Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Support your local board builder

I got the beach late last week only to have Mike Z hand me my future board.
Mind you I hadn't ordered it yet but I made him promise he'd build me one as a prerequisite for giving it back.
It was seriously the most impressed Ive been with a piece of windsurfing equipment in the 20+ years Ive been involved in the sport. I hesitated on even writing this piece because like a good thing, there's only so much that can go around.

Getting my local board builder to build me a new windsurfing board has been like pulling teeth the last few year. He's been endlessly creating prototypes that eventually led to the world speed record being broken by Rob Douglas on a Mikes Lab kite board. Then, all of a sudden, since the kite racers discovered his talents, hes been building and involved in the rapid paced evolution of the kite race boards. The boards have gone from twin tip, to surfboards to something now that more resembles a mini formula board with 3-4 50cm carbon fins. And like the windsurfing fleet, his boards are always found at the top of the fleet. Heineken has been shutting the door on the rest of the kite fleet this year at the local Thursday night race series at the St. Francis Y.C.
His latest creation- a thin shell of carbon and foam seems to weigh 1/2 as much as its competitors. But that's not so unusual with kite boarding these days as things are changing so fast. Racers show up with a new set of canted fins that makes last weeks podium finish obsolete.
Watching kite racing grow is similar to what happened to windsurfing in its peak of the late 80's and early 90's.
I was hoping or maybe dreaming he'd be able to incorporate some of the same ideas back to a windsurfing board.
What he did was nothing short of brilliant.
This sensation was more like flying than windsurfing.
The board glided effortlessly over the water with control and speed.

If you've ridden a Mike's Lab board, you'll know its the equivalent of sitting on the couch with the remote in hand. Pure comfort. His boards are built for the San Francisco Bay where the voodoo chop, ferry wakes and container ships can just about eat any normal windsurfer. One doesn't have too look far to see what I mean with nearly 100% of the local windsurfing racing fleet riding some version of his board. The boards are built to last with solid construction that's hard to find anywhere else.

As I took off from crissy field in 15-20k, it felt like there wasn't even a board beneath my feet. The north warp 7.0 rig and 39 cm fin were attached effortlessly. I looked down to see a board beneath me but I'm really not sure it was even there. At 12 lbs it felt like there was absolutely nothing there as the board flew over the chop with out even the smallest disturbance.
The board was built with his new "kite" construction using a lighter weight foam.
The result is a board that rides and feels way lighter than its competition.
Who would have ever thought Id be thanking kite boarding but that's how development works- full circle.

This could really change windsurfing again in a really good way.
We haven't seen a huge evolution of windsurfing equipment like this since the development of the carbon fin 10 years ago. Its the equivalent of riding a G1o blade vs a full custom carbon race fin.
There's no going back now!

Once I found the right weight placement, (more forward than I thought) it gybed very beautifully. The board tracked effortlessly across the swell.
The tail feels small but it reality it was 20.5" measured one foot off the trailing edge.
The board itself is somewhat odd looking with a wide nose, thin rails and recessed deck but hey. I'm not complaining -what ever works!

Here's the full specs from Mike:
226 x 73 x 52
estimated volume 110-115l.
12lbs before straps.
Strength- same as normal!

Like all MLab boards, you can order any size you want and now with the the new lightweight construction! This particular board was for Sergio in Miami- a smaller lightweight guy interested in getting his slalom kit going at the same time as his formula kit. Now that's a big order!
After only 15 min on the board, Id go as far to say that Mike Z has uped the game for all windsurfing manufactures. Ive already put my order in for a new formula and slalom board.
The wait is going to kill me.


Anonymous said...

Steve, you probably mean 50mm in below: "The boards have gone from twin tip, to surfboards to something now that more resembles a mini formula board with 3-4 50cm carbon fins"

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

No I really meant 50 cm fins.
It's hard to believe if you havnt seen them but they are using 3-4 50 cm fins on the kite race boards.

Heiny said...

well...more like 40...but cm for sure
50mm gets you into the weekend warrior devision

Anonymous said...

Do you have any closer pictures.
Looks like my old hypersonic design... although I know it's probably way off.