55 prototype review by David Arnaud
For the test to be complete, I must precise that I'm far from being a pocketboat fan. My main reproach to these boats is that they are slow, and I just can't imagine myself being that slow on the water ! And really, I don't mind being able or not to flatwaterloop...
So yes, during last season's competitions, I didn't score as high as I would have in a short boat. But on the other hand I haven't been, and will never accept to be, one of those watching the action from the bank at Hawaii / Rhone because of a slow boat ! (yes, I've seen fools in this case this year). Just a question of priority...
That was until last May. Then I saw Corran testing an early prototype of the Air at hawaii sur rhone. Since that moment, I've had no doubt that this boat was going to be a killer on a wave ! Finally that was the proof that a kayak could be short AND fast ! That said, here's the review itself, divided into two parts, holeriding and wavesurfing.
The prototype tested here is close from what the production version will be. At 75 kg (approximatively 165 lbs), I found the Air 55 very comfy and still easy to flatwheel. I only found the back stern a little bit big in some situations. Of course I'll give the 45 version a try anyway, but I feel very good in the 55. There's a lot of footroom, even more than in the tekno.
This proto feels very different from the previous versions. It is still edgy, but much easier to paddle and more forgiving, so that every paddler can handle it with ease. Fortunately it seems that its performances weren't affected by the changes. It has more rocker on both ends too, but as it doesn't interfere too much with the hole abilities, I can't say a lot about it yet.
As I already said, I've only tested this proto on small holes so far. What impressed me most regarding holeriding was the boat's stability on ends. After only a few rides, I could link endless series of cartwheels and splits with almost as much control as I had with longer boats. I could initiate ends in about every position very easily. I think a sub-6 or a G-force might be slightly faster than the Air 55 at linking ends. On the other hand, the Air allows much more control and fluidity. You'll prefer it or not according to your personal style. I do.
The volume around the cockpit makes the boat very comfortable and retentive. In this shallow hole, I could perform nice airloops very easily, and I'm sure there's a potential for much more air in a deeper hole ! The design of the deck makes the boat pop out of the water in a very stable way as well. That is an excellent point if you're learning those moves.
All in all, I was very impressed with the holeriding abilities of this boat. I've had very fluid rides that I didn't expect with such a short toy. This proto is very promising. For holeriding, the Air equals the best boats on the market but brings more control. Intermediates should like it for that.
Holeriding video clip :
low quality quickime 3.4 Mo
> med quality quicktime 5.9 Mo
Wavesurfing (updated 31/10/02)
The heavy rains I was praying for finally occured, and this long awaited surf session in the Air 55 proto could take place on the hawaii/rhone wave. The wave was made of a large foampile that turned into a fast glassy part on its side, which was for me the most interesting place.
First impression : the Air is fast ! I could surf the glassy part of the wave, where short boats normally can't go. The speed and acceleration of this boat are really amazing ! No need to say it's very loose, and spins very easily.
What is remarkable about the Air is that it allows bouncing AND carving, where all other spudboats on the market only bounce. So why choose when you can do both ?!? What is even more remarkable is that that the boat doesn't bounce inoportunedly. You can bounce, but you can also choose not to and carve. And you can carve aggressively, thanks to the edges of the boat, continuous from the stern to the bow. But still, the boat is very easy to handle and forgiving, and catching an edge is not an issue.
Besides of carving like mad, I could perform some cool aerial stuff as well. The lenght of the boat, combined with its speed and its ability to bounce, allowed me to get nice air very easily.
For pure carving and aggressive surfing, the Tekno remains the boat of choice. For carving AND bouncing, now there's the Air !
pics in the images
For more info on the Air 55 : http://www.2imagine.net/blogger2002/air55.html