Category Archives: Gear

Review: Imagine Connector SUP

When Hawaiian waterman Dave Kalama teamed up with Imagine Paddle Surf, we knew there was something in the works for the ultimate downwind SUP. Leave it to one of the guys who started it all to shape a fun, forgiving and fast downwind board. The 2014 Imagine Connector is a very worthy SUP and should be a winning shape for 2014.

Available in 2 sizes, the 14′x 27″ and 14′x 29.5″, the Imagine Connector looks different than any other downwind board we’ve carried here at Big Winds, with lots of volume up front and thinned out through the tail. This works so well in the swell and has been tested in some of the

Imagine Connector

Imagine Connector. Click to enlarge.

biggest swell the Gorge has to offer. No matter how deep the bow wants to penetrate, the high volume, sleek piercing nose prevents the board from pearling. It allows you to really want to punch into the bump ahead of the trough you are gliding in and keeps you committed with little to no worries of diving the nose deep. The thinned out tail makes sense, as there is nothing for the wind or side swell to push on laterally throwing you off balance from behind. Foot steering is also super responsive due to the low volume tail section. Once committed to the glide, the board really accelerates to the next bump and “connects” with ease.

The 2014 Imagine Connector is available in one construction, but relatively light for a non-carbon board. The 27″ wide comes in at 28 pounds and the 29.5″ wide comes in at 29 pounds. They are quite the value at only $1899 and worth every penny for the fun factor they provide. Come by the shop and check out the new 2014 Imagine Connector, or head down to the Big Winds Beach Center at the Event Site to sign up for a test drive!

Review: Firewire Kiteboards

Over the past two weeks we have had the opportunity to try the Vanguard 5’0 and 5’2 FST, as well as the Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek. Testing has taken place in a wide range of conditions, including light wind and high wind, Gorge flat water and swell and overhead ocean surf. The testing has gone great and we are pleased to introduce the Firewire lineup now available at Big Winds.

The Vanguard is a complete redesign on the modern surfboard. Other brands have copied its innovative design, but there is nothing like the original. The shape was designed around modern freestyle surfing, which transfers seamlessly over to kiteboarding. The short shape is suited very well for Gorge swell riding and strapless jumping (this board does not have foot strap inserts), while the sustained width and dynamic bottom contour make the board have the stability and ease of planning of a board 8-10″ larger. All in all, it is a very efficient design that makes landing the latest strapless tricks a breeze. Its easy planing and stability also make it a great option for a wide range of abilities. While the board maintains much of its width from nose to tail, it is not super wide (17.5″ on the 5’2 and 17″ for the 5’0), meaning it is still very responsive from rail to rail. After comparing the 5’0 and the 5’2, I would recommend a 5’2 for most mid-sized folks looking for a great strapless board for both inland waters and small to medium sized ocean waves. The 5’0 is a great option for smaller riders, or as a Gorge, high-wind specific slayer. Larger sizes (5’4 and 5’6) will be available soon and should be more suited for larger folks, lighter winds and medium plus surf.

Firewire Hellfire

Hellfire. Click to enlarge.

The Hellfire is a performance hybrid. What this means is that the outline, length to width ratio and rocker profile blend elements of modern high performance surfboards with a more user friendly “hybrid” or fish style shape. The goal of this shape is to blend top end performance with ease of use. The Hellfire dialed this. The Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek was ridden in overhead surf at the Florence south jetty in gusty six meter conditions. Our first impression pulling it out of the box was “damn, this is a beautiful board!” The Hellfire is not just pretty to look at, but a real pleasure to ride as well. The board was very stable at 19″ wide, but the diamond tail and step down tail rail reduce volume and make the tail plenty loose for easy, controlled turns. A deep double concave created plenty of drive while charging down the line. The mellow entry rocker is still enough to let you get very vertical, while not compromising control and speed. All in all, a very well balanced board that will excel in small to larger surf and good swell days as well.

Both boards come deck only, meaning you will need to purchase pads, foot straps (for the Hellfire FST only) and fins. The boards both have a 5-fin box configuration, so you can choose if you would like to ride them as a thruster or a quad. We have found both boards work great as either a thruster or quad set up, so it really comes down to personal preference in that department.

Come check the boards out at our shop, or on our website. We have the Vanguard 5’0 and the Hellfire 5’6 available to demo now as well, so come try one out today!

Wells Island

A Secret to Strapless Airs

OK, let’s face it, some of the strapless airs we see kiters doing these days are mind boggling, as if they are attached to the board with Velcro. Well, there is a product out there that may come close: Sticky Bumps PUNT Wax. We love punt wax here in the Gorge and at Big Winds we simply can’t keep it in stock during the summer months. If you have ever waxed your kitesurf stick, you may already know the pros and cons. The cons are pretty simple: time consuming, messy, and, well, messy. But, if you know how to use the PUNT Wax, you will find the pros on the first punt!

We recommend not using PUNT Wax alone, use it sparingly on a primary coat of base wax. Rough up the base wax with a surf wax comb, and then apply the Punt Wax over the base coat. If you have pads on your board, you can apply the PUNT Wax directly onto the pad, but again, use it sparingly, as the wax can make for a messy disaster. With kiteboarding comes wind and with wind comes blowing sand. I’ve always taken my board to the water before applying the PUNT Wax on top of the base coat. This prevents any sand from adhering to the board and messing up your traction. After applying the PUNT wax, I keep it in a ziplock bag and put it in my board shorts. Within a half hour of booting strapless airs, you may find the PUNT Wax smears off to the edges of your board, and it may be time to reapply.

After a session of punting like Ian Alldridge, Patrick Rebstock or local favorites Matt Elsasser and Randy Orzeck, get used to packing your PUNT Wax away from the heat. Do not keep wax in your gear bag, nor on your car seat or dashboard. Use your PUNT Wax carefully and sparingly, and learn to love it like we do!

–TJ

888-509-4210
www.bigwinds.com

Get a Grip!

A new product made in Oregon with 100% natural ingredients has been recently introduced to us at Big Winds. Paddle Grip Wax is an essential addition to prevent the slip we get from water and sweat on the paddle shaft and handle. The rationale? It combats fatigue and reduces paddle rotation and hand displacement.

gripAfter trying Paddle Grip Wax for the first time, I’m hooked. It is now difficult to paddle without this wax. We offer it in three different formulas: Cold Water (below 64 degrees), Warm Water (above 64 degrees) and SUP Anti-Sweat (All-Temp/All Purpose). Not only does a little go a long way, but a light coating goes on clean and doesn’t attract debris. Another thing I noticed was the reduction in hand blisters. So, avoid paddle slippage and skin maceration, and get some paddle grip wax today!

–TJ

888-509-4210
www.bigwinds.com

Save the Rails!

You’ve just spent your last paycheck on your dream SUP. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars and a little time to prevent any damage to the rails. At Big Winds, we use Railsaver on all of our high-end race and surf SUP boards since the rails are typically the part of the board that gets hammered over time by your paddle. The rail tape is easy to install, doesn’t yellow over time and will certainly help the resale value of the board.

RailSaver Pro

We sell Railsaver in kits or by bulk. The kits we offer from Railsaver PRO come in clear or striped and are by far the best quality rail tape we have found. Railsaver PRO comes in two 6’3″ x 2.5″ lengths and retails for $59.99 for the clear and $65.00 for the striped.

RailSaver Pro

We also offer bulk Railsaver Pro in two widths: 2″ wide ($2.88/ft.) and 3″ wide ($4.32/ft). This rail tape is made by PukaPatch, and goes on smooth and clear. We have a formula that helps customers pick their length: 1/2 the length of your board per side. So, with a 14′ race board that has a moderate thickness, the 3″ wide tape at two 7′ lengths is optimal. For an 8′ surf SUP, all you need is the 2″ wide at two 4′ lengths. When we apply the rail tape, we start towards the nose of the board, and begin adhering where your maximum reach is. This will give you a bit of distance beyond your feet, in the case of a not so perfect exit of the blade at your toes.

Please give us a call to order yours today or place your order online.

–TJ

888-509-4210
www.bigwinds.com

2014 SIC X-14 Pro and Quickblade Trifecta

Last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to test some new SUP gear here in Hood River. Conditions were relatively warm, calm and beautiful here in the Gorge, so I grabbed the new 2014 SIC X-14 Pro Race board and the new Quickblade Trifecta paddle to give them a test drive. Typically, I prefer testing new boards with a paddle I’m already familiar with, but I thought I’d get the Trifecta on the water, too.

I’ll begin with the board. I paddled the X-14 Pro once at the Open Air demo in Utah last summer and once at last summer’s Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Both were quick, little “there and back” sprints, testing stability and balance, as both days were relatively choppy and windy. I didn’t remember the X-14 Pro as being as light as the production boards we just received, so I went directly to our scale here in the shop. The board blew us away with an actual weight of 22.4 pounds without the fin! SIC listed an average weight of 26.4 pounds, which is still acceptably light in the racing world, especially for a board that retails at $2799. But 22.4 pounds? (The only board that we have here in the shop that light is the new Naish Javelin 14, which came in at a featherweight 21 pounds!) The X-14 Pro has an easy to manage handle dead center on the board, which allowed me to maneuver it to the water with ease. It also comes with two inserts on the port side for a beach start optional handle, something we will be looking forward to adding come race time this season.

SIC X-14 Pro

Photo: Gorge-Us Photography. Click to enlarge.

Once on the water, I balanced out the trim line and found my feet pretty much dead center around the handle, nose slightly engaging the water. The “hole shot” is a term taken from the motorsport world, describing the time and energy it takes to get up to racing speed from a standing start. Combined with the new Quickblade paddle, I got the X-14 Pro up to this speed quick and effortlessly. It accelerated to a glide and kept gliding as quickly as any 14′ race board I’ve tested. After taking the board across the Columbia River to the Washington side, I found a nice little spot within the White Salmon River that was deep enough to practice pivot turns, but shallow enough to fall. (I’m always hesitant at first with new boards to whip it around when the water is only 35 degrees!)

SIC X-14 Pro Pivot Turn

Photo: Gorge-Us Photography. Click to enlarge.

The X-14 Pro is super easy to pivot turn, leading to a very maneuverable and agile feel. The stock fin works great and will shed weeds better than the fins SIC has offered in the past. Although the X-14 Pro doesn’t come with a board bag, it deserves one and the FCS 14′ Race Cover fits it perfectly.

The Quickblade Trifecta is a new paddle designed by Jim Terrell and Travis Grant. Grant was the recent winner of a trio of trophies (M2O, BOP and Gold at the ISA Worlds; hence the name “Trifecta”).

Quickblade Trifecta

Photo: Gorge-Us Photography. Click to enlarge.

The blade shape is relatively long and slender compared to the Quickblade Elite Racer and has a new flex pattern in the shaft, designed for long distance racing. The paddle I tested has a 96 square inch blade, with a round tapered shaft and carbon handle. For the past few seasons, I’ve come to really enjoy the feel of a smaller blade as long as I can keep up a relatively high cadence over long distances without burning out. 96 square inches is bigger than I’m used to, but it felt incredibly easy to pull the board past the blade. With the same amount of effort I put into the smaller blades I’ve been paddling, I felt more power coming from the Trifecta. Less effort, more reward! With little tension on the shoulders, I fell in love with the new design. The new evolution of design in the Quickblade’s Trifecta is evident in the blade shape and the seamless connection from blade to shaft, too. The back of the blade has a distinct spine running down the center, virtually eliminating any flutter. Even tugging hard on the blade, it remained rock solid and stable. Quickblade continues to lead the evolution in SUP paddle design and the Trifecta is one that will be hard to pry from my hands this season.
To sum things up, the new board and paddle I used last weekend provided a whole new eye opening experience in flat water. The sport of SUP continues to evolve and keeps getting better every year. We are excited to get out and test the new 2014 gear this season and will continue to post blogs and answer questions the best we can, so please keep checking our Big Winds blog, Facebook page, or give us a call to get the best information we can provide!

-TJ

www.bigwinds.com

888-509-4210

Poly/PU versus Epoxy/EPS Kitesurf Boards

We discuss the differences between traditional “fiberglass” vs. epoxy kitesurf boards with our customers at Big Winds every time someone purchases a new kitesurf specific board. It’s important to understand your new board now that they are retailing for around $1000.

To understand the differences between Poly/PU vs Epoxy/EPS, let’s first understand the terms:

Epoxy: The type of hard resin used in the construction of epoxy surfboards with an EPS foam core.

EPS: The acronym for “Expanded Polystyrene”, a lightweight beaded foam used in the production of all epoxy surfboards.

Poly: The nickname for Polyester resin used in the production of the “traditional” polyurethane foam core surfboard.

PU: The acronym for a Polyurethane blank core glassed with polyester resin.

We sell both Poly/PU and Epoxy/EPS boards at the Big Winds. Each brand produces one or both types of boards based on customer demand. For example, North Pacific offers their shapes in both Poly/PU (standard) and Epoxy/EPS ($100 upgrade). Naish has added a Poly/PU board to their standard Epoxy/EPS lineup, as has Cabrinha. Both Firewire kitesurf boards and North kitesurf boards stick with Epoxy/EPS, but put a twist in the overall construction with the addition of veneers (wood/bamboo/cork) and carbon/Kevlar.

So, what is the advantage of choosing one over the other? Well, there are many, so let’s break it down by discussing both construction types.

North Pacific Poly/PU

North Pacific Poly/PU

First, the traditional “fiberglass” boards (Poly/PU) typically have adjectives attached to them like “lively, responsive and connected,” but also “heavy” and “not so environmentally friendly” — the latter being potentially the biggest negative. The weight of the board may come across as a negative when picking one up off the shelf, but due to the lack of air in the PU blank the board rides a bit lower in the water giving it that alive feel. When kitesurfing, wind is always a factor and there is such a thing as a board that is too light. Flex is another characteristic that is often overlooked and although the shape, profile and amount of fiberglass laid onto the board determines the amount of flex, the Poly/PU seems to hold and release from a turn a bit better. After time, the Poly/PU tends to dent on the top deck where your heel applies added pressure. Some companies will add extra fiberglass, carbon patches, or even wood reinforcement providing added durability. The pockets created in the dents can actually lead to a more custom feel and after riding a Poly/PU board over a season or two, it’s broken in like a worn in shoe.

Cabrinha Skillit Epoxy/EPS

Cabrinha Skillit Epoxy/EPS

Now, let’s review Epoxy/EPS. It is light, durable and widely available since the aftermath of the Clark Foam shutdown. I remember Epoxy/EPS as “Styro”, the beaded foam you find in your beer cooler. More air inside the foam means less weight, but the boards ride a bit higher on the water. It also means that the foam can soak up water like a sponge if the epoxy cracks so be sure to repair your board before putting it back in the water. Most Epoxy/EPS boards we sell at Big Winds are coupled with a bamboo/wood veneer, cork or both. This quiets down the chatter in the ride, increases the strength underfoot and dampens the feel when riding in chop and landing strapless airs. Cork was introduced to the Cabrinha lineup a couple of years ago and now North has added cork to their boards, too. Cork recovers up to 85% of its original thickness after impact (less heel denting) and adapts to curved surfaces better than wood. Cork, bamboo and wood add to the performance and durability of the board, but also increase the cost to produce them. The eco-friendliness of Epoxy/EPS resins and core, along with the wrapped wood, bamboo and cork add a lot to the advantages of Epoxy/EPS. Polystyrene foam cores sealed with epoxy resin lasts longer and emit fewer toxic gasses when built, whereas the polyurethane (PU) boards contain carcinogens and are essentially impossible to recycle.

So, the bottom line is to try before you buy. We have found the Epoxy/EPS boards riding better and better every year. They are great for kiteboarding in terms of strength and weight, they last longer and are easier to travel with. Although the Epoxy/EPS has made a lot of progress in design and materials, you will notice most pro surfers and pro kiters are still riding standard Poly/PU boards. Come by the shop this summer to try some of our demo kite surf boards and choose your new board based on how it rides for you.

–TJ

www.bigwinds.com
888-509-4210

2014 Inflatable SUP Review

The inflatable SUP market is booming. Every reputable manufacturer in the business seems to have their version of an inflatable. There are reasons for this: many stand up paddlers don’t mind a slight compromise in performance to offset the logistics and expenses of hauling around or traveling with a standard epoxy board. Just getting an SUP off the roof rack and to the water can be a hassle. And traveling by air with a 10′+ SUP? Forget about it. Allow me to introduce the 2014 line up of inflatable SUPs we offer at Big Winds, for wherever your next paddle adventure takes you.

Inflatable SUPs are divided into five categories: All Around, Touring, Wave, Race, and the emerging Whitewater class. Each of the brands we sell at Big Winds (Starboard, Naish, Tahoe, and Aquaglide), offer an inflatable in one or more of these categories.

The All Around inflatable SUPs are one of the more popular due to their overall versatility. Many All Around inflatables can be used in a variety of different water bodies, including flat water lakes and bays, moving water rivers and creeks, and even small ocean waves.

One of the most popular models we sell in the All Around category is the Starboard Astro Whopper Deluxe. The Whopper is one of Starboard’s best selling SUPs, so it makes sense that they offer this classic shape as an inflatable. Starboard regards the Astro Whopper as the “Swiss Army Knife” of all of their Astro Inflatables.whopper-yoga

At 10′ in length, 35″ wide and 6″ thick, the Astro Whopper is a great choice for exploring, longboard style surfing, fishing, yoga, and even whitewater. The Astro Whopper has a “whopping” 300 liters of volume, perfect for even the heavier weight paddlers. The Astro Whopper comes complete with the new high aspect pump, making it easier than ever to inflate to the recommended 18 PSI. It weighs in at 28 pounds, a bit heavy due to the EVA pad covering the entire top deck. (But your dog will appreciate this). The Astro fin boxes are built strong, thicker than the 2013 model assuring that they’ll hold up if paddled over rocks or reefs. With the choice of running a single center fin (6.75″) for cruising, or adding the 4. 5″ side bites for surf, the Astro Whopper has multiple options. The Astro Whopper is a great choice for the whole family.

Naish offers a number of inflatables. In the All Around category, the Mana Air 10′x 33″ is our favorite. If the Whopper is a bit too wide and heavy for you, consider the 2014 Mana Air 10′ as a super fun board for surf, cruising or even whitewater. The 2014 Mana Air has a bit less volume

Mana Air

Mana Air

than the Whopper Air at 230 liters, so it performs really well for the smaller to medium sized individuals. It features a 10″ slide-in fin, with two rubber side fins that are integrated to the bottom of the board. All Naish Airs are equipped with a new high aspect pump, allowing inflation to the recommended 14 psi to be much easier now than in the past. Naish also offers a slick electric pump that plugs onto the battery of your car that shuts off automatically at the desired PSI. Overall, the Mana Air 10′ is a comfortable and stable board that is fun in a variety of conditions.

Aquaglide offers a 10’6″ x 31″ inflatable SUP called the Cascade. The Aquaglide board is a great

Aquaglide Cascade 10'6

Aquaglide Cascade 10’6

price point option for those looking for a stable and stiff inflatable SUP for under $1000. The Cascade 10’6″ comes complete with a high volume pump and single center fin. It is maneuverable enough for surf and perfect for recreational paddling. With the 6″ thickness, the Cascade 10’6″ can work well for all levels of paddlers and heavier riders up to 300 pounds. This board packs down small, but not as small as the other above mentioned 10′ inflatables.

 

Next up are the Touring boards. Typically a touring board is 11′ or longer, has a pointed nose, plenty of volume for loading gear and is stable to paddle on both flat and bumpy waters. Our

Astro Touring

Astro Touring

favorite touring boards are the Starboard Astro Touring 14′ and 12’6. These boards are both 30″ wide and have over 300 liters of volume (the 14′ has 351 liters and the 12’6″ has 302 liters). They come in the standard Deluxe Blue model, which is 6″ thick with the Deluxe Back Pack and High Aspect Pump. The Astro Touring boards can be used for downwinding, too. It is fast enough to obtain the proper glide in small to medium size wind swell and stable enough to handle the bumpy water. This is a great board for traveling to non-wave destinations as it packs up small and is light: the 14′ is 26 pounds and the 12’6″ is 24 pounds.

 

Alpine Explorer

Alpine Explorer

Tahoe SUP has an 11′ Tour board called the Alpine Explorer (2013) which works well for loading gear and paddling distances. This board has two spots to stow gear, fore and aft, and can handle the heavy load without bowing out like a banana, due to a separate chamber running the length of the board. This chamber is inflated separately and acts as a stiffening beam and provides a slight ridge under the board for better tracking. Two side-by-side fins provide even more straight-line tracking.

Aquaglide Cascade

Aquaglide Cascade

Aquaglide comes in with a 12’6 Cascade Touring board under $1000. It is super stiff, 6″ thick and very stable at 31″ wide. Like the other touring boards, the Aquaglide 12’6 is ideal for adventure travel or recreational paddling. The weight comes in a bit heavier at 34 pounds but it’s still compact enough when deflated to fit into the provided backpack. The entire package is under the fifty pound mark for air travel.

 

 

For the ocean goers looking for a great inflatable for wave riding, we like the Naish lineup. These boards are designed by wave riders in true wave conditions.

 

Nalu Air

Nalu Air

For a good longboard style design, the 2014 Naish Nalu Air 11′ is stable and fast enough to catch waist-high to shoulder-high waves. The Nalu Air 11′ is narrower than the Mana 10′ at only 30″ and has less volume (210 liters), making it faster for catching waves and fun for cruising around between sets. Naish makes a smaller 4″ thick version for the smaller guys, the Nalu 10’2″ which is also 30″ wide” with even less volume (180 liters). The equivalent to this board for the ladies is the 2014 Alana Air 10’6, which is the same shape and design as the Nalu Air 10’2″, but with a great color scheme for the gals.

Starboard too, has a good offering to the inflatable surf SUPs. The Astro Wide Point is the Starboard Astroinflatable version of the 8’2″ x 32″ Wide Point. It’s the shortest inflatable we offer and is set up with a quad fin configuration. This board, even in the deluxe model, is 4″ thick with only 130 liters of volume, making it a great choice for small to medium riders. The new 2014 Astro Drive is based on one of our favorite crossover boards, the Starboard Drive 10’5″ x 30″. With a more narrow hull shape, this is a great choice for a crossover board (flat water to surf). Set up as a thruster, the Astro Drive comes with a 6. 75″ center fin, and two removable 4″ side fins.

The Race boards have become very popular and more events are including an “Inflatable Class” especially for those traveling by air. The Naish ONE 12’6 is a great choice for training and racing and Naish has dedicated a lot of energy to get the N1SCO events taking place world-wide. The Naish ONE provides a stable and economical racing class for those that don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on upgrading their equipment every year.

Naish One Racing

Naish One Racing

The ONE race formats are a blast to take part in and great for the spectators to see all of the action right up front. With the growth of these events springing up locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, other companies have started making Race shaped inflatable SUPs. The Starboard Astro Racers are the fastest in their class, offering both a 14′ x 26″ and 12’6 x 26″. Narrower than the Naish ONE, these boards are know to have won more events than any other inflatable board. The new 2014 Astro Racers are great to travel with, as they pack down smaller than any other inflatable and are the lightest weight: the 14′ is pounds and the 12’6″ is 21 pounds. I trained on my Astro Racer 14′ last summer, and found it surprisingly fast and stable for only 26″ wide.

The emerging whitewater class of inflatables, though young, is a personal favorite to me as we have a number of rivers surrounding Hood River that are perfect for Stand Up. Coming from a kayaking background, I’m finding Whitewater SUP the ticket to get back on the rivers including everything from meandering water to Class 3+ whitewater. My choice is the 2014 Starboard Astro Stream 9’6″. It is designed and built to take all the abuse a river can put on an SUP and going inflatable is my preferred choice as it’s lighter than plastic, compact enough to travel with and built to take hits.

Dan Gavere

Dan Gavere

Dan Gavere has put a lot of energy in growing the sport and with his new pro model Stream 9’6″, he’s made it easier for everyone from beginners to experts to navigate rivers standing up. This board is ultra stiff and super stable at 36″ wide. It has a three fin configuration. The new 2.5″ whitewater fins are short enough for running shallow rivers, yet just long enough to track well when ferrying across the currents, eddying out and peeling out around rocks and obstacles. Make stand-up paddling easier than ever on whitewater, and get the 2014 Starboard Stream 9’6!

– TJ

Aftermarket Kitesurfing Fins: Thruster versus Quad

We offer a variety of kite specific surfboards here at Big Winds, some that run with three fins, some with four and some now with the choice of either, in a 5-fin box configuration. Over the years we have found some aftermarket fins working better than others for kitesurfing. With Futures Fins and FCS dominating the surf fin market, all of the kitesurf boards we sell accept one or the other. Fins are like the “tires on your car” (thanks Ben Skaggs for the analogy) and you can feel the difference in performance immediately. Understanding the nuances of fins can be complicated, so I’m hoping to simplify your choice to better your kitesurfing experience.

quad-v-thruster

With terms such as templates, foils, flex etc., there is a lot to consider when purchasing your next set of surf fins. Fortunately, enough surfboards have been utilizing fins since the mid 1930s (thanks Tom Blake) and evolved to the current three-fin “Thruster” design (thanks Simon Anderson) and four-fin “Quad” design. Although the debate on thruster versus quad has valid points on each side, we try to iron out the differences with a few common characteristics.

Quads offer more speed as the thruster’s center fin creates drag. A surfer on a thruster must generate his or her own speed, whereas a quad will naturally scream down the line. Thrusters, however, can pivot on the tail making for tight arcing turns. This allows for multiple bottom turns, face climbing and lip smacking, turn after turn after turn. Although both thrusters and quads will crank up wind better than any twin-tip, the quad may have a slight advantage due to two fins engaging on the rail, versus just one. We talk about a quad feeling looser or skatier due to the lack of the back fin, but the back fin allows for better tracking on the thruster. It comes down to personal preference, whether you want the speed and long arcing turn of the quad, or the control and tight pivot of the thruster (or the versatility of choosing either in the 5-fin box boards).

North Pacific, North, Cabrinha and Firewire (recently added to the Big Winds lineup) utilize Futures Fin boxes. There are many choices Futures Fins offer, but here are our favorites starting with the thrusters, then the quads, then the 5-fin:

John John Signature Thruster Fins: The John John fins are based on the best selling F4 Techflexfins and new for Big Winds this season. I’ve been riding the John Johns for five months now and love them. With added base, the new John Johns have more drive, helping maintain speed through the turn. A reduced tip area provides a quicker release, allowing the board to easily break free from the wave during turns. Plus, they look awesome with a blue side when viewed from the starboard side and yellow side when viewed from the port side.

John John

John John. Click to enlarge.

 


F4 Techflex Thruster Fins: This is our best selling thruster fin from Futures. They provide a comfortable feel in a variety of conditions. The F4 template has a medium base providing less drive in a tighter turning radius and a generous tip helping you stay on rail. The carbon base and carbon tip provide stiffness and prevent the board from sliding through the turn. This is great for kiters who put a lot of force on the fin.

F4 TechFlex

F4 TechFlex. Click to enlarge.


 

V2 Rasta Quad: Don’t get me wrong, these are my favorite quads from Futures and not just due to the looks and name. These V2 quads have been made with renewable bamboo and look awesome, but the thing I’ve noticed is they generate more drive, providing forward acceleration and helping maintain speed through the turn. Plus, when you purchase the V2 Rasta Quad set, a portion of the proceeds go to Dave Rastovich’s non-profit, “Surfers for Cetaceans.” I love whales and dolphins!

V2 Rasta Quad

V2 Rasta Quad. Click to enlarge.


 

F4 Quad Fins: Again, the F4 template is the most popular and available also as a quad setup. This fin is for the medium size riders looking for a fin that is a little looser that easily breaks free from the wave during turns. These fins release really well for a fun, skatier feel.

F4 Quad

F4 Quad. Click to enlarge.


Josh Mulcoy 5-Fin: Josh has been kitesurfing for over eight years and has helped put legitimacy into the kitesurfing world with his pure strapless style. He has worked in conjunction with Futures to design a fin that works great for him both with a kite and without. Josh’s 5-fin set-up is fast and turns a tight arc due to the sweep angle or “rake” of the fin being more upright then swept back. Riding the rear quads will add more hold preventing the board from sliding through turns and add more drive helping maintain speed through the turn.

Josh Mulcoy Thruster

Josh Mulcoy Thruster setup. Click to enlarge.

Josh Mulcoy Quad

Josh Mulcoy Quad setup. Click to enlarge.

 


All Naish kitesurf boards have been built with a proprietary fin box known as DFS. The DFS fin box accepts FCS fins and we carry FCS fins at Big Winds in case you want to upgrade your stock Naish fins. The FCS fins we stock and have ridden over the years are categorized by size. This allows you to make a choice based on your weight range, with sizes extra-small, small, medium and large. Here is a list of FCS fins we recommend:

Naish DFS fin box

Naish DFS fin box. Click to enlarge.

 

K2.1 Grom

K2.1 Grom

K2.1 Grom (XS) Thruster: The Kelley Slater Pro Model Grom works great for the smaller individuals, those weighing 145 pounds or less. For someone looking for characteristics of a looser, tighter turning fin, the KS.1 Grom is an excellent choice.

 

 

PC-3 Thruster

PC-3 Thruster

PC-3 (S) Thruster: We stock and sell more PC-3 fins than any other for kitesurfing due to the versatile nature of the size and feel. For riders weighing 150-175 pounds, the PC-3 is a great choice. It delivers a longer arcing turn through which it holds tight. The bamboo construction version is lightweight and provides a natural flex enhancing the directional flex of the fin. The carbon base on the bamboo version is perfect for the kiters who like to ride lit up.

 

PC-5 Thruster

PC-5 Thruster

PC-5 (M) Thruster: For the heavier riders, 175 pounds and up, the PC-5 will be the choice. This fin handles the power and force exerted when fully powered. There is no need to go much bigger than the PC-5s, as this fin is deep enough to handle choppy bouncy conditions. Again, offered in the bamboo construction, the carbon base creates a stiff platform with a naturally flex in the tip. This is a great choice for the big boys.

 

SA-1 Quad

SA-1 Quad

SA-1 Quad: Simon’s medium size quads are great for the medium sized kitesurfers looking for a quad set to give a little added drive and speed to their shorter boards. For the boards in the smaller (5′-5’8″) range, these fins will help maintain acceleration through the turns.

Find all these fins at Big Winds, in the shop, online or give us a call at 888-509-4210.

–TJ

2014 Naish Mana Standup Paddleboard

Over the past few seasons Big Winds has been introducing many of our customers to the joy of surfing with a paddle in hand and we’ve had a huge, immediate success with the Naish Mana series. The Mana’s are Naish’s best selling SUP boards in their surf line and for good reason: they are easy to surf and super fun! I personally started my SUP surf progression on the Mana 9’5 during the winter of 2010-11. This particular size worked great for my novice days of progressing in the surf and my wife found it enjoyable for just cruising around on the Columbia River (a one board solution for the both of us to enjoy!). As we all progress with our paddling skills so do the SUP boards and for 2014, Naish has given the Mana an updated shape and great new look.

2014 Naish Mana Standup Paddleboard

photo: Gorge-Us Photography

We have now had the opportunity to test the new 2014 Mana 9’5″, 8’10″, and 8’5″ on the Oregon Coast over the past three months and love them! The first time I took the 9’5″ GT out, I immediately took notice of how it turns on the wave with little or no effort. Naish has taken 27 liters of volume out of the 9’5″, dropping it from 190L to 163L. With reduced volume, increased tail rocker and a V bottom shape, the turning and carving becomes much more dynamic and rail-to-rail transition effortless. Although the Mana is a more performance oriented board now than it ever has been, it still retains its ability to allow beginners to have fun due to the wider outline. At 32″ wide the 9’5″ Mana is an inch wider for 2014. This added width equals added stability and can help get the paddler out through mushy whitewater with unbelievable ease.

2014 Naish Mana SUP

photo: Gorge-Us Photography

Naish replaced the 2012 9′ Mana with the 2013 8’10″. For 2014, the 8’10″ is bumped out a half inch, gets a slightly pointier nose, and exaggerated tail rocker. The biggest waves I’ve ever ridden have been on the 2014 Naish Mana 8’10″ GS in December on the Oregon coast, a day I will never forget! If I had to choose just one board, this would be the one for everyday conditions. It’s long enough to catch the slow building waves, but short enough to rip once on them. I don’t consider myself a lightweight by any means (165 lbs), but this board is designed for the lighter weight riders, having only 133L of volume. The GS construction is reasonably light too, only two pounds heavier than the GT wood construction. Not bad for a $500 cost savings!

2014 Naish Mana

photo: Gorge-Us Photography

We had been anticipating the release of the 8’5″ Mana after hearing about it in Maui at the Naish dealer meeting in July, and have now had the opportunity to surf it on several occasions. The 8’5″ GT is under 20 lbs and loves to crank out turns with its light swing weight. It has a generous width of 30.5″, making it very stable and comfortable in less than ideal conditions. The stability was particularly noticeable near the tail, making it easy to step back to get over the whitewater or make a quick pivot turn to catch the oncoming wave. With the 6.5″ center fin, the board tracks great and stays locked to the water in bumpy conditions.

All 2014 Naish Mana’s have a three fin, thruster configuration. The GT models have a really nice US 6.5″ wood center fin, whereas the GS models can vary: Mana 10′http://www.bigwinds.com/sup/category/63/product/2857 and 9.5″ GS comes with a stock 9.0″ AST fin, whereas the 8’10″ has the 6.5″ AST fin. One thing I did was upgrade the outside FCS side fins from the stock molded composite fins to a lighter weight, performance fin set with a more responsive flex pattern. The FCS PC-5 fins work great for a guy my size, and PC-7 for the heavier guys. We have a great selection of aftermarket fins to choose from here at Big Winds, and if you have questions on which might work best for you, give us a call or stay tuned for upcoming blogs discussions on fin selection.

–TJ

888-509-4210

www.bigwinds.com