TEST TEAM - Club Ventos
Board Test (13)
Being small enough for high winds and big enough to not
be sinkers, 90-100L boards appeal to a very wide market.
The BOARDS Test Team review a wide cross section of 90-100L boards, comparing and contrasting the different styles and
designs available in this important size...
Most of the freerides or all-rounders tested here
would be appropriate to anyone who has learnt to
waterstart and sail in the harness on a 115-140L
freeride and is looking for better high wind control or a
smaller more exciting board. The 90-100L board will
support sailors of up to about 80kg without sinking or
luffing violently. If you are heavier than this or if you
expect to do a high proportion of your sailing with 6.57.5m sails (inland venues) you should maybe look to
the 100-110L category.
Intermediate to Advanced:
Once you have got beyond the stage of still needing
clear positive buoyancy your smallest board can purely
suit the sail sizes you want to use rather than your
weight. You should therefore stop thinking of the 90-100L
as a stronger wind board. It is instead a board optimised
for 5.3-6.7m sails (medium winds for average weight
sailors) that will take smaller sails if necessary. If this is
the range you most want to cover then this is the size to
buy and all you need to do is choose which style.
If you already have a board that covers 6.5-8.0m
nicely, as many typical 1st short boards do, it may well
be the 4.5-6.0m range that is more important to you. In
this case you may find an 80-90L all-rounder (as tested
last month) more useful.
FISHING IN THE 95L GENE POOL
AHD Freestyle Wave MX 92
AHD GT Special 88
Exocet Universal Wave 88
F2 Style 255
Fanatic Goya Freewave 95
Fanatic Triple X 99
JP Freestyle Wave 91
Boards in the 90-100L size are optimal for 5.5-6.5m sailing; a
very significant size inasmuch as it’s the largest at which a
rig still feels small enough to be really ‘throwabout’. It’s also
a great size for enjoyable planing sailing, with a board that
feels small enough to be truly manouevrable, yet for
anyone under 85kg+ still voluminous enough to float you
home should the wind die. In theory therefore, this should
be a massively popular segment of the market. Yet over the
past few years, sales of boards in this size have been
frankly sluggish. Why is this? In our view, the primary
reason is confusion due to the massive variety of choice.
You’ll struggle to find any freerides or freestyle boards
smaller than 90L, or any wave boards or wave biassed allrounders above 100L. However, if you look inside that 90-
JP Supercross 93
Mistral Syncro 90
Mistral Syncro 103
Gregg Dunnett, Jem Hall, Ian Leonard, Bill Dawes
Naish Hybrid 89
Naish Supercross 255
Tony Atfield, Kate Bradford, Nick Croston,
Starboard Carve 99
Tom Gibbons, Jim Horsburgh, Jane McCready
Starboard Hypercarve 90
100L bracket you can find just about any and every
specialist or non-specialist type of windsurfer currently
made, barring a Formula board!
Yes, the 90-100L board size happens to be that area of the
market with the most variation in choice of styles. Buying in
this size might therefore give you the greatest chance of
getting exactly what you want, but also brings the danger of
ending up with something highly unsuitable. Knowing the
types of performance potentially available and which is
likely to be most suitable is half the battle, the other half is
finding out which product provides it. This test aims to tackle
both those questions. However, although it is by any
standards a large test, featuring fourteen boards, it still only
addresses a relatively small proportion of everything that is
actually available in this size range. The breadth of styles
that we are covering here means that we simply can’t be
exhaustive in our coverage of the models for any particular
style. Hopefully the test will be able to point you in the right
direction as to what’s best for you – when you’ve worked out
what type of board you’re after, cast your net a bit wider than
this test before finalising a purchase. You might get help in
this from both last month’s and next month’s tests. Last
month we tried quite a few 85L all-rounders that have very
similar 95L siblings not tested here, and next month we hope
to be looking at quite a few other all-round 95L boards as
well as some slightly bigger, less specialist freestyle boards.
STYLES AND ORIENTATIONS
The boards for this test were chosen to cover a very broad
spectrum of performance. There are no dedicated freestyle
boards (though the AHD MX comes very close) but there is
just about everything else from wave board to speedslalom and everything in between. The diagram shows how
all these different styles inter-relate – let’s now look at each
of these styles in more detail.
Advanced to Expert:
The Freeride / All-Rounder Split
Now it comes right down to sail size and specialism.
Heavier sailors (above 83-85kg) will find them an excellent
partner to a wave board, doing exactly the same all-round
job that last month’s 85L boards do for the 70-83kg sailor.
This must be the majority useage. However, there are
various specialisms requiring hulls suited to 5.5-7.0m sails
for any weight of sailor that might be perfect for any of the
more specialist boards on test. These include speed
blasting, light wind waveriding or freestyle.
Most of the boards on test fit somewhere into these two
broad categories of general purpose recreational boards.
The parameters for either category cannot be defined tightly,
and there is a wide blurring between them, which centres
very much on this 90-100L size. General purpose boards
above 110L are normally just described as freerides because
their ability to jump and waveride is pretty limited due to their
bulk, so easy early planing performance, good cruising,
control and predictable gybing are the main requirements –
classic ‘freeride’ stuff. General purpose boards below 95L
will either be pretty good bump-and-jump boards and
reasonable for freestyle too and therefore they are
automatically ‘all-rounders’. So, in this middle ground of 90100L (strictly 88-103L for the purposes of this test!) a general
purpose board could be called either freeride or all-rounder.
In practice freeride boards tend to be slightly bigger in
size or more voluminous, have flatter rocker and usually
more vee, less jumping ability, less agility, more emphasis
on speed, early planing and greater sail carrying ability,
and greater ease of sailing for intermediate accessibility.
Whereas all-round boards usually have more rocker and a
slightly smaller size or feel, better jumping and aerial
freestyle, more agility on a wave, less orientation towards
speed and comfort going fast. These all-round boards are
also sometimes labelled ‘freemove’ or ‘freestyle-wave’.
However, just to further complicate matters we will also
remind you of the ‘fast-tail’ term that we introduced last
month to distinguish the faster, lower rockered all-rounders
from the more wave oriented ones. It is an important
distinction despite the fact that the ‘fast-tails’ are poorly
represented in this particular test.
This diagram shows the general relationship between the various classes of board in the
90-100L range described in the main text of this article. As can be seen, all boards are
essentially in either the freeride or all-rounder families, but then either fit into subgroupings within their particular family, or sub-groupings of sub-groupings with the family!
The diagram is not intended as a flow-chart or guide to picking your ideal board, although if you have a rough idea
which type of board you’re after, it will guide you to the nearest related classes, which might also be worth considering.
Board Test (13)
So let’s now look at each of the main groups we have examples of in this test in more detail.
The JP Freestyle Wave 91 is by far the flattest rockered of the all-rounders and the
only one from this test which would qualify as a ‘fast-tail’ (see last month’s test for
more detail on this). In fact it is so quick and flat rockered that it is not far from being
a freeride, the main difference being its lower volume which gives it slightly more
agility and response but a bit less user-friendliness than most freerides.
Other boards worthy of consideration in this group might include: AHD Type F 91
(currently under test), Tabou Rocket Wave 95, the larger JP Freestyle Wave (98L) and
the RRD Freestyle Wave 97 (under test).
HIGHER WIND / WAVE ORIENTED ALL-ROUNDERS
In a group some way behind the JP for speed and early planing performance come the Fanatic Goya Freewave,
Exocet Universal Wave and F2 Style 255. They are typical wave or higher wind oriented all-rounders, with much
more rocker throughout their length than the freerides or fast-tails. Of the three the F2 Style is the most rockered
and therefore the most high wind and control oriented and the Goya slightly closer to the fast-tail group in terms of
performance. The Exocet is the lowest in volume and therefore a bit nippier and more responsive but will feel small
to heavyweight or less able sailors.
Most of this class / style of board that are available on the market are probably represented here but other boards
worthy of consideration in this group might include the Starboard Trance 94 (based on previous seasons’ test findings)
What are they good at?
They aren’t as exciting and sprightly in 5.5-6.5m weather as the fast-tails, although they are still good fun in these
conditions. However, they come into their own with smaller sails, offering more versatility, better control and a less
frantic, easier ride in 4.5-5.5m conditions. They are also looser and easier to turn, particularly on a wave, though
whether they are more fun to waveride will depend on whether you want speed in smaller waves and gustier winds
(for which a fast-tail is best) or a looser, tighter carving, higher nosed feel for bigger waves and stronger winds (for
which these are best).
So, in short, they have a wider overall useful wind range than the fast-tails with a slightly slower, more control
and turning biassed performance but they are less exciting, dynamic and versatile in the ideal sail range (i.e; 5.56.5m) for 90-100L boards.
The AHD Freestyle Wave MX is the only real example
of this group though the JP Freestyle Wave also has
very good freestyle application. The obvious freestyle
features on the AHD are the very low vee and drop
rails which make the board extremely slidey; able to
go backwards almost as easily as forwards. The deck
too is very flat and the strap options are both relatively
inboard. The AHD itself is a very wave biassed
freestyle all-rounder due to being extremely small, low
volume and highly rockered.
Other boards worthy of consideration in this group
might include the F2 Eliminator 105 (currently under
test) plus the more all-round of the ‘true freestyles’ like
the Fanatic Skate and Mistral Joker.
What are they good at?
From this test the Starboard Carve 99 and Fanatic Triple X 99 are the archetypal
freerides of this size. Being a bit bigger, more stable and flatter rockered, they are
very easy to sail and quick to blast or cruise around on. Both jump reasonably and can
provide fun carving on swells but compared to the majority they feel less agile and
less keen to get airborne. The Mistral Syncro 103 is a fraction bigger and it too is
closer to freeride but it has far more rocker, giving it less speed but a looser more allround feel.
(The JP and Naish Supercross boards along with the Starboard Carve 90 are all
essentially freeride boards, but as they have a degree of speed specialism we have
dealt with them in the Speed section later.)
Other boards worthy of consideration in this group might include: AHD Type F 91
(currently under test), BiC Blast 59 (92L) and Exocet Compact Carve 92 (under test).
The AHD is good for high wind, advanced level
freestyle and wave / bump-and-jump sailing. There
are other freestyle all-rounders with much less of a
high wind bias – but not in this test.
What are they good at?
Fast-tail all-rounders of this size are excellent for making the most of a wide range of
5.5-6.5m conditions, allowing very early planing and really fast sailing with sprightly
manoeuvring and aggressive jumping off wave and chop for classic bump-and-jump
performance. They can also give good freestyle performance in both advanced aerial
and trick / carving styles, and reasonable waveriding on smaller waves.
Ideal Sail Sizes:
If you have other larger or smaller boards to
complement it, a 90-100L board should be used mainly
or exclusively with sails in the 5.3-7.0m range. More
towards the bigger sail sizes for flatter rockered and
wider boards and the smaller sizes for narrower or
more rockered boards.
What are they good at?
Obviously they are a mixed bag so there are variations, but the main shared
characteristic is that they are very easy to sail and mostly very easy to sail fast.
They tend to also be very easy to get planing without needing too much power, and
they have a wide wind range, are comfortable carrying big sails yet stay controllable
with small ones. They are the classic ‘blasting, carving’ boards, specialists in what the
majority of sailors (from early intermediate right through to advanced) do for the vast
majority of time i.e; straight lines and gybes.
There is only one board in this test that we reckon crosses the line between wave oriented all-rounder and pure wave
board and that is the Mistral Syncro 90. While a lot bigger than virtually any other wave board on the market and less
nervous and a lot easier in a straight line compared to a smaller wave board, the fact is that this board has a stack of
rocker – as much as you would find on a full-on wave board. The upshot is that it is considerably slower to get going,
particularly with bigger sails, than most of the other boards – but is considerably more fun to waveride if you are lucky
enough to have good waves.
Other boards worthy of consideration in this group might include any ‘wave board’ of over 57cm wide, like the JP
89 (58.5cm) or Starboard Evo 92 (62cm). There are however surprisingly few production examples.
What are they good at?
A big wave board for average weight sailors in
lighter winds is a very specialist and luxury bit
of kit for those rare cross-offshore waveriding
days. However, boards like the Synchro 90 can
also fulfil a useful role as a heavyweight’s
stronger wind coastal board with a very
different sail range to most of the boards on
test. More 4.5-5.7m than 5.5-7.0m. It could also
be popular as a strong wind board for
intermediates as there aren’t many boards
available to those who want a lot of high wind
control allied to high volume and stability.
If the 90-100L is to be your only board then it is
potentially an excellent choice due to the breadth of
wind range that it can cater for. Most of those
tested will carry up to a 7.0m which is a very
sensible moderate wind freeriding size for making
the most of all but the lighter planing winds. At the
other end of the scale most of these boards can be
pressed into service with a 4.5m or even smaller.
They may feel a lot bigger and less controllable than
is ideal in strong winds but if you look for sheltered
water they’ll get you out there and having fun in just
about anything – which couldn’t really be said for
The exact ‘best sail range’ will depend on the
orientation of the individual board and we give our
estimation of ideal sail sizes in the write-up for each
one. However the best sailing for most of them will
be had with something between 5.5 and 6.7m. If you
don’t expect most of your usage to be within this
range then you aren’t looking at the right boards for
Board Test (13)
There’s hardly a board on test that doesn’t merit
a buying recommendation for the right sailor but
we have tried to limit ourselves to pulling out
just those which either have an extra edge of
performance or versatility or those that were
clearly more popular with the testers and
Finally, we have the boards orientated primarily towards maximum speed in a straight line. You’d think
that speed would be simple – a board is either fast or it’s not. Out of five ‘fast’ boards of very similar
volume your choice should surely be easy – pick the fastest. Not so! This test has thrown up three very
different approaches to speed, which are worthy of further analysis...
The Fanatic Triple X 99 was extremely popular
in this category. An ideal board for progressors
and all general purpose sailing for early
intermediate to advanced sailors.
There are a lot of boards
here that offer good levels of freeride style speed, like
the fast all-rounder JP Freestyle Wave and the slightly
larger freerides such as the Starboard Carve and
Fanatic Triple X. However there are a couple of boards
that are just a touch faster still than these that owe their
existence to that speed. They are the JP and Naish
Supercross boards. The JP more of a big sail carrying
speedster and the Naish more of a very fast all-rounder.
So why not ‘Supercross Speed’? We’ve called this
section ‘Freeride Speed’ because there is very little in
design terms to distinguish them from fast freerides
and although a bit smaller and quicker than most
freerides their speed is still ballpark. The last thing we
need is more categories!
Where does the speed come from?
Welcome back in time to when men were men and a catapult took your wetsuit off rather than the nose of your board!
The reason that the nose of your board stayed on was that it barely ventured far enough out of the water to get noticed.
Slalom boards were narrow and flat and exhilarating but difficult to turn and felt more than a bit dangerous.
Representatives: The AHD GT Special is the only example on test. It is the modern version of the classic
slalom board, something we haven’t tried for many a year. It is a lot wider and shorter than slalom boards used to be
but one thing hasn’t changed: The nose is still low, low, low.
Where does the speed come from?
The main speed ingredient is of course the very flat tail rocker and the very low rocker under the straps and track and
this it shares with the freeride speedsters (and fast-tail all-rounders). The main difference is that the rocker doesn’t
then pull up into a freeride nose but stays down close to the water. This has one main function – to keep the board flat
at all costs. If the board stays flat to the water the tail won’t dig in to create friction, the nose won’t lift to create
windage and you don’t have to worry about controlling pitch at high speeds. Control is therefore greatly enhanced –
assuming that you don’t get into the ‘danger’ situation of crashing through waves. Vee is also kept to the absolute
minimum to give just enough lateral control without any extra drag.
What are they really good at?
The slalom board is not so much inherently hugely quicker than other ‘fast’ boards as easier to control at speed and
keep tracking, allowing you (in fact begging you) to load it up with bigger, more top end biassed sails to keep squeezing
more and more speed out of it. The extra engaged length of waterline allows a more aft C of E (centre of effort) in the
sail and therefore more power to be controlled, as well as being efficient and therefore fast in getting upwind. Being
flat and light, they plane and accelerate very quickly indeed for their size.
What are they less good at?
The low nose can make waves interesting! It is generally not the steeper face of the front of a wave or chop that is
the problem; the slalom board seems to skip over or punch through them, keeping flat. It is the back of the swell
(coming back in) that presents more of a problem. The slowing action of the shallower, longer curve going in the same
direction of travel gives greater deceleration and consequent danger of catapult. As for jumping waves – on a board
designed to hug the water you won’t find it a rewarding pastime!
You need to be a reasonably good sailor to sail a slalom board. There are no intermediate strap options and the low volume
is only the minimum required for a good sailor to not be disadvantaged with the biggest relevant sail sizes. The low nose also
made even some of our expert sailors look like novice gybers for a while, but actually the thin, low volume rails grip really well
and aren’t all that difficult to gybe. You just have to expect to bury the rail further forward and power the board through the turn
more actively. Done well, you can fly out of the exit, just allow time for refining your technique and choose flatter water!
Verdict: We all enjoyed our time on the slalom board. There is much appeal to taking half a metre bigger sail than
most and smoking past people, pulling some seriously fast ‘high-G’ turns. It is not too technically taxing compared to
other specialisms like freestyle and it is extremely exhilarating. We would love to have one in the quiver for when our
mood and the conditions dictate, but if it is to be an ‘only’ board in that size then you would need to be a speed junkie
and only sail suitable venues (windy and not too lumpy).
Their rocker lines are a touch flatter than most freerides
or all-rounders, they feature slightly less vee and they
have deck shape and strap options that can position the
sailor in an aggressive driving position on the rail.
What are they really good at?
They are pretty damned easy to sail and sail very fast. You
don’t need to be a ‘good’ sailor to use them and you will still
benefit from their speed even if you aren’t exploiting all of it.
They make speed comfortable. They are good at
ironing out the chop and they track well in a straight
line. They are also quite versatile, offering more allround performance than most ‘speed’ vehicles. In the
case of the JP, that means good jumping performance.
Not top notch wave jumping like an all-rounder but
very good chop hopping and good height off waves.
The Naish isn’t a bad jumper either but shines more in
manoeuvrability. Again, not quite like an all-rounder
but still very versatile considering the speed. They are
also much the easiest gybers of the speed fraternity.
What are they less good at?
Although you will have the armoury at your disposal to
blast most ordinary boards off the water you will
probably come unstuck when you meet your match on
a slalom or no-nose board. You might be having an
easier life and be impressing the onlookers more with
your jumps and freestyle tricks but when it comes to
the burn up you may be left playing catch up.
Verdict: The two Supercross boards seem obvious
choices for speed-loving ordinary sailors who put high
importance on going quickly but want it as part of an
easy, versatile, general purpose sailing package.
The Hypersonic was the first of the new
generation of super-short boards – only 227cm long and a massive
76cm wide it was quite unlike anything we had yet seen but it proved
very capable of burning off just about anything that came near it in the
7.0m+ sail size conditions. This year sees another very intriguing
newcomer in the shape of the Naish Hybrid. Whereas the Hypersonic
was weird in many ways, the 212cm Hybrid looks much like an ordinary
board that has had its nose sawn off.
The Starboard Carve 90 is the other board in the line-up that takes
a nod towards the no-nose speed concept. However, it’s more like a
freeride version of a Hypersonic than an out and out speed
orientated design, and not different enough to the freerides to really
warrant much further discussion, so the comments from here on are
based on the Naish.
Where does the speed come from?
The short length itself must have a positive effect on the speed by
reducing windage and wetted area. The Naish has none of the deep
concaves of the Hypersonic and yet it is still fast.
What is it really good for?
The Naish Hybrid proved just the fastest board in our speed trials. It
had the edge downwind over the slalom board, although taken over
the complete range of broad to tight they came out pretty equal. So it
is seriously quick.
Its sales pitch, however, deals as much with the feel of having no
board in front of you as with the benefits of speed and we can see why. It’s the nearest you will come to barefoot windsurfing.
The board is incredibly direct and immediate underfoot and you feel unencumbered. Getting back onto an ordinary board
makes you feel strapped in to a cruise liner!
What is it not so good for?
Although it has a great feel that adds a lot to straight line sailing, versatility is low. The board is not a great jumper or
waverider and you are generally going too fast to make sudden changes of direction without bouncing violently, so it’s not
ideal for freestyle. Gybing is technically demanding. The short length also makes you quite vulnerable to the shape of the
chop. Flat water is great and certain lengths of swell and chop adapt well to the shape of the board but others will see you
bouncing and sacrificing control. It is not always easy to keep the hull flat and going fast, particularly in open sea conditions.
Verdict: It feels a bit like a concept car. It is all very different to the normal, there is plenty to enjoy and there are
elements that are simply better than you can find elsewhere. However, having now tried a number of no-nose designs it is
clear that they are not very accessible boards. They accelerate fast once powered up but they don’t have that progressive
acceleration that makes planing easy. (For this reason they’re not ideal racing boards, as a traditional slalom board will be
so much more at home when rapid acceleration is needed; lulls, fluffed gybes etc.) They need more wind to get going than
comparable longer boards and they need better technique. They are boards for advanced intermediates and above.
The Hybrid is essentially a speed board, albeit way more accessible than speed boards of old. We loved sailing it and would
definitely have one in a well stocked theoretical waterside shed for those flatter water days and blasting around. It should
knock spots off your mates but if they decide not to drag race you are left only with that extraordinary feeling of immediacy,
freedom and speed in a straight line. Definitely a specialist tool – if it was your only board for 6.5-5.0m weather you’d probably
miss out on a lot of sailing, but if you had it in partnership with something more all-round it’d be a great toy to own!
We were blessed with some real quality in this
area. The JP Freestyle Wave 91 is slightly the
smaller and more all-round but less fast of the
trio that really shone. It was however fractionally
the most popular of the three due to its slightly
less speed specific performance and extra edge
for wave / bump-and-jump and freestyle.
The JP Supercross 93 was clearly bigger, far
more of a blaster and quicker and much more
comfortable in a straight line, but it too could
jump and turn well and attracted a lot of very
The Naish Supercross 255 fell between the
above two both in apparent size and style of
performance. Almost as quick and comfy as the
JP 93 and almost as all-round as the JP 91 and
a very well liked and versatile board.
Higher Wind /
Wave Oriented AllRounders:
The Exocet Universal Wave 88 was the most
popular in this category; very comfortable,
controllable and easy to ride. However, heavier
sailors may well prefer the considerable extra
volume of either the F2 Style 255 or Goya
Freewave 95 – both good performers that were
The above recommendation will be the relevant
ones to most readers as they are the general
purpose recreational boards. But it would be
unfair to ignore here the quality offerings that
will appeal equally strongly but to smaller, more
Most notable was the Naish Hybrid, by far the
most innovative board on test that not only has
seriously impressive speed but a very unusual
feel and a style of performance all of its own.
The AHD Special 88 is a very good slalom board,
the Mistral Syncro 90 is a very good outsized
wave board and, in what may sound like a
contradiction in terms, the Starboard Carve 90 is
a very good ‘specialised’ freeride board!
Read their individuals write-ups for more info.
As we said at the start, the 90-100L sector is one
of the most important areas of the board market,
and the wide spread of boards on test here
should contain something for virtually every
weight and category of sailor of intermediate
level and above. Hopefully this test will help you
to isolate what sort of board will suit you best,
and point you in the right direction to get a
useful shopping list together. Happy sailing!
Board Test (13)
AHD GT SPECIAL 59
Category: Competition slalom board
Description: See main text – Slalom Speed.
Early Planing: The volume is relatively low and the tail is not the widest, so heavier sailors
will benefit from plenty of pumping to get the board ‘unstuck’, but otherwise it planes very early
and accelerates quickly.
Freeride: There is only one set of strap options, set right on the rail for blasting – this is
clearly and purposefully a board designed for high performance fast sailing. Yet, while not quite
as user-friendly as less highly tuned boards it’s pretty good in a more general freeride role too.
Good control (excepting in certain coastal swell conditions when the low nose can be
alarming), very good sail carrying ability, comfort at speed and very good upwind ability are its
qualities. High speed, wide arc gybes on the thin rails can be terrifying and wet in nasty chop,
but can be blistering in flatter water with good (or practised) technique. Indeed, all the
characteristics you would expect to find from a full-on slalom board!
Freestyle: Not relevant.
Category: High wind all-rounder with a strong freestyle bias.
Description: Despite having the widest maximum width on test the planing width (the area
of the board’s bottom in contact with the water when planing) was one of the narrowest due to
the DRT (‘Dual Rail Technology’) feature, both at wide point and in the tail. The result is a wetted
area that is actually no bigger than the smaller MX 57 tested last month!
The rocker is high through the tail and moderate in the nose. The deck is very flat in freestyle
fashion with relatively inboard strap options.
Early Planing: With the small planing surface and substantial tail rocker, the board is very
slow to plane considering its volume.
Freeride Performance: It accelerates quickly once planing and is quite fast and fun
when well powered, offering pretty good control in stronger winds. However, this isn’t a
blasting board by nature; it lacks directional stability, is prone to spin out and struggles to get
upwind in even quite minor lulls. The straps and deck shape are positioned and shaped far
more for freestyle agility than freeride comfort.
Freestyle: It definitely needs to be well powered up to fully exploit its potential, since its
stability is not that great for lower speed moves, and the ‘pump-and-play’ quotient for packing
in the tricks in moderate winds is particularly low. However, when you do have enough wind it
is really excellent for advanced aerial freestyle; perhaps the least prone-to-catching board we
have used. It slides beautifully through spocks and vulcans and inspires you to try these difficult
moves. Pop is very good in flat water and jumping from chop and waves is also good.
Waves: It can be a bit slidey off the top or at any time the rail is not engaged, but it offers great
agility in the waves with tight and reliable carving on the rails.
Fittings: Nice straps but due to the low vee we found it worked better with bigger (26cm+)
more powerful fins. AHD clearly agree – they have now changed the supplied fin to the ‘Eagle
29’ which is substantially bigger and should certainly improve early planing, ride stability and
Guesters’ View: Only one guest tester really got on with it well, finding its freestyle
potential inspiring. The others were put off by the board’s reluctance to get planing (“like
cycling through soft sand”) and the difficulty of getting it upwind, which really underlines that
this is very much an expert’s specialist board.
Sail Range: Ideal – 4.7-5.5m. Sensible overall – 4.5-5.8m.
Overall: It is hard to recommend over the smaller MX 85 tested last month as the performance
is more or less the same and it appears to plane no earlier or offer much more support, while the
smaller model offers more manoeuverability. The bigger fin that the board is now supplied with
will certainly help redress many of the areas of poor performance discussed in this test. However,
due to the small planing surface area and tail rocker, the general characteristic will remain as
described here. The board is clearly best suited to lighter weight, expert sailors wishing to
explore higher wind freestyle, while wanting that little bit of extra deck area to roam around on.
Price: £899 with Powerbox fin.
Fittings: Comfortable straps and a decent fin.
Guesters’ View: Owing to the mainly quite windy conditions we tested it in and the
uncompromising nature of its ‘speed or nothing’ approach the guesters found it a bit full-on.
They did appreciate the speed however, and enjoyed its blasting capabilities in the more
Sail Range: Ideal – 6.0-6.7m. Sensible useable – 5.3-7.0m
Overall: To prevent repeating ourselves we will refer you back to the Slalom Speed section
in the main body of this test. We would say that the GT Special is a good quality example of its
kind but it is definitely a specialist machine. Nevertheless, it has enough versatility to be both
a very exciting flat water recreational blaster and a successful competition slalom machine
Price: £899 with 31cm Powerbox fin.
AHD FREESTYLE WAVE MX 61
Waves: Not relevant.
Board Test (13)
F2 STYLE 255
Category: Larger (99L) all-rounder with clear wave / stronger wind bias.
Description: It is above average in both width and length and fairly thick too, so it feels
relatively big compared to the rest of the 95L group. It has considerable rocker both through the
tail and into the nose.
Early Planing: Primarily due to the large amount of tail rocker, it’s not the quickest to pick
up and release, particularly with bigger sails.
Freeride: It’s extremely comfortable and easy to sail, making the rider feel immediately at
home. The feel is much more ‘cruising’ than ‘blasting’; the board offers a comfortable,
cushioned ride rather than an impression of dynamic speed. It gets upwind reasonably well
thanks partly to an excellent fin.
In lumpier conditions the high rocker and bulk up front can lead to it lifting and slapping more
than most if you’re just looking to blast, but turn this to your advantage and go get some airtime
– this board’s forte is in banging out really impressive jumps off the chop when cruising at
speed. It has unparallelled lift in the take-off for a board of this size.
Gybing is extremely easy as it is very ready and willing to turn, and there is plenty of volume to
support you coming out. It’s not particularly interested in slalom-style gybes as it will lose speed
fairly easily through fast committed turns – it much prefers being banged round off a piece of swell.
Category: Smaller (88L) all-rounder with slight wave / stronger wind bias.
Description: This board could equally well have fitted in to last month’s 85L test as it spans
the two groups, having a volume more akin to the 85L class, while the width puts it fairly and
squarely into this 95L group. It is by no means a ‘fast-tail all-rounder’, having plenty of rocker
throughout its length in a fairly continuous curve, but the width gives it plenty of stability and
‘get up and go’. The straps are well inboard and the fin is small, both factors increasing the
Early Planing: It’s slower than the average, particularly with 6.0-6.7m rigs in moderate
winds, but comfortably quick to get going with a 5.5-6.0m. A slightly bigger fin would certainly
help a bit here.
Freeride: Although the inboard straps and bias towards smaller sails don’t help the freeride
quotient, the ride is extremely comfortable in a wide variety of water conditions. You could be
very happy cruising straight lines on this board, going acceptably fast. Gybing is easy and
versatile with a very adaptable arc. Upwind performance is average for the group, which is
actually rather better than we anticipated considering the rocker and small fin. Overall, much
more freeride performance than we’d expected to find!
Freestyle: When properly powered up (rather than ‘pump-and-play’ conditions) the board
delivers good freestyle suitability. It pops well in flat water, and jumps very well off chop and
waves. The width provides plenty of stability and it slides well through spinning manoeuvres,
feeling very compact.
Waves: Excellent performance in the waves. Jumping and swell riding is very good for high
quality bump-and-jump sailing, while the waveriding is equally impressive with a smooth, loose
easy turning, high control feel.
Fittings: The small 23.5cm fin worked very well in the 4.7-5.5m wind range but you’ll need
something bigger for use with bigger sails. The classic box fin fitting allows easy
repositioning of the fin to fine-tune wave performance. The straps were reasonably comfy
and easy to adjust but did twist and may have trouble accommodating winter boots on
Guesters’ View: The relatively strong winds and predominance of small waves
encountered on this test trip certainly helped its cause – it was a very popular board indeed,
praised for its ease of sailing, ease of gybing and easy waveriding.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.0-5.8m. Sensible useable – 4.3-6.5m.
Overall: A board that feels immediately comfortable and will appeal to a lot of different
buyers. An ideal strong wind coastal companion to a larger 6.0-8.0m board in a two board
quiver and a really easy introduction to anyone venturing into waves for the first time.
It is also an excellent companion to a smaller wave board for sailors who are mainly
interested in wave style performance with 5.5-6.0m sails.
Price: £870 with 23.5cm classic box fin.
Waves: While it lacks a bit of speed and dynamism simply due to feeling so big, its rocker
gives it very pivotal, loose, smooth turning performance that makes it an easy rider. Wave
jumping is impressive.
Fittings: Excellent. F2 pads, straps and particularly fins are all of the highest quality.
Guesters’ View: It was generally popular with the guesters, attracting comments such as
“good fun”, “undemanding and secure” and, of course, “great jumping”.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.5-6.0m. Sensible useable – 4.7-6.5m.
Overall: A very predictable large all-rounder, offering good control and particularly
impressive jumping. With its large size and emphasis on well behaved performance rather than
ultimate agility, it seems clearly best suited to progressors and intermediates looking for a good
measure of control and volume in a medium to higher wind board.
Price: £999 with 27cm Powerbox fin.
EXOCET UNIVERSAL WAVE 88
Freestyle: It’s not quite nimble or agile enough for the demanding expert, but for the less
experienced sailor it’s a really good freestyle platform as it offers so much stability and support,
even in well powered conditions. It is excellent for learning heli-tacks, 360s and gybe variations
etc, and as it pops really well and has good, controllable slide, it’s very suitable for learning
vulcans and spocks too.
Board Test (13)
FANATIC TRIPLE X 99
Category: Classic small freeride offering crossover into both freestyle and waves.
Description: The Triple X take over from previous season’s Cross lines. They keep the short,
wide, centred volume design but have flattened out the rocker line to make it less of a ‘big allrounder’ and more of a true freeride design.
Early Planing: The Triple X not only takes big sails with ease and accelerates swiftly but it
does so without the need for much expert technique – everybody found it one of, if not the,
easiest to get planing in all conditions.
Freeride: It was generally reckoned to be the easiest board to sail for all abilities; very easy
indeed to get going and take up to speed. Top speed is comfortably quick and control is
excellent, giving a trouble-free ride even in quite awkward strong wind coastal conditions. It
goes upwind very well and above all just feels relaxing and comfortable. It takes a very wide
range of sail sizes in true freeride manner.
Gybing is very forgiving. It turns easily, grips well and exits with good speed. While it
certainly prefers the wider arc freeride style gybe, it is quite versatile for its size.
FANATIC GOYA FREEWAVE 95
Category: Larger all-rounder with a slight wave / stronger wind bias.
Description: With its quite thick domed deck, inboard straps, relatively curved, wave style
rocker and classic box fin fitting, the Freewave at first glance looks like a large wave board. In
practice it is much more the all-rounder than first appearances might suggest.
Early Planing: While not quite in the realms of freeride performance it gets going better
than any of the other wave biassed all-rounders, although its happiest getting going with sails
smaller than 6.3-6.7m.
Freestyle: Being so big and so attached to the water is far from ideal for aerial freestyle but
it can still perform the advanced moves and is a very suitable platform for starting to learn the
less advanced water based ones.
Wave: Relatively stiff on a wave but still quite manoeuvrable and a reasonable board to start
venturing into them. It jumps pretty well for its size.
Fittings: The fin is decent quality and a sensible middle size for all-round use. However,
being a freeride board offering such a wide potential sail spread, it will benefit further from
fitting a different sized fin at the extremes of its sail sizings. A smaller one will ease the leg burn
in stronger winds and a bigger one aid early planing and upwind performance with the biggest
sails. The straps are good and basically well positioned but slightly more outboard front options
would allow a more comfortable ‘pro blasting’ stance.
Guesters’ View: They loved it. While some just praised its freeride performance for bigger
sails or heavier sailors, most loved its balance and found it flattered their sailing and offered a
good measure of all-round performance as well.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.5-7.0m. Sensible useable – 4.5-7.3m.
Freestyle: With reasonable pop, good stability and good slide once unstuck, it lends itself well
to both intermediate and advanced freestyle. The deck may be a bit too domed and the board a
bit too directionally stable and attached to the water to make it a top freestyler but it is very
reliable, slides well through spocks and grubbies and gives decent ‘pump-and-play’ performance.
Waves: While not as loose and lacking a bit of pizazz compared to some other all-rounders,
the tail grips very well to give secure carving, and nice lines can be drawn on the waves by
sailors of all standards. Jumping off both waves and chop is fine, giving the board a good bumpand-jump rating too.
Fittings: The deck pads were slippery in bare feet but we are assured that this is a ‘one off’ and has
been dealt with. The straps are quality, as was the fin. The board has the classic box fin fitting to allow
tuning for a wide range of wavesailing conditions by moving the fin around. However, in a board of this
size with such good freeride performance a Powerbox might have been more appropriate.
Guesters’ View: Very popular with one guester who rated it very highly for jumping, found
it very comfortable and easy to waveride and very confidence inspiring in the gybe. Whilst none
of the others contradicted these findings they generally rated it more “all-round” in both style
and quality of performance.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.3-6.2m. Sensible useable – 4.7-6.7m.
Overall: The Goya is a very safe, easy and predictable all-rounder that is accomplished in all
spheres and a very safe bet for intermediates either coming down a size or two or looking to
complement a bigger board. It also has a wide mixture of all-round performance to offer the
heavier advanced sailor. It is very versatile and a true ‘3-style’ (freeride, freestyle, wave) though
its qualities are biassed slightly more to freeride and less to hardcore wave or freestyle than
the pedigree led us to expect.
Price: £999 with 25cm Powerbox fin.
Overall: While a board of this nature will never have a lot to offer the sailor aspiring to do
advanced freestyle or maximise wave and air time, it really hits the slot for a very wide range
of early intermediate to advanced sailors due to its very wide wind range, great feel and ease
of sailing. Intermediate to advanced sailors, particularly medium to heavier ones, will find it a
very suitable board for 5.5-7.0m sailing and progressors even more suitable as an only board or
a step down from something considerably bigger.
Price: £850 with 32cm Powerbox fin.
Freeride: This board’s freeride performance was one of the revelations of the test. Although
the strap positions are more inboard than is normal for blasting it still promotes a very
comfortable position and the board is not only very directionally stable but also pretty quick too.
It will take a wide range of sails, handling power from big rigs and remaining controllable and
secure in a wide range of water states. The feel of the board is much more freeride than the
appearance and marketing would lead you to assume.
Gybing is very freeride in nature. It grips beautifully and is extremely predictable and easy to
keep on line, coming out with speed and requiring less input than most. It is however not very
loose and slashy in tighter gybes off swell, preferring a slightly wider line.
Board Test (13)
JP SUPERCROSS 93
Category: Speed biassed smaller freeride
Description: The very flat rocker from the tail to a long way forward makes the freeride / speed
intentions of this board very clear, although the nose is pulled up quite sharply to give lift for jumps
too. A wide tail gives plenty of support for carrying big sails. There are inboard strap options
though we’re not sure who will use them! The board simply screams “powered up blasting”.
We couldn’t swear that the 93L description is wrong, but it feels in every way (weight
carrying and style of performance) like a board with 5L more volume than this.
Early Planing: Early planing performance is excellent. You may want a bigger fin if you use
the 7.0m that this board is very capable of doing justice to, but you won’t find a board of this size
that is quicker and easier to get planing on with 5.3-6.5m sails.
JP FREESTYLE WAVE 91
Category: Fast-tail all-rounder with freeride leanings
Freeride: JP seem to specialise in boards that are not only quick but also extremely comfortable
at speed, and the 93 is another scoring very highly on both counts. The flat rocker keeps the board
locked down on the water giving excellent pitch control and a very smooth ride while the pulled-up
nose keeps you clear of trouble and allows frequent and satisfying jumps from anything that peaks
in front of you. And it is quick in all directions, with the edge over every other freeride or all-rounder
in this test, and the comfort that comes from a well crafted slalom / blasting deck and strap set up.
Due to the speed of entry and width of the tail, gybes can’t be initiated by the twitch of a foot;
you need to commit and follow a fairly wide arc but it grips well, exits with excellent speed and
has plenty of volume to assist less than perfect technique.
Freestyle: It has enough width and stability allied to carving agility to let intermediates start taking
on the less advanced moves and has just enough pop and slide to allow good sailors to pull off
advanced moves in Supercross competition. However, generally the board is too stiff and attached
to the water to offer a useful recreational freestyle dimension for practised or advanced freestylers.
Description: The relatively wide tail and nose coupled with the short length gives it a
compact freestylesque planshape and appearance (aided by the ‘duck tail bevel’ at the tail),
whereas the rocker line is rather more freeride-orientated, being fairly flat through the tail and
only moderate through the nose. Being quite low volume for its width means less float for
heavier or less able sailors, but the thinner rails definitely provide extra grip. The deck is a
comfortable compromise between freeride and freestyle requirements; moderately domed with
a choice of blasting or wave / freestyle inboard straps.
Waves: It won’t stop you having a play and enjoying yourself when waves appear but
compared to other boards of its size it is really too fast and flat for good crossover waveriding
performance. It gets air very easily off waves or chop due to the speed and turned-up nose for
lots of quality airtime, but it jumps quite horizontally and is much better for long floaty jumps
rather than vertical or contorted aerial manoeuvres.
Early Planing: One of its main qualities is how quickly it gets going for such a relatively
small board. It will take quite large sails if you want to maximise this side of its performance but
even with mid range sails it is very quick out of the blocks and fast to accelerate.
Guesters’ View: It was a popular board with all the guesters, who relished its speed and
comfort. Our heavyweight blasting-oriented guester gave it his number one slot.
Freestyle: ‘Pump-and-play’ performance is excellent as it gets going so easily, and quickly
accumulates speed and power to pop out of the water. It is also both stable and grippy enough
for carving (i.e; non-aerial) freestyle. The deckshape and tail bevel give a real freestyle edge to
the design and the board is highly suitable for expert aerial freestyle, yet also sufficiently
forgiving for learning less ambitious moves. Pop is pretty good in lighter winds, but not quite as
good as more rockered boards in stronger winds.
Waves: It is quite fast, skaty and stiff in the waves compared to the more rockered allrounders and thus needs careful handling in bigger surf. Nevertheless, it earned a solid fanbase due to its good carving agility, and its ability to quickly and easily get you to the best
section in smaller waves. Jumping is good, more about smaller high frequency air than rocket
take-offs, so the bump-and-jump appeal is high.
Fittings: On a relatively wide, skaty board you really want the best fin you can get. However,
we didn’t feel that the fin supplied optimised either control or upwind performance. Otherwise,
the straps and pads are excellent.
Guesters’ View: This was the guest testers’ (equal) favourite. The qualities of fun and excitement
that this board offers burst out of their write-ups, and most of the plus points listed seem to emanate
from the easily accessible speed – fast gybes, frequent jumps and “excellent all-round blasting fun”.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.2-6.2m. Suitable useable – 4.7-6.7m.
Overall: Very suitable as a versatile blasting board for 5.5-6.5m sails, a fast freestyle biassed
bump-and-jump board for 5.2-6.0m weather, or indeed a mixture of the two. It has a lot to offer
both the heavier advanced / expert sailor or any middle to advanced intermediate. Progressors
and early intermediates may find it a bit hectic and not quite easy enough in stronger winds while
wave biassed experts may find it a bit stiff and flat, but otherwise it deserves to be widely popular.
Price: £999 with 27cm Powerbox fin.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.5-6.8m. Suitable useable – 5.0-7.2m.
Overall: While not exactly a throwabout all-rounder it certainly has a sporty feel and jumps
well. If actually used for Supercross competition it will require quite a bit of expert input for the
twiddly bits, but will give the sailor his racing acceleration and speed on a plate which is 90%
of the battle. After all, a good sailor can spock a plank if it’s quick enough!
For the 95% of buyers who won’t be doing SuperX on it, think of it as the Mercedes Benz of
freeride sailing. It combines high speed and acceleration with excellent control and comfort,
but without making any awkward technical demands on the driver.
Price: £949 Full Wood / £799 Epoxy Sandwich with 29cm Powerbox fin.
Freeride: This board’s freeride performance is good enough to consider using it solely in this
role. It is fast and comfortable with a wide range of sail sizes, delivering good blasting comfort
and handling difficult water conditions well. It gybes very nicely, exiting fast and offering a fairly
versatile turning arc. Its speed and squat plan shape make for very good chop hopping and
jumping off peaking swells. The only weakness seemed to be in the fin which felt a lot less
secure than we’d have liked and could be responsible for a slightly skaty feel at times. The
board’s speed and this skatiness could make it feel a bit skittish in stronger conditions, but to a
great extent this is the inevitable trade-off for its dynamism in moderate winds.
Fittings: The fin seemed OK and the straps, pads, deck and graphics were all first class.
Board Test (13)
MISTRAL SYNCRO 103
Category: Smaller freeride / larger all-rounder crossover.
Description: This is the biggest board in this test quoting a believable 103L and at 61.5cm
(60cm quoted) also the widest. The Syncro ‘wave / manoeuvre’ bias is evident in the relatively
curved rocker line throughout.
Early Planing: Although not as sprightly as the similarly sized pure freerides, it’ll take big
sails and get going pretty easily.
Freeride: While a bit slower and less potent upwind than the pure freerides, it gives a very
comfortable and easy ride, and is perfectly good for recreational use. The ride it gives is smooth
and comfy, a bit softer and less hectic than a full-on freeride board, although a bit more bouncy
over chop and swell in stronger conditions. It is slightly less settled in a straight line but feels
more manoeuvrable and ready to footsteer. Gybes are easy to initiate and it will turn on a variety
of arcs, although like its little brother it tends to shed speed in the turn fairly easily and will bounce
a bit more at high speeds, so is best suited to tighter more slashy turns. Generally speaking it is
less dynamic and not quite as easy at speed but feels a little more throwabout than the freerides.
Freestyle: Quite big for aerial freestyle and not the most dynamic for carving freestyle but
pretty good for learning the basics.
Waves: A board of this size isn’t naturally suited to the wave environment except for heavier
sailors, but having said that it’s really not bad for progressors to get into the waves with and a
reasonable moderate wind waverider for heavier sailors. It turns nicely on swell and jumps
easily off waves or chop.
MISTRAL SYNCRO 90
Fittings: Pads and straps are excellent and the fin is good.
Category: Large wave board with all-rounder leanings.
Guesters’ View: The guesters found it a bit big and bouncy, largely due to the relatively
strong wind conditions (although certain other boards of similar size fared a lot better). The
difference in speed and excitement compared to the faster freerides was also noted. However,
quite a few picked up on its ease and relatively high fun factor in the waves.
Early Planing: With all that rocker its pretty slow to plane, and really needs plenty of power to
get out of third gear and release. It is little fun with 5.7-6.5m sails unless the wind is very constant.
Freeride: It isn’t by nature a freeride board, but having said that, it actually provides a very
easy and relaxing ride when well powered, and is much more stable and less luffy (i.e; prone
to head up into wind) than most smaller wave boards. It can be a bit bouncy in chop but is well
suited to swell and waves. Gybes initiate beautifully, but not surprisingly it prefers a tight slashy
turn rather than a drawn-out slalom-style arc, in which it tends to lose a lot of speed on exit.
Whereas it’s very happy whipping round off a swell line.
Freestyle: For Force 5+ aerial freestyle it is hard to beat. When there is plenty of power it pops
really well, carves 360s brilliantly, has loads of volume and slides well to give very good freestyle
suitability. The power requirement makes it more of an advanced freestyler’s board than a learner’s.
Waves: In small waves and gustier winds it isn’t the best at catching waves or getting into
the right position on them. However, on well formed waves or if there is plenty of wind it is a
real delight to ride; loose but grippy, agile and responsive. Jumping style is very wave biassed.
Lovely vertical take-offs and great release but not quite enough speed for top bump-and-jump.
Fittings: Pads and straps are all good but the fin snapped for no apparent reason.
Guesters’ View: Despite plenty of good winds and waves the guesters couldn’t really get
into the Syncro, mainly due to its lack of early planing performance and difficulty in getting
upwind with sails with which they felt were properly powered for the conditions. Underlining
the fact that this board really does need power to perform.
Sail Range: Ideal – 4.5-5.3. Sensible useable – 4.0-5.8m.
Overall: It’s a bit of an enigma. At its best it is a fantastic board – one of the very best
waveriders of the 24 boards spanning the 85L and 90-100L test when the waves were big and
the wind up. It is also fantastic fun to jump and do freestyle with when well powered up; it feels
loose and controllable, carves really well and releases beautifully on take-off. The trouble is
that it does need very solid wind to do all this, and preferably sails below 5.5m. And therein lies
the problem because with these smaller sails and constant winds you could be using much
smaller boards offering even better jumping, blasting, riding and high wind control.
So it is a very big board for stronger winds. It will suit cautious first time or heavyweight
wave board buyers but only if they really treat it as a 4.2-5.3m board and don’t regularly try to
make it work with bigger (5.7-6.0m) sails. Alternatively it is a joy for more experienced sailors to
keep as a high wind freestyle-wave board for doing well powered freestyle on, or proper, crossoffshore waveriding when volume is called for.
Price: £859 with 25cm classic box fin.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.5-6.5m. Sensible useable – 5.0-7.0m.
Overall: While the Synchro 103 needs plenty of power to perform at its best, in the right conditions
it’s a very smooth and easy board offering comfortable freeride performance, particularly in more
bumpy conditions. It would seem best suited to progressors or intermediates who want a controloriented freeride board for stronger wind coastal sailing, with enough manoeuvring / wave potential
to allow forays into those areas of performance when conditions permit.
Price: £859 with 32cm Powerbox fin.
Description: More rocker than any other board on test combined with very inboard straps
and 25cm classic box fin reveal the wave / stronger wind bias of this design. At 90L it is one of
the smaller boards on test here, but its width is still substantially greater than most 85-90L
designs, which is why we have included it in this test.
Board Test (13)
NAISH SUPERCROSS 255 (96L)
Category: Speed biassed smaller freeride / all-rounder
Description: The rocker is relatively flat, suggesting a clear speed and freeride orientation.
However, an all-round slant is added by the fairly narrow nose and tail, thinnish rails, the option
for relatively inboard strap positions, and quite a small fin. We reckoned it to be about 5L
smaller than the quoted 96L.
Early Planing: Not quite the quickest of the freerides to get going (particularly with the
26cm fin and bigger sails), but still a very early planing board that accelerates quickly.
Category: Small ‘no-nose’ speed. (For more info refer to No-Nose Speed section of the main text.)
Description: The Hybrid concept originates from Robby’s desire to create the ‘no board in
front of you’ feeling that you get in kitesurfing. Tiny in length (212cm), and very narrow in width
(56cm), the Naish Hybrid looks a bit like a wave board with the nose cut off. The rocker line
starts flat at the tail, then pulls up quite early but very slowly and evenly through the length of
the board. Due to the short length of the board though, the overall effect is that the nose
remains pretty close to the water. It has very little vee. The front strap options are relatively far
outboard for comfortable blasting, but the back strap has an inboard central option.
Although short, the relatively high volume means it still floats the medium weight sailor – as
long as they are very careful not to step too far forward!
Early Planing: It will take bigger sails and get going in less wind than its size would lead
you to expect. However, there is none of the usual easy progression as found on regular
freeride boards of gradually gaining speed and lifting effortlessly onto the plane. Instead, this
board needs to be bumped straight onto the plane, which requires more technique (bearing
away and pumping) and more wind than more conventional boards with the same sails. You
can’t step forward to level the board off; any weight placed much beyond the footstraps will
push the nose underwater almost instantly, until the board is up to speed.
Freeride: The speed itself and the riding position are what you would associate with a freeride
/ slalom design, but there aren’t many other similarities. The seeming lack of any board beyond the
mastfoot takes quite a bit of getting used to! Although the ride is a bit clattery over certain types
of chop and generally quite hairy at speed you soon realise that it’s not actually anywhere near as
dangerous as it initially seems. Indeed, the nose is noticeably reluctant to lift in gusts – always an
issue on bigger boards. However, you do have to concentrate to keep the board flat and tracking.
It is better downwind than upwind but still flies upwind considering it only has a 28cm fin. Wind
range and sail carrying ability is excellent for so small a board; it just about managed to carry and
exploit a 6.7m sail without overpowering, and was still pretty happy with a 5.3m.
Gybes are exciting, but not actually that difficult to get the hang of if your technique is up to
it. It is very keen to turn but twitchy, and it’s very easy to lose both lateral and pitch control and
lose speed completely. If you get it right and release the rig early it will turn tighter and quicker
than any fast board you have ever gybed, but it is a very quick and physical operation requiring
a good mastery of the art – this is not a board for learning to gybe on! It can help to shed a bit
of speed before gybing if the water isn’t dead flat, just to make things feel a bit safer.
Freestyle: It doesn’t jump that well but will pop and being so short it rotates beautifully.
Generally though it is very limited for all-round freestyle.
Waves: It is too fast and bouncy in the waves and despite its willingness to turn it still feels
rather stiff. It is not a satisfying jumper off waves or chop – it makes you realise how big a part
the nose (or lack of it) plays in guiding a board into the air.
Fittings: The straps are fine and the 28cm fin seemed to work very well.
Guesters’ View: It got surprisingly little use from the guesters who we expected would be
more curious about it. We suspect that actually most were simply too scared of it to really
explore its potential! However, those who did use it were positive in their write-ups and were
delighted by its speed, but found it otherwise a bit difficult or limited.
Wind Range: Ideal – 5.3-6.5m. Sensible useable – 5.0-7.0m.
Overall: We refer you back to our ‘verdict’ under No-Nose Speed in the main body of text. It
is an exciting and in many ways very successful new departure that can’t be faulted for speed,
excitement or novelty, but it’s radical and not that strong on versatility. It wouldn’t necessarily be
a sensible replacement for a traditional freeride board (unless you only ever sail straight lines
on fairly flat water), but as a luxury extra item in the quiver for those days when the conditions
are right and some serious speed is on the menu, it’d definitely be a great toy to have.
Price: £849 with 28cm Powerbox fin.
Freestyle: Impressive freestyle performance for what is basically a freeride design with
good suitability for both advanced aerial and less advanced water based freestyle. It feels
compact and rotates well in loops and vulcans.
Waves: It is an agile board that grips and turns well in the waves but is just a bit too stiff to really
excel in this department. (If you do want to use it for extended waveriding, be sure to set it up with
an offset back strap.) While not quite offering the same vertical spring and release off waves of
the more wave biassed all-rounders, the jumping performance is excellent for a freeride board.
Fittings: The straps are reasonable, though not our favourites. The fin supplied works well
for all-round use or stronger winds – a bigger fin would be a useful accessory to match the
bigger sail, freeriding potential of the board.
Guesters’ View: With one possibly weight biassed exception (primarily due to the Naish feeling
a lot smaller than its quoted 96L) everybody very much liked the 255 and it got one top nomination.
Fun, fast, lively, excellent gybing, great control, good jumping. The list of qualities got repetitive!
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.3-6.5m. Suitable useable – 4.5-6.8m.
Overall: Impressive for its versatility. With a bigger fin and outboard straps it fulfilled the role
of 6.0-6.8m freeride blaster admirably, in the same ballpark as the best of them in every area of
freeride performance, and very lively with it. With a smaller fin it’s a good all-rounder too; agile
with pretty good jumping, always accompanied by good speed and an exciting feel.
All in all, a versatile smaller board for the inland sailor or heavier intermediate to advanced
coastal sailor. Equally it is a very good larger, fast all-rounder to accompany a smaller board.
Overall a very highly regarded board.
Price: £849 with 26cm Powerbox fin.
NAISH HYBRID 89
Freeride: The main thrust of this board’s performance is in the freeride arena. It offers a fast
and exciting ride, yet maintains very good control in chop and goes upwind or downwind
comfortably at speed. Gybes can be entered and exited at speed and although basically
freeride in its turning style (i.e; preferring a wider arc) it is a versatile gyber that grips well and
with the right technique can be turned fast and hard.
Board Test (13)
STARBOARD CARVE 99
Category: Classic small freeride.
Description: The Starboard Carve range has become synonymous with user-friendly
freeride performance, and the Carve 99 remains true to the range’s ethos; quite low rocker
throughout and particularly in the nose indicates its freeride credentials, as do the outboard
outer strap options and Tuttle-box fin. The other significant design element is the very high
levels of vee and double concaves through the underside which give high lateral grip
increasing ease of tracking and going upwind.
Early Planing: It planes early with big and small sails and is also extremely easy to get
going. Intermediates particularly will find that they can point high and just stand there and wait
to be pushed onto the plane – really great for those sailors who haven’t fully developed their
early planing technique. Once up and running, the acceleration is very respectable, and the top
speed is good albeit a tad slower than the very fastest freerides in the test.
STARBOARD HYPERCARVE 90
Category: No-nose Freeride
Freeride: Good overall performance in this department; it tracks very securely on the deep vee,
going upwind easily and keeping very flat in pitch (front to back). There is however a slight lateral
twitchiness associated with the vee which can be felt in chop and through the gybe. Speed is good
and the ride generally is both easy and comfortable, if a little less sedate than previous Carves.
It’s happiest gybed on quite a wide and regular arc. The board is very secure in that it follows
this dependable line and won’t bounce or suddenly go straight on or tighten up. This makes it a
very easy and predictable gyber in flatter water, but it has a slight tendency to over tilt and
catch the lower shoulders when turning at speed in chop.
Freestyle: The board isn’t really suited to advanced aerial freestyle as the deep vee and low
rocker inhibits both pop and sliding performance. However, its good stability and the flattish
deck makes a good platform for freestyle progressor’s tack and gybe variations and sail tricks.
Waves: It is sticky and slow to turn in real waves due to the very contoured underside shape,
but it’s fun for carving turns on swell. Due to the low nose and heavy vee jumping is not its forte.
Description: The Hypercarve 90 is a new development in the Starboard range for 2004 – their
thinking being that once you’re down to 90L you’re looking for a little more than just intermediate
freeride performance. So they have shortened the length considerably and given the board very heavy
vee and double concaves on the underside which make it look not dissimilar to the Hypersonic.
Although it certainly feels larger than the quoted 90L, at 239cm, while far closer to the shorter
all-rounders (244cm) than the Naish Hybrid (212cm) this is still a very short board. It is hard to
decipher what is going on in the rocker line due to the extremely complex underwater shape.
Fittings: The less common Tuttle finbox is used. The fin and straps are fine.
Early Planing: It takes big sails and gets going reasonably early, but compared to faster freerides
it definitely suffers from the same delay in getting planing that we have found on other very short boards
with heavy vee and concaves. However, once up and running it glides though the lulls very nicely.
Overall: The 99 is another classic example of the Carve family of boards, aimed squarely at
the intermediate progressor. The high vee and low nose aids easy freeride sailing in the
learning phases, particularly with bigger sails on flatter water. It is a good board for userfriendly blasting and mastering the essentials of good stance, carve gybes and even some
entry-level freestyle tricks. All in all a great intermediate’s freeride board.
Freestyle: Although it has poor pop for aerial freestyle, its short length, width and grip make
it a good carving freestyler and good for water-based action.
Waves: Despite the easy carving and feel of manoeuvrability it is not actually that loose or
throwabout in waves. Lift in jumps is also limited by the short nose, so the bump-and-jump
performance is relatively limited.
Fittings: The design seems to work well with the small classic fin, but the choice of classic
box is not our favourite as it inhibits the choice of larger fins available to enhance its bigger sail
carrying performance. The straps are OK.
Guesters’ View: All seemed to enjoy the unusually comfortable blasting but some were a
bit frustrated by the lack of either outstanding speed or very good jumping. One guester really
loved the “silky smooth” ride and very immediate footsteering.
Wind Range: Ideal – 5.3-6.3m. Suitable useable – 4.7-6.8m.
Overall: This is a very pleasant board to sail, giving an unusually comfortable, smooth and easy
footsteering ride that makes you feel very much in control. It is not however quite as easy as more
conventional freerides for progressors, and lacks either an edge of speed or all-round ability to
give it a very wide market. Nevertheless, if you like to blast pretty fast in total comfort and control
but without too dedicated a freeride / slalom feel then you should definitely try one out.
Price: Wood £959 / D Ram £799 with 24cm classic box fin.
Sail Range: Ideal – 5.5-6.7m. Suitable useable – 5.0-7.0m.
Price: £959 Wood / £799 D Ram with 28cm Tuttle box fin.
Freeride: Although it looks a bit like the Hypersonic underneath, the Hypercarve 90 is not a
full-on speedster by nature. It is moderately quick, more nippy than the all-round / freestyle /
wave orientated boards on test, and on a par with the medium to slower freerides in the test.
It is a very mellow blasting board, extremely flattering to sail. It glides very smoothly across
the water, feeling at the same time very attached to the water yet seemingly riding on a cushion
of air. It seems to eat up the chop without a worry and considering the tiny classic box fin it
tracks very securely and points high upwind.
The short length makes it easy to change direction and it feels manoeuvrable and carvy; you can
take it round tighter than most freeride boards. It grips very well in the turn and gybes predictably.
Guesters’ View: “Dependable” and “easy” were the words most often used in the
guesters’ description of this board. Although it was in general a bit too sedate for their ability
level, they could all see and appreciate the undemanding freeride performance the board offers.