Jeff Howard the pony-tailed instructor in the BOOST series of videos, a major input on the AIRUSH kites and owner of his own shop in Texas ...has come up with an inexpensive board in two sizes: 120 and 130.
At 85kg, I got the 130 and my first impression was not good. First thing - I went out in light condtions and I kept pearling the nose as the kite lost power. The UG Wave Tray I broke was longer at 147 and had those great flip-tips that always looked for daylight.My second session was much better, as there was enough wind to stay fullly powered most of the time.
This time it was like kiting in Vainilla icecream - SMOOTH. In short chop there was no chatter or that skatey feeling. The WT had zero rocker between the feet, whereas the Criminal has a constant rocker throughout. Even tho' there's not much flip to the tips, I didn't have a problem when I had enough kite to edge against. The rails of this board are very soft vs. the WT - and it could be that I've only had it for a couple of hours - but, I felt the WT made for better transitions as my memory thinks there was finer edge control coming around...
There's one thing I'll stomp and praise both - the footpad/strap setup. The footpads are really comfy like the NICE one's, but there's a design flaw in the strap.
The straps have a lot of adjustment, but it's mostly useful one-way: closed. When you open the strap the inside neoprene covering stretches to accomidate your request, but pulls the strap back down as soon as you release. Where this becomes a problem hit me when I went out in booties in cold water - I simply could not get my feet in. The footpad has a lot of grabby texture and was fighting the sticky bootie soles. A disaster! I hated the board in 30seconds. The workaround was to simply stop, lay back in the water and fight your way into the straps.
I somewhat solved the problem by placing a section of foam under the strap to jam it open. So, yesterday, in bare feet, I hardly noticed?! That is - except how comfortable my feet were. Still, I don't think it a good setup for that shallow-water 'hop-on' start.
This board will not win a beauty contest in a kiteshop with all those over-decorated alternatives, and the visible screws are pretty industrial, but I trust Jeff Howard know's what works for the average kiter, as he's see everything from the first days of kiting. It needs to have a handle however...
The part that excites me is that I can hack this board easily. I'll make a winter strap setup this weekend, add a handle and strip the black printing and repaint it soon.
You can find these at: prokitesurf.com ...blowinginthewind.com (Price is actually like $320USD) ...and I'll add more comments as I get more time on it.