Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013 Northsails Idol Review: taking the red pill

If you're a fan of "The Matrix" all you needed to see was the title of the post to get a pretty good idea of how much I like these sails. I say it's like taking the red pill, because it was truly eye opening about just how good a sail can be. Things that you thought impossible before, are now easily attainable!! It's taken me this long to write a review of the new 2013 Northsails Idol because I felt I really needed to try all the sizes I had to make sure the entire range was good. Why did I feel the need to try all the sizes? Well, the Idol is Northsails new 4 batten Freestyle/wave sail, with the focus on freestyle. Last year I was on the ID, which was a revolutionary sail unto itself. The light weight and crisp handling made it my original choice for sails when I was ordering this year. That is until one of my European friends who had already tried the Idol at one of the early release expos told me that the idol was better than the ID! Better than the ID!!! Now he had my attention!! Still I was skeptical because I was definitely not a huge fan of Norths other 4 batten sail, the Hero. Although the 2012 Hero was superb, and perhaps one of the best at what it was designed to do (wave riding with multi-fin boards), for powered up bump and jump blasting and freestyle it was very lacking in lightness, speed, maneuverablility and stability. So you can imagine how much arm twisting it took for my buddy to convince me to not order the best sails I've ever ridden with the ID, and go for another North 4 batten, of which I was already skeptical because of my feel for the Hero. So I ordered the Idols for the entire quiver. My fingers were shaking as I hit the send button for the order really thinking I was making a huge mistake not going with the ID again. They arrived about a month later and the day that they arrived, it was blowing 30 knots!! The moment of truth!! Can the new 4 batten have the stability and live feel that I loved about the ID? So the first session was with the 4.0 Idol. Rigging the sail, you notice that the boom length is shorter than on the ID. Perfect for freestyle! My buddy Chachi also just received his quiver of Idols that he also hesitated about ordering since he liked the Ice so much. We hit the water at the same time. the beach was West Meadow beach where there are head high waves on the outside and glass flat runs on the inside. Chachi was working the loops on his wave board on the outside and I was working the freestyle on the inside. After about 45 minutes of sailing we came in to compare notes. Our words were exactly the same. "I'm never ordering a 5 batten again!" We both felt the same thing. The Idol is WAAYYYY more stable than the hero was, and easily as stable as the 5 batten North counterparts. So for blasting in flat water, freestyle or for wave riding the idol does it all! For freestyle, the 4.0 was incredible. Even in super gusty conditions (20-40 mph) I never felt out of control. For the freestyle trick, dear god, there's never been anything like it!! It wants to spin and lift! In all my years sailing I've never used a sail that was so in control while at the same time having that "lift" that you need to get the extra height in the tricks. The first day on the sail I was sailing better than I ever had, hitting tricks cleaner and with more speed than ever before. Later on, another buddy of mine Ryan showed up and rigged 4.2. He was coming off Maui Sails (notorious for lacking power and wind range), so his reaction was even bigger than ours! He's 200 lbs and was planing earlier than guys on 4.7s and 40 lbs lighter! Normally he would have been struggling on his 4.7 Maui when I was full power on my 4.0. Now we had the same perfect power, me on 4.0 and Ryan on 4.2. Another stoked Idol owner!! Later on that day the wind backed off a bit and I rigged the 4.5. It was the same great feel that the 4.0 had. Very light, speedy and locked in even when overpowered. I couldn't believe this!! I was totally expecting the 4 batten sails to be easily overpowered but they weren't. The only thing I was thinking is that as the battens get further spaced out, like in my 5.6 that there's no way the sail would still be as stable. This is why I took forever to write the review. I really didn't believe that a 5.6 with only 4 battens would have any kind of wind range. Finally a few days before we left for Bonaire (2 weeks ago) I got a day on the 5.6. It was cold and gusty. To my surprise, not only did the 5.6 have great range, but it also had a really nice light feel to it. It has plenty of overlap with my 5.0 and jumping straight down to the 4.5 from the 5.6 is a definite possibility although for freestyle, I'd still want that 5.0 in the middle to always have the perfect power for learning new tricks. As for how the Idol will react in the different tricks, it does EVERYTHING!!! For all the new duck tricks like Konos, burners, Air Funnels, the sail will duck exactly where you duck it. No guess work or adjustments. It goes where you want it and it won't slam back up in your face or dive down to the water. Duck it, let go and it will float where you leave it until your ready to blast off! Then when you are ready to take off, you will find much more lift available than anything else I've tried. This extra lift also has transferred into other tricks like ponches, shakas, and double moves. So if you're up for bouncing the second flaka, or after a shaka bounce into another flaka, it has become much easier! To the point where on the ID I used to only get the second bounce on occasion, to now I can get it almost every single time. And that was from the first session on the Idol. For moves like vulcans, spocks, or even helitacks, they will be much easier from teh shorter boom length and high cut sail foot. No longer will you have to worry so much about catching the clew and the sail dragging you over. It will just go!! So for me the Idol is the perfect sail in EVERY size. The range is much, much better than I expected, the speed is much better than I expected, and so far everyone that I know that has tried one has been blown away by the overall performance of the Idol. I would recommend the Idol to anyone looking to windsurf!! The one thing to keep in mind is that it is just about all full monofilm, so if you're in wave where the sail might hit a reef and tear, it would be something to consider. However there is still x-ply on the impact areas by teh mast sleeve and on the lower foot of the sail where you might end up crashing on it. And trust me, I crash on there A LOT!! For any sort of flat water, or high performance wave sailing, and especially freestyle, this is THE sail!!! Don't even hesitate! More power, lighter handling, and better tricks are waiting!! Seriously, I've never been so stoked on any sail. They are that good!! If you're in the market for a new sail, you need to at least try one. Oh, and one more thing to mention, the Idol comes in about $100.00 cheaper than the ID and is also the cheapest freestyle/wave sail in Norths lineup. As if we needed another bonus!!!