T he Tabou Rocket has quite rightly established itself as a benchmark freeride board thanks to a fantastic blend of performance and ease of use. This year the Rocket is offered in three constructions, with the Ltd tested here topping the range. In profile it’s one of the shortest and widest of the group, and certainly looks to be one of the biggest. It is supplied with the biggest fin of the group (44cm), and impressively it weighed in as the second lightest board (at 7.29kg).
In a straight line the Rocket is very good indeed. It’s one of the fastest boards here (arguably the fastest in difficult conditions), yet also the easiest to sail. In rougher, windier conditions, the board has an incredible amount of control that just keeps it pinned down to the water at all times and it seems to cut through chop like nothing else we have sailed. In more comfortable conditions it is without doubt the easiest board to go fast on.
The big fin gives it more of an advantage upwind than down, and for ultimate speed performance we would recommend a smaller fin (maybe 40cm). Nevertheless, the board remains comfortable, predictable and well mannered, with a nice stiff feel to it.
The Rocket is the quickest board onto the plane in the group. The thing that impressed most, however, is the ease with which it manages to get going. You don’t need any sophisticated technique. The big fin no doubt helps, but it really is the shape of the hull that delivers the goods. There’s enough volume in the tail to forgive the heavy footed, enough width to provide unrivalled stability, and enough ‘bite’ in the shape to save you having to bear off the wind. Moreover, the straps are so well positioned that you can slip into them with no worries about unsettling the board.
This is a big board, and as such it’s never going to be the most exciting to gybe. It’s a competent gyber and an advanced rider will turn it with ease. There is a little bit of scope to adjust the arc of the turn mid-gybe, but generally it feels stable and safe rather than nimble and exciting. Snappier gybes in chop and small waves is probably where you will find the Rocket at its weakest, which is where the narrower-tailed boards in this group demonstrate their agility.
However, the shortcomings in advanced gybing are what makes it the group leader for intermediate and beginner carve gybers. The board is extremely stable, tolerant to heavy footed technique, stays planing exceptionally well, and has great inboard footstrap positions for gybing. Not only this, but when you do drop off the plane you’re on the most effective board in the group for getting back onto the plane. What more can you ask for?!?
Tabou pitch the Rocket’s sail range at 5.5-8.5m, and while we’re confident that the board will be happy with sails of up to 9.0m, we have reservations about going down to 5.5m on it. The board felt big with our 6.2m quiver sails and we wouldn’t like to go much smaller unless on very flat water.
The Tabou Rocket really hits the nail on the head when it comes to freeriding. It tops the tables in nearly every performance category, yet impressively blends all this performance with being one of the easiest boards to ride.