Most brands now offer three styles
of wave sail. Although each loft
has slight variations on the theme,
nowadays they tend to be pitched along the lines
of ‘power wave’, ‘all-round’ and ‘4-batten’.
The term ‘power wave’ has been around for
years, and to most people it tends to imply ‘a sail for
heavier riders’. Examples of this style of sail would
include the Gaastra Poison, NeilPryde Atlas and
North Duke. ‘All-round’ sails are 5-batten models
designed for use in all conditions, and include sails
such as the Gaastra Manic, NeilPryde Combat and
North Ice. The 4-batten sails are generally focused
towards frontside riding, such as the Naish Boxer,
Simmer Black Tip and NeilPryde Fly.
So, based on this thinking, you may as well
stop reading if you weigh less than 85kg, as these
power wave sails are not for you. But is this really
the case? Are they really just for heavier riders?
Let’s see what some of the brands have to say…
GOYA: Jason Diffin (Designer)
RRD: John Skye (Team Rider)
NORTH:Raoul Joa (International Brand Manager)
GAASTRA:Daniel Richter (International Brand Manager)
SIMMER:Tomas Persson (Designer)
POINT-7:Adam Lewis (Head of Wave R&D)
SEVERNE:Ben Severne (Designer)
MAUI SAILS:Rick Whidden (International Brand Manager)
NAISH:Nils Rosenblad (Designer)
TUSHINGHAM:Ken Black (Designer)
What is a power wave sail?
RRD: ‘Power wave’ is now the generic name
applied to these sails, but in truth our sail is fairly
all-round – it just offers a slightly more locked-in
and drivey feel with a bit more pressure in the
hands to suit riders who like that kind of feel. Many
riders – light and heavy – like a bit of grunt in the
hands for their moves and riding, but we made sure
this wasn’t so much that it pulls you off your feet.
You can also get away with using a slightly smaller
sail, which is always nice for wavesailing.
GAASTRA: They’re not just for heavyweights;
lighter riders can also enjoy the advantages of the
extra power in onshore conditions with a lot of
current, or as a bump-and-jump sail when there
are no waves.
SIMMER: It’s not only for heavier riders. It’s
for anyone that likes to have more horsepower to
control. Our power wave sail is also more lockedin
than our other sails, and this gives a feeling of
stability that many people like.
NAISH: The original concept was to blend
shaping that produced early planing and speed
with an outline that was ideal for wavesailing.
This is primarily an advantage for larger riders
(who tend to suffer at the bottom of the wind
range), and a boon in onshore conditions. But
the sails quickly proved themselves to be ideal
for ‘power surfers’ of all sizes – guys with an
aggressive, two-handed approach to waveriding.
Robby Naish is a perfect example of this style. So
I’d recommend the Force for most heavy riders
and any sailor that likes to feel solid pressure in
both hands (as opposed to relying on the sail to go
‘neutral’) while they’re riding. The early planing
and speed are also a huge advantage for sailors who
predominantly ride in onshore conditions.
SEVERNE: We don’t actually call the Blade a ‘power
wave’ sail – we call it a control-oriented wave sail, as
opposed to our manoeuvre-oriented wave sail which
is the S-1. So it’s definitely not just for heavy riders.
POINT-7: Power wave sails can be for anyone.
Having extra power in the sail can have advantages
for all sailors depending on the conditions they sail
in, their style or how they express themselves when
wavesailing. A lighter sailor can enjoy a power
wave sail as they may find the drive and pressure
points better suited to their sailing. Also, they can
use a size smaller rather than using a less powerful
sail in a bigger size.
There is a general theme running throughout these
responses indicating that modern power wave sails
are differentiated not by the weight of sailor they’re
designed for, but actually by the style of rider
they’re designed to suit. Generally they do have
more power than other wave sails (which naturally
suits heavier riders), but it’s the way in which this
power is delivered that defines them. These sails
tend to deliver power a little more towards the back
hand and with a more stable, direct response. This
therefore makes them suitable for all sizes of sailor
looking for this kind of power delivery.
But what about this ‘back-hand power’? Backhand
power generally gives a sail a more powerful
feel (as you get to feel a reassuring pull that you
can use like a throttle), but it also makes the sail
feel a bit heavier in the hands and sometimes less
manoeuvrable. So why do we really need back-hand
pull in a power wave sail?
SIMMER: The Iron has the longest boom settings
of all our wave sails. To keep the centre of effort
in the same place on all Simmer sails (percentagewise)
will mean that it’s further back on the Iron
than our other wave sails. If I use the Iron with my
harness lines positioned further back then I find it
very balanced with no back-hand pressure issues.
The power could be further forward, but that
reduces horsepower and defeats the purpose of a
power wave sail in my opinion.
GOYA: A power wave sail should never feel
back-handed. Although the power delivery is
centred a little further aft on the Eclipse compared
to the Guru, if you position your harness lines
accordingly there should be no back-hand pressure.
As a side note, centring the power a little further
aft on the Eclipse creates a richer, wider reaching
power source that keeps lifting throughout a wide
range of sheeting angles.
SEVERNE: The back-handed feeling can give
the impression of power. A sail doesn’t have to
be back-handed to be powerful, and our design
focus is on making the Blade pull forwards
rather than sideways.
GAASTRA: Rather than ‘back-handed’ we’re
talking about a more direct feeling. A little backhand
helps to give a more positive feedback from
the sail, which is helpful when you’re sailing back
out from the inside where the wind is gustier and
you need to cross the white water.
NORTH: This is really the core question when
deciding about your new sail. Therefore you first
have to decide on which board you’ll use your sail
on – single-fin or multi-fin?
TUSHINGHAM: Power on the back hand needs
to be carefully controlled otherwise it’s just drag. A little back-hand pressure gets the board planing
POINT-7: Our Sado 2G isn’t back-handed. It has a
forward drive. Sails can be powerful without any
back-hand pressure. It’s a matter of how the profile
and leech work in the sail. Not having back-hand
pressure gives great advantages on the cutback, and
especially when sailing with multi-fin boards.
It seems that the designers broadly agree that no sail
should feel overly ‘back-handed’, yet bringing the
power further back in the sail is a characteristic that
in some ways defines most of these power wave sails.
But how much scope for tuning do these sails
actually have? Are they designed for just one set, or
do we have the scope to adjust the power position
and delivery through tuning? From our testing it
seems that some sails are very tunable (scored as
tuning flexibility) and work with a wide range of
settings, while others work best with just one set.
What’s perhaps just as interesting is how much
wind range a sail can take under one setting (we
call this ‘untuned range’). For example, in the UK,
where conditions can often be gusty, we don’t want
to keep coming ashore and retuning for every gust
and lull. We want a sail that works across a wide
untuned range. It’s quite interesting to see how the
brands’ opinions on this subject differ…
SIMMER: A sail has got to be tunable. One sail
can’t do it all, it’s got to have a variety of settings to
meet various conditions and rider styles.
GOYA: I recommend a single downhaul setting.
This establishes the correct twist profile and
control factor in the sail, which is always of prime
importantance regardless of the wind strength.
Then I recommend adjusting the outhaul setting
to control the amount of power in the sail. With
the sail fully downhauled and the outhaul neutral
position, +1cm of outhaul will give a full and
powerful profile and +3cm will give a finer, more
neutral feeling profile.
MAUI SAILS: Our goal is to deliver a tunable
sail for superior function and performance.
Tunable sails deliver more range at higher levels of
performance compared to ‘one set’ sails.
NORTH: We aim to have both: a wide ‘natural’
wind range plus a tunable wind range to squeeze
even more out of our sails. We regard having a wide
wind range as the most important performance
NAISH: A properly tuned sail rarely needs to
be adjusted, but it is nice to be able to retune to
extend the range of a given size. Naish sails have
a pretty wide tuning range – the result of very
balanced and evolved design parameters – and it
definitely is an advantage.
GAASTRA: Sure, tunability is a plus. Not only
for different conditions, but also depending on
personal style and taste. Some prefer a bigger sail
with a more tensioned trim, others a smaller one
with less tension.
TUSHINGHAM: We’ve always tried to have a
wide tuning range not just to allow sailors to adjust
power to suit the conditions, but also to enable them
to find the feel that suits their personal style.
SEVERNE: I think it’s important for this style
of sail to have a wide range of performance on
a single setting so that it’s as easy as possible for
anyone to get maximum performance out of their
sail. From our testing we’d say that while some of
these sails are more tunable than others, the core
characteristics of the sail don’t really change with
tuning. For example, if the sail naturally seems to
have the draft a little further back you can tune
it a little either side, but you can’t make it a fronthanded
sail just by tuning.
Size of Relief
So, having established that these sails generally have
the draft a little further back and have more power, you
can see the real advantage in lighter, bigger sail weather.
But it does beg the question of whether you really need a
power wave sail in, say, 4.5m weather? Surely when it’s
that windy, power isn’t really a problem?
RRD: It’s more a question of feel. As said, the Super
Style offers a more locked-in feel, driving the board
better and generally moving around the break faster.
SIMMER: Power wave sails offer stability and control,
and the possibility of using a sail size smaller.
NAISH: First off, I’d say that the power wave sail is
the all-round sail – it has the widest range, and the low
end is a big part of defining a sail’s versatility. Beyond
that there are many good reasons to use smaller sizes.
A lighter rider who surfs with a power style will need
smaller sizes in given conditions, and a heavier rider
will still need the low end in stronger winds to get
through the lulls. Additionally, it’s nice to keep the
‘feel’ of the sails consistent throughout your quiver.
GAASTRA: Even in strong winds the conditions
are gusty, so heavier riders will take advantage of the
added power of this sail. The extra stability is also a
plus for jumping.
SEVERNE: The Blade is our all-round wave sail. It’s
designed for control, not power.
MAUI SAILS: The goal is delivering clear
performance advantages in each sail range. The smaller
sizes in the Global range are purpose-built to deliver
all-round performance with an emphasis on power
required for multi angle wavesailing.
GOYA: It’s the power delivery. The Eclipse delivers power very quickly when you sheet in after
transitions, jumps and manoeuvres. There’s almost
no delay – you sheet in and the sail just goes. Again,
it comes back to a question of preference. If you
like the feel of this style of sail, then they’re quite
applicable even for well powered up, small sail
conditions. They may even offer the opportunity of
using a smaller sized sail, thanks to that extra power.
However, once using sizes below 5.0m, lighter riders
in waves may find that they’re better off opting for
sails with the pull position further forward to give
them more control. If you’re planning to use the sail
for high wind bump-and-jump or flat water use, then
the more locked-in feel, firmer profile and generally
higher stability of these power waves tend to make
them the most applicable option. While there’s no
doubting that they’re generally designed for wave
use, it seems that the characteristics that make them
good for this purpose also lend themselves well to
flat-water use in high winds.
NAISH: The wide range and excellent allround
performance characteristics make them
ideal for both, and in our internal testing we’re
always looking for that magic combination of
characteristics that delivers both specific wave
performance and an all-around great sail.
GAASTRA: These sails are designed for wave
use, but they’re also great in flat water for
strong wind bump-and-jump. They’re light,
stable and controllable.
RRD: The power wave sail is actually great for
almost everyone. We tested these sails a lot with
our freestyle-wave boards and found that the low
end power helps get the bigger boards up and going
quicker, and is also better at driving the board in
classic bump-and-jump conditions too.
SEVERNE: The Blade has been designed
specifically for waves, but the control and stability
make it well suited to any high-wind use.
So there you have it. It almost goes without saying
that these power wave sails are the obvious choice
for heavier riders, but it seems that there’s a lot more
to them than that. They’re generally designed to
be the most powerful and stable of the wave sails,
but it’s that ‘feeling’ of power which makes them
applicable to all sizes of sailor – and particularly
onshore conditions. For purist wavesailors it’s a
matter of personal preference whether you’d rather
feel locked-in power or a lighter, more manoeuvrable
feeling sail. For others who intend to use their sail
for high wind bump-and-jump and even flat water,
the characteristics of these power wave sails make
them the most applicable of all the styles of wave sail.
We know, we know – this is probably the boring bit
for you, but for us it’s massively important. We took
nearly 50 rigs (including this test) with us to the
Canary Islands in July, which as you can imagine is
a logistical nightmare.
When you test sails you need to leave them
rigged every night. If you don’t, too much time is
wasted rigging and derigging them all each day. This
means that when we plan a test trip, not only do we
need somewhere with suitable conditions, but we
need to be based out of a centre generous (or perhaps
stupid?!?) enough to let us clutter their premises
through the busiest period of their year with 50 rigs
(plus of course all the boards). OTC Tenerife have
hosted us for the past two years running, and I’d like
to extend a massive thanks for all their help. Many of
the sails tested here are now in stock at their centre,
so if you wish to try any of them first-hand, get in
touch via otc-windsurf.com
We’d also like to thank RRD for supplying
boards for this test to ensure that we could match
the sails with suitable boards. They were kind
enough to supply us with duplicate Quad Cult 92s,
Wave Twin 82s and Freestyle-Wave 85s so we could
test the sails with a range of different styles of
board. More at robertoriccidesigns.com
Enter your email address:
Find out more about our test team.
Check out our wave
Boardseeker Test Team powered by North Power XT
For all your frequently asked questions about testing, follow this link