“Hello Mr shop owner, I would like to buy a 2011 wave board”, says the customer. “No problem, which would you like sir?” replies the shop owner. “Well, I sail mostly in cross-on UK conditions, but sometimes go to Ireland, the Canaries or South Africa on holiday and get down-the-line riding. Which would you recommend?” The shop owner replies, ”Well, I stock 4 of the major brands and each brand is offering 12 wave boards this year, so there are 48 to choose from…and by the way, most of those are available in two construction options…which would you like sir?”
It’s really not hard for us to understand the difficulty that the market faces at the moment when it comes to choosing a wave board and I can assure you that choosing a set of equally matched wave boards for this test was no less difficult. I mean, where do you start? You know the size you want right? Well actually you don’t, because some select off width, whilst others off volume, neither of which are perfect and it’s certainly not unusual for an 85 litre board of one brand to be equivalent to an 80 litre of another. What’s more, a multi-fin allows us to use a bigger board than a single fin, so many brands are recommending that we use approx 5 litres bigger if choosing a multi-fin…
But size isn’t just the problem anymore. It’s the number of fins that will really get you doing your homework! Elsewhere in this issue, we have written a piece to help guide you through this decision, so to save me covering the same ground twice, please have a read of that if you are in the market for a new wave board this year.
However, in a few words, here is a very general guide to how we see it at the moment; Single fins remain the most exciting feel in a straight line, but are limited mostly by their turning ability in cross-on conditions and with bigger board sizes. Twin fins are evolving towards better straight line performance but still generally require a lighter footed technique to single fins. They are however fantastic for all abilities of wave riding, particularly in cross-on conditions. Thruster fins are a slightly more manoeuvrable version of a single fin, seeming to require a slightly more back footed turning technique to get the most out of and are decent in a straight line, albeit not quite as good as a pure single fin. Quad fins, combine the tight turning potential of a twin, with the grip and smoothness of a single, particularly in bigger, steeper waves. They go upwind extremely well, but tend to make the board feel quite planted in the water in a straight line, so not the most exciting. They are also not as loose and playful as a Twin in cross-on conditions.
It’s easy to blame the brands and accuse them of producing too many boards and too much choice and that’s what most people are doing at the moment. But really when you think about it, what would you do in their position? The evolution of these new fin concepts has given performance gains in so many different areas that really can’t be ignored if the brand and the sport are to move forward. Unfortunately however, so far, there is not one obvious solution that simply eclipses everything else and makes the decision easy. In fact what we have now are 4 different concepts that all work very well, but in quite different ways. So, if you really think you have problems choosing how many fins your wave board needs this year, rest assured that the brands are also having similar headaches! And it’s not because they don’t know which is best, but purely because none of the concepts are ‘the best’ and instead, all have their own unique strengths and weakness. Convertible boards may be the all-encompassing answer to this in the long term, but at present, it remains to be seen whether a board can actually be designed to work with such a wide variety of fin options.
At this point in time, I think its fair to say that the brands are getting a fair bit of flack. Most buyers crave for the brands to re-introduce simplicity and make one range that would be accepted as a compromise, but making choosing a wave board a much easier and less risky prospect.
That sounds very sensible, but before we all get together and send a signed petition to the brands, perhaps we should take a minute to reconsider. Rather than criticised, perhaps, the brands should be commended for offering us the choice and options to be able to purchase the very best wave board for any given condition. After all, the brands work extremely hard to design, develop and produce these boards, in a very tough industry, where it would actually be easier for them to fob us off with just one range or style of wave board. The truth is, choice is generally a very good thing and perhaps shouldn’t be criticised so harshly in this instance. Sure, we all want simplicity and so too do the brands, but allow me to let you into a little secret…if you really want simplicity, its already there within the brands ranges, you just have to know where to look.
This test (and our next 75 litre test) focuses on that very style of board – the all-rounder, the board that does it all, regardless of how many fins it has. This 85 litre test is pitched more towards boards targeting the less advanced rider and the more mediocre conditions, whilst our upcoming 75 litre test pitches towards all-round boards for the more advanced rider.
We are fully aware that most buyers only want one or perhaps two sizes of wave board to cover everything from high wind bump and jump, right through to down the line wave riding. Hopefully these next two wave board tests will help you to find that perfect board. And just remember, that the choice out there now is far better than it has ever been.
View the full group test on our sister site Boardseeker.com