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Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalter, Joe North, Dan Hallam & Bryony Webb.
Photos Tris Best // Location Overcombe & OTC, Portland.


The birth and subsequent growth of stand-up-paddling brought about a positive and much needed injection of interest into watersports in general. One of the key drivers was that it was easy to understand, and more importantly easy to access, bringing the sport into the mainstream. Simply grab a board and paddle, and away you go! And with the first boards that hit the market being long and wide, the early-adopting windsurfing brands quickly realised there was an opportunity for some crossover between the two sports. So not long after the dawn of SUP production came the emergence of the windsurfing-SUP board – a.k.a. windSUP.

The WINDSUP BOARD REVIEW 2019  test was originally published in the August 2019 issue.

However, the road ahead served up a few bumps along the way, and certainly didn’t become the ‘golden ticket’ for new windsurfing blood that many had hoped. Rapid progression in the SUP market soon highlighted stark differences and conflicts in design directions between the two sports. A wave specific SUP for example, would be highly rockered for best performance, with soft rails in all but the tail, to grip the water during transition. By contrast, planing windsurf performance would demand minimal tail rocker (tail kick at best) and at least some ‘flat’ in the board’s profile to release onto the plane, along with a harder edge to maintain speed whilst being sailed flat. So using a wave SUP for windsurfing just didn’t tick many boxes, the board feeling painfully slow and even creating sail handling issues as it stubbornly refused to release. Similarly, using an early touring SUP for windsurfing didn’t fair much better – great for long distance cruising, but terrible for making any headway to an upwind goal … and no good at all for teaching any friends or family how to windsurf. Meanwhile the SUP all-rounder felt more of a compromise than ever, not really offering any upside in windsurfing, other than a board to pootle around on in light winds.

All this was to change with the advancement of inflatable SUP (often referred to as iSUP) technology, leading to a meteoric growth in their prominence. The ‘iSUP’ is now a common sight on UK shores, being relatively cheap and more importantly practical to use, transport and store. And with some simple additions to the iSUP’s design, all of a sudden the place of the windSUP in the market was realised. A deck-plate fixing and removable central fin were all that was required to transform the iSUP into an ideal light-wind platform with which to teach friends and family members how to windsurf. Larger central fins; hard-edge PVC rails; even removable daggerboards … a number of innovations have been introduced to push the iSUP’s windsurfing potential, even to the detriment of their paddling prowess in some cases. The future of the hard board windSUP looked dead and buried a few years ago, but thanks to the feverish development seen in a certain new pathway, they’re beginning to make a comeback. That new and exciting direction is foiling. With the foiling accessibility that all watersports now enjoy, the tables have once again turned, focussing on the potential a hard board windSUP can offer. Most crucially, their design no longer needs to be compromised – shape the rail and rocker for surf performance, because once the board is in the air and being used as a wind foil platform, those design parameters no longer have a bearing. Sure, the board may be a little sticker to release, but just optimise the setup and learn to pump the foil to compensate! With the iSUP, development was going down the ‘friends and family’ route, presenting the owner with an opportunity to get all involved. Encourage the kids onto the water, and hopefully novelty may well become the habit of the future. With foiling windSUP’s, dare we say the opportunity has risen to be a little bit selfish … a board for your full enjoyment on the water, whether it be SUP’ing, wind foiling or even SUP-foiling (note we’ve missed off ‘normal’ windsurfing here…). Then again, it means you only need to take one board on your summer vacation now … what’s selfish about that!

Looking at the iSUP’s in the group, there’s an even split between 4.75” and 6” thick, with two of each included. In years past, we came to the conclusion that 4.75” provided the best all-round performance in varying wind conditions. And yet, with extra features such as hard-edge rails and enlarged central fins, the 6” contenders have sticky-plastered over their Achilles heel, improving their performance in strong winds. The upside is that they then glide more efficiently in the light stuff, and remain stiffer at lower pressures. Irrespective of which thickness you opt for, always try to use a knuckle-joint UJ with your inflatable windSUP, to avoid putting undue pressure on the deck-plate fixing in the board. 

A noticeable correlation in the hard boards on test is that all bar one are based on the compact design concept, with stubby noses and tails and parallel rails. Even the Sealion (the exception to the rule) has an outline focussed around a compact concept that originates in surfing, retaining width and volume in the tail. These are the first generation foiling windSUP’s if you like, and as a result of our test findings, we are confident they won’t be the last! Foil specific boards in windsurfing have evolved beyond recognition in just the last year, just as we’re sure this style of board will do so too. For now though, these boards offer a great deal, and were a lot of fun to test. 

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Taking a look at the iSUP’s to start, and the Red Paddle Co Wind 10’7” remains a fantastic user-friendly option, from the brand that continues to set the standard in the inflatable sector. Everything about it speaks of quality and attention to detail. The O’Shea Wind+SUP is a true windsurfing machine, capable of withstanding considerable abuse and offering a super dependable SUP platform to boot. The Cruz’Air from Gunsails and Pure Free WS from GA are both 6.0” in thickness and sit high on the water’s surface. The Gunsails is super forgiving and easy to get on with, whilst the GA offers that extra squirt of performance should the wind increase. Whichever iSUP you choose here, all are capable of windsurfing well, best suited to the light to medium weight rider if intended for use as a learning platform. 

The composite windSUP’s here are all wave-SUP designs that can additionally be used with a foil for wind foiling or SUP foiling, albeit we didn’t get the chance to try them in SUP foil mode. In surf SUP mode, the JP’s performance and feel relates to a cruisy practical longboard; the Fanatic a fun loving Mini-Mal, the Sealion a smooth carving fish and the Starboard a slashy new-school short board. Put a wind foil in them and the JP comes into its own for ease and passive ability, making it a great tutor, even for first flights. It feels much like a SUP that can wind foil, rather than a true harbinger of both disciplines. The Fanatic is the all-rounder in the group, capable of being set up according to conditions and preference. Ride it with or without straps, there is plenty of tuning to be had to get the balance just right. The Sealion is light, responsive and surprisingly easy to foil on, with a smooth fluid manner that mirrors its wave riding style. And lastly there’s the Hyper Nut 4 in 1 – the smallest and most technical of the bunch, but with a crisp exciting nature that closely resembles the direction for many foil specific windsurf board designs we’ve seen. Hold onto your hats – we’ve got a feeling there will be many more multi-faceted windSUP designs emerging over the next year or so!. 










   4 IN 1 7’4” STARLITE




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