I’m here for the second week of the Windsurfing Magazine Light Air Board Test and will share some existential thoughts on the matter, some photos and some links.
We have over a dozen windsurfers testing more-than-a-quiver of short boards designed for use between 10 knots and maybe 20 kts. I say maybe because of the different role each board might play in the hands of the sailor who buys one. All of the boards offer high performance, but not all fall into the same traditional categories of use. For example, I sailed the new Angulo Magnum 112 and immediately swtiched to the Quatro Free Ride 110. Though only a nominal difference in volume, the boards couldn’t feel farther apart in performance. The Angulo is a full-blown slalom racing machine. It feels very responsive underfoot and requires a certain degree of attention when sending it downwind for speed. The Quatro is not a race board but intended to be a very friendly ride; one that is easy to plane and that keeps its nose nicely planted in chop. Both board go fast, have good upwind angle for making it home and feel very positive when sailing. So what’s the diff? Who buys one or the other? Yesterday’s conditions might answer the question. We saw wind spiking deep into the 30+kt range causing the water on the Pamlico Sound to achieve a state something akin to popping popcorn. Very short and steep chop with just a few small ramps moving through. Good enough to jump, not big enough to cause big problems for all but the largest free ride boards. At least that’s what I figure, because the most used boards tended to be the smallest of the bunch and were better matched to the 4.5 – 5.5 sails. And that brings me to my personal view on what makes a great light wind short board: control. Slalom racers have the same control needs as the person who sails for fun on the weekends, but not for the same reasons. I think (not researched, needs data) that people who buy light wind freeride boards may only own one shortboard or, at least, own a rarely-used high wind board. These windsurfers have no board to switch down to when the wind starts cranking and generally opt to rig down to keep the day fun. A large freeride board must offer gobs of control and needs enough nose rocker to instill confidence -even though the rocker lines on all the boards are pretty much sussed out. That itself is important as very few windsurfers who purchase a larger freeride board know a lot about tuning the ride when it doesn’t feel quite right out of the box. Control in conditions outside the ideal wind range is the end-all be-all for these boards. OK, early planing has a lot to do with it, too, but intermediate to advanced windsurfers don’t just want a board that will plane in the lightest breeze. Otherwise, Formula boards would rule the roost at every windsurfing spot! These boards must instill confidence at the upper end in order to be considered a success. So the conditions we experienced yesterday made easy work of determining what boards were more fun quite easy.
Last, but certainly not least, East Coast freestyle guru Mike Burns sailed with us for a few hours. His enthusiasm for windsurfing pairs nicely with his willingness to show us how to toss the latest and greatest freestyle trick. Below, Mike pops into a move I cannot identify.
Please check out http://windsurfingmag.com/ for more reports and links to James Douglass’s blog that includes coverage from week one.