Our aim with testing is to describe the characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the equipment as accurately as possible, enabling you to identify for yourself which product is going to be the most suitable for your needs. If something about an item of equipment is particularly good or bad, we will of course state it, but otherwise these tests will hopefully be considered as the next best thing to actually test riding the equipment yourself.
WHAT IS A FREERIDE BOARD?
In most sports, ‘freeride’ is the term used to describe a product that generally does it all. The term has become such a loose expression in windsurfing that it can refer to many different types and styles of board, from near race-worthy designs to a board on which you could ride your first waves.
Going back to the roots of what freeriding is all about, this test is focused on ‘all-round freeride’ boards – namely boards that have a foot in both the blasting and manoeuvrability stables. Boards that you could drag-race your mates on flat water or take to the coast and crank turns off the chop and swell.
A QUESTION OF SIZE
It used to be simple. A board was chosen based upon its length. Then the importance of volume was recognised and the emphasis changed. Over the past few years there has been a movement towards scaling boards based upon their maximum width. It’s fair to say that it has all become rather confusing, so here’s a bit of theory…and we promise to stop after this!
The ‘useful’ size of a board changes depending upon whether it is planing or not. When not planing, the size of the board is determined by its volume.
This is the weight that can be floated on a board. A 120 litre board will support roughly 120 kilograms of weight (including the weight of the board itself and the rig it is carrying). So if you weigh 80kg and the weight of your board and rig is 20kg, you will need 100L to float. A 120L board will give you 20 litres of positive (reserve) volume. If you plan on spending time off the plane, we would recommend a positive volume of at least 20-30L.
- When planing, the size of the board is a product of:
- The planing area (the bit in contact with the water).
- The speed the board is travelling at (the faster it goes, the bigger it feels).
- The angle the board is travelling across the water. (The more the nose is trimmed up, the more ‘lift’ the board will generate and the bigger it will feel.)
So in short, any measure of size such as length, volume, width or otherwise is only ever going to be an indicator, because it’s impossible to calculate the three factors above at any given time. Our advice is to pay attention to the volume, particularly if you are planning to spend some time off the plane (e.g. uphauling, etc), and then look closely at the sail size recommendations for the board. This will give you the best idea of how the board will fit into your quiver.
WHY SHOULD YOU BUY A 120L FREERIDE?
For many brands this is their best selling board model. And it’s no surprise. There is probably more range on these boards than any others on the market. In general, they can be used with a sail range of around 5.5-8.0m and are entertaining for everyone from beginner carve gyber to advanced rider.
For advanced sailors these are great fun blasting boards with up to 8.0m sails for summer use and lighter winds. For beginner freeriders (of average weight) a 120 would be a nice board to progress on to after getting the basics of harness, footstraps and planing sorted out on a bigger board.
We wouldn’t recommend these boards unless you are fairly competent at using footstraps and harness and are making your first steps towards carve gybing. If you’re still working on footstrap and harness technique, you will be much better off on a bigger board.
If you’re getting to grips with the straps and harness, don’t be tempted to go too small. Sailors of average weight will still be able to use a 120L board in a Force 3 to improve tacks and non-planing gybes, which are a must if you want to keep your sailing moving forward. A smaller board will ‘close the door’ to this.
During testing we rated and scored the boards across a set of criteria that we deemed to be most important to people buying this style of board:
Ease of planing: Some boards plane early, others plane easily and some do both. For most freeride sailors it’s important that the board gets planing early, but is not too demanding of technique.
Speed: Nobody likes getting overtaken!
Control: When conditions get rougher and windier, you want the board to remain comfortable to sail.
Advanced Carve Gybe: People who are consistent at gybing want a board that’s fun to turn. The board should be nimble enough to adjust your turning arc and flexible enough to allow for different styles and techniques.
Beginner / Inter mediate Gybe: For those still working on the carve gybe, a board should be tolerant of unrefined technique. It should be stable and secure underfoot (even when the rider is a little heavy-footed), and footstraps should be well positioned for ease of foot change.
Board Feel: We define the ride as being either ‘passive’ or ‘active’:
+ Board is easily balanced and rides without much rider input
– Not as exciting to sail and less scope for experienced riders to extract extra performance
+ Exciting, lively feel and can allow experienced riders to work the board for extra performance
– Could be a little too frantic for riders looking for an easier board to sail
Hey, don’t stop reading yet! This is the important bit because without these guys the testing would not be possible…
Firstly, the Clones and I would like to thank the Christof Kirschner Pro-Center in Prasonisi for hosting the test. The location is perfect for freeride testing and Christof’s Austrian efficiency saw that we had everything we needed during our stay. (And you might be interested to know that we also had some decent wavesailing during our trip!) If you haven’t been to Prasonisi then check out prasonisi.com
Thanks also go to Pryde Group UK for supplying us with identical 6.2 and 7.2m Neil Pryde Tempo test rigs. Using identical sails is vital in board testing to ensure that all possible variables are minimised. Having a sail that just lets you get on with the job is equally important, and the Tempos performed impeccably. Check out the sail test on p78 of this issue for a full report.