Mistral appear to be going places at the moment. With the somewhat dull ‘keeping it simple’ theme aborted, Mistral now have Nik Baker appointed as head of product development and it is clear that some real passion has returned to the whole Mistral brand.
The Twinzer was one of the first production twin fins to hit the market and demonstrates Mistral’s confidence in the new range of boards. Three sizes are offered: 76, 84 and 92 all supplied in Mistrals top level RD construction. We tested the Twinzer 84.
"A new board concept hits the market – the “TWINZER” Mistral Twin Fin range offers you a unique waveriding sensation. From now on you can exit the bottom-turn as vertically as a professional and hit the most critical part of the wave. This board is just sheer riding pleasure; you’re always on the best part of the wave and you’re always in control. Never worry about spinning out in a bottom turn again!" – Mistral Website
first impressions, fixtures & fittings
The Mistral is a very high quality package. Footstraps are both comfortable and easy to adjust, pads are cushioning but nicely textured for grip and the fins are from Nik Bakers own signature range. The fittings come supplied in a padded bag, which doubles up as a laptop case – a nice touch indeed.
The Mistral is both the widest board in the test and also shortest, by a considerable margin (6cm). It also has the second widest tail width (measured 30cm from the tail) to the Starboard Evo.
The Twinzer is a light board at 6.15kg (bare hull), pipped only by the Fanatic at 6.03kg.
get up and go
Once on the plane, the Mistral is an easy board to reach top speed on. It feels light and fast underfoot and has a very stable and secure straight line performance, with no dire effects from its shorter length. It was the most comfortable board in a straight line, particularly in choppier and windier conditions.
The shorter length of the Mistral (and low volume nose) is noticeable when off the plane. It is perfectly comfortable to wobble around on, but when you get a gust and a sudden urge of power in the sail, the nose of the board can dive quicker than an Italian football player in the penalty area. This is however fairly easily corrected with an adjustment to your technique, ensuring that you lean back as the sail powers up. You should get the hang of it pretty quickly.
The Twinzer is a fun board for jumping. It has good speed and feels light and very compact underfoot (particularly impressive when you remember that this is an 84 litre board). This is nice for low level jumps, chop hops and forwards etc.
The Achilles heel of the Mistral is bigger more vertical jumps and particularly big backloops where it lacks float in the air. It’s not a massive deal but if you are an accomplished backlooper, you will notice a little less height in your jumps.
Stepping onto the Mistral is like getting out of your family car and into a go-cart. It feels small, exciting and nimble.
We can be quite confident when we say that you won't ever have sailed a board that turns as tightly as the Mistral. All the more impressive when you remember it's size.
To compliment its grippy and driving bottom turn, the Twinzer has a really nice, tight radius top turn. In onshore conditions this gets the board all the way around and back to the point where the sail can power up again, getting you back up to speed and into your next turn as quickly as possible. This really helps to establish the flowing and surfy feel of the board.
Both the Mistral and RRD are absolutely awesome boards for cross-on riding and noticeably better than the other boards in this group. The RRD scored marginally higher than the Mistral, purely because it holds it speed slightly better when riding. The Mistral is however more agile.
The Mistral’s fast, nimble, surfy style earned its position of second best in the test (to the Quatro)for cross shore riding.
In smaller (up to head high) waves, the Mistral exhibits the same great attributes as in cross-on conditions. It is an incredibly fun board to sail, flattering your technique with sharp fast turns in the pocket of the wave, turns that are just not possible on any of the other boards in this group.
As the waves got bigger, our test Clones did find the board a little more lively than they might have liked. Where the Quatro gouges big carving turns from the rails, the Mistral starts to feel like it turns almost too tightly for the conditions. Moving the fins back helps to make the board more directional, but it is a still a style that you will need to adapt your technique to suit ie. shorter tighter turns on bigger waves.
The Twinser was easy to manoeuvre and predictable, so scores highly for wave riding control.
There were occasional instances (more noticeable on bigger waves, with the fins forward), where the tail skipped out a bit when bottom turning. Moving the fins back did help this and generally, it is a minor criticism of what is otherwise an exceptional board on the wave face.
overall feel, ride & foot comfort
The most noticeable thing about the Mistral is that underfoot it looks and feels like a much smaller board, yet still retains the benefits of a bigger board when it comes to early planing, sail carrying and straight-line performance. In a straight line it has a very stable and controllable feel, giving you lots of confidence particularly in stronger rougher conditions.
The footstrap and pad comfort is excellent. The pads have a nice texture, helping your foot to grip when turning.
You will notice the shorter length of the board when it comes to tacking and generall on/off the plane sailing.
set up recommendations
The standard Baker 165 fins seems to be well suited to the board. From overpowered 4.7m up to marginal 5.3m, we never felt a need to change the fin size. Fin position is a little more critical. Forward makes the board loose, back makes it a bit more directional. We used the fins half way between middle and front of the track for most of the testing, but did feel a benefit in bringing them back on the bigger waves where it did help with grip in the bottom turn and making the board a little less frisky.
The mast track seemed to work well around the middle position for all our sail sizes. We moved it about 1cm forward of middle for bigger waves and sails (5.3) and this seemed to work well.
Overall, the Mistral performed like it was one of the smallest boards in the test and was quite comfortable in overpowered 4.7m conditions (and perhaps even smaller if needs be). Our test Clones were therefore a bit sceptical about how good it would be with bigger sails such as 5.3 and 5.6m’s. They were pleasantly surprised however as the board coped well with the 5.3m’s and we see no reason why it wouldn’t be at home with up to 5.6m sails.
There is no doubt that for waveriding, this is an exceptional board. Advanced sailors will love the way it turns and makes even the smallest, weakest wave great fun to ride.
The short length of the board does make it a bit more challenging to sail (particularly when on and off the plane), so intermediate sailors will have to decide whether or not they are up for the challenge of adapting their technique to suit. Those that are will be well rewarded.