TEST: NAISH HOVER CARBON ULTRA S25 75L
HOVER CARBON ULTRA S25 75L
TESTED BY: Jim Gaunt (WSW editor)
WORDS: Jim Gaunt
TEST TEAM NOTES: I've had the Hover in my possession for a year, so this version on test here has been superseded by the S26. I'll run you through the small but positive changes you can expect to see in the S26 in this review, but essentially the qualities of the S25 remain, which is why we wanted to present this review as it's still completely relevant as you do your research.
My first impressions still ring true whenever I look at the Hover in the garage – it's so beautifully compact and definitely the sort of neatly sized board that I've pictured myself riding. There's nothing bulky or chunky about it and, after a lot more heavy use more recently, it's still pretty spotless in terms of wear.
You should also note that we ride off a shingle beach, so there's plenty of chance to ding or scratch the paintwork, but still nothing. So that's really impressive, especially when you consider that the Hover is also a carbon board and incredibly light. I just had one problem with it in the beginning...
LOOKING SWEET The truth is I've had this board for a long time because when it first arrived I was used to riding a 95 litre board and thought that the step down to a 75 litre would be a manageable progression. When it came to the Hover, it wasn't, particularly in the often steep chop / dumpy lumps that we have in our ocean conditions here off the south coast of the UK. I weigh around 68 – 70 kilos and I found the 75 litre Hover an enourmous change in terms of reduced float and stability under my knees when preparing for a board start. You'll notice that we also have the F-One Rocket Wing 75 on test this issue, and it's important to note the difference in shape that we're seeing applied in wing boards.
The Hover has a much sharper nose shape than the F-One, so there's naturally less buoyancy up front. It also doesn't seem like the volume is made up anywhere else in the board when we compare the two shapes. My conclusion is that the Hover feels more like a 70 or even 65 litre board when compared to the F-One Rocket Wing 75. So that's just something to be aware of with the Hover – it rides small, but has benefits in that regard, too. So if you're looking to step down in board size from something around the 90 – 105 litre board size, then I'd suggest that the 85 litre Hover might be the more manageable option, particularly if you are around 75 to 80 kilos in weight yourself. The 85 still looks compact and very alluring!
Above: Nose comparison between the Rocket Wing V2 75L (top, also reviewed this issue) and Naish Hover 75L (If you scroll further down in this review you'll see that in the latest S26 model, Naish have added a little more nose rocker to the Hover) Below: Naish Hover 75L (left), Rocket Wing V2 75L (right)
Below: Nose and length comparison with the F-One Rocket Wing V2
UP AND AWAY I retreated to our local pure flat water spot on the river and immediately found success with the Hover and that session was all I needed to become familiar with the balance point and technique to get up and going on the Hover. Switching back to the sea was then a much easier task and I haven't looked back with the Hover. I love the fact that the Hover looks more racey, more surfy and more aggressively shaped than a lot of boxier wingboard designs and it certainly appears smaller when you look down at it while riding. There's definitely a little more need to be aware of less forgiveness when it comes to getting your foot pressure wrong and sinking the nose, but nevertheless the Hover's consistently bevelled rails and double concave V shape in the nose do offer assistance in promoting the board's planing speed and preventing nose sink / speed scrubbing when you catch the nose or press it too hard into the water when you're getting up.
At low speeds when puttering along on the water's surface, once on my feet I find the Hover to be plenty stable enough for me (I have a lot of kite surfboard and previously windsurfing experience and find this helps), but an important note is that it certainly sits lower in the water than the F-One 75. The Hover also seems very happy on a range of different hydrofoil wing sizes. I've used this loads with the Jet 1650 as well as the smaller 1280 F-One FCT and I also appreciate the track system that both these brands use, allowing easy interchanging of masts, so you could use this Hover with a range of other set-ups too, which is a big positive in my mind. Watersports systems can be complicated in terms or proprietary technology and fittings, but the more compatible the better for me.
STIFF Once up and foiling the Hover is undeniably good and a lot of that comes from the stiff qualities of the carbon. I feel so connected to the foil – touch, feel, sensations, reactions – there's no loss of signal. It's a full bar connection to the wifi network! This really comes into great effect when turning, but also when pumping. There's no wasted energy, and things happen first time and when you want them to.
STANCE AND STRAPS Bearing in mind that I'm quite light at around 70 kilos, I usually ride the Hover 75 with the mast positioned in the rear half of the track. This leaves my feet naturally in the perfect position for where Naish have placed the inserts for foot straps. This is another reason that I'm excited to continue my journey with the Hover because it provides the ideal set-up for straps. If I was a bigger rider I think there's a chance I might like the board pad to extend a bit further up towards the nose if I were to ride with the mast nearer the front of the track, but this is speculation as I'm very happy with manoeuvrability of the board with the mast in the mid/rear position, and have enough front pad myself (though my foot is very near the front).
WHAT'S NEW IN THE S26 MODEL? * More curve on the rail outline making the board a little narrower in the tail and nose. * Slightly more kick in the nose and tail rocker, making take-offs a bit smoother and touch downs on the nose more forgiving. * A new slight double concave in the nose section also helps for better release and reduced resistance on lift off, as well as adding extra benefits on touch downs. All the changes deliver a more refined look across the entire Hover range.
“Standout qualities (and the reason I've kept hold of this this board!) are that I love how light it is for general handling benefits, but also the stiffness and direct feedback the Hover allows me to enjoy with the foil.”
SUMMARY: For me the Hover represented an aggressive step up in performance while in the end (once I'd had a refresher session in flat water) had enough float when moving forward to manage the more challenging board starts. There's also no adjustment of stance needed to start using straps and the other huge benefit is that, while the Hover offers the higher performance of a board less than it's stated 75 litres, if the wind really drops, there's still enough buoyancy for me to sit happily and drift back, or paddle back home. Standout qualities (and the reason I've kept hold of this board!) are that I love how light it is for general handling benefits, but also the stiffness and direct feedback the Hover allows me to enjoy with the foil. There's also the excellent turning performance as a result, plus the short, compact nose shape allows for more aggressive turns in waves without the front of the board catching. WSW LIKED:
Light weight but very strong build quality, which seems very ding resistant, and the stiffness in the ride that gives an excellent connection to your foil. Having handles in both the deck and base is also useful. The deck handle is very handy when walking the board out into deep water, especially through white water / waves.
WSW WOULD CHANGE: I really like the Hover, I just think my initial intermediate step down from 95 and 105 litre boards should have been to the 85 litre, not the 75, especially so if you're heavier than I am at 70 kilos.
HOVER CARBON ULTRA 75L BALANCE POINTS x/10: Robust / Build: 7 Lightweight handling qualities: 8 Stability: 7 Touchdown control: 8 Carving: 8 Ease-of-use: 7.5 S26 HOVER SIZES: 6'6'' x 33'' (140L), 6'4'' x 31'' (125L), 5'10'' x 29'' (110L), 5'7'' x 27.5'' (95L), 5'2'' x 26'' (85L), 5'0'' x 24'' (75L), 4'10'' x 22.5'' (60L), 4'6'' x 21.5'' (50L) & 4'4'' x 21'' (40L)