The Freewide 120 is the early planing, easy handling, freeride board from Naish. It sits as the smallest in a range of 4 boards from 120 litres to 160 litres of volume. The board is offered in one construction only, wood sandwich.
All the boards in the Freewide range are shaped by Richard Greene.
"The Naish Freewide 120 is part of a brand new range developed in cooperation with Richard Greene to set a new standard for early planing, light air, flatwater freeride boards. These boards feature effortless planing, easy handling and a new level of easy jibing in the lightest winds." – Naish Website
first impressions, fixtures & fittings
The board comes standard with a Naish 36cm fin. An extra point was scored for offering a central rear strap option for novice planers. It’s a shame that the Naish doesn’t feature a mast track scale of some sort. An extra point here would have gained the Freewide a GOLD rating overall.
The Naish is fairly well centred within the group in terms of volume and length.
It is the third widest in the group (at 69cm), the heaviest (at 8.27kg) and has the second smallest '30cm from tail' width of 43.7cm
The stepped rail design (see pics) is unique and claimed by Naish to ‘combine a flat deck area with a wave board rail shape’ in order to provide smaller board turning performance.
ease of planing
Compared to the rest of the group, the Naish was not one of the top performers when it came to early planing . We believe a number of factors contributed to this. Firstly, the board is the heaviest in the group and comes with one of the smallest fins (at 36cm). The board felt sticky and very reluctant to release from the water. To release, the sailor had to bear off the wind considerably and even once the board did release, the back strap felt slightly awkward to get into (even situated inboard).
In fairness to the Naish, despite most of the other boards of this size (120 ish litres and approx 69cm wide) claiming to take upwards of 8.0m sails, the Freewide 120 only claims to take up to 7.0m sails. So perhaps Naish intend you to choose a bigger board in comparison to the other brands.
We tried a 40cm fin, which did help performance, but it was still not competitive with the top half of this group.
The Freewide is a quick board. Not only is it quick, but it possesses a lively, reactive feel, that fully enforces the speed sensation.
The board felt most potent for speed against the rest of the group going across or downwind rather than upwind. Upwind, the slightly smaller fin and lively ride takes its toll a little, compared to other contenders within this group.
The Naish is a lively board to sail. Our heavier Clones (over 85kg) were quite comfortable on the board when overpowered and in chop. Our lighter Clones (under 85kg) however, found the board a bit of a handful. Fundamentally, the board is able to cope with the rougher conditions, but the lighter Clones had to work hard to keep the board controlled, where other boards in the group remained quite relaxed to sail.
advanced carve gybe
The stepped rail design has been incorporated to ‘deliver unparalleled turning ability’ not usually associated with a board of this size.
The board does indeed turn tightly and you are quite able to adjust the radius of your arc throughout the turn.
Again however, there was a divide between our heavier and lighter Clones. The lighter Clones struggled to keep the rail committed to the turn in a consistent manner. Once banked over, the board felt bouncy and a little unpredictable, whilst the sailor tried to keep the rail engaged.
The heavier Clones experienced some instability, but were generally quite happy with the turning performance.
beginner / intermediate carve gybe
The Naish will work well for those in the early stages of carve gybing. The board feels suitably wide and stable and is reasonably tolerant of heavy footed technique.
The straps are a little more outboard than we would like. This is ok on entry to the gybe, but is a little awkward to get your feet back in upon exit.
There is a slight liveliness/inconsistency in the way the board sits when banked into the turn. This has been described in the ‘advanced carve gybe’ section above, but is nowhere near as prominent at lower speeds and with less committed gybes, so should not pose a problem.
overall feel, ride & foot comfort
The first thing you notice when you sail the Freewide 120 is that it’s exciting!! Even on flat water, where some of the boards here can be a little uninteresting to sail, the Naish provides an exhilarating ride. The board feels very stiff underfoot and gives out quite a clattery ride as it rattles over the ripples and chop, thus adding to the whole experience.
Inboard and outboard strap positions are offered, but both are well outboard. Our clones struggled with the most outboard position (particularly with the back foot) but found the inboard position very comfortable for blasting etc.
The board feels like one of the smallest in the group and requires a good deal of rider input to sail. Most boards when wound up, will require the rider to keep an element of attention on keeping them flat ie the nose down. The Naish and RRD however are unique in that they feel as though they have less transverse stability. In other words, the rider also has to pay attention to keeping them trimmed flat from rail to rail much more than the other boards in this test.
set up recommendations
The board comes standard with a 36cm fin. Whilst this did the job ok, we found a larger fin (38cm) worked better all-round. If you plan using sails of up to 8.0m, you could get a 40cm fin to complement the standard 36cm.
Naish claim a sail range of 5.5-7.0m sails. We found the board was quite capable of carrying our 7.7m test rigs, but would benefit from a bigger fin if you intend doing this often.
The board has the option of inboard/outboard straps, but they are more like ‘outboard’ and ‘even more outboard’ straps. We found the inboard position to be the best all-round and found little need for the outboard.
The Naish offers an impressively high value product for just £749. The price puts it £250 cheaper than some of its rivals which lets face it, could buy a new sail to go with the board or even a holiday to brush up on technique! The board excels at delivering an exciting ride in a specific set of conditions. It you like sailing comfortably powered on flattish water, with sails of between 5.5m and 7.7m, you will enjoy the Freewide 120.