Jul 19, 2011
Author: SBC Test Test
Choosing your new twin-tip board can be a daunting task given the many choices available today. It’s a challenge because many of the boards, at first glance, seem similar in build and design. Production methods are comparable with the familiar ABS sidewalls, and a wood or foam core combination wrapped in various glass or carbon laminate combinations. The nice thing is that over the last few years there has been a drop in the number of boards we have tested that don’t work that well in certain conditions or for certain skill levels.
Overall, performance has become standardized, to a point. R and D teams have discovered some of the magic patterns of flex, outline and bottom shape and translated that magic into to each evolved model. Construction methods and materials have improved and most board companies are making fantastic products that can also last a long time and withstand a ton of abuse. Today’s boards are also well designed for their specific range of use and rider skill level. It’s advisable to buy a board that is slightly above your skill levels that will last and easily carry you into higher levels of riding. Each company has a range of models that suit the newbie or progressing rider, the weekend freerider, the aggressive freestyle rider and more recently the booted up, wakestyle rider. Boards do differ in the materials, cores, and laminates they are constructed with and bottom shaping used by different companies that endear each model board to their end user. Here are a few examples to help you decipher the full gamut of performance provided by the modern twin-tip.
Sizing: Length and width
The length and width of the board is usually the first decision a rider makes when choosing twin-tip. The width is the biggest determinant of how much power a board can generate. The wider a board is the through the centre and the tips will determine how much surface area you are edging water against. Thus a centimetre of width makes much more difference than a single centimetre of length. In fact, a board that is narrow in the tips and centre but with a longer length, may be easier from edge to edge, but not as quick to plane as a shorter but wider shaped board. The Progressive Trigger is the most extreme example of this, although at 130 cm it starts to lose some low end. The Axon Pulse and North Jaime 137 are good examples of this with normal lengths but more width. These shapes are designed for bigger riders or lighter winds with more width than length to get there. Generally the average sized riders are 160 to 185 lbs and are using 132 to 139 cm length boards that range between 39-41 cm in width. Larger riders can add 1 to 2 cm on both length and/or width and smaller riders can minus.
There are two types of flex that are generally analyzed when looking at a modern twin. The centered or overall flex and the flex in tips. The stiffer in either results in more aggressive and faster riding, with more pop for jumps and usually more acceleration when you drive the kite across the wind and put the pedal down. Flex and reflex response is also important as boards with more carbon or other stiffening agents also rebound after flexing much faster. The stiffest and most aggressive boards of this test include the Axon NYC, the Airush FS and the Nobile 2HD. All three of these shapes have stiffer central flex with reactive tips and are snappy with fast reflex throughout. They drive with the most power and give the most kick for more advanced riders. More moderate flexing boards are easier through messy water conditions and are more comfortable for freeriding. Boards like the Progressive Bonefish, the Axon Pulse, and the North Jaime are moderate flexing boards that excel at freeride but can still throw down for advanced freestyle.
Rocker lines are a key factor in performance even though twin-tip kiteboards tend to have fairly flat and continuous rocker lines. Some manufacturers have gone from continuous to three-stage rocker setups, which for the wakestyle rider gives more aggressive pop with less effort. The new Airush FS has a three-stage rocker in this test and is one of the more aggressive freestyle boards we tried this round. More rocker, whether continuous or three-staged, can also make the board more forgiving on landings with less nose diving and through chop. The more pronounced rocker in combination with some bottom shaping gave a unique feel and chop-eating prowess, to the new Wainman Joke, tested this round.
Too much rocker or curve in the bottom can hinder upwind ability and planing power. Some boards like the Nobile 2HD use one rocker line for the rail areas and more aggressive curve in the centre. This gives the best of both worlds, looseness while flat and speed while edging.
The outline of the board can determine much in terms of both turning ability and amount of pop. The more aggressive freestyle boards are square tipped with straighter parallel rail outline. The Axon NYC shows this trait with more parallel rails and super squared tips. This generates huge pop when edged and then carved into the air when jumping. Most of the twins tested in this issue have a more classic freestyle outline but not necessarily the top pro freestyle, aggressive model. These step downs from the freestyle shape give the rider a better combination of pop and control. The Slingshot Misfit, Cabrinha Prodigy Naish Momentum, Best Armada and Epic Spartan are all freestyle shapes that are designed for awesome freestyle performance with less aggressive stiffness than their full-on, pro-model freestyle counterparts. They give plenty of pop, can be ridden booted up in the Park and are more versatile but still very freestyle focused. As tails get narrower, the boards have less pop but can stay under control through chop and at higher speeds. A wider tailed board can tend to flatten out the faster you go. Companies use different methods to ensure that their tips are reactive enough with the proper flex. Carbon stingers and stiffening laminates are used to get the perfect tip flex. Tip flex and width and shape also determine how easily a board can carve. Rounded tip outlines and more narrow overall tips, will carve and hold into turns with less effort. The tail outline, in conjunction with bottom shape, also mitigate a board’s turnability. The most extreme example of this is the round tail and deep concave of a board like the Ocean Rodeo Mako (tested Issue 10.2). Freeride boards like the Mako have a narrow tail outline and they don’t generate the freestyle pop but can carve and turn, are better through bumpy water than the flatter bottomed and wider rivals.
The most popular type of bottom shape is the centred concave. Many of the boards tested here have slight one-half to one centimetre of concave. In the past few years some designers are using V bottom shaping or the opposite of concave or combinations of both. The most complicated shaping there is is the Wainman Joke with its channels and V centre.
Most companies have adopted minimal amounts of bottom shape in their snowboard style constructed boards. These production boards rely more on the flex than the bottom shaping to push through chop and grip on edge. The custom shapes from Rogue Wave and the production shapes from Jimmy Lewis take a different approach to bottom shape and use deeper concave that bleeds into flat along the rounder shaped rails. For shapers like Jimmy Lewis and Lee Brittian of Rogue Wave, the hydrodynamics this bottom shape offers is the only way to deliver a smoother ride and better grip and control through any type of chop. Named the Dominatrix bottom shape, Jimmy Lewis and Rogue boards continue to deliver the most popular alternative to flatter bottomed, snowboard-style production boards.