Without a doubt the most important development in the recent history of waveboard design has been the introduction of multi-fins. Whether it be twin, tri, thruster or quad, multi-fin setups have opened many new doors – and as Quatro shaper Keith Teboul rightly states later on in this test, they are definitely here to stay!
Initially, multi-fin waveboards were only to be found gracing the calloused soles of pro-riders – most famously those of Kauli Seadi, who used his multi-fin to crank turns seemingly beyond the laws of physics in Cabo Verde on route to a wave world title. But it wasn’t long before the more mainstream benefits of multi-fin boards became apparent.
First off, it was better waveriding performance in less than ideal conditions. To make the most of small, onshore conditions, a rider needs to hold speed through a tight turn without much help from the wave’s power. Multi-fin boards not only made the bottom turn easier to initiate and potentially tighter, but most importantly they offered a level of control and performance off the top that no singlefin had ever been able to match. Suddenly small mushy waves became a lot of fun! Multi-fin boards allowed more speed to be maintained through the turn and had a fantastic ability to carve or slide through the top turn.
The next big benefit was wind range. Initially multi-fins were knocked for getting planing slower than an equivalent single-fin. But then people realised that, because multi-fins were so much looser than single-fins, you could actually ride a bigger board. Not only that, but at the top end of the wind spectrum, multi-fin boards offered more control. They kept the board manoeuvrable underfoot even when the sail was overpowered, and at the same time, more settled in a straight line with their planted ride. Compensating for slower planing by opting for a bigger board and offering more control at the top end ultimately translated to a waveboard with more wind range – and that’s a very big benefit.
But multi-fins are not just the domain of advanced riders. Now that you’re able to ride a bigger size board that turns more easily and has better wind range, you’re looking at a list of benefits that appeal just as much to the novice wavesailor. It’s no surprise therefore that nearly every waveboard being developed today is a multi-fin.
And that leads me nicely on to size. With people now able to use bigger waveboards, the next – and to an extent still unanswered – question is how big can you actually go?
With almost every brand now producing a dedicated waveboard in the 90-95L size, we asked them if this is really the upper limit or whether we’re likely to see even bigger boards in the future…
Is there a 90-95 litre wave board limit?
What the brands say…
GOYA: I don’t believe in this limit. I had a dream the other day of people riding and jumping in just 5 to 7 knots.
RRD: Volume on waveboards is unlimited. We’ve even introduced a 100L Wave Cult to our collection this year, but don’t be surprised if next year we have a 110 or 120L model. The limits are endless, and we’re always looking to find new concepts and accessibility in our R&D.
FANATIC: 100L is probably the limit for a ‘pure’ waveriding board, although there are plenty of heavyweights who can sail to a very high level and want to have a ‘proper’ waveboard. Generally multi-fin boards can be used in much more wind as the control is so good, so a bit more volume to offset the planing doesn’t hurt – and not many of us are getting any lighter each year!
TABOU: It depends on your perspective. For example, you can put a sail on a windSUP and waveride. But in windsurfing terms, with pressure in the sail I’d say around 100L is the limit.
QUATRO: Not at all – I’ve made up to 120L waveboards for big guys like Fred Haywood and Finian Maynard, who love the volume because they need it for their weight. Where you want to go with volume all depends on your weight and the conditions you sail in.
STARBOARD: There have been requests for 105s from bigger sailors.
JP: We already have a 106 Single Thruster. This board works perfectly, and if a big guy is capable of using a real waveboard they could even be bigger.
The Test Group
It’s always a dangerous thing for us to tell a brand which board they should be submitting to a test group. While the spec may indicate that it will fit into a group perfectly, it’s the performance that counts, and as each brand develops boards with specific performance characteristics in mind, we prefer to let them decide what to submit for test rather than stipulate a certain model.
So, rather than saying “We’d like your 90L boards with four fins”, we asked each brand to submit a 90L board that will work as an allround waveboard, with a slight emphasis towards intermediate riders and more onshore conditions.
We therefore have seven boards in total, each chosen by the respective brand as their most appropriate design for those criteria. We have quad-fins from Fanatic, Starboard, Goya and RRD, thrusters from JP and Tabou, and a twin-fin from Quatro. Where brands have boards either side of our 90L guide, we asked them to submit the larger size. We therefore have a volume range of 92-94L within this test.
How many fins?
It’s important not to get too hung up on how many fins bristle from a board’s bottom; ultimately, the numbers are secondary to the job that the boards are designed to do. Having said that, while there can be substantial performance differences between two boards with the same fin configuration, there are definite characteristics applicable to the number of fins a board carries.
Single: Generally has a free and fast feeling in a straight line with plenty of grip in the tail to push against. The board will likely ride a little higher in a straight line and plane a bit earlier / easier than an equivalent sized multi-fin, but have less control at the top end. On the wave, the bottom turn should be very secure, but it is likely to take more effort to initiate the turn and it may not hold its speed as well. The top turn will not be as tight as a multi-fin on an open face, nor as controlled once grip is lost.
Twin: Generally the slowest of all the fin variations to get planing, with the least amount of straight line grip and drive. (There are exceptions, with the Quatro here being one of them.) On the wave, twin-fins have the loosest feeling of all the fin configurations with the easiest turn initiation and most often the most playful feel in smaller, softer waves. They can lack a bit of grip / drive / security through the bottom turn in bigger waves.
Thruster: Nearest to single-fin performance in a straight line and early planing, although usually a bit lower top speed and slightly more critical to tuning. On the wave they’re a bit tighter turning than single-fins, though usually not as loose or tight as a twin or quad. We’ve found that they tend to prefer to be ridden quite back-footed, snapping tighter turns from the tail of the board rather than faster, more drawn out, rail driven turns.
Quad: Very good low speed drive and upwind ability (even more so than single-fins), but usually with a more planted ride sensation and slightly lower top speed – although often feeling slower than they actually are. On the wave they usually aren’t quite as loose and playful in feel as a twin, but offer more grip, predictability and drive through the turns as well as tighter turning potential than singles or thrusters. Realistically, 90-95L dedicated waveboards are not the domain of single-fin setups, as they simply aren’t tight enough turning in this size. Within this test we have four quads, two thrusters and a twin. It’s fair to say that quads are becoming the most popular multi-fin configuration, and even the three brands that haven’t supplied quads for this test produce them in this 90L size (although they target them at more advanced riders). To clarify their choices we asked each of the brands how and why they had chosen their fin setups…
What the brands say…
GOYA: I love a thruster setup on my surfboards, but with windsurfing, riding a wave is only a part of the experience. I need to have a fast and lively ride heading out. For me, with thrusters it is either one or the other. If you run a smaller / equal fin on the back you start sliding, and if you fit a bigger fin it gets slow and I start questioning why I have the side fins. On the quad setup you don’t have to battle with the lift and power of the centre fin and can easily initiate and hold your turns while still keeping a fast and powerful drive. I still like riding the twinfin, and sometimes when conditions are light, small and getting upwind isn’t an issue I remove my front fins while moving the two back fins slightly back. This makes the board more slidy and unpredictable, which is what I’m looking for on slow days.
RRD: The quads seem to be doing everything better and more easily. We communicate closely with our shops, customers, team riders and importers, and the feedback we’ve received has been very positive across all levels of rider, from beginner wavesailors to our PWA rippers. The quads give excellent grip when getting going and looking to get out and upwind, and also allow you to really drive into your jumps. They rip right through the chop, and the forefins keep the nose down and in control. When setting the rail in gybes and waverides the quads lock in yet still allow you to tighten your arc; they appear to have a fine blend of both looseness and grip.
FANATIC: Our single / twin-fins have all been tested already in many magazines, and customers have enough feedback on them to read up on. But it’s been a while since anyone tested ‘proper’ big waveboards, so hopefully the results will come out in favour of actual waveriding, not just the best planing / fastest boards.
TABOU: We opted for the biggest range in style and wind possible with this kind of board – the three fins mounted are for the medium to strong wind range. For the lower wind range you can use a big, single wave fin – let’s say up to 25cm, or even a freewave fin up to 28cm. The tri-fin set up provides a loose, surfy feeling, and you can also use a bigger middle fin in the thruster for the early stages if you’re used to putting a lot of pressure on your fins. And you can always come back to single-fin mode if you’re not sure you like a thruster.
QUATRO: I feel that the quad setup encompasses some of the best characteristics of single, twin and thruster setups.
STARBOARD: The Quad 92’s rocker and outline matches up to provide a board that gets up and goes early due to the surface area of the fins. It produces a lot of grip and drive while still being able to break the fins free.
JP: Although we offer all concepts we chose the Single Thruster for this test because we thought that in this volume class performance is a key factor. The Single Thruster concept combines performance and waveriding capability perfectly. It also feels at home in onshore and cross-shore conditions.
Wave or freeride?
With the spec of this test group erring slightly towards intermediate riders and onshore conditions, it does beg the question of whether a freewave board would be more suitable.
Freewaves are generally single-fin boards with faster rockerlines. For straight line performance and bump-and-jump sailing we’d say that you’re better off sticking with a freewave. The only real advantage of these multi-fins is better top end control thanks to the more planted ride, whereas the freewave will plane earlier, go faster, and feel more balanced / comfortable in a straight line. On the wave, a freewave is still okay and can still be ridden (particularly backside), but as soon as you go frontside or start snapping tighter backside turns you’ll notice a massive advantage with multi-fin waveboards.
This is what the brands had to say about what their waveboard offers that their freewave doesn’t…
what the brands say...
GOYA: A single-fin One (wave / freewave) 104 or 94 will be used for the most part with larger sails and bump-and-jump conditions, so it will have a slightly wider tail and nose with a slightly faster rocker, whereas the rider looking at our Custom Quad 104 or 92 is wanting more performance and focus on turning and waveriding, but still keeping all the speed and freedom you’d expect from a board that size in light and marginal conditions. These new boards turn in conditions that you wouldn’t have considered before.
RRD: The waveboard offers more manoeuvrability, control and precision in the turns. Our waveboards are designed with a very different rockerline to our freestyle-wave line. As soon as you look to carve tighter turns in gybes or when waveriding it’s very easy to differentiate between our waveboards and our FSWs. While both will carve great lines, you can turn tighter and with more grip on the waveboard and it will allow you to push your limits further. The waveboard’s higher nose rocker will also allow bigger drops down the wave face and offer more lift in take-off for jumps, and again when well powered up you’ll have more control in these areas. The FSW comes into its own in gustier conditions or for less experienced riders.
FANATIC: The waveboard offers more rocker, more turning ability in better wave conditions and more control in higher winds.
TABOU: It’s all about turning and the ability to go down a wave and change your arc whenever you like. Freewave boards are coming closer to this, but they tend to be more locked in and their inherent speed isn’t what you necessarily want on a wave.
QUATRO: I’d say that the waveboard offers more turning power and a different feeling ride, which is usually due to a different rocker configuration.
STARBOARD: The ability to ride waves better – i.e. fit into tighter pockets with a tighter turning radius – and better reaction to the wave when hitting the lip, etc.
JP: The riding abilities of the waveboard design are clearly better. Our big waveboards come with a scoop rockerline very similar to our 75 or 80L models. They are full-on waveboards!
Are they just for heavyweights?
Anticipating that these boards were designed for sailors tipping the scales at 90-105kg, we instructed our Clones to indulge in a pre-test diet sourced exclusively from the UK’s finest burger vans and greasy spoons. (Though some had apparently been on this diet for years!) The boards were of course well suited to our naturally heavier Clones, and quite suitable as all-round waveboards for weights of up to about 105kg. What was interesting though, was that once we started sailing them it soon became apparent that even our lightest (75kg) Clones could have a really good time on these boards and ride them properly without any real issues.
For sure, some of the boards were more suited than others to lighter riders, and in some cases (particularly the boards with lower noses) the performance results actually differed noticeably between the lighter and heavier riders. Nevertheless, while the boards were surprisingly usable for our lighter weight Clones it did beg the question of when they would actually use them. Even though the boards were loose enough to get good turns on, a rider below 80kg who could wobble out on an 80-85L board didn’t gain too much bottom end performance from one of these 90-95L boards, but did start to notice the size a lot more at the top end (starting to get well powered on 5.3 sails).
It all depends where you sail. If you’re sub-80kg and regularly sail where you’re underpowered, then a 90-95L waveboard is actually a very realistic option. But if you’re sub-80kg and looking for allround performance then you might be better off looking at a size below this (about 85L). We asked the brands if these boards were designed with only heavyweights in mind…
what the brands say...
GOYA: Not at all. I weigh 78kg and if I had to choose just two boards it would be the 72 and 104 Quad. That way I know I’ll be having a blast no matter what the wind’s doing.
RRD: No. If a 75kg sailor wants to rig a larger wave sail and have fun in gusty 12-16 knots of cross-off / cross-on wind with surf, this is the perfect volume board to use. It depends on your level, quiver budget and available sailing time. Our Cult Quads are designed to be easy to use and to allow the rider to cut nice lines on the wave while having a broad range of appeal for varying conditions and weights of rider. A lighter person requires less volume in lighter winds, so they have more options in board size and can choose to go for a bigger or smaller board (such as the 83) as their light wind weapon. For heavier riders we now have the 100, so they can choose between this and the 92.
FANATIC: No. A 75-80kg rider can also have a load of fun on boards like this in lighter winds – especially in European conditions and locations like Mauritius and Barbados.
TABOU: No. A lot of good riders use one as a second waveboard. Also, there are many wave spots that seldom get strong wind (Cabo Verde, Barbados, etc), so it also needs to deliver good riding for average weight sailors. Additionally, it’s easier to learn waveriding on a bigger board with a smaller sail than vice versa.
QUATRO: I think they definitely target heavier sailors, but they’re so manoeuvrable that they could appeal to light wind sailors for marginal real world conditions. You can have a blast just pootling around and catching waves because you have enough volume!
STARBOARD: It would tend to be a light wind waveboard for someone up to 90kg who still wants a reactive waveboard, and then for 95kg+ it would be an all-round board.
JP: Obviously they are used mostly by bigger guys, but they also work great for lighter riders if they use them in light wind.
Let’s face it, in the current global financial mayhem nothing is going down in price, and inevitably the retail prices of new boards will see another hike this year. With these boards costing the high side of £1500, it’s a serious outlay for most people. We hear a lot of people complaining about the cost of new kit, so thought it only fair to ask the brands to justify the price of these 2012 waveboards.
what the brands say...
GOYA: Obviously there is more material and labour involved in quad-fin boards, but speaking generally about pricing I think this is only the beginning. The price of everything keeps going up. Also, if you compare how much, say, a T-shirt or pair of shoes cost to make and what you pay for them, and you compare it to a board, sail, or mast, you realise that the windsurfing industry is mainly run by stoke.
RRD: We are in a global economy, and it is well known that all costs have gone up in areas such as shipping, labour, fuel and raw materials, to name but a few. In real terms board prices stayed the same for a long time, but now we’re forced to pass on some of these costs to remain in business while still delivering a high quality product.
FANATIC: Perhaps the magazine could shed some light on current board prices vs 10/20 years ago, comparing average wages with inflation, etc? I know the French mag WIND is currently writing an article about this, and according to statistics windsurfing equipment hasn’t increased in price compared to average salaries over a 15-year period. Of course the UK has had the euro / pound effect, which has meant that instead of boards being 20-25% more expensive in the UK than Europe like they were, they’re now 25% cheaper! If we put our prices on the same level as Germany / France, then a waveboard would cost £1599 to £1699 or more. Anyway, we have a new Glass Double Sandwich Quad for 2012 that should retail at about £1299, so it’s still good value. And let’s not forget that these are high-end boards in the range – there are still plenty of boards available under £1000.
TABOU: Unfortunately prices have gone up again – it’s the world we live in – but they are still reasonable.
QUATRO: Most of the materials we use have gone up in cost, as has labour, and multi-fin boards involve more hardware (fins and boxes). In instances where board prices haven’t increased there’s a price to pay in terms of quality, and it’s important to understand this. Quality costs!
STARBOARD: It’s a constant battle to keep prices down as much as possible. Many companies have achieved this by using Cobra to manufacture their boards – but they still produce the best quality product.
JP: In our case our Single Thruster and Twinser Quad boards offer more or less two boards, as they can be used with or without the additional side fins. This widens the range of use dramatically. In general, anyone who compares one of our new waveboards with the single-fins from a few years back won’t question the higher prices as they know that they’re actually getting much more for their money.
As you can imagine, the logistics of testing are an absolute nightmare. Bearing in mind how tight the airlines are getting with excess baggage these days, it’s hard enough going on holiday with one board, let alone checking in with 19 fully rammed double boardbags!
But it’s not only flying that’s a problem. The local airport taxis aren’t too keen on carrying 23 boards and nearly 50 rigs to the nearest beach, and as for board storage… Well, let’s just say that without the help of OTC Tenerife, these tests would have been much more difficult. The guys collected us from the airport, allowed us to overrun their centre for two weeks with all our gear, and basically catered for the demanding needs of our diva test Clones.
We had fantastic sailing conditions during our time there, with everything from bump-and-jump sailing right up to over logo-high at the harbour wall. We’d like to say a massive thank you to Ben, Tris and all the guys at OTC, and if you want to try any of the boards tested here, well, they’re all in stock now at OTC Tenerife!
We’d also like to thank North Sails for supplying us with quivers of identical North Duke, Hero and Ice sails. This allowed our Clones to test the boards with different styles of sail while maintaining the consistency that’s so crucial when comparing boards head to head.