A comprehensive quiver breakdown
This test first appeared in KW #99 which came out in May 2019
Rob Claisse joined the team for foil testing from issue #99, here are his findings:
I’m going to mostly talk about the front wings, because I think this is what’s really important for freeride foiling and what F-One have got right for the mainstream. I’ve ridden the Mirage 800 wing a lot, almost 100 sessions. It’s pre-preg carbon, nice and light but also tough. I’ve had my foil wash up a shingle beach a few times and there isn’t a ding on the Mirage, which you would see on a lot of other pre-preg carbon wings.
What I like about the Mirage is that it’s super stable in a straight line, so it’s great for foot changes and first tacks because it carves in a really predictable, steady arc. There’s no tip over or yaw. The only downside I’ve found is when I’ve been carving harder and harder, getting more and more confident in the super flat waters of Langebaan, I can’t really tighten up the carve with more speed. There’s a certain fixed radius gybe which, compared to something more like a big, surfy wing, will give you slower but tighter angle turns when you start playing in waves. The F-One rear wing stabiliser also guides you round your turns beautifully, but I have tried a couple of flatter shaped stabilisers which allowed me to ride with a more slashy style. Everything is now so modular and riders will soon often have two stabiliser options for different feels, or conditions. It’s not just about having one set-up if you’re looking for the ideal feel.
One thing to note is that I’m 105 kilos. Now that I’m back home in the choppier seas of the UK, I realise how nice it was to have flat water in Cape Town (in between the waves) or at Langebaan lagoon. The 800 is amazing when powered up in flat water. I can stay on the foil all the time, through all turns and I learned so many things on it. When there’s more energy going on under the water, with chop etc. I’ve found the 800 to be a bit on the small side for manoeuvres, and it feels quite unstable for me in lots of white water. Slower, bigger, surf wings are much more suited to dealing with air pockets underwater and will cavitate less in those situations. So I think stepping up in size would be ideal for me here, but for more averagely sized people, the 800 and 850 sizes will be good in most conditions and for how the majority of people want to foil.
I’ve mostly ridden the 85cm mast, which I think for most people is the best length. The 10cm difference from the 95cm mast will help average riders progress, while some smaller, lighter riders could happily ride the 75cm mast for a long time.
As you get better you want to get really canted over, doing big powered carves, the 95 will make a lot of difference. Sometimes when I’m pushing hard upwind with a big kite, if I’m on the 85cm mast and the wings pop out, it will vent quickly. At those times the longer mast will be worthwhile. But for most people the 85 is a really nice, manageable size.
I’ve also ridden the 850 IC6 wing, which is F-One’s main market wing, made of moulded carbon, is a bit more robust, a little heavier but also more forgiving, easier and cheaper! The fuselage is also a bit different on that IC6 set-up, bringing down the cost a little further. The IC6 is for riders who are already a general intermediate kiteboarder and making the step into foiling. This is a really good base level wing shape for freeride foiling. While it’s not a full-on big beginner wing, it’s very balanced and tuned to get you riding fluidly and feels super stable underfoot. Some wings suddenly accelerate and make you feel as if you need loads of front foot pressure. The IC6 accelerates, but not with such alarming speed. (I teach a lot on the big Shinn P wing, which is slow, steady and takes the unexpected out of foiling – but it has nowhere near the progression). The IC6 850 does have speed, which you’ll enjoy as you get better, but it could catch you out in your first sessions. However, I generally put good kiters on the 850 within their first few foiling hours and they enjoy it and also then don’t have to adapt to something else.
I’m a fan of aluminium mast set-ups. I kite a lot, I don’t care about added weight and I have peace of mind as I’m not always the most careful at handling equipment. What is nice is that the carbon wings reduce the overall weight of the set-up by quite a lot. All the F-One foil boards are pretty light this year, too. The TS is their lower volume, entry level board, and is a little heavier, but built to last.
I also must say that I haven’t had any issues with parts / screws seizing up after a lot of use, and I don’t always rinse my gear and take it apart, though I know I should.
I mostly ride the Pocket 130 board and love it. I don’t feel like I need anything shorter, even though some people are riding boards of less than a metre in length now, but I’m a big guy and there’s enough length here for me to manage touch downs. Super light, it’s managed my abuse well, including jumps and people always comment how good it looks. I should note that I’ve also ridden the Bamboo Foilboard 49 (156cm long) a lot too, which I thought would feel like a tank after my 130, but doesn’t. Reasonably high in volume it’s good for learning and has excellent light wind performance. For touchdowns on gybes it’s really smooth and pops up again nicely thanks to the double concave at the front and bevelled rails. The F-One TS 51 board is harder wearing and has less volume, so it’s easier to move around for waterstarts, which also makes it better for getting to grips with strapless. Don’t go too short too early is my advice. A decent length and width board really helps you learn manoeuvres.
Spy the F-One Foil range in action below