Spain to North Africa
When an idea to paddle 227km between the Spanish mainland region of Malaga to North Africa was recently conceived, the first thing which came to mind was of course, which board to use? Departing from Malaga the journey would pass by Alboran Island and then on to Melilla, a small North African Spanish-administered autonomous City, bordering Morocco.
Adventurer and stand up paddler, Carlos Toro, Juan Torrecillas of the Caixa Banking Group together with Carlos Rumbaco, decided to take on this aquatic challenge, with the purpose of raising funds and awareness of the efforts made by the Spanish Red Cross, who are compelled to assist refugees who often suffer injury or sickness in crossing from mainland Africa to Europe. Initially it was simply the challenge to do so, but the idea to make it also a fund raising event, ensured TV exposure and the chance for added sponsorship.
Juan Carlos Garcia Guerra of Navigaport and Mistral Spain, was to be on hand to support the team of three, providing logistical support by use of his charter Catamaran and supply of Mistral equipment, in this case, the sublime Interceptor 17’6” – the ideal board for the task in hand. Regrettably, Juan was ultimately unable to attend, but was to be with them in spirit, though his support by use of equipment was still on hand.
The decision to do so on a stand up paddle board (SUP) was not necessarily the most logical one, being as sea kayaks or similar would make provision for a physically easier challenge. However to do so by SUP, focused on the challenge more acutely, which made it ever more important that the choice of board was fit for purpose.
As with all of Mistral designs, we think long and hard before committing to the shaping process. This involves being very clear on the objectives we are setting out to achieve so as to combine and use all of the differing design elements to bring about the desired result. Neither are we wasteful in making endless prototypes, which is more of a recipe for confusion than clarity.
The motivation to design and develop two differing unlimited boards targeted for full release in 2019, was simply based upon the belief of the pursuit of the zenith, the peak of development the sport inspires. Such boards are not constrained by restrictions of convention and are unquestionably the fastest of the board designs available. By means of a simple mathematical formula, added water line length and sleekness results in longer glide times and often added stability for a narrow hull shape. Add to this the ability to add a foot operated rudder system and you are on your way to adding in a level of functionality and versatility which elevates the very experience of the sport, to another level.
It made sense to create two differing boards simultaneously in order to have comparative and directly opposite boards in respect of the conditions for which they are intended; the Stealth 17’6” for flatter waters and the Interceptor 17’6” for choppier conditions.
Conceived by Steve West and co-designed with Chris Diplock, the team took the very best of what had been created beforehand in 14’ versions of the Vortex and Equinox boards. The resulting Stealth flat water board, is devastatingly sleek and as fast as she looks. A super low drag co-efficient, makes this board, very fast to accelerate and it glides with effortless effort, during the recovery phase of the stroke. The Interceptor it was decided, should not be a dedicated downwind board, but be designed so as to be able to perform in a variety of water conditions, including down winding when conditions permit. With this in mind, this was the logical board for the 227km challenge which lay ahead.
Supported by Caixa Bank, Navigaport, Mistral, Red Cross Spain and Toro SUP, the conditions for crossing proved to be hot, with light winds and a slight sea, with some choppy sections and took just on three and a half days. Paddling during the day from just after sunrise to sunset, with one paddler resting on board the Catamaran, one leading, the three paddlers fell in love with the Interceptor, expressing that it was like no other board they had paddled before, making the experience achievable and pleasurable in attaining their goal.
Creating boards with no boundaries, very much represents the spirt of Mistral, to be provide vehicles of desire and aspiration which can provide free-thinking adventurists and pioneers, with the best of the best equipment capable of delivering truly amazing levels of performance.
Further afield in the USA, our Interceptor 17’6” is receiving great accolades from paddlers who are using the board for long distance paddling inland on the Colorado River for example. “A Magic Carpet Ride”, has been the term used to describe the sensation of being on the Interceptor and indeed the Stealth too, described as “Like nothing else I’ve have ever paddled” which tells us we have achieved our aims in creating boards which help to raise the paddlers experience of the sport and take it to new levels of enjoyment. More on this another time.
Supporting Polynesian Traditions
Mistral’s decision to support the Canoe Sailing races held in French Polynesia, comes as a result of Mistral’s passion for those who strive to form strong bonds with the ocean and in maintaining a connection to ancient past times, which often means living life on the edge.
Canoe sailing in this form, replicates how much of the Pacific was populated, through wind and sail, paddle and muscle power and a desire to explore a vast ocean in the belief that new islands were there to be found. The Holopuni Sailing Canoe is a specific design created in the Hawaiian Island by Nick Beck and it is this uniquely nimble and beautiful craft, which has given rise to the rebirth of Canoe Sailing again in areas of the world such as French Polynesia, where Canoe Sailing was once omnipresent. Today, the Vaa Taie Tautoru (The Tahitian Sailing Federation) oversees the racing of these craft in Tahiti and her islands and is led by Kavika Knight.
For Mistral, what can be more evocative than to see the M-Dot emblazoned on brightly coloured sails, far out in the ocean, wind powered and wind swept, atop an ever undulating watery carpet.
Culminating in a series of epic inter-island races during the year, the final event off the regatta calendar, is an epic inter-island, event staged in October, racing over 400km, setting out from the island of Tahiti to Bora Bora, with stop offs in Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa, some of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Colourful Mistral sails will dot the cobalt blue tropical waters for this epic race and the sailors and paddlers will shield themselves from the tropical sun, with our caps and lycra tops as they face the harsh extremes of a tropical sun, tropical down pours, a relentless rolling ocean and an ever present trade wind, moving them every further onward to their final goal.
Mistral, ever seeking out adventures in paradise . . .
The Path of the Paddle
Paddlesports have consistently grown worldwide each year for the past 15 years. Indeed the only activity which consistently out performs paddling, in all its forms, is hiking. For us here at Mistral, the option to embrace the sport more fully through the development of a highly advanced, drop stitch kayak which can double also as canoe, was something we could not resist.
Mistral’s fame may well centre on its legacy with Windsurfing, which we are now moving back towards, but the big picture demands we are more water sports varied and orientated, so as not to be aligned with but one water sport. Canoeing and Kayaking align well with SUP; but if your looking to invest in a truly utilitarian paddling craft, it’s hard to beat the unique qualities, a stable and sleek canoe like craft offers.
The best part of sitting whilst paddling, is the relaxed feeling you can embrace. Paddle fast or slow, cruise or power your way forward, it does not matter, because the option of merely meandering and taking in the smells, the views, the embrace of nature will be at your finger tips for you to control with ease.
Our KANUyak Duo and Uno, are a genuine step into the abyss of blue sky thinking. No hollow chambers as such, but chambers containing thousands of interconnected fibres between the inner skins, providing unmatched levels of rigidity and durability. These are no ordinary inflatable Canoe / Kayak hybrids (you can paddle with a double or single blade paddle) but simply the best ‘in class’ offered on the market.
Now you can travel the world with a totally viable paddle craft that can accommodate camping equipment and more besides – in short, an investment in a KANUyak Duo or Uno, is and investment in life itself, in exploration and accumulation of a lifetime of ‘feel good memories’ in places you’re yet to visit and experience. Mistral KANUyak for the adventurist in us all.
River Dart Race UK
Head of the Dart Race England – (8 mile river race, Britain’s largest SUP race) Congratulations to Ginnie Odetayo for her 2nd place finish in the female 14′ division (Vortex) just behind the winner in a field of some 120 competitors and to James Van Drunen who also finished second racing his new 14’SD1 Vortex in a field of over 200 competitors, just a few seconds behind first place over the 8 mile course. James led for most of the race, but his tactics worked against him in the closing kilometre in a royal battle between he and former team mate Ryan James. The friendly rivalry will continue on the 28th when they and other competitors will meet for London’s Battle of the Thames, where James will be present to defend his title. On a footnote, James was also awarded a Junior Award for the 1st youngest competitor. Great job!
From South Africa
Meanwhile in South Africa – the Vanquish 14′ arrives on its shores along with other new models unique to the SA market. South Africa is a uniquely placed bastion of the world in relation to its waters and winds. While it has its protected areas, it’s a wild and crazy geographical part of the planet in relative isolation, fringed by wild oceans, winds, sea life, currents and winds and a breeding ground of some of the most accomplished waterman and women on the planet . . .
Teihotaata 3rd Air France
Up against the best names in the world Steeve Teihotaata pulled out an incredible 3rd place at the Air France Paddle Festival, the opening leg of the Paddle League Championship. It was a truly titanic battle with many big names struggling up against many new emerging paddlers and a race truly worthy of full international world class status. Sitting with the pack leaders in 6th and 7th for much of the first 35 minutes, turning out through the reef for the run home, it seemed that Steevie was off the pace. Picking a good line and selecting good bumps on his Equinox 14′ x 24″, he made great ground and was in 4th place fighting it out with Titouan Puyo in the home stretch to overtake using the great qualities of the board and his skills to make the podium in 3rd place. Congratulations to 1st and 2nd place getters. To Steevie – we salute and recognise a magnificent, heroic effort!
OK, so you want to buy an inflatable stand up paddle board and you’re now completely confused having begun your search and been overloaded with choice. You could go for the cheapest on the market and by this measure, you will be investing in it’s only USP (industry speak for Unique Selling Point) – the price.
If you travel this pathway, know that you will get exactly what you pay for; poor materials, poor warranty (if any), lack of rigidity and therefore performance, poor valve systems, ineffectual undersized bags, inferior hand pump and little or no resale value. All in all, they serve a niche market for the relatively disinterested end-user not particular interested in investing in quality but more of a disposable consumable, where brand quality means little. Importantly, don’t be fooled also into thinking your SUP inflatable should look surf-board like in shape, unless you aim to sup-surf only, in which case the laminated board is the best option, always. On the other hand, we’ve since discovered our Tribe boards are also fun in shallow plunging waves as we found out in Tahiti in the right hands.
Our entry level Tribe boards, Lombok, Sumatra and Java, so named to reflect the idea of a family tribe using them, were from the outset, designed to break the mould on typical elliptical shaped boards in the market. What we wanted to do was design a shape that made sense from a paddling and handling perspective.Rave reviews in the German Press, confirmed what we knew to be correct that this shape of board offered a fast, streamlined feel with improved handling upwind and in head chop, super high levels of stability with the wide tail providing excellent step back tail spinning fun. Additionally the boards hold a good line when paddled and the slide in fin makes setting up super easy.
Add to this convenient bow grab handle and cargo net, carry handle, rear and bow D-rings for mooring, D-ring for ease of leash attachment, a mix of smooth skin and diamond shaped crocodile EVA and top line striking graphics, you have a board that’s been well thought out with the end-user in mind. To seal the deal on these epic entry boards, our super neat and sturdy roller travel bag, big enough to carry your clothes for a weekend getaway all in the one back, along with our dual action hand pump. The bag, should not be overlooked in the buy-in process – it matters and we’ve put a lot of thought into them, up to and including the water-proof internal lining.
Last year we added the Bali board to the Tribe range – ideal for young children, it features all the great attributes of the other boards and presents in striking fun colours. So if you’re in the market to enter the sport or indeed kit out your school or resort, consider your purchase as an investment, not just a disposal item and reap the rewards of a Mistral designed and created product.
Mistral Inflatables – Better By Design and What to Consider
Our range of Squab and Cloud boards
SUP surfing is a niche interest area of our sport and only just recently it seems, SUP surfers are ‘discovering’ our range of Squab and Cloud boards and even our Levuka. Take this recent review where our Squab 7’10 was matched against JP and Starboard boards of similar spec where our Squab came out on top as the pick of the bunch. Aimed at the entry to upper level intermediate rider, our SUP surf boards are classic shapes, with a custom feel that should tick the boxes for most everyone. Seriously cool graphics, quality hand layups and all machine and hand shaped they include Futures fin boxes. There’s everything to like about these boards which defy their production status. Created by Chris Diplock and Steve West, the boards are ‘classic’ designs which will remain in the Mistral line up for some years to come.
Teamrider Surf Sport Castricum.
Stand up paddle addict and shop Owner of Surf Shop Castricum, Robert, travelled with his team buddy Jeroen to Plage Goulien-Crozon in French Britanny to test the new Mistral Squab against a couple of comparable sized boards. We are both big fellas (93+94kg) so opted for 115-129l compact boards. At Plage Goulien, we scored a variety of conditions from shoulder-high light offshore waves, to 3m peeling with a decent side shore breeze. Goulien isn’t a barreling wave, but it’s got plenty of speed and we scored long rides.
- Volume – 129L
- Length – 7’10”
- Width – 30.3”
- Thickness – 4.3”
The new Squab doesn’t look and feel at all like a production board. The rather square and wide tailed Squab has a custom board feel and build, in light weight glass-vector and epoxy resin paint construction, reinforced with a carbon tape stringer on bottom and deck. No paint or filler, makes this stylish baby, pure eye candy and looking very custom like!
On the deck the Squab has just a kick pad, so you can add a big pad on it yourself, or wax it for the ultimate surf feeling, or if you like, lightweight without the mess, add RSPro Hexatraction, which is what we opted for.
If you flip the board, you see 5 nice Futures boxes and a high quality quad set. The board has an intermediate rocker with a light mono-concave running in a channel with some serious tail kick.
On the water
We really didn’t know what to expect with the Squab. A wide and rather square board, but also lots of rocker, but the proof is in the pudding! The Squab paddles out very easy. The wide tail adds a lot of stability and the 7.9kg makes the board move easily through the water. Although there is no pad the board feels very composed, probably due the construction.
On a wave the big surprise started. The Squab takes off very quick, quicker than most boards we tried and when moving down the line you have a nice controlled feel, especially with the back foot on the tail pad the Squab turns on a dime.
Robert who is a true goofy footed back foot quad lover, was ripping like I have never seen him doing before. Nice bottom turns, showing some fins in-between and sliding top-turns with some serious spray in 2-3m waves.
After seeing Robert ripping, I wanted to try it as well. Like Robert, great acceleration and back-footed, Wow! Not the fastest board we tried when chasing down the line, but the loosest and most playful board we tried in normal conditions, especially when the wave wasnt that spectacular, the Squab has ample of drive and shows it’s true strength. A perfect board that makes you feel like ‘Kelly’ in the not so perfect conditions.
When pulling into some steeper, faster sections that needed to surf more over the front foot, it started to slip and slide a bit in the top turn. A tri-fin set-up might help there as well, by keeping everything under control; but for such waves, there are different boards.
We are were both very impressed by the Squab, specially for the smaller, softer waves and back footed riders the Squab opens up a whole new ‘turny’ dimension.
- Custom board appeal and graphics
- 5 fin Futures boxes
- Takes off very quick (quicker than most boards)
- Nice controlled feeling
- Turns very quickly (on a dime)
- Nice bottom turns
- Very playful board even when waves aren’t great
- Plenty of drive
- Experiment with fin set up.
Author: Jeroen van Gessel, Teamrider Surf Sport Castricum.
Mistral Creative Juices
No matter how long you’ve spent on the water, on a wide and varied number of water craft, in as many water and weather conditions, when it comes to the design process, working in a small team with like minded individuals, helps to validate your intuitive ideas and take them forward with greater confidence. Our Mistral Design and Creative Team, Chris ‘Bro’ Diplock and Steve West, have between them, over 60 years of design knowledge, ranging from surfboard, windsurfing, prone paddleboards, outrigger canoes, paddle and sail design and more recently Mistral hardboards coinciding with the sports arrival onto the scene.
Good design is a complicated process, which requires an initial brief or idea as to what the board will be intended for, so as it can perform successfully within those parameters. From conception, to making the 3D files, to computer cutting the foam blank, hand shaping the final details and laminating, it’s an anxious time as you work towards that first sample test board and the on water sessions which follow. Feedback from team riders, provides the primary bases for adjustment or not, with some testing often carried out by West in order to ‘feel’ if the overall end-goal in performance is being met and that riders can indeed get out of the board what they put in. While designs can indeed be fine tuned over time, the catalyst for this, can also sometimes be due to improved abilities of the riders, as a sport matures, but equally at Mistral, we strive to create, ‘Classic’ boards, as an acknowledgement end-users prefer constants, rather than continual change.
‘Bro’ hails from Cornwall, Britain’s bastion of surfing and is something of a UK legend in his field, whilst West, has lived a varied waterman’s life in Africa, Mauritius, Australia, the UK and all parts of the Pacific and its islands. Competitive successes, combined with work within paddle sports in particular, is documented through his books and used as reference sources at the Universities of Hawaii and the University of the South Pacific. Together, they have created such record making boards such as the Slipstream, Vortex , Equinox 14‘ boards and more recently the new Vanquish 14‘, not to overlook the popular Levuka, Fiji and Levu boards and all of our other Mistral hardboards.