HiFly Free 118 (2008)

Ed Davis

Although HiFly are better known in the UK for their durable entry level and early intermediate boards, they also do a range of high performance carbon composite boards and the Free 118 is the smallest of their three performance targeted freerides.

Type: Fast and fun ‘all-rounder’ for mid-intermediate to advanced sailors.

On the water:

Looking very sleek and sexy in bright red the HiFly is eye-catching even before it gets on the water and it doesn’t disappoint. It is at once fun, easy and exciting. The long planing flat gives it very good and accessible early planing, comfortable tracking and good upwind performance yet doesn’t seem to compromise manoeuvrability. It feels fast and lively but also nippy and quick to turn, with a very conventional freeride / freemove feel which translates into very good gybing as it tracks securely round the turn even at high speeds. It is well behaved through a wide wind range and handles chop extremely well. Top speed is very respectable though it is more about the ease with which it reaches and holds a good speed than ultimate knot-pinching. It is most suited to flatter or choppier water as the long flat can be felt to slightly stick in the swell, albeit not enough to hamper enjoyment. It will easily take an 8.0m sail for enjoyable marginal wind blasting but is equally happy zapping around with a 6.0m.

Fittings:

The fin is good being quite large and suitable for big sails, but not seeming to rail badly either in well powered 6.5m weather. Although we didn’t have it for the test the board is sold with a second 34cm fin which should be very useful. The straps are comfortable and the large deck pad which covers the whole back of the board is a bonus. The strap positions seemed fine for most sailors, but don’t allow a really wide spread without taking the front strap well inboard. This only matters if you want to blast around close to the rail in swell or heavy chop, and is never a problem in flatter water.

Overall:

A very popular board that is ideally placed to appeal to the majority market of burn-&-turn sailors looking for a board that has good performance but is also fun and easy. We would have no problem recommending it to a wide range of abilities from lighter weight early to mid-intermediates up to middle to heavyweight advanced sailors. It has good coastal application but is better for flatter waters.

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