Unlimited boards are the zenith and peak of SUP sport, in that they are uniquely designed for maximum glide, speed and manageability with every stroke taken. Here is a world, entirely performance centred, a place where there are no rules, nor boundaries, a place where the purest can indulge themselves in harnessing the best of the sport has to offer, with the best of equipment that money can buy. Mistral’s voyage into the world of Unlimited boards, is for us essential in acknowledging the peak of what the sport can offer, though the creation of what must be considered the ‘top of the range’ in all that we offer. In short, every SUP paddler would love to own such a board; a thing of beauty.
The problem in designing a board that is specific for downwind paddling, is that it will tend to be compromised heavily by design, the moment it points in any other direction other than downwind and down swell.
Investing in a board specific for down winding also suggests you should be living in an area of trade winds in order to maximise your investment through use. Therefore, we’ve set out to create in this first generation Interceptor board, capable of excellent runs downwind when conditions provide for longer swell periods and steep sections, but will also hold its own upwind and in cross chop and even flatter waters. This is achieved by avoiding any radical rocker lines front a back in order to maximise water line length and prevent any snow-ploughing when the water flattens out.
The inclusion of a rudder system is something foreign to most SUP paddlers, who initially feel a little intimidated by having a moving part to deal with operated by the foot and or toes. Fabricated from carbon fibre, the steering system is tuneable, in being capable of being set at varying distances according to finding the ‘sweet spot’ that works for you.
Supplied with 2 differing tiller arms, you can opt to set up for ‘Goofy’ (right foot forward) or ‘Regular’ (left foot forward). It’s important to establish which foot you favour and you establish this for example by standing feet together and have someone push you from behind. The foot you step forward with, will determine your ‘footedness’. Right foot forward will tend to mean you’re a Goofy footer, left foot forward and you will a ‘Regular’ or ‘Natural’.
Using the Rudder System
There’s an art to using the rudder system, the key to which is to use it as little as possible. Its best function is in compensating for any cross-winds, whereby you can offset side forces so as you can switch paddling sides in comfort as against paddling on one side for long periods of time.
Only small relative rudder movements are needed to bring about significant directional changes. Keep in mind, when the rudder is turned this creates resistance and drag needed to create the turning moment, but it will also result in some speed loss. Use the rudder sparingly and only when you cannot achieve with the paddle effectively what you need to do with the rudder. You should never have to over steer by exerting excess force to the tiller arm; apply subtle movements and anticipate early any correctional shifts required.
Setting the system up is a simple process, but worth the time and effort in order to suit paddling styles and standing position on the board. The fin supplied is in the order of 8” and raked enough to avoid tangling in the weeds and ample for the job in hand. Directional stability is maximised without compromising drag in having too big of a fin area.
Rather than use stainless steel wire, we have opted for a high strength polymer based line as used in sailing and kiteboarding. This line will of course will not rust, stretch or indeed present problems of broken, sharp strands and is easily replaceable, but should give many years of service without issue.
More about the Design and Performance Parameters
Rather than opt for a flat underside which alludes to a planing hull, we have ensured a rounded displacement in the forward section so as keep the hull fast and loose, which proves very much more efficient when wanting to push onto small bumps or larger and certainly improves flat water performance in reducing surface tension and resistance.
The nose volume and rocker combine to keep the nose from nose diving without overdoing the curvature which only serves to reduce potential hull speed and act to push water rather than glide over it. ‘Stepping’ back of course is common practice when it comes to board control in stepper downwind sections as is rail to rail transitioning. This then moves into a flat spot under the paddler when they are in the neutral position over the boards centre of gravity and buoyancy. We’ve then morphed this into a single concave towards the rear, which serves in keeping the water ‘dirty’ and moving along under some level of compression towards the rounded tail.
Despite the narrow width of 24.3″ keep in mind, that added length contributes to added stability and you will very surprised how stable the Interceptor is at this width. While a stand-inside board has obvious merits in lowering the paddlers centre of gravity, permitting more radical hull shapes, the issue for boards used for rougher waters is one of recovery, swamping and mobility. While you want to lower the paddler’s centre of gravity, in the case of ‘tippy’ hull shapes, there are mixed views in the case of downwind, rough water boards and to a degree it is largely a matter of preference, though there are definitive realities.
If you fall from a board that is significantly ‘dug-out’ recovery is considerably more difficult all but for the most athletic. Swamping is also a constant issue and an ever present threat and while scuppers can be fitted, the stand in area is significantly larger than that of foot-wells in a surf ski or OC1. Additionally, high sided walls go some way to limiting mobility within the stand in area and can make for a somewhat claustrophobic environment in which to work.
That being said, the stand on top, classic solution, offers none of these limitations or hinderances and consequently is an easier animal to live with on many levels, but in saying this, it requires a slightly different approach in one’s paddling.
There is an expectation the paddler will and can move around more and can take advantage of rail to rail transitioning, which is not so achievable in stand-in boards, due to being unable to fully drop and control rail edges to the same extent. The stand on top board permits a greater engagement of the paddlers movements and all in all, it will pay dividends where conditions are truly challenging.
Our Equinox 14’ board holds downwind course record times in South Africa, has been a podium place winner for the past three years at the Air France Paddle Pacific event up against the toughest competition and won numerous races worldwide. A top performer in seas up to around 3’ (1m) and strong winds, the Equinox excels in catching the smallest bumps and runners for the smallest amount of paddler effort. When downwind paddling, you need to catch the small runners and bumps (the running sea) in order to catch the larger swells, therefore you need this quality to be inherent in the design.
Taking the basic Equinox form, we’ve stretched it out and ensured that we did not go over board with making a board for extremes being that the vast majority of paddlers are of course paddling in flat to moderate conditions. This makes the Interceptor versatile and user friendly and a board as happy on the ocean as it is upon sheltered waters. You could just as easily use it for a long distance race on rivers as you would across the bay or in more challenging circumstances. The Interceptor is fast, forgiving and above all, fun and a true paddlers board.
Ultimately the Interceptor can be modified to be a dedicated downwind board, but for the moment, we like to think of this of a highly capable ocean board, which, with the addition of the rudder system, is capable of taking you most anywhere you want in complete style and with the added advantage of water line length.