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WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018

13/08/2018
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SUMMER SOLACE
WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018

Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalter & Joe North
Photos Tris Best // Location  Portland Harbour

WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018
Whilst the UK is enjoying a warmer, more stable period than most of our European cousins, we felt it a good time to ask our test team to investigate the windSUP options of 2018. After all, they’re likely to be the most appropriate option for summer adventures to the seaside if the June heatwave continues. And now that we’ve put the test in print, sod’s law is we’ve probably cursed the country for increasingly windy, unsettled conditions.… you can thank us when you see us at the beach!

The WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018  test was originally published in the August 2018 issue.


FINDINGS
WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018

Glance quickly at the test lineup and you’d be forgiven for thinking there is little change between this year and last. There are a few new additions, yet six boards from the nine go by the same name and look remarkably similar. Closer inspection however reveals subtle differences and trends that are occurring within the discipline. Firstly, inflatable boards are becoming thicker. Whereas in last year’s review, it was only the Fanatic that was 6” thick, for 2018 we see another three boards expanding to a larger depth (with rumours of more to follow for 2019). In the past the argument for 5” being the optimum windSUP thickness seemed overwhelming, despite 6” providing obvious stiffness benefits. The thinner board simply seemed to cope better when the wind increased, maintaining its course and suffering less sideways drift as the wind hit its windward rail. The introduction of larger central fins and / or hard rail edge technology seems to have helped bring about the change, however. So whilst a larger central fin certainly helps the board to track more easily, the adoption of a hard rail releases the board from the water, increases its speed and helps to channel the rigs forces into forward (instead of sideways) motion. An increase in thickness (and therefore volume) then compliments this development, as the board is naturally more buoyant and has a higher stance in the water, promoting earlier release.  

That said, don’t rush out and put your trusty epoxy windsurf board on eBay, thinking that the practicality of a planing inflatable board is the answer to all your storage woes. Not just yet anyway! There are many windsurf-focussed inflatable boards on the market today and their designs are certainly a marked improvement over earlier iterations, but they are still a way off conventional hardboards, performance wise. They are significantly slower and the ride is wet to say the least. Instead, inflatable planing should be viewed as a facilitating feature – a bridging component to marry the two worlds of displacement gliding and planing release. It certainly makes the journey into planing conditions for the progressing rider much less intimidating or arduous. And if the experienced sailor approaches them with the right mindset, they open themselves up to plenty of fun plug-and-play enjoyment this summer. Aside from the boards on test here, there are now at least four brands producing inflatable boards with hard rail technology, so we should certainly expect to see more development in this direction in the future.

One last comment that is worth mentioning is inflation of a different nature. Many of these inflatable windSUPs have witnessed a slight price hike, bringing their cost close to, or above, the £1000 mark. The standard of finish, features and material quality has undoubtedly improved over the years, allowing some brands to justify this. Yet others are showing they’re conscious that the price can be prohibitive by introducing price-pointed alternatives. Ultimately, it is a tight line to walk, but let’s hope an opportunity is not missed to help facilitate windsurfing participation growth. If the price margin between a SUP-only board and windSUP option grows too large, the uncertain ‘windsurf-convert’ client will plump for the considerably cheaper option, which only serves to do our great sport a disservice. Another take on it is that with the price increase, inflatable boards are more comparable to hard-board prices, making it easier to justify the hard-board option that has the advantage that it can be used in waves.

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SUMMARY
WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018
If you’re looking for a family board with which to teach young children on, using a small (circa 1.5m) sail, the AHD Sealion, O’Shea Wind and GA IQ Free all possess the real benefit of being manageable and manoeuvrable enough. With just the central fins in place, the side fins of each board provide enough traction to track straight without being overbearing. Their secondary family roles then come into play in different environments, the Sealion proving a lot of fun in small to medium waves; the O’Shea in planing wind strengths and the GA in a variety of guises. The Fanatic fulfils the niche at the other end of the weight scale, being the largest and most voluminous board on test here and providing the most stable platform for all but the very heaviest rider. The Starboard has evolved into a genuine windsurfing board – a progression machine and intermediate’s dream that can also be used for paddling if desired. The RRD is almost the opposite – a supreme SUP tourer with a gliding ease that makes it a shame not to be used for windsurfing if the wind is up. The RED Paddle Co Windsurf remains a stunningly good all-round windsurf contender. Fantastic for teaching beginners on, it is also fun for the experienced to use, pointing at impossible angles that are hard to follow for most conventional beginner boards. That leaves the two all-rounders of the group, one at either end of the price spectrum! The JP is a quality bit of kit and rewards good technique, particularly when paddling. The Unifiber has everything in the right place and performs admirably, making it excellent value for money.

uk.otc-windsurf.com

WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2018
THE LINE UP

AHD SEALION XL

FANATIC VIPER AIR PURE 11’0” 

GA IQ FREE 10’7” WS

JP ALLROUNDAIR WS SE 10’6”

O’SHEA WIND 100

RED PADDLE CO WINDSURF MSL 10’7”

RRD AIRTOURER CONVERTIBLE V4 12’ X 32”

STARBOARD SUP WINDSURFING INFLATABLE BLEND ZEN 11’2”

UNIFIBER EVOLUTION 10’7”


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