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Wingboarding discussion: Boom vs handles

Wingboarding has made a major jump onto the watersports scene, and there is no question that its here to stay. One of the major draws to the sport is the relative ease of learning and simplicity of the gear (compared to Windsurfing or Kitesurfing). This makes it very appealing for inexpereinced riders and quick to learn for those that have previously windsurfed, kitesurfed and/or surfed.

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As the popularity of sport is so new there is still a lot of variance in the gear which can make it difficult to decide on what is right for you when purchasing equipment. One of the most common questions is whether a boom or handle configuration is better on the wing.

Below is a description of the advantages and disadvantages of booms, handles and hybrid systems.

Summary at the end.

Single placement handles

The majority of wings on the market have a configuration that uses a series of small handles. These are individual handles positioned at strategic positions on the wing that allow for performance and ride comfort. The advantages of this design are simplicity and reduced weight.

Some example of Wings which feature this design are the Duotone Unit, North Nova, Ozone Wasp and Starboard Airrush Freewing.

North Nova Wing

North Nova 5.0

Handles combined with an inflatable strut have some advantages over a pure boom system.

Handles will generally be soft and have a narrower diameter which makes using them over long periods of time less tiring.

The whole wing is soft and cant cause injury or damage through hitting the rider or board.

Setup and pack down is as simple as inflating the wing or releasing the dump valve, no additional components to connect up.

The inflatable strut gives great canopy tension.

The main drawback of the handle system is the inabilty to slide your hands thorugh the boom and have total control on where your hands are placed to manage the wing's power best.

Long handles

Some wing brands have tried to mitigate the negatives of single handle placement by creating longer handles which allow for greater hand placement options.

Cabrinha Mantis Wing

Cabrinha have chosen this design for their Mantis Wings and CrossWing V2. 

Wings like the mantis above have two long handles which allows for a great range of movement of both hands while also maintaing the ease ot use that inflatable wings have.

They do, however, have a gap between the handles and so don't quite offer the full range of movement that a boom provides.

Boom

The boom configuration can be seen thorugh a few wing brands, but most notibily in the Duotone wings. 

The Duotone Echo has an extendable boom which connects onto a canopy tensioning line running through pulleys on the wing.

Duotone Echo

Duotone Echo 5m

Wing - 2.00kg 

Boom - 1.00kg

The boom has several advantages that are not present in the handles.

It can be appealing to beginners as it allows you to slide your hands between positions on the boom without having to depower the wing with a hand (let go), this is expecially helpful when lifting the wing from the water surface to above your head when setting off.

The boom also allows you to put your hands where you want them to allow for great control the power through the wing (and to attach harness lines if you want them).

The boom is usually the go to option for riders who have windsurfing experience due to the familiarity between the gear.

However, there are drawbacks to a boom setup.

A hard component on the wing is something to fall into or crash into your board which can cause injury or damage.

Whithout an inflatable strut the tail of the wing has a tendancy to sink when its on the water.

The boom makes setup and pack down take a little longer and is an additional component that must be brought with your gear.

Boom wings do tend to move more aggressively when luffing the wing out when wave riding which can make slightly harder to manage.

A tensioning line doesn't provide the same level of canopy stiffness as a rigid inflatable strut. 

Inflatable strut / boom hybrid

Duotone developed a new wing for 2021 "The Slick" which aimed to resolve some of the issues found with a boom while retaining the advantages.

Duotone Slick

Duotone Slick 5m

Wing - 2.15kg

Boom - 0.58kg(silver) 0.33kg (platinum)

This wing design has improved on some of the drawbacks of the Echo.

The inflatable strut keeps the canopy in a stiff profile helping develop power through the wing.

The inflatable strut also resolves the issue of the tail sinking when on the water.

The wing is more stable when luffed out.

Summary

There is no right or wrong answer when deciding on which wing to get. All configurations are fun to ride and can be used for a wide variety of conditions and riderstyles.

However, there are some distinct andvantages to each setup:

Boom
Total range of hand positions available.
Can slide hands into poition, making it easier for beginners to get going.
Handles
Inflatable strut gives a stiff canopy and great profile for power development.
Softer and narrower more comfortable for extended usage.
Simple and easy setup and pack down.
Inflatable strut floats on water.

 

Personally I ride the Duotone Unit which is a Single Placement Handle Wing. I find that the handle positions on this wing are perfect for a comfortable and efficient ride. While I did have to figure out a technique to switch between the handles easily, it didnt take long, and now i can switch without thinking about it or removing power from the wing for any siginificant period.

I'm crazy for wave riding and find this simple light wing to be an excellent tool to get me into the waves, which i can then totally forget about when its luffed out (depowered) and im surfing on a wave. 

Which wings do you ride? Let us know your preferred control setup in the comments below.


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