Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Freestyle Board Reviews

First off I'm and expert freestyler that weighs between 165-170 lbs. (75 kilos for our friends across the pond) I've sailed all of the boards I'm reviewing From Long Island, to Cape Hatteras and Bonaire, so I've got a real feel for all of them. (with the exception of the JP 98) I've sailed more freestyle boards than anyone else I know. I've also owned more freestyle boards form different brands over the past year than most magazines that do write ups on freestyle boards. So I figured I'd help some of you guys looking for a freestyle board know the strong points and weaknesses of those boards I've owned. So what boards are they, the 2011 Fanatic Skate 90ltr and 100ltr, 2010 JP Freestyle 89ltr and 98ltr, 2010 F2 Rodeo, and 2009 Mistral Joker. I've had plenty of time on each of these in all sorts of conditions so here are my views of each.

First off, the 2009 Mistral Joker. I'm including this one in the reviews even though it's a couple years old. This was the board that changed what freestyle boards are supposed to be. Gone were the slow, totally dedicated freestyle boards of the past. Those boards were great for sliding backwards, but the 2009 joker is simply a great all around board. It is fast, easy to sail, and has very good carving ability. It also feels much smaller than it's 99 ltrs. The tail of the Joker (along with the JP) has a little less volume than other freestyle boards, so it's a little less stable to learn the sliding maneuvers. That said, it will slide though any 360 type trick without ever catching the rail. It's thick rails up by the mast track help to skip sideways over even steep chop. It's also very good at tricks you need to carve into like shakas and ponches. All in all, it's better at the more advanced set of tricks than vulcans. In 2009, this blew everything else off the water. It just did all the tricks I needed to learn better than the other boards in 2009 and it also was great as a large wave board. However that was 2009 and this is 2 years later. The other brands took note and have improved on a great design.

Next on the list is the 2010 F2 Rodeo 98. It's basically the same exact board as the 2011. All they did was move the fin box a tiny bit forward for 2011. This is a great freestyle board. Definitely one of my personal favorites. When you first try the board it will feel a bit weird because at only 225cm and all that volume in such a short board, it's kind of directionally unstable. But once you get it figured out, which took me about 2 sessions, you'll be loving life. The Rodeo is tied with the Skate in the early planing department. It will pop up on a plane much faster than most of the other boards and will blow away ANY freestyle/wave in planing. It's also a very fast board. Faster than freestyle/waves and the 09 Joker. The pop of the Rodeo is incredible, and sliding afterwards is very fast. Also having all that volume packed under your feet makes the board easy to cheat throgh the end of a move that would other wise go under water. The one drawback to the Rodeo is the jibing/wave riding. It's very short and thick rails don't make for a good carving board. It will fly through jibes, but they will always have a wide arc. It also makes the board harder to learn shakas and other moves that require a really hard fast carve to initiate. I really do like the rodeo and would recommend it as a close second to the skate. So the strong points of the Rodeo are planing popping and spinning. The weakness is carving.

Third up is the duo of the JPs. I list them both because the JP 89 and 98 don't really sail like the same board at all. First is the 89 ltr. The 89 is a shaka machine. It's simply incredible at doing shakas. You can screw it up so bad and because of the amount of rocker the board has, there is a huge sweet spot where you can land a shaka. The downside, is the board suffers a bit at all the other tricks. It's thin and narrow tail helps carving, but if you're looking for forgiveness in the sliding tricks, look at the Rodeo or Skate. That said, it can easily spock, flaka and go for switch stance tricks. Another thing I found interesting about the board is it's range on the high end. I'e taken this board out in well over 30 knots many times and really didn't want anything smaller. I was really surprised as to how much wind the 89 ltr could handle for it's size. The oh so obvious strong point of the 89 ltr is its shaka-ability. It's obvious that the 89 was designed specifically with this move in mind. There really aren't any real weaknesses of the JP 89. It doesn't offer as much stability or early planing ability as the 90 ltr skate. It will still do all the tricks just fine, just not quite as easily as the skate 90. I would recommend the JP 89ltr as THE board to learn a shaka on. If you really want to crack that move, the JP is the king. If you're looking for a board that offers a more rounded freestyle ability, look at the skate. But if you're looking for an easier sailing, earlier planing, faster version of the JP freestyle/wave this is for you.

The 98 ltr JP is next on the list. This is the only one I didn't actually own, and for a reason. For advanced freestyle, it's just not cutting it. It planes nice and early and has a great feel while sailing. But after sailing the 89 ltr, I was expecting a lot more out of the 98 ltr JP. A buddy of mine had it out that doesn't do freestyle before I tried it and he mentioned the lack of pop. I figured he just didn't know how, but when I got on it, I was surprised how much effort it took to get this board out of the water. Then once going backwards, it kept hooking up in the slides. It as really hard to pull off a funnel for me unless it was perfect. It's almost like it only wants to vulcan while you're sliding backwards. Getting the 360 out of it was really hard. Strong points of the 98 would be planing and a lively ride. It's really a great freeride board, not a freestyler. Weaknesses: everything freestyle.

Now on to my current boards and hands down favorites. The skate 90ltr and 100ltr. One thing about this pair of boards that I noticed right off the bat. The 100 ltr has more rocker than the 90. I was wondering why you'd change up a boards rocker so much only one size away from each other. The short answer, when switching back and forth from the 90 to the 100, all the moves require the same body weight distribution. Last year was hard for me when I was switching back and forth between my 98 ltr Rodeo and 89 ltr JP. I'd spend 1/2 the day learning the board, before I could start making progress on the tricks. With the pair of skates, I can go back and forth without any kind of change in my posture or weight distribution in the tricks. Fanatic really nailed both designs.

The Skate 90 ltr: It does EVERYTHING very, very well. Every trick you try will be easy and the planing of the 90 ltr is truly remarkable. I was out-planing guys on 5.3s and 100 ltr boards. It planes up much earlier than the JP 89, but I think it will have a more limited top end to it. And although shakas are easy enough on the board, you need to land them right to make them nice. The skate won't self-shaka like the JP does. But for every other trick in the book, the fanatic has the edge. The JP 89 also has a little better carving ability than the 90 ltr skate because the rocker is just so flat. But that flat rocker is just insanely fast. you'll blow any of the freestyle/waves out there away with this thing. And all that speed translates into explosive tricks. It's no wonder Gollito can do 4 or 5 moves in a single sequence. The speed just carries right through. The strong points of the 90 ltr skate are planing, speed and spin-ability. Weaknesses are lacking. It doesn't shaka as well as the JP 89, but certainly isn't any harder than the other boards in the review.

Skate 100 ltr: My favorite board of all time! It planes like no other, it pops like no other and can actually rip through a regular old carve jibe. If there is a weakness to the 100 ltr skate, I certainly haven't found it. It will slide through every transition with ease. If you were to take all the best qualities form the other boards and pack them into one design, this would be it. It even shakas as easily as the 89 JP. The outline and rocker combo of the skate makes for a fast, easy carving freestyle machine. This board is also great for those guys not even doing freestyle. it's just a great back and forth blaster as well. My favorite tricks are air funnels, bobs and shakaflakas, but when I let a buddy of mine use it, he was raving over how well it just jibes, and donkey jibes. I would not only recommend this board to guys for their 100ltr freestyle board, but to anyone looking for a 100ltr freestyle board. Weakness: I've got to keep looking.

If you're still with me, here's a list of some qualities that people are looking for in a freestyle board. I'll rate the boards in the order from #1 to last in the order that they perform.

Early Planing
#1 Skate 100 /Rodeo 98
#2 Skate 90
#3 JP 98
#4 Joker 99/JP 89

#1 Skate 90
#2 JP 89
#3 Skate 100/ Rodeo 98
#4 Joker 99
#5 JP 98

#1 Skate 100/ Rodeo 98
#2 Skate 90
#3 Joker 99
#4 JP 89
#5 JP 98 (not a typo, the 89 ltr has much more pop than the 98ltr)

Sliding Control (ability to control the speed of a slide once you start a 360 like in a spock)
#1 Skate 100
#2 Skate 90
#3 joker 99
#4 JP 89
#5 Rodeo 98 (only goes fast)
#6 JP 98 (only goes slow)

Sliding Stability (how far out of that perfect position can you be before the tail goes under during moves like a spock)
#1 Rodeo 98
#2 Skate 100
#3 Joker 99
#4 Skate 90
#5 JP 89
#6 JP 98

Carving for trick (like a shaka)
#1 Jp 89
#2 Skate 100
#3 Joker 99
#4 Skate 90
#5 JP 98/ Rodeo 98

Carving for a jibe
#1 Skate 100/Joker99
#2 Skate 90/JP 89
#3 JP 98
#4 Rodeo 98

Ability in High winds
#1 JP 89
#2 Skate 90
#3 Joker 99/ Skate 100/JP 98
#4 Rodeo 98

What board will I like if I'm switching from a freestyle wave?

#1 Skate 100
#2 Skate 90/ JP 89/ Joker 99
#3 JP 98
#4 Rodeo 98

Wave Ability
#1 Skate 100 / Joker 99/ JP 89
#2 Skate 90/ JP 98
#3 Rodeo 98

If there's anything I'm leaving out, or if you have any questions about any of these boards, just let me know.

Happy sailing,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

East Coast Windsurfing Festival 2011 is a go!!!

We just got word back from the parks dept. that the 4th annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival is a go. Mark your calendars for June 11th and 12th and expect the usual big turnout with lots of action and fun. I'll be updating the ECWF website as soon as I get a chance, but I wanted to let everyone know the official dates as soon as I could.

A few shots from last year's event.