Very similar to the 87 from the same range that we tested in the November (2007) issue. This season the 3S boards have been given slightly narrower and thinner tails and a revised rockerline.
On the water:
At 234.5cm the 3S is about 6cm shorter than the average on test, and this can then be effectively reduced by about another 6cm due to the overhanging duck-tail that doesn’t contact the water when planing. This makes the board feel extremely compact and – aided by the very short rocker flat – extremely loose and manoeuvrable as well. Early planing suffers a little bit, partly due to the early rocker lift and partly to the duck-tail that gives extra drag until it comes clear of the water. However, once the board releases it accelerates quickly and has a low drag feel and gives a cushioned, elevated ride. It’s not best suited to cranked-out blasting both because of the relatively flat deck and a tendency to become a bit bouncy in chop, but it is possibly the most fun to sail because of the readiness to manoeuvre and jump or pop. It encourages a very upright stance and has a very exciting and lively feel. Its gybing style is very loose and tight and although it carves well and easily it can drift slightly through the turn (though this can be fun once you’re used to it). It is very easy to jump and compact and manoeuvrable in the air and it feels very ‘stubby’ in style and good for onshore riding. Freestyle performance at speed is excellent though it suffers a bit in low powered conditions.
We feel the board is let down a bit by its fittings. Nobody seems to like the straps which are hard to make big enough, a bit bulky and a bit stretchy. The pads are basically good, very soft and comfortable but could be a bit slippy and make the deck quite flat under the straps. The fin is OK but quite big and not G10 – we actually used and preferred the smaller fin from the 3S 87 a lot of the time, even with bigger sails. Sail sizes The 97 seems made for 5.7-6.5m sails; a relatively small span but covering a very common and useful wind range. It will take up to 7.0m at a pinch and down to 5.3m Popularity It’s very individual in feel and the loose and lively ride was much appreciated. Overall Like the 87, the 97 is a real blast to sail, feeling great fun, extremely loose and manoeuvrable and quite unusual. It’s not great for maximising marginal planing conditions or for long, fast, cranking reaches, particularly with bigger sails, but if you want a really lively board for jumping and messing around in Force 4 to 5 it’s great. It’s not particularly difficult to sail and will suit advancing intermediates able enough to handle the shorter length, though it won’t offer them quite the wind range of some boards. Its main appeal will to be to more advanced sailors wanting something for Force 4 that’s unusually manoeuvrable and wave and freestyle capable, and more fun and exciting than most boards of similar type.