Two weeks ago we asked a couple of very well known windsurfers about updating sails and in particular why now really is the time. Not wanting to side step around windsurf boards we decided to focus intently on the slalom and freeride disciplines. This time we sat down with Marco Lang from the Fanatic team about the latest slalom board shapes and why it is important to keep ones quiver as fresh as possible. Read on and if you feel inspired to move on up then check out our EQUIPMENT page to see what's new.
ML: If you stand in front of two boards, one from 10 years ago and one new one, then (aside from the graphic) you can see that the biggest noticeable difference is the width and length. In the past the boards were really long and narrow, they looked like a speed board, pretty similar to what the guys are using now for speed records.
Today the boards are much wider that length has been reduced somewhat. It's much easier to learn windsurfing on as a whole because a wider board is easier to balance on, the stability is better.
BS: Is it really possible to make a wider shape as fast as a narrow board from 10 years ago?
ML: No that's not really possible because you need a really narrow board to reach a good speed record. However, the idea behind the width is that it is allowing us to use the board with more ease and comfort and as a result the performance output is greater in a much wider range of conditions. From short sharp chop to high rolling seas, the shapes that are currently available are fitting well to the conditions.
As well as being able to bring more people to start windsurfing it is now possible to plan in sub-10 knots of wind. Some years ago, this was an unimaginable goal. So, yes if we compared a like for like shape with materials from 10 years ago to that of the current day then it would be faster to keep a thin board. However, a freeride/slalom board is not totally designed for straight line speed and the comfort of a slightly wider board and the ease to get planning earlier after a slow gybe is a hugely influential factor, not just for us competitors on the world tour but also for your everyday recreational sailor.
BS: So they are better for early planning, they go faster around a race track than boards from 10 years ago and they are easier to use. What's next in terms of board development?
ML: When we break the board down we now see much more volume in the tail, again this further aids early planning of the board, and it's easier to gybe because you are more stable on your feet as you pass through the manoeuvre! For sure the weight is also a really important point, a slalom board weighs approximately 6.3kg these days, which has perhaps been one of the biggest steps in the development. It's not easy to make the boards light and yet still stable as it effectively bounces over the top of chop rather then sink and plough through it like something from the past. I guess boards from 10 years ago were perhaps 10kg or more.
Talking of chop, a really good board has to work well in hard chop in much the same way as it does in flat water. We with Fanatic try to test our boards in all kind of conditions, to make the board perfect for all spots around the world! So I guess this is where we are looking at the next step, lighter boards that are still as strong but also making them ever more controllable in real world conditions. As an example we are using, in our slalom boards, cut outs, the cut outs really help us keep the board glued to the water surface when the going gets tough. Further to this we are pushing boundaries of how short and wide we can go. The wider we can make it but still maintain the same top end speed, or perhaps even better it, then the more attractive it becomes (as a board) at taking off after a gybe or keeping us firmly stuck to the deck during the gybe.
BS: So can you see the boards developing much more in the future or have we reached a plateau in research and development?
ML: No there for sure there is no end. It is easy to just say this but really the more involved you get the more you realise that there will always be something to change after the next hurdle. If we could do it all at once we would but research and development is about testing one thing, seeing if it works then scraping that idea or keeping it and moving on to the next.
Sebastian Wenzl is always coming with new ideas. Every year there is always a small step in the improvement from his ideas and then from our ideas. It's almost impossible to say what and which boards we are riding in 10 years, but for sure they will be some amazing things and this is one of the real reasons we keep on testing and why we keep on pushing to be on the latest gear. The same phrases may crop up year on year in the marketing but that is because year on year this is exactly what is happening.
BS: Can you give us any insight into what the boards might be like in the next year or two?
BS: 5 reasons why people should lovingly part with their old kit and jump on something much more 'new-school'.
1. To get more days on the water, because it's possible to get planning in less than 10 knots.
2. The boards are much shorter, so they usually fit IN a small car.
3. You can improve your windsurfing skills much faster than with the narrow boards.
4. The boards are lighter. Today is almost always a mission with the stuff on the airport. Enough said.
5. The width allows for much more stable gybes, less falling in means more fun, right.