TEST: F-ONE STRIKE 5 & 4.2M
STRIKE 5 & 4.2M
TESTED BY: Jim Gaunt (WSW editor) & Rob Claisse (Progression.me)
WORDS: Jim Gaunt
TEST TEAM NOTES: F-One products have been a big part of our own early experiences in the sport, from giving us the opportunity of first attempts in Mauritius for this video that we made, to then having progressed our skills with the original Swing wing and a handful of Rocket Wing boards in different sizes over an 18 month period. We've had the Strike on test throughout winter and now into early summer.
We've not yet tried the brand new Swing V2... but when it comes to both the Swing V1 wing, and now the Strike, both of which we now have a lot of experience with, they are light, comfortable, balanced and, therefore, easy to use. Having been back and forth on various other wings, we have to say that this is a stand out element of both these wings. Where the Strike improved our experiences was certainly in the more taut canopy design and greater locked in feel of stable power.
Compared to the Swing, the Strike is the more performance oriented design that we've seen dominating the top step of the men's GWA podiums at freestyle events in Brazil, Tarifa and France in the hands of the amazing Titouan Galea. The performance gains are in no doubt. My first session on the Strike is very memorable for just how connected I felt with the equipment and how massively improved my consistency was. And I mean immediately.
SUPER DIRECT Not only is the power very direct, but once you sheet in and lock the power in, the wing feels very directionally stable. You don't feel like there's a need to constantly make fine corrections with your body. Your riding position therefore feels very relaxed and balanced. When you sheet in the Strike develops excellent power and delivers it to you smoothly. Less pumping is required in marginal conditions, while at the top end the Strike depowers far more cleanly with much less distortion (and therefore vibration through your arms) than the more billowing canopy of the Swing V1 (or indeed many other wings). On my first session I immediately improved my toeside carves, heelside carves, toeside tacks, little wave rides and also was able to generally manage the strong winds far better. The balance and power and the very stable centre of effort just made everything feel like second nature. The very linear power generation allows you to fine tune the sheeting control with your back hand. As well as being super stable with excellent power management, the Strike's big advantages are particularly associated with ease of handling, such as when spinning the wing in your hands when carving and flipping the wing. Not only does the Strike feel very light in your hands, having just two perfectly positioned handles means that you're never going to grab the wrong ones in haste.
The handles are generously sized with plenty of room to juggle the wing with both hands on one handle. F-One design their wings with just two handles that feel spot on in terms of their placement. Crucially the handles are of a stiffer material than last year, so they don't distort and still give a great connection with the wing. It's not like holding some bendy rope, they're an excellent design. The extra width and padding in the Strike's handles certainly add some more comfort as well as having the convenience of being able to adjust your grip further forward in the handle to better influence the front of the wing if necessary, when driving into a carve perhaps or in stronger winds to better manage the wind through sheeting. Another very notable element that's often associated with wings that have many handle options, is that they make it easier to half drift the wing by using the handle at the very front of the strut, rather that reaching all the way to the neutral handle on the leading edge. The Strike's front handle is ideally suited to this style of downwind riding too. If you've carved onto a lump that won't give a very long wave ride just release your back hand and the wing is beautifully balanced. I do it so often now. Beautiful, simple, easy and flowing (as seen in the image below).
GETTING FORWARD The Strike really helped with my success rate, particularly anything to do with sending the wing into wind. This is particularly the case for toeside tacks where the wing just feels effortless when you're carving the board up into wind and following your front arm as it pushes the wing like a dart through the eye of the wind. It has this lovely lift in neutral. It's a standout feature of the Strike, so as you move to swap your hands with the wing overhead, you feel nice and light on your feet too. Fantastic sheeting stability is really good for the rescue moments, such as when you come out of a carve and have ended up pointing too far into wind, or are balanced over the board with very low speed and you suddenly feel the need to throw yourself back into wind. There's immediate, balanced support available as you lean back and sheet in with your back hand. Then just extend your front hand for some forward pressure and you're moving again, barely without thinking. The wing cracks into position very positively indeed and allows me to rebalance, direct the board where I want it to go and ride away when I'd otherwise surely have failed on a wing with more of a vague centre of effort. Plus, there's no chance of grabbing the wrong handles.
Image above: Never get the wrong handle!
NATURAL FEEL F-One say the new Swing V2 is better for intermediate riders to get used to the drifting element of riding a bump or wave, but from my point of view I spend 95% of my session riding with the wing powered and love the stability and range offered by the Strike. While the Swing V2 may be more neutrally balanced, I have no problems when drifting the Strike. Perhaps it takes a little more thought in some lighter wind situations, but the ease of handling is certainly one of the Strike's main attractions too. So even if you're quite inexperienced, don't overlook it when considering which to buy, particularly if you live somewhere with strong and gusty wind.
RANGE The range on the Strike 4.2, for me, is absolutely massive. I have a few foils at the moment, ranging from 1600 down to 1280 and I can use the 4.2 from around 16 knots up to and beyond 30. At the lighter end of that range the Strike's light and balanced feel in the hands make holding it above your head very easy, an almost automatic feeling. You can be quite aggressive when you pump the Strike and it feels incredibly well balanced in the way it transfers power as you pump the wing and board together up onto the plane.
The superb stability and clean forward drive allowed us to still enjoy a good session in genuine 30+ knots sessions that we had in May. On wings that are more grunty in power, or that seem to drive more through the front half of the wing, or are perhaps thicker in their leading edge profile, these winds would be really fatiguing, but instead the Strike's efficient profile allows you to feather the power with your back hand and not work too hard on your front hand. You can essentially still feel nicely balanced as the wing goes into the wind and upwind well, rather than having a lot of drag and feeling like it's harder to let power out of the wing.
BUILD QUALITY The Strike is certainly an improved and stronger design than the Swing V1. New, vertical panel layouts near the trailing edge prevent canopy distortion and also add strength as there's far less (if any) canopy flap. As mentioned already, the thicker, more padded handles are a big improvement and we can easily manage long sessions on the Strike, without the help of harness lines, even in strong winds. This is a really stand out point. The SUP style push pin inflate valve is super clean, easy to use with zero air loss while pumping and then also when you extract your pump. This style of valve also sits very neatly in the leading edge design. There's also now a second deflate valve on the strut to help extract the air when packing the kite up, which makes packing the wing up far quicker than it was with the Swing V1. Like most wings, the Strike has an internal tube connecting the strut bladder with the leading edge bladder, so just close the valve on the strut before you start pumping the wing up and both the leading edge and strut will inflate together. The Strike comes with an elasticated rope / cord leash with a wrist cuff. The leash cord is quite short, but obviously will expand under strain to cushion the impact on your wrist. Being short, the leash doesn't flap around a lot when you're riding, but is only just long enough to comfortably reach the rear handle when it's your back hand that has the leash on. I do find myself adjusting the leash around my back hand at times if it gets wrapped, but it's also not enough of a drama to need a waist leash.
The wrist leash collar has quite a narrow Velcro strap to secure the collar around your wrist. While at first we wondered if there was enough Velcro contact to securely hold around your wrist (particularly over a winter wetsuit) when the wing is pulled away from you really hard, it seems there is. What is of design note though is that the thinner Velcro tab allows for more soft padding around the collar, preventing any potentially sharp Velcro rub against your skin if you don't have the tabs lined up perfectly (as on surfboard leashes that have really wide Velcro fasteners).
There are no windows on the Strike, and we actually like that. Not only does it make it a lot easier to pack the wing away more quickly and into a smaller shape, there's also less chance of wear, tear or damage. Sure, there's less visibility than you have through a window (though some are hard to see through anyway), but as a rider you should be in the habit of physically looking behind you regularly and the Strike is so light and simple to manoeuvre that it's very easy to lift the wing up a bit to see who is downwind of you before you make a turn.
“First and foremost, the over riding stand out quality is the stability, which gives you loads of control as a rider and lets you feel very comfortable across a staggering range of conditions.”
SUMMARY: We are still so early in the wingsurfing product journey, and this wing marks only the second full range of wingsurf products for F-One, but the Strike is such a phenomenal step forward that it's really hard to believe how much easy performance it provides. First and foremost, the over riding stand out quality is the stability, which gives you loads of control as a rider and lets you feel very comfortable across a staggering range of conditions. The Strike is obviously very capable in the hands of pro riders, but whether you're jumping / spinning or not, the reason the F-One team can do so many manoeuvres are for the exact reason that a lot of amateurs will like it too: because it's balanced, smooth, stable and untiring across a huge range of wind speeds. WSW LIKED:
Super stable, balanced power delivery with a light and very manoeuvrable feel in your hands. The strong wind performance management is also a big highlight. WSW WOULD CHANGE: The five metre is a little taller than some other wings of the same size, so there is a little more wing tip touches with the water's surface initially, but as the Strike is light and easy for the rider to manipulate and position in the wind, this is a problem that can often be overcome.
STRIKE BALANCE POINTS: Robust / build: 7 Power: 7 Depower stability: 8 Strong wind handling: 9 Light wind power generation: 7.5 Stability: 8 Upwind drive: 9 Manoeuvrability: 9 Ease of use: 8 SIZES: 5, 4.2, 3.5 & 2.8m Newly launched is the bigger Strike CWC: 8, 7 & 6m