You might be thinking that freestyle is best left to those bendy-limbed Venezuelan kids on extended school holidays. And if you are thinking about competing on the World tour, you are probably right.
However, most of us don’t compete on the World Tour. Most of us will never complete a move that we can’t even pronounce and yet most of us could do a lot worse than to buy a Freestyle board.
Some of these freestyle boards can ride waves, some can be used for freeriding, some can be used for learning to gybe and not surprisingly all of them can be used for Freestyle. These are not just specialist spinning machines for the professionals, but actually some of the most versatile boards on the market today.
WHO SHOULD BUY A FREESTYLE BOARD?
The Freestyler - If you really do want to learn Vulcans, Spocks, Flakas, & Punetas etc etc then there is no question that you need a Freestyle board – you will learn so much quicker on one of these boards. Around 100 litres is the key size and unless you are very light or very heavy, this one size should cater for almost all your needs.
The Freerider - If you own a Freeride board and are getting a bit bored of blasting back and forth and cracking your gybes, Freestyle could be the next progression. You can still blast back and forth, you can still gybe, but you could start to try carving 360s, duck gybes, monkey gybes, sailing front to sail etc etc None of this is particularly taxing on your body, but is great fun to learn and well suited to the virtues of a Freestyle board.
The Wave Sailor - If you are a wave sailor and only sail in strong wind and waves, you might notice that wave sailing is now being revolutionised by sailors who can consistently goita, taka and wave 360 even in the worst onshore conditions. Guess what kind of board they learned the basis of these moves on?
So it’s pretty clear, whether you are an aspiring Freestyler, a competent Freerider or even a very good Wave sailor, you have a lot to gain from a Freestyle board.
FINS FOR FREESTYLE BOARDS
If you are into Freestyle, you will use a very small fin in your board (around 14-20cm). It makes the board less catchy in spins and generally you can get away with a lot more. Straightline performance is pretty poor however. Not a problem if you glide from one trick to another, but for anyone else, it's just plain hard work.
That’s why every board in this test (apart from the RRD) comes with some form of freeride/freestyle hybrid fin as standard, much bigger (around 24cm) than a Freestyler would ever dream of using.
For the purpose of the test, we decided to even the game out by testing the Freeride and Carving categories with standard fins (except for the RRD which we gave a 24cm fin to). And then for the Freestyle categories, we used the standard fin in the RRD and equipped the other boards with MFC 20cm Freestyle fins.
SCORING AND TEST CRITERIA
Usually, we score each boards performance out of 20 and represent this on a bar graph. However, the thing with Freestyle is that personal preference plays a big part. Not only this, but the difficulty of moves is so high that technique and timing play a much bigger role than minute differences between boards.
We have therefore changed the scoring for this test and awarded a star rating out of 5. Where the performance of certain boards is so similar that personal preference is the only distinguishing factor, this method of scoring allows a fairer representation. Instead we have put a good deal of effort into describing the subtle differences in board performance and feel to help you match it to your own preferences.
New School Freestyle Basic – This looks at aerial freestyle but at ‘basic’ level, namely vulcans, spocks, grubbies and flakas. We are looking for boards with good pop, stable slide, controllable spin rate and a slippery/non-catching performance in the slide.
New School Freestyle Advanced – This is probably not that relevant to many buyers, but it's what these boards are designed for, so only fair to test them! We are looking at advanced aerial freestyle such as switch stance moves, shakas, ponches, double flakas etc etc. We are looking for boards that are nimble and fast enough to perform these powerful moves whilst also retaining good sliding characteristics as listed above.
Carving – Many people will be looking to learn carving moves such as 360s and gybe variations. To score highly, a board must be able to carve tightly, grip well in the turn and allow a rider to vary the arc of the turn throughout.
Freeride/Bump & Jump – They might not claim to be designed for it, but many people will use these boards as freeride boards whilst others will burn around in small waves and chop, popping hops, jumps and forwards. Boards should be fast, comfortable underfoot and controllable to score highly here.
Most of the testing was conducted on identical test rigs, to ensure that any differences in performance could be attributed directly to the boards. We chose two sets of matching GUNSAILS Nexus rigs in sizes 5.1, 5.6 and 6.1m.
We also used a set of MFC Freestyle Pro fins in sizes 16, 18 & 20 (powerbox and US), to help us assess the boards for proper Freestyle performance.