the Witchcraft wave board lineup, sitting alongside the brand’s other expansive wave board ranges – the V5 Wave, Reaper and Shaman. Rather than conforming to the usual annual or bi-annual cycle, the brand’s boards are developed by Bouke Becker and his team through continual R&D out in Fuerteventura – the home of their custom centre. The CAD / CAM production boards are then produced in a factory in Eastern Europe, using a semi-custom process. And as with all the other wave board ranges, the Haka ST is available in three construction options, the most reputed of which is Heavy Duty Dyneema (HDD), as tested here. Producing full Dyneema boards since 1995, Witchcraft have long been advocates for the material’s impact resistive qualities, so despite it being a difficult material to work with (since it highlights the weakness of any other material used), perseverance has brought a greater understanding and knowledge base. With a full wrap of Dyneema on both deck and hull (overlapping on the rails), the boards are said to be tough from the inside out, capable of withstanding knocks in the most abusive environments. So much so, that all HDD boards come with a 24 month guarantee.
The design of the Haka ST itself is as interesting as its construction, with plenty of features worthy of note. Its outline is described by Witchcraft as ‘drop shape’ – a sort of reverse teardrop, with the wide point well forward of the board’s mid-point, before tapering to a narrow swallowtail. This is put into context by the Haka ST having one of the wider max widths of the 90s we have tried this season, yet one of the narrowest one-foot-off measurements in the tail. Said to possess a “parabolic medium rocker” (for smoothness, early planing and tight turning), the rails of the Haka ST are incredibly sharp in the tail, the hard edge witnessing minimal tuck until the front straps, whereupon they tuck quickly and disappear into soft rails by the board’s shoulders. You also get the sense that the fittings on the Witchcraft are thoroughly scrutinised and deliberated upon. The mast track length is short, saving weight and mitigating the chance of a poor setup. The dual density deckpads incorporate a lovely raised wedge, which fits perfectly into the arch of each foot (and can be easily felt through boots), providing extra traction and making it easy to ascertain that your feet are properly located. The Witchcraft branded Velcro straps supplied are easy to adjust, with each one fixed to the board using four screws to eliminate any twist. They also encourage the rider into a wider stance as standard (some 5-6cm wider than on most other boards), making it easier to move weight from the front to back foot. Capable of being used as a single fin, the Haka ST is supplied with Witchcraft’s self-stated unique tri-fin system, using pre-twisted CNC milled G10 fins. There is a wealth of information on the brand’s site, providing the background to the extensive research done on the fins and the toe-in determined by the thruster boxes. Suffice to say the belief is the pre-twist and shape of the fins provides more drive and less drag, allowing for larger side fins and resulting in better upwind performance, improved manoeuvre potential and earlier planing. With an exhaustive fifteen sizes in the Haka ST line-up, from 57 to 115L, the amount of work and dedication to their product is very tangible.
“The Haka ST is probably Witchcraft´s most all-round wave board … the best choice for sailors who both sail on and side shore conditions.”
With certainly no more buoyancy underfoot than its quoted volume would suggest, the Haka ST nevertheless responds superbly as soon as power is delivered. Turn it off the wind and it releases early, offering plenty of traction and stability as you shift rearwards, despite the narrow tail and small central fin. Accelerating smoothly, it has an impressive turn of speed particularly off the wind, yet cruises through lulls and tracks upwind exceptionally well. Whether it be the fin system mentioned earlier, the board’s rocker-line, rail shape or geometry, there are undoubtedly a number of factors that make the Haka ST’s performance greater than the sum of its parts. It just feels so balanced and controlled, cutting through the chop effortlessly on the way out, providing the ease for the rider to settle into their wide stance. With its speed and alertness, it came as no surprise that the board was a great deal of fun for aerial trickery on the way out, its wide nose and shoulders seeming to catch the wind instinctively once airborne and provide an extra boost. We often found ourselves taken aback by the extra height achieved in our jumps, without any additional effort to do so! Coming back in and riding on the Haka ST is also a delight – it is wonderfully confident on its rail, adapting to any style whether front foot or back foot biased. In fluky winds and large open faces, it can generate drive through the tail and surf through the turn, transitioning smoothly from rail to rail. Enter powered cross-onshore conditions and it is no less capable, animating an otherwise tricky session with its speed and tenacity through the turn. Ride it passively and let the Haka’s thin rails do most of the work, or dominate it with an aggressive and proactive approach, it will respond willingly. The wide stance may take a little time to get used to, but the benefits soon become apparent, offering control in challenging seas, and the ability to transfer weight fore and aft quickly whilst riding. At the top turn the tail of the Haka ST releases easily for redirection down the face. Get your timing wrong and it will slide out, but with time spent understanding the grip available, it can help you to complete your top turn or cut back with more fluidity, bringing extra flair and mastery. With its capacity to plane early, yet feel compact in challenging seas; at home in cross-onshore or offshore conditions and with incredible adaptability in the turn, the Haka has a massive range, giving it plenty of user appeal.
With so much thought and passion going into the Haka ST, the board simply oozes quality both in terms of versatility and performance on the water, as well as its make-up.
Other boards in this test: