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,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tabou Pocket Wave in the Waves

Tabou Pocket Wave 93 and Aerotech Charge 4.5 rigged and ready to sail.
 Harkers Island, NC 04 May 2013

Finally on Friday, May 3, 2013  the wind, sun and the stars aligned and I was able to get my first ocean/wave session with the Pocket Wave  here on Emerald Isle, North Carolina.  Winds were 4.5-4.2 on the Sound side but I rigged a 5.0 to help with the strong side shore current and light inside ENE side-side off winds.  Thanks to the 93 liters volume of the PW I was able to get out through the 3-5' waves/surf without too much difficulty and then there was plenty of wind power on the outside.

I had planned to switch to the tri-fins but a delay at work and being really anxious to get on the water led me to just go out with the single Maui Fin Company - San Carlos Weed / Wave 25.  Anyway, once out past the break,  the Pocket jumped up on a plane and just flew out over the big swells and waves. Coming back in I was amazed at how smooth and easy to turn it was on the swell and wave faces and how quickly it would turn too even with the single fin.   I kept thinking, "If the Pocket turns and rides the waves this well, the feeling of being on a Tabou Da Curve or Quad board must be incredible". 

Back on the beach some kids came up and upon looking at the board one said, " Wow, your board is cool looking"  and it is!

I sailed the Pocket again yesterday at Harkers Island across from the south end of the Core Banks and Cape Lookout, North Carolina. I was on a 4.5 and due to being way powered up most of the time,  I was  thinking of coming in to switch to a 4.2 and my 73 liter X-Wave. However, the Pocket still felt fully controllable in the high wind, big sound chop and wind driven swells so I stayed with it.  Amazing considering the board is 93 liters!  It is definitely a jumping machine too and I was easily able to make some  big sound side jumps launching up off steep, smooth 3 - 4' wind swell faces.

So far the Pocket  is turning out to be such an incredibly versatile board considering how well it performs as a high wind sound side board as well as a great wave/ocean board too.  Also because of  its ability to handle such a wide range of sail sizes!!!!   I would most highly recommend it to anyone who wants a one board solution for all around sailing here on the east coast and Hatteras, for 5.7 down through 4.5.  I have yet to try a 6.0/6.2 size sail on it so cannot comment on that.   I am sure the smaller size Pocket Waves would work super well for lighter weight sailors too for all the same reasons. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Further Thoughts on the Exocet WindSUP

Thanks to the arrival of spring temps and SW winds I pulled the Exocet WindSUP out of winter storage and headed to Onslow Beach, North Carolina yesterday afternoon. On arrival winds were Southwest, slightly side on and lightly blowing 6-10 knots+ with 2' waves. Throughout the session I was riding it with my 7.5 Aerotech Phantom. I just wanted to share some thoughts on this board as it has really expanded my light wind ocean sailing horizons.

 I know most of you have done some SUP sailing in light winds. I know you are familiar with how easy they can be to get out over the surf. Also you know how easily they uphaul, tack and jibe thanks to their volume and stability despite rock and roll ocean conditions typical of light winds, waves and swells. Also I am sure you have discovered how much fun a sailing SUP can be considering their ability to easily catch waves in light wind conditions. The WindSUP does all that too but the real significant advantage to it is that is has a daggerboard! Yet, it is not a flat water traditional windsurfing long board but a board designed like a big classic surfing long board.

 Once out past the surf being able to put the daggerboard down allows you to cut way up wind just as you would expect from any traditional windsurfing longboard. The huge difference though compared to non-daggerboard sailing SUP's, is that you can you easily and quickly sail upwind even a mile or more in just a few tacks. Then swing the dagger back up and enjoy super fun downwinders zig-zagging and jibing back and forth on deep broad reaches, catching waves, riding swells on the outside etc. If you want, then head back up wind and do it all over again. Also if you inadvertently get too far downwind there is no "Walk of Shame"! You just kick the daggerboard down and sail right back up to where you started.

 All in all in my opinion, it just really allows you to maximize SUP ocean and wave sailing in light winds and is a ton of fun in the process. I know that not everyone may be interested in doing much of this kind of sailing or dealing with long boards in and out of the surf. But, like the option that SUP paddling has given us to get out on the water on those low to no wind days; the WindSUP has certainly broadened the ability to maximize light wind ocean sailing. This is especially true considering the added benefit of its inherent daggerboard induced downwinder options. Let’s not forget too that it can be paddled as an SUP, used as a board to teach windsurfing, or even just an easy flat water summer cruising board too.

 Is it a perfect board? No. It is heavy and therefore more strenuous to carry, take on and off racks and thus more subject to transport dings. At 11'8" long and 31" wide it takes up a lot of storage space too. The daggerboard is kind of loose and is not a high performing daggerboard set up like you would expect on a Mistral Equipe. However, for just going up wind out in the ocean, who cares? Unless you put foot straps on it, it is difficult to carry and handle when getting in and out of the surf too. Finally, there have been some well publicized cases of Exocet Wind SUP's developing cracks or breaking in the surf. Although I have used mine about 15 times since I got it last summer so far I have not had any issues. Still I worry about breaking it but also realize that any big long board in the surf is subject to damage or snapping in two. So I will keep my fingers crossed, keep sailing it, and if it does crack or break, will repair it and sail it again. It’s just too much fun not too.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Finally, my new 2013 Tabou Pocket Wave is here!!  Now  I just need a good windy day to get my first ride and I can hardly wait.

I had been riding an 2008 Exocet Cross II 94 for the last few years on primarily 4.7 - 5.8 days and it was a great all around board. It excelled in B & J type conditions on the bays and sounds and was O.K. out in the ocean but lacked good wave riding ability.  So I began a long search for a board that would perform much better in the wave riding mode but still give good performance out on the more flatter water conditions.  I ended up deciding on the Tabou Pocket Wave because it has proven wave sailing peformance yet with a slightly flatter rocker and wider tail than its brother the Tabou Da Curve Quad and other pure down the line wave riding designs.

So as soon as I have got my first ride I will post a review and session report here. Stay tuned!


07 March 2013 Update:

So today,  I went to a spot on the New River in North Carolina called Hospital Point which can be good in a North West.  I rigged my Aerotech 5.3 Phantom on the Pocket and decided to go with the tri-fin set up initially thinking the 25cm San Carlos Weed/Wave might be little big for the stronger wind which was then about 22-26knots and gusty.

I initially caught a good long gust cycle and the Pocket easily got up on a plane with a few good pumps. I immediately noticed it seemed quite a bit shorter than I was used to and when up and planing it felt more like an 80-85 liter board in terms of maneuverability. Yet it was very comfortable to ride and super easy to turn. I spent the first couple runs figuring out how best to balance my weight. I had to lighten up on back foot pressure after pushing the fins out from under me a couple of times too but soon had the feel of proper pressure needed.

While fully powered up it felt quite fast but took a little figuring out on how best to distribute your weight along with sail position to get good upwind capability.  However, it still did not seem to go upwind as well as I would have thought it would. I probably just need more time on it to get it dialed in and/or perhaps once I try a slightly bigger center fin while using the side fins this will improve.

On one run back in the wind lulled back quite a bit but the Pocket seemed to have good coasting ability which I liked. Still once off plane and schlogging in lighter winds I found its shorter length a little tricky to manage. Putting my front foot forward of the mast and using minimal back foot pressure, or moving my back foot up forward of the front straps, was the best way to keep it schlogging and not rounding up.  Unfortunately this marked the beginning of a long period of lighter wind and I had to get back to work so wrapped it up. Of course while I was de-rigging the wind cranked back up.

Overall I did not get enough time on the Pocket to really be able to say I love the board yet but it certainly felt great the few runs I had when powered up. It was fast and very maneuverable but I didn't even really begin to explore its turning and jumping potential.  It did seem to require a good amount of power to get my 200+ pounds with full wetsuit etc., up and going but some of that may have been just due to the gusty NW wind conditions. So at least I have got it out on the water and it has given me a taste of its potential and performance. Now I can hardly wait for a more steady wind day and especially the chance to get it out on the ocean and into the waves.


                                     2013 Tabou Pocket Wave 93 
                                           -  Second Session -  

Spot:  Canadian Hole,  Hatteras Island, North Carolina, 16 March 2013

Winds:  Initially: SSW 22-25K and building to 30K.

Weather:  Partly Sunny with intermittent overcast and clouds.

Temperature:  Full wetsuit, boots and hood.   Several others were out with no hood and even bare feet but I would rather be a little too warm than too cold. 

Rider specs:  Weight 200 lbs (91kg), Height: 6'4" (193cm), Years windsurfing: 33 

FINALLY,  the place, the wind, and the conditions aligned and I got my first really good session on my new 2013 Pocket Wave 93.  After waiting all day the winds finally started picking up around 3:00 p.m. I rigged my 5.3 Aerotech Phantom on-shore power wave sail and headed out.  Previously I had switched the center fin on the Pocket Wave to a 20cm fin since my earlier experience with the stock 18cm fin did not give me the upwind capability I thought I needed.  I also decided to not start out with the recommended single fin for non-wavesailing venues as I wanted to get a better feel for how the board felt with the tri-fin set up.

It was a little light at first requiring some pumping to get going but the PW quickly jumped up on a plane and was off. I was immediately impressed with its acceleration and apparent speed. This surprised me as I had almost expected the tri-fins to feel a bit slow but this was not the case.  At first the wider stance between your front and rear feet, evidently typical of the Tabou wave boards, seemed strange. Not uncomfortable but just different to what I was used to.  However, after a few runs I gained comfort with it and didn’t even notice it later.  According to Andy McKinney, local Hatteras Pro sailor and owner of Wind-NC windsurfing shop in Avon, NC;  the benefits of this wider stance will be readily apparent when wave riding.  The Tabou foot straps and board pads felt very comfortable too. I was more appreciative of this later when the wind built more increasing the chop size resulting in a rougher ride at speed.

The wind strength soon increased enough to get the PW up on a plane very quickly.  Its speed in a straight line continued to impress me for a wave board and turns were smooth and effortless.  I found the board easy and wanting to chop hop indicating that it was indeed going to be a great jumper when out in the surf and ocean waves.  It jibed and duck jibed tight or wide with ease but I felt I was only beginning to explore its turning and maneuvering potential. 

After about an hour and a half using the tri-fins, I switched to the single fin mode with the Maui Fin Company - San Carlos Weed Wave 25cm fin. Some kind of weed fins are almost always needed on the sound side at Hatteras and these fins seem to work very well there for both weed shedding but still offering solid wave fin performance as well.   Immediately I noticed the board felt looser, especially in the tail and faster too.  The looser feeling tail was not a negative thing at all but just seemed to make it a more livelier ride which I liked for the typical Canadian Hole B&J conditions with lots of wind chop. 

 Maui Fin Co. San Carlos Weed Wave 25cm on the Pocket Wave

 It then dawned on me why a lot of multi-fin board testers talk about certain boards having a “planted feeling". The sudden switch to the single fin made me realize how glued  to the water or “planted” the PW had felt in the multi-fin mode. I could now see how the multi-fins would make driving the board off the wave face into a bottom turn feel powered and controlled.  Also it would seem that there would be fewer tendencies for unwanted fin breakout with the tri-fin set up when on the wave face. Still this is something I will have to wait until I get a couple of ocean/wave sessions under my belt to know for sure as I have never sailed a mult-fin board before in waves.

The wind then picked up more to around 30 knots and so I rigged down to 4.5. I tried a couple runs with the 4.5 on the PW.  Although I felt the 25cm fin was a little too big for that smaller sail  in those winds, the board itself did not feel oversized and continued to handle well. Still I could tell a slightly smaller fin (23cm ?) would probably have balanced out the rig and board better.  However,  since I did not want to take more time to switch down to a smaller fin, a 22 cm,  I grabbed my 2009 Exocet X-Wave 73 liter and finished off the day riding that with the 4.5. 

So overall, I am very impressed with the Pocket Wave so far. I  am glad I had the opportunity to get such a great session in on it in the flatter waters at the Hole before heading out into the wave the first time too. This will certainly help me to be more familiar with the way the board rides, and to get comfortable with it, before dealing with all the other challenges thrown into the mix typical of wave sailing. 

Additionally, despite its being 93 liters it does really feel like you are riding a 80-85 liter board and is impressive in its wind range.  It gave me all the speed I would ever need for a wave board and based on its demonstrated chop hopping ability, I know it is going to be a super jump board in the waves.   Also, even though it is only 233cm long it felt easy to ride and control at speed. I did not try to quick tack it however, but looking down at the short nose felt it was going to be a bit tricky.  Next time perhaps?   I will be anxious to compare the tri-fins with the single fin in the waves and to see how it performs with a larger 5.7 - 6.0 range sail too.  More reports to come but at this point I am very happy and satisfied with the Pocket Wave!!