We frequently hear comments about why we shouldn’t bother testing these boards: they’re too small for most people; most windsurfers aren’t good enough to sail them; the shops don’t sell enough of them, etc, etc... We hear these comments, and do you know what? Quite frankly we don’t give a damn, because despite the perfectly practical and sensible statements above, these are the boards that define and showcase windsurfing to most people. These are the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Astons of our sport, and the boards for which common sense is allowed to be thrown out of the window.
This is a collection of the most high performance production waveboards on the planet. You might not all have the ability to sail them yet, but we bet you’re still interested…
How many fins do you need?
It used to be one, and then two, and there’s currently a resurgence for three. But let’s be honest, you really aren’t cool if you don’t have four fins in your board this season. Seven of the eight boards tested here are quad-fins, with the only exception being the Naish, which opts for a thruster / single-fin configuration.
To be fair, you might be able to strut a bit harder to the envious gaze of onlookers as you carry your four-fin board to the water’s edge, but the truth is that they really do work, and there is a definite practical advantage to them.
I’m not going to cover the same ground as was covered last time in my explanation of the various fin configurations, but I will say with some confidence that quad-fins are here to stay – at least for a while. (I think that covers me?!?)
Quads offer more grip in the turn and better upwind performance than any other setup, and some also offer the versatility to loosen up the style by swapping to twin-fin mode. They also offer more wind-range than any other configuration, have more drive at the bottom end than a twin, and more control and performance at the top end than a single.
You don’t have to be a PWA pro to gain from a quad-fin. In fact they’re extremely relevant to ‘average’ level wavesailors – more so than twins ever were. They achieve this because the ease of planing and straight line / upwind performance is very good, but they still offer a much looser, tighter turning sensation than a traditional single-fin.
They do generally prefer a steeper, more powerful wave. The better the conditions, the better a quad-fin gets.
It’s not all plain sailing though. It seems that the more fins you have in your board, the more sensitive their positioning becomes, and you really have to be prepared to experiment. You can honestly transform a quad-fin from something you hate into something you might trade your family in for just by moving the fins a centimetre or two. Generally, if you move the rear fins closer to the front ones the board will feel looser. If you move them apart it gets more drivey and directional. The rest is up to you, but do take the time to try a few different settings.
Who knows where to put the fins?
Okay, we know that many of these boards are designed to be used with two or more fin configurations (e.g. twin or quad), and as a buyer you want to know how they work in each. But there is a fine line here. We’re happy to try the boards in each fin configuration and document our findings, but it’s impossible for us to try the board in each of its fin configurations on every day of testing. There just isn’t the time to do this.
If a car gets sent to a motor magazine for test, it arrives with a set of wheels and tyres to suit the purpose. Testers may find that the car rides a little hard on the road, but is great on the track or vice versa. A change in wheels and tyres could completely rectify this, but cars don’t get sent to test with two sets. At some point the manufacturer has to do their homework and pin the tail on the donkey by speculating what best suits the character of that car.
We are all for adaptability if it increases the range of the board, but what’s wearing a little thin is when brands send us a board with myriad potential fin permutations and then give us no advice on where to start other than “See what you like best”. And if they do this to us, we can guarantee they’re doing it to you.
We’re happy to experiment, but a manufacturer should have some idea of the sweet spot for fin placement in different conditions, and it would be most helpful if they shared this information, not just with us, but also with you. In the days of single-fins it wasn’t so critical, and it was much easier to experiment. Nowadays it’s very critical, and there are just so many different potential options.
Unless you’re a compulsive tinkerer, we imagine that you’ll experiment a little with the fins until you find something you like and then possibly never touch them again. For the purpose of this test we had a quick go in each of the different fin configurations, but then stuck to the one that we thought suited the board and purpose best and fine-tuned the fin positions from there. In almost all cases the best all-round configuration was quad-fin setup with big fins at the back.
For those of you who were wondering, gone I’m afraid are the days of quiver fins for a test. The (almost ludicrous) number of potential finbox options and fastening systems has made this a thing of the past, as we simply can’t have enough fins to cover the job. But to be fair, in an age where a set of fins costs around £180, who realistically is going to buy a second set anyway?
A few good boards
With the exception of one board, which felt somewhat underfinned in this test, the rest of these shapes were really very good. In fact, let me rephrase that: they were absolutely top notch. It’s easy to write a test where some products are weaker than others. It gives us something to get our teeth into. In this test, seven of the boards here would make almost anybody in the market for a 75L waveboard very happy indeed, and as such they all score very well. So instead of dishing out a slating here and there, this test really focuses on the character of each board to give you the best picture possible of what might best suit you and the conditions you sail in.
A few good miles
Well, we covered some miles testing these boards – 7,000 to be exact. We started the test in Tenerife (in July), then carried on in North Wales (Rhosneigr, Dinas Dinlle and Hell’s Mouth), had a brief trip to Redcar (NE England), had a quick stint in Scotland, and then finished off in Gwithian (Cornwall).
The thing with these boards is that their scope covers everything from Ho’okipa to Shoreham, and to give an accurate test of how they perform you really have to put them through their paces at more than one location. And we’re sure glad that we did. If we’d written this test off the back of our first trip to Tenerife, the conclusions would have been a little different.
It takes time to get to know these boards, adjust to them and learn how to set them up for the best results. Not only that, but it’s not a raw performance result we’re looking for – we’re looking to capture the character and style of the board, and that isn’t easy or quick.
What is this test group?
These are the most radical waveboard lines from each of the manufacturers. That’s what we asked for, and this is what they gave us. We told them we were looking for something around the 75L mark, and that they’d be tested mostly with 4.0-5.0 sails in all conditions from small cross-on waves to big down-the-line.
After a year of almost no wind it really doesn’t matter how cold the water’s getting, it’s all about getting out, and these are the perfect boards to meet those winter gales with some serious intent.
There are so many variables in windsurfing that we feel it’s important to minimise them as much as possible when testing. As such, these waveboards have been tested using identical rigs to ensure that the rig is playing no part in any differences established.
We chose to use the new 2011 Goya Eclipse wave sails for this test. They have really good bottom end power, tunability and range. You can check out a full test on the 4.7 and 5.3 in previous ssues. A big thank-you to Goya Windsurfing for their help in supplying these rigs.
With the wind drought we all suffered through the summer, we decided to take these boards to Tenerife in July to kick-start this test into action. Since then we’ve clocked up some serious miles hitting various locations in the UK. We’d like to thank the OTC for all their help and patience while the Clone test team were in their Tenerifian residence. We’d also like to thank Anthony at apartamentosmedano.com. He’s an ex-World Tour wavesailor and now the man to speak to if you want to rent a place in Médano. Thanks for sorting us out!