Robby with his Matador cape
In a few short seasons, wingsurfing equipment has gone from a simple one-size fits all approach, to more specialised designs that operate with a narrower, but more focused, scope of use. We asked Robby Naish where the need for their new S26 Matador wing came from and how his initial vision for wingsurfing might have changed
PHOTOS: Frankie Bees / Naish (unless otherwise stated)
Extra forward draft power means riders can use a smaller size Matador while benefitting from the extra neutral drifting performance in waves
Just how different is the Matador to the Wing-Surfer (your original and still evolving wing range)? Can you quantify the power / handling differences? At first glance the S26 Matador and the S26 Wing-Surfer might look very similar, but small differences make a pretty profound difference in handling and feel. Due to its larger diameter strut and leading edge the Matador has a stiffer and more ‘rigid’ feel and overall structure than the Wing-Surfer. It also has a deeper draft with the draft located further forward, which gives the Matador more instant power and more constant ‘pull’ than the Wing-Surfer. The Wing-Surfer flexes and twists off as loads increase; the Matador does so much less. The result is that the Wing-Surfer has less static ‘pull’ per size, but is easy to feather and is very light in the hands once up on the foil, with a potentially higher wind limit per size. The Matador will get you up and going earlier per size, meaning you can use a smaller wing to achieve the same get up and go. The Matador also has more dihedral, which makes it very neutral in feel when flagging the wing out while riding a wave. Are there any material differences? Yes. The Matador uses a different Dacron for the leading edge and strut as well as a different canopy material. Functionally they are very similar. There’s a line in your public information about the Matador, suggesting it’s an experienced rider’s wing. Can you explain more please? It seems to have other performance benefits, like upwind ability, good power and neutral feeling that many regular riders will also want. The Matador can be used by a beginner without a doubt, but it depends on the size of the rider and the conditions they are riding in to a degree. Lighter riders tend to prefer the Wing-Surfer from what we have seen, except those who want to ride aggressively, while heavier riders are going for the Matador. The Wing-Surfer is lighter in the hands and has softer, less rigid handles. You can ride it all day. The Matador carries a more constant power, especially in the front hand. Smaller and lighter riders may find that the added power is not something that they really want or need. Bigger guys want that power. Personal preference plays a big part to a degree, too. Power is often an issue in places with light or gusty, up and down winds and the Matador can improve things there as it provides good power. People are loving it.
Unlike the all-around Wing-Surfer, the Matador is designed to be ridden mostly upwind then flagged downwind, so the windows are small and placed where an experienced rider needs them when riding windward, knowing that most of the time the wing will be flagged behind them with full visibility
15-year-old Pietro Kiaulehn, Lake Garda, Italy
Do you see your wing range diversifying further over coming seasons, or do you think two ranges will cover most people’s needs? I loved the fact that the original Wing-Surfer came in one size. It was a ‘one wing does it all’ concept. If you pumped hard, you could get that 4.6m up on the foil in really light winds and then still be using the same wing in 30 knots because the canopy twists off and spills power. Things change rapidly though and, as we’ve seen the sport develop and specialize, things get more complicated. More power in a wing means less range; less range means the need for more sizes. You can still make one wing that will do everything very well, but without a doubt things are beginning to specialize.
You will see race wings in the future that will eventually look and feel very different from recreational wings.
I hate to see winging turn into windsurfing overnight, but it seems to be happening to a degree. One range of wings will certainly cover ‘most peoples’ needs’, but competition in the marketplace (there are already over 50 ‘brands’ making wings), marketing hype, varying styles of riding and the natural evolution of wanting things to go faster, jump higher and be more complicated will add complexity to a once simple concept.
Powering back upwind for another wave
Our Wing-Surfer range will continue to be an all-round, broadly appealing line of wings that will do everything well with good range and functionality. Around that will certainly be more specialized wings for the ever evolving sport with functionality and design traits demanded by different people focusing on different kinds of riding.
In the almost three years since you launched the Wing Surfer, as a company what do you think you have learned about the sport? We knew that wingsurfing was going to take off. It is incredibly fun and extremely accessible, but it has grown even more quickly than we originally thought it would. It’s cool to have been a part of launching something new to the world. We’re still learning new things every day and hope to be able to continue sharing the stoke.
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