Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Exocet WindSUP Saves The Day

Once again the Exocet Wind SUP saved the day when what would have previously been considered a pretty much unsailable day, turned into a really fun ocean and wave riding afternoon. This was on a day when weather, wind conditions, time and other commitments prevented going elsewhere. This board continues to reward time and again. It provides the ability to get out on the ocean in light winds to catch a bunch of fun wave rides and downwind swell surfing. Then just sail way back up wind with ease thanks to the daggerboard and repeat the whole process again and again.  Overall the WindSUP’s versatility as a light wind ocean/wave board, an SUP for paddling, a flat water windsurfing long board, and a stable easy board for beginners to learn on, is very impressive.  
Does it have drawbacks? Yes, it is big at 11’8” long and fairly heavy. Hence it is more weight to lift and launch and more prone to ding damage when handling /transporting if you are not careful.  There is also more potential risk for damage in the surf inherent to sailing any big SUP or windsurfing long board in surf conditions.  Still these are drawbacks and risks I understand and accept in turn for all the fun this board can provide.  Would I prefer to be shortboarding? Of course, but when the winds and conditions are not cooperative then boards like the Wind SUP certainly beat just sitting on the beach wishing and waiting for better conditions.
So after several straight days of really light straight on shore south wind at Emerald Isle, NC, this last  Saturday it finally began to swing a little SSW and more side-on.  By 2:00 p.m. it was up to around 8-10 knots so I decided to take the WindSUP with a 7.5 Aerotech Phantom down to the beach. The tide was still fairly high.  Due to the more on-shore winds, higher tide and shore break it was not easy to just flop the board down in the water, beach start and go like you would in more side-shore winds.  The best method is to wade out while pushing the board and rig out past the in close shore break area. Once out and about 10 - 15 yards off the beach, you could then just climb aboard, up-haul quickly and go.  Here again, the high volume and stability of the Wind SUP makes uphauling far easier in the rock and roll surf conditions.
Then by kicking the WindSUP daggerboard down I was able to quickly sail upwind to just east of Bogue Pier. The waves are usually better there and thus the reason for the Pier being a popular and well known North Carolina surfing spot. However, although the waves were 2-3 feet the onshore-side on wind made for pretty poor conditions for surfers with only a few out and in close. There were no SUP paddle surfers or Kiteboarders to be seen either. So I had the whole place pretty much to myself.  By then the wind began increasing to 10-12K and I was able to more easily plane up and onto a number of fun wave rides almost into the beach and fast tacks back out.  
After catching a few waves I then kicked the dagger back down and headed out about 300 yards past the pier to clear all the fishing lines, and sailed upwind about 1/2 mile west. Made a few more wave rides there and by then the wind had increased to 12-14K with a few higher periods. This made for some really fun beam to broad  reach planing and swell surfing - down-winder style, back to the east side of the pier.  Now with the added wind strength and being able to plane easily you could catch waves farther out and get some really long fun and fast rides in.   Plus the Wind SUP with its wide classic long board nose just climbs up and over the breaking surf and white water with such ease when heading back out. This really makes going out over the surf in light winds so much more stress free!

Finally  after about 3 hours non-stop on the water and having made a whole bunch more powered up beam to broad reach runs in and out while catching more  waves and swell rides  back to where I started, I  called it a day.  Thanks again to the Wind SUP I had the opportunity to get out and have a really fun windsurfing and light wind wave riding session in what before were generally considered unsailable ocean on-shore wind conditions. Thanks to the Exocet Wind SUP it was not only sailable but a whole lot of fun on a beautiful sunny and warm June afternoon off the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tabou Pocket Wave - My One Board Solution


Living in eastern North Carolina and south eastern Virginia we sail a lot of sound (bay) side B&J and frequent side-on to side-shore wave and ocean conditions.   Unless you are a local Hatteras resident you are lucky to get an occasional side-off wave/ocean session out on the Outer Banks of North Carolina when visiting. There are several other side off spots on the coast too but they always seem to be time, wind, and work schedule dependent. These are factors that have lead to my recent acquisition of a 2013 Tabou Pocket Wave 93.
In early 2012 I began thinking that I wanted to get a new wave board and probably a quad.  However, being a big guy at 200 pounds and 6’4”, and knowing that I would likely be sailing in side-on to side-shore conditions more frequently than side- off, I was concerned that a quad board might not be the best choice for me. Then after talking to several experienced local Hatteras wave sailors who are also big guys, they pretty much confirmed that they still prefer a faster, single fin design over a quad for typical Hatteras conditions.   They like a wave board that has some extra volume to aid in schlogging on the inside, but can still get you up on a plane,  accelerating quickly as well as offering that extra speed when needed.  These are all good things here for sailors my size and can significantly aid in countering the effects of our typical strong side shore currents which run with the wind.  These attributes also help get you get out over the breaking waves on the inside when still schlogging or marginally planing.
Although I have some wave sailing experience I am far from an expert and have done a whole lot more side-on backside riding than I have side-off,  front side to date.  Because of this I also questioned if my present skill level was really ready for a quad design. Then I began reading more and more about the new tri-fin (thruster) board designs and how they supposedly worked well in a wider variety of conditions. These included the generally rougher side-on wave conditions, mushy surf, and side shore currents that are common here. 
 Also I considered  the fact that even though the tri-fin designs might not match the performance of a quad in DTL pure wave riding;  based on the descriptions, board test reports, and videos they seemed to perform pretty darn well in the waves.  Their inherent design features such as slightly flatter rockers and wider tails were described as attributes leading to faster speeds, earlier planning and excellent jumping characteristics.  Plus the alleged added benefit of the tri-fins for offering snappier turns on the waves and better grip on the wave face seemed intriguing.  
So I began an exhaustive review of everything I could find about the new tri-fin boards.  I knew I wanted a board in the 90 liter range because of my weight so was looking for information and board reports pertaining to those board sizes.   In the course of this I also discovered that the option of running some of these designs as single fin boards made them great for B&J type sailing so typical of what we find here on the sounds and big coastal rivers.  Like the quads, these new tri-fin designs claimed to have a wide wind and sail size range too. 
So based on all of the above I became more and more interested in getting a 2013 design tri-fin. I was also seriously considering some of the new highly rated Freestyle Wave boards such as the Fanatic FreeWave 95.  However, in the back of my mind I still hoped to find a board that could offer both tri and single fin performance like the Freewaves , but would still be more biased towards wave sailing. 
Having initially been interested in the Tabou Da Curve 91 quad I became aware of the Tabou Pocket Wave designs.  They offered the tri-fin or single fin option and were described by Tabou as; “Euro Wave -Perfect Wave Riding- On Front or Back Foot; Acceleration in Onshore Conditions, and Best of Both Worlds - Tri or Single Fin.” Although always taking manufacture statements with a grain of salt knowing that their intent is to sell boards, the description of the Pocket Waves on their website still intrigued me. Plus the Pocket Wave was also available from 69 liters up to a 93 liter version!  I liked that considering I was looking for a board in the 90 liter volume range.
In the course of further discussions with Andy McKinney at Wind-NC in Avon, NC on Hatteras Island and after expressing my reservations about going with the Tabou Da Curve 91 quad, he suggested I look at the Pocket Waves.  I then contacted Tabou Distributor and Pro Sailor Matt Pritchard at Pritchard Windsurfing in Maui.  I described to him my sailing level, experience and weight as well as the typical conditions we find here in Eastern North Carolina. I also told him that I was interested in the Pocket Wave 93 but still considering the Da Curve 91. He immediately recommended the Pocket Wave for me vice the Da Curve!   His recommendation was based on his extensive experience sailing both the Da Curves and the Pocket Waves. He therefore knew that the Pocket would best serve my needs for all the reasons that I have stated here which had lead up to my considering the tri-fin designs and the Pocket Wave in the first place. 
So I now have a 2013 Tabou Pocket Wave 93 and the more I sail this board the happier I am.  Although I am still learning how to sail it well and maximize its performance, I have never had one board that can do so much over such a great range of wind and conditions.  Although it is rated as able to handle sails from 6.4 down to 4.2 I have only sailed it from 5.7 down through 4.5 including 5.0 and 5.3.  This is still a huge range for me for a single board. If it will also handle a 6.2 sail then that will indeed be an incredible sail range for one board.  I have found however, that in max 4.5 conditions and below that I prefer to go down to my Exocet X-Wave 73 liter board. The Pocket 93 just starts feeling a little too big below 4.5. Yet, to be able to sail a 93 liter board comfortably and in control down to 4.5 is pretty amazing to me.
The Pocket Wave 93 came with two 12 cm side fins and an 18 cm center fin.  Upon Matt Pritchard’s recommendation based on my 200 pounds (90kg) weight, I have swapped out the 18 cm fin for a 20 cm fin. This combination gives me better upwind performance and is still surprisingly faster than I expected any tri-fin board to be.  There is plenty of speed available for any wave sailing situation that I might need.    Also based on his and Andy McKinney’s recommendations I went with a Maui Fin Company - San Carlos Weed Wave 25cm fin for single fin sailing. I have now used this fin for every sail size from 4.5 up to 5.7 and found it “most excellent”. It makes the board even faster, livelier and less planted than the tri-fins which I like for sound side B&J sailing and the board still turns and carves smoothly sharp or wide with little effort.    Riding waves with the single San Carlos Weed Wave feels just like riding a classic single fin wave board and I could be happy just using the Pocket Wave as a single fin for everything!
I have only had one ocean/wave session so far with the tri-fin set up but loved it!  Smooth fast turns short or wide can be made at will and with a little back foot pressure the board just snaps around.  The pocket seems to hold the wave face with ease yet there is no feeling of drag or slowness to respond to turning input.  I don’t think I have even begun yet to fully explore what it is truly capable of.   It may not be a quad but to date it is offering me all the wave sailing performance I need.
The design of the Pocket wave with its slight double concave leading back to a slight V, flatter rocker compared to the Da Curve quad and wider tail results in quick planning, acceleration, and a very fast ride when you need it.  The Pocket is also a “Jumping Machine”!  This is  due to these characteristics and I am now lofting some of my biggest sound side jumps ever. I have been conservative jumping on the ocean so far as I know it is capable of some serious height. Perhaps at my age and ability, fear of jumping too high is still a good thing.
In conclusion the Tabou Pocket Wave 93 has turned out to be one of the best and most all around performing high wind and wave sailing boards I have ever owned. It has seriously become my “one board solution”.  To be able to sail happily on one board, from sound side to ocean and waves, from at least 5.7 down to 4.5 is much more than I expected. It’s great performance not only on the ocean and in the waves, but particularly as a sound side high wind board in single fin mode, has now got me considering even selling my 84 liter B&J board.  I just don’t think I will need it anymore. I have already sold my 94 liter B&J board as the Pocket has replaced it.

It is true that I was not able to test ride other designs before making my decision on the Pocket Wave. I also recognize that there are other great tri-single fin board options out there that may perform just as well.  Certainly each of us has different windsurfing abilities, skill levels, sailing styles, likes and dislikes and I am not claiming that the Pocket Wave is a board for all. What I am claiming is that for me, and perhaps others sailing in places with similar wind, wave, ocean and sound side conditions that the Pocket Wave does seem to be a great design. It is a solid all around performer whether out on the ocean wave riding or high wind blasting and jumping sound side. Try it, you just might like it!  If you want to see what the Pocket Wave is capable of at the top end of extreme windsurfing be sure to check out: 

Good winds,
Chuck