Riding a directional surfboard continues to be one of the fastest growing disciplines of kiteboarding and the number of models continues to expand. For 2018 there are some great new shapes and some highly refined models with improved construction technologies that are making these boards lighter, stronger and more responsive than ever. All the top brands offer several models in their directional lineups with riding performance catering to different conditions and styles. At the top end of the line sits the pro wave or competition performance surf shapes. These boards are designed for riding bigger waves and solid surf conditions. These models are generally more technical to ride with more rocker and higher sensitivity to foot pressure for faster edge to edge handling. They require more power to drive them and reward more developed skills with higher levels of control while carving down the line at faster driving speeds. On the other end of the lineups there are models that are better suited for freeride cruising and strapless freestyle. These models can handle smaller or mid-sized waves and are also better for the less developed riding skills with their added stability and early planing performance. The Kitesurfing Magazine test team logged some solid sessions on an assortment of different models that spanned the full range of performance and discipline capability. The amazing thing is that the directional surfboard is a kiteboard category that continues to evolve with new shapes and enhanced construction technology to keep driving their riding and handling character to higher levels. Overall 2018 is a great year to update or add to your surfboard quiver. There are some great new models that can help push your directional riding experience to new limits in the waves and beyond.
FUNBOARDS, FREERIDE AND STRAPLESS FREESTYLE
The Ocean Rodeo Duke and Jester models, the North Pro Whip and Core 720 are boards that offer good cruising speeds, easy tracking and great upwind drive. They also have great stability and track across the wind easily which makes them a good option for learning to ride a directional board. Ocean Rodeo’s funboard category includes the Duke and Jester models and these boards have some unique shaping features that include a deep concave that eats up chop and provides solid edging and reduced chatter. They are great for popping off chop or boosting with straps and can be an ideal first directional shape for their added stability both on edge and while riding flat. Almost defining a category of their own, the OR funboards track through the turns with lots of grip and the smaller Jester is quick from edge to edge. The Duke is the larger of the two and has more power and float for catching some rides in waves. This series is also one of the most durable with Ocean Rodeo’s thermo molded skin that protects against dings and scratches better than most fiberglass or epoxy constructions. Ocean Rodeo also comes with a top quality five-fin set up, so they can be ridden with Thruster or Quad to equip them for different conditions and turning feel. The Core 720 and the North Pro Whip represent the cutting edge of construction and progressive shapes for strapless freestyle and small to moderate wave riding. The Core 720 is a pure strapless freestyle shape that is also suited to learning with its quick planing and smooth cruising nature. Lots of pop off the wide tail makes the 720 an Ollie machine. It’s a bit chunky in the tail, for bigger waves but the 720 will work great for sloppy onshore conditions or smaller waves. Core’s surfboard construction uses polyurethane closed cell foam with twin wood stringers and a traditional glass surfboard construction that’s beefed up with more layers in critical areas and some carbon wrap in the tail. The 720 definitely feels like a real surfboard with nice flex and feeling underfoot that’s exclusive to glass constructed boards. North and Airush have new constructions for their pro lines this year as well. The North Pro Whip has some amazing strapless freestyle performance with its wide tail and parallel rails. Great pop and Ollie, that’s just shy of the 720. The Pro Whip however, ups its game with even more precision and control on the wave. This is a board that feels fast and smooth in the flats and tracks over chop with little chatter but it can loosen up and feel lively on a wave as well. Unique bottom shaping and new lighter weight VacuumEpoxy construction, with cork inlay gives the board a snappy flex and the feel of a real surfboard with the durability needed for kitesurfing.
Performance Crossover–All Around
The Airush Amp, the Slingshot Mixer and the Cabrinha Spade are models that offer some great performance in the waves, but are also still accessible for freeride cruising or some strapless flat water sessions. The Airush Amp II takes wave versatility and all around kitesurfing performance to the next level. This is a board that can plane up early and is smooth and fast driving in flatwater, but has a narrow, more rounded outline and a thinned out tail that gives it even more snappy turns for riding waves. It’s more of do-it-all shape that suits the rider that doesn’t want the square nose and very parallel board but still wants some crossover performance for freeride and flatwater freestlyle. It’s also a stable and easy board to build skills with. The new Airush construction also ups the Amp II’s game with weight reducing, custom epoxy construction which blends the classic surf style with premium, Ecoboard construction and advanced core technology. The AMP II might be the perfect single travel board as it can adapt from medium to small waves and still be a fun board to just freeride, Ollie and carve up the flatwater. The Slingshot Mixer and the Cabrinha Spade are also versatile boards that work in a wider range of wave riding conditions. The Mixer is a new addition to the Slingshot lineup and offers smooth and loose handling on the wave. The Mixer’s quad fin set up and unique tail shape give this board some tight, slashy turning capability that reacts quickly to back foot pressure. It might be better suited to bigger waves than the Amp II but it’s not as light or compact. Nice width through the center and some aggressive quad concave bottom profile also get the Mixer up on a plane quickly and smooth out chop. This a great board to transition into a full on performance wave shape. Also new for 2018, the Cabrninha Spade, which has a similar concept shape and performance to the Mixer. The Spade is even looser on the wave and feels lively and manoeuvrable driving off the back foot. At the same time, the Spade has more parallel rails and extra width and volume in the front, so it planes up early and gives some great pop for strapless freestyle.
WAVE WARRIOR SPECIALIST
For the more advanced wave riders there are models in every kite brand line that offer more control and loose edge to edge carving at higher speeds on driving waves. These boards have a more narrowed outline and thinner tail and rails so they don’t plane up as early but have more control with higher speeds and at higher levels of power and pull. On a wave these boards mimic the feel and control of the modern performance short board. In fact many experienced kitesurfers use performance short decks from surf companies. Some companies like Rusty and Firewire have the beefed up construction that can handle the added pressures a board faces when kitesurfing. The Rusty Yes Thanks is one of these performance short board shapes that joins the S:Quad, the Airush Comp, the North Pro Wam in the high performance wave category. Rusty has a stiff and more durable closed cell foam core with Kevlar reinforced rails and the right amount of durability to handle the added pressures of kitesurfing. The Yes Thanks is light, loose and reactive underfoot and in the pocket and can get vertical with snappy cut backs. Designed for real surfing it doesn’t ride as smooth across the wind or upwind as the kitesurfing models. The higher levels of rocker require the right foot pressure to mitigate the bounce when driving the board upwind. Once you’re on the wave though the board has no limits to its control and snappiness off the lip. The Cabinha S:Quad and the North Wam have been leaders in the waves for a number of years and have been fined tuned in 2018, for no compromise, top to bottom, wave bashing. The S:Quad is in its sixth version and it has built a reputation for performance designed for pushing hard, driving turns in fast down the line wave riding conditions. This is one of the most reactive shapes in the test and has great control and quick reaction on the wave. The concave construction on the deck really gives the S:Quad some great grip and feel for strapless riding as well. The Pro Wam from North is another long standing model and has some great upgrades in construction and some tweaks that make it a go-to model for almost any wave session. It has some extra width in the front and generates some extra power for making the most out of smaller wave days or onshore conditions but it also won’t let you down if the waves get serious. The new North Pro series construction is ultra-light and reactive. It feels more like a glass board, but with the right durability so they don’t break down after many hard sessions. North also has some amazing new traction pads that are very thin but provide great grip. The Wam is one of the more versatile shapes in this group with enough power in the low end to handle smaller waves, but it really excels in bigger waves and fast driving bottom turns. The Airush surf lineup has been totally revamped with new custom Ecoboard construction that ups the performance and feel of Airush’s highly evolved shapes. The Comp blends competition and all around performance into a shape that’s snappy and reactive on the wave. This board has a really light, crisp feel underfoot, with a dynamic flex that enhances control through the carving and cut backs. Similar to the Wam, the Comp features a more narrow tail and mid-range width for conquering any decent wave break. The Comp rides smooth and controlled on the wave but it planes up early and rides well upwind without much bounce or chatter. Both the Comp and the new North Wam take it to the next level with their light, higher tech constructions and the reactive, surfboard feel they deliver.