May 24, 2013
Author: SBC Kiteboard Test Team
2013 Directional Surfboard Test Reviews Head-to-Head
word by Shane Thompson
Test Team: Matt Aiken, John Bryja, Martin Milne, Shane Thompson, Dave Marshall and Andrew Murdison
Riding a surfboard is one of the fastest-growing disciplines in kiteboarding. There are lots of shapes to choose from, with each brands offering several models in their lineup that are built to perform in different surf and wind conditions, as well as varying wind directions and riding styles. Boundaries are continually pushed both on the wave face and off the lip. Armed with the latest surfboard shapes, the pro riders are pushing the limits with more technical and difficult, unstrapped aerial maneuvers and increasingly legitimate down-the-line waveriding. Better riders equipped with better gear continue to set new standards of skill and style.
If you have yet to try riding a surfboard with a kite, it’s never too late or too early to start. Whether you’re the “surfer at heart” who wants to charge into waves at times when traditional surfing is less than ideal, or the up-and-coming kiteboarder who wants to take advantage and develop skills in new terrain, the kite surfboard in your quiver can help make every windy day a memorable one. If you are a less advanced rider, consider learning directional surf riding to hone your kite-flying skills by riding strapless on a directional surfboard in lighter winds. The extra flotation and easy tracking of large surf fins can let the rider focus on improving kite control.
The right surfboard can also double up as a lightwind board and expand the usable wind range of your kite quiver. With all the possibilities and applications of today’s kitesurf shapes, it’s a perfect time to find the new stick for your quiver. The models tested here represent a cross-section of the different shapes available and the performance they deliver for different surf riding styles, conditions and skill levels.
Testing the Waters
Two models in this test are designed for learning to ride a directional shape more than they are for true waveriding performance: The Liquid Force KiteFish and the Axis New Wave. The Liquid Force KiteFish is a low cost, directional board that is a fun, play-around and durable hybrid shape. It gives the twin-tip rider who wants to try a directional the opportunity to work on skills that can transition them into the real deal. The Axis offering is more surfboard-like than the Fish, with real surf rails and bottom shape. But its aggressive drop-down deck makes it ultra stable and less reactive to improper weighting or edging technique. Both shapes are great for learning the basics of directional riding, but the New Wave offers more in the way of real surfboard performance.
Unstrapped Punters, Smaller Wave Bashers
This newest trend of surfboard has been developed to cater to the new off-the-lip and aerial performance. It is more balanced underfoot, has a wider nose area with some subtle but effective top deck concaves that help to keep the board more stable while riding without straps. These are the ideal models to learn with. Their modern hybrid shapes are quick and agile upwind, and quick to plane with a ride that provides greater stability and easy traction. They are better for onshore or side winds and provide an advantage in small to mid-size waves.
Boards like the Naish Skater, the Airush Cypher and the Cabrinha Skillit are good examples of this hybrid beast. They can still bite into a bottom turn but are not as snappy off the lip and have generally less tail rocker than the smaller, down-the-line blasters and traditional surf shapes. The Skater has the most traditional surf feel with the smoothest riding character of the three. The Skillit feels the most agile and playful rail to rail, and the Cypher offers the most low-end drive and float. They are perfect for mushier waves and less-than-ideal onshore waveriding conditions, and their balance and top deck concave help keep you connected to the board while punting strapless airs.
For blasting down-the-line in bigger waves and higher speeds, the best boards are smaller and thinner with a narrower nose, thinner rails and smaller tails, and high-entry-level rocker lines. These shapes get you onto the face early and in precise control of the turns at higher driving speeds on the waves and in the flats. These boards are more advanced and require higher skill levels to get the most of. Narrower through the tail and mid-section with higher amounts of rocker mean more control on the wave face, down-the line, and more bite and agility to bury the rail at higher speeds. Shapes like the F-One Signature, the Wainman Hawaii Magnum and the Liquid Force CJ Ltd. are designed for down-the-line surfing. While the Signature had the most all-around feel, the CJ had the most aggressive rocker and flex with the powerful carbon shape. The Wainman Hawaii Magnum is fast and smooth and remains in control and ready to pivot at higher speeds while riding down-the-line.
For the wave seeker who simplifies things with just one board for every condition, there are the jack-of-all-trades models that are ideal travel companions. These boards can be ridden with or without straps with equal precision. The Slingshot Celeritas is the best example of this in our test, although the Wainman Hawaii could sneak into this category, as well. The Celeritas is equally comfortable with or without straps, performs at high speeds, and has a well-blended rocker line to get you planning early and easily. It’s a great all-around travel stick that will equip you in most conditions without much compromise.