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…
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
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…
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
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 Freewave?
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
This is what the brands had to say about what
their waveboard offers that their freewave doesn’t…
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…
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
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.
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
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
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.