The Kitesurfing Magazine Test Team were excited to have the top brands’ newest and most progressive surf shapes in a head-to-head review over two weeks of classic Hatteras conditions. The results were impressive. New combinations of shape and construction raise the bar for both the advanced surfer that wants to enhance their experience in the surf, or the first time directional rider that wants to master the fundamentals. The industry’s top riders and shapers are driving this new performance revolution as they continue to push the limits of directional boards both in the air and on the wave. The strapless aerials are getting bigger with more spins and manouevres than ever, and these new surf shapes are helping top riders reach new levels. Faster and more efficient, with lighter weight and more reactive construction, these smoother-riding hulls offer improved control and more precise carving and feel on the wave. Production boards are built lighter and stronger, with strategic material placement to give many of these boards a custom surfboard feel and reactivity, while maintaining the strength to withstand the rigours of kitesurfing’s speed and power.
All the shapes tested here are far from identical despite having similar outlines and fin set ups; they all ride differently and have their own distinct feel. A lot of the shapes incorporate the new blunt nose style and more parallel outline and use some bottom hull concave throughout. Their tail and rail shapes are varied with different style channels in both the nose and tail. These shapes are compact and superbly stable making them ideal for the progressing rider. Most of the blunt nose shapes tested allow the boards to plane up early with lift generation under the nose that help push the board onto plane with greater efficiency. They are amazing at riding fin first out of aerials with the extra grip provided by the squared nose and parallel rail. This shape also makes punting bigger airs easier than ever with better tip-to-tail balance and some added lift and wind resistance from the wider nose.
The North CSC, North Whip and the Firewire Tomo Vanguard and Vader have this modern planing-type hull, and to lesser extent the Airush Cypher is also a short compact with great lift and perfect grip. The Cypher was the lightest and snappiest feeling construction of the test, which give it great feel and balance on the wave and in the air. The smallest Cypher was the most dynamic with a thin enough tail to offer tight turns and great control at speed. The North CSC also has a super light and reactive feel delivered through North’s latest surf construction that make their Pro Series line of boards lighter and crisper and helps mimic the feel and performance of a true surf board; but with the durability to handle the additional pressures of strapless kitesurfing. The North boards also have some clever top deck shaping, with drop down concaves for front foot placement which add to the great control, feel and smooth handling of these boards. The Whip isn’t quite as light and has the inserts for straps making it more versatile for boosting and user-friendly for those wary of being strapless. Test riders were also blown away with the smooth riding feel and upwind drive of Firewire Tomo shapes, the Vanguard and the Vader. These shapes, conceived by ground-breaking surf shaper Daniel Tomo Thomson, are built with a kite-specific construction and are designed to push more speed down the line and offer smooth turning and snappy control on the wave. The Tomo shapes’ smooth riding and early planing hull technology are also ideal for the faster riding speeds and control needed for kitesurfing.
The Naish Skater also adopts the blunt nose parallel shape, but with a thinner overall profile which give them their own unique feel and add some advantages for strapped riding and boosting. Excellent balance and upwind drive, the Skater is smooth with the rail down or riding on fins and like most of these new shapes, lacks the bounce and chatter that once plagued many directional boards at higher speeds or through chop. One of the more unique shapes that was great with or without straps was the Ocean Rodeo Mako Duke. The Mako Duke has some added durability with its exclusive thermo-moulded skin technology that sets it apart from the surfboard construction and enhances its ride performance. The Mako has the deepest concave of any of the boards and slices through chop like no other. Both the Duke and the Skater are great choices for intermediates that want to ride straps and make an easy transition into directional riding.
The Liquid Force Messenger and the Slingshot Screamer T-Rex have the performance that make them ideal on the face of the wave with snappy control and quick rail-to-rail feel. They were more at home on the wave than through the flats, with smooth biting control on the wave. The T-Rex is smoother than ever and is suited to small-to-medium sized surf, whereas the Messenger likes waves and allows you to forget about the kite and make the most of the ride.
There were some amazing lightwind surf shapes as well, with the Naish Mutant and Cabrinha Secret Weapon filling the lightwind and small wave category with some definite swagger. The Mutant, with its super wide nose and more tapered tail, gets the most of smaller waves, and still feels manoeuvrable in the pocket, while the Secret Weapon planes up super early and feels smaller than its low-end planing performance suggests.
To be blunt, 2016 is a great year to add another board to your surf quiver. Some of the test riders took their favorite sticks home after the test this year; they were just too good to pass up. If you’re just getting into riding a directional board take note: there has never been a better time to learn the nuances of directional freeriding and enhance your surfing skills in the waves and your freeride skills in the flats.
Read the Individual 2016 Blunt Nose Surfboard Reviews