Group Board Test
There are loads of boards on the market, from loads of different manufacturers, to suit all styles of riding and all budgets. How do you choose?
We have been lucky enough to get a large selection of boards from a wide variety of companies to test and review. They have been put through their paces downhill/freeriding and with a selection of experienced riders with kites.
We have looked at the equipment, decks, ride, feel and style of the boards to give you some idea of what is out there, what is best for your budget, your riding style, level of experience and what you want to use the board for.
There is not going to be an overall winner as it is unfair to compare a £175 entry level board with a £350 top end board. But I will be selecting my favourite boards.
- Comp 16pro (2005)
- Comp 6pro
- Core 8
- Pro 90
- Pro 102
- 16 ply 35° channel deck, Matrix trucks, Dirt Theory ratchet bindings and Ballistic Cross-air hubs.
This guide isn’t going to give a complete breakdown of all the boards’ specifications, weight and equipment levels as these are available on the manufacturer’s websites. Though specifics will be mentioned in the course of the review.
The kite test
A day at Blackrock Sands, Porthmadog, Gwynedd. Overcast with onshore winds blowing 15-20 mph and a couple of times it died to nothing. As the day progressed we had some showers and by 3.30pm it was torrential and stuck in for the rest of the day. The tide was out and the beach fairly quiet so there were wide expanses of hard packed sand to play on. We had kite boarders of varying experience to give their opinions of the boards.
The downhill/freeride test
A fantastic hill opposite the Ponderosa café, Horseshoe Pass, nr Llangollen Powys. We just used a short section of the hill so that we wouldn’t end up to knackered after walking back-up. The slope is great, wide with short grass and lots of humps and rollers to make it more interesting, and a short steep bit at the top to give some extra speed.
The comp16 was felt to be one of the best all round boards as it is great for speed runs and cruising as well as carving and freestyle. The deck has not as much pop as some of the boards that were tried but has plenty of flex. The Matrix trucks offer lot of adjustment so you can get a good heelside edge for jumps and this adds to it’s all round ability. The bindings “fit like an old shoe” and can be simply adjusted, though they can be problematic to loosen or adjust at times and can jam when covered in sand. The other problem at present with this board is some of the components have a tendency to rust and more so with sand and salt water – but this can be easily and cheaply rectified. Newbie’s and pros all loved the comp16.
This is also one of the best downhill boards, whether you are into freeriding, boarder-cross or freestyle this board is great. Again the adjustability and stability of the matrix trucks mean they can be set up for the way you ride – tight for speed or loose for maneuverability. The deck gives great feedback whatever the terrain. The T1 tyres are a soft compound and provide excellent grip but can be more prone to punctures. Again the only problem is the bindings jamming occasionally.
In 2006 the price of the comp16 is coming down and the deck composite is changing but not the feel of the deck and it will come with all stainless fittings.
This board is the jack of all trades, but rather than being the master of none it is superb in all areas.
The comp6 is the little brother of the comp16 with the same kit but on a shorter composite deck. The comp6 is designed for freestyle and the shorter deck gives more pop than the comp16 as well as makes for easier rotations. Add matrix lites and a grab handle you have one of best free style boards around. Because of the shorter length it is not as good for high speed runs and cruising and also suffers with the same rust and binding problems as the comp16.
As a freeride board the comp6 has the great feel of the comp16 and some of the stability. It does feel a bit twitchy because of its shorter length, but was great for popping off some of the small rollers. The comp6 is designed as a freestyle board but would make a great freeride board for the shorter/smaller rider because of its high level of equipment and great deck.
This is an entry level freestyle board with skate trucks, and is good for smaller riders. The core8 is ultra light, but has a lot less pop, but like all MBS boards has good flex. The skate trucks reduce overall weight but aren’t as stable as channel trucks. The freeflex bindings are simple and easy to adjust and tighten and can be done one handed. The core8 is a good entry level board for freestyle particularly for the smaller rider and was the lightest board in the test.
This board may suit children or small adults as a beginner’s board but for serious freeriding you may prefer something a bit more substantial. The bindings were easy to adjust and get tight and the skate trucks were reasonably stable when tightened up. The deck absorbed the bumps but did feel a bit flimsy.
This board is designed as an entry level freestyle board but did cope with the hill.
This is Scrub’s pro freestyle kite board and comes with new ratchet bindings, strengthened light weight alloy skate trucks and a grab handle. The trucks look great and they are strong, therefore should take the force of landing better than standard trucks without bending. The ratchet bindings were secure and easily adjustable, but the strength of the plastic clips was questioned, but unlike the MBS f3’s there was no jamming. The tyres provided adequate grip and added to the overall light weight of the board (this was the second lightest board in the test). Some of the riders felt that the deck was poppy, but it has very little flex and it may be hard on the knees, but it was liked by other members of the test team.
Again this is another freestyle/kite board. The trucks, wheels and tyres do provide a surprisingly stable ride, but this was let down by the deck, the length and stiffness made for a very twitchy ride particularly over uneven surfaces. It was easy to jump but felt hard on landing which added to the twitchy feel. On the flat, through the turns the deck allowed the speed to be carried and felt much more positive. The bindings were great and gave a great locked in ride.
Designed as a pro downhill/freeride board with Scrubs light weight channel trucks, the same composite deck and bindings as the pro90. Unfortunately the deck is also the same composite as the pro 90 and with the added length was felt to be a bit lifeless as it had gained in flex but lost all of its pop. The board was stable and light weight thanks to its new channel trucks and could be used for jumps. It had developed a noticeable heel side bias by the end of the session – though this could have probably been corrected by changing the egg shocks or adjusting the trucks.
This board provides a good stable ride for freeriding; the deck absorbs the terrain but doesn’t have enough pop to make it easy to jump. The trucks provide a stable ride and with the tyres it is great for carving downhill. And again scrubs ratchet bindings make for a good locked in feel. This is nice board for freeriding, but not that great a getting air, if you want to carve and compress jumps this may be the board for you. The deck has plenty of flex but very little pop and doesn’t give as much feedback or excitement as some of the other boards that were tested.
This is the replacement for Scrubs popular Silverreef and exceeds expectations, overall the board feels lighter than the old ‘reef, but the deck has the same great feel with loads of pop and flex. It definitely benefits from the 8inch tyres and is an excellent freestyle board. It also now comes with all stainless steel fittings so is great for beach use. It has freeflex bindings, on angled plates, so these can be easily changed for bindings of your choice, but it was felt that these provided a secure hold with the grip tape.
I started off boarding with a silver reef and so was interested to see how this board compared. I wasn’t disappointed – the deck is superb loads of pop and flex and gives a comfortable ride with loads of feedback. With the trucks fairly tight we got a reasonably stable ride which took the terrain in its stride. The 8inch tyres are a great addition to this board, as coupled with the great deck, made it easier to pop the jumps. The bindings are adequate and not the most secure which was the only let down, but these can easily be upgraded. Overall it is a great board.
The same deck and bindings as the Ejector but with channel trucks and monster 9inch Striker tyres. This along with the Ejector was one of the tester’s top boards. This is the cruiser where as the Ejector is the freestyle board. Again the deck has great pop and flex. But the ride is super stable because of the channel trucks (and would have been more so if we had moved the springs out to the furthest setting) and with those 9inch tyres it had very little rolling resistance and goes over any lumps or bumps with little effort. It is a great board for cruising up and down the beach with a kite.
If you want to cruise down hill and ride over everything then get a regolith. The deck feels great and with scrubs channel trucks is very stable, the 9inch strikers just go over everything, but make it heavier to jump. It has the same bindings as the ejector and again this is the only disappointment. This is a great board for cruising and carving downhill.
Kheo Air-X and F-X
The two new boards from Kheo are the Air-X and F-X are basically the same the only differences being in the graphics, the colour of the tyres and the trucks – the Air-X has new 12mm skate truck and the F-X has shiny aluminium multi-position channel trucks.
Both decks have a great feel with enough flex and pop to satisfy most styles of rider, though the length/weight of the board may put off serious freestylers. The boards were great for cruising on the beach and small jumps were possible with both – though easier with the Air-S as it is slightly lighter thanks to the skate trucks. The F-X was better for speed runs because of the increased stability of the channel trucks.
The only real downside of these two boards was that they didn’t seam to roll as well as the others in the test and therefore were slower. Both boards have Kheo’s new super grippy tyres; they maybe could have done with more air to decrease their footprint, as the bearings appeared to run ok. The bindings felt cheap and the shape of them didn’t hold securely enough.
These boards both have great decks and a good set up that work well when freeriding. As you would expect the F-X had the more stable ride, but the Air-x with the skate trucks was stable enough at speed. Both boards handled the terrain well and were able to pop the jumps without any difficulty. The tyres are very grippy and tear up the surface and you have to lift the back foot to get it to power slide – there wasn’t any problem with them feeling slow. The shape of the bindings tended to let the foot slide out of them. Overall great boards to start with if you are getting into freeriding.
The Kheo Basik is an entry level board with a maple deck, aluminium channel trucks and freeflex bindings. This board was a very nice surprise, described by kheo (if you can interpret the French on their website) as being a good value board for kite and down hill. The deck has a great feel with really nice pop and flex and is fairly light weight so is great for freestyle and with the channel trucks was also nice and stable. The only thing to let it down was the freeflex bindings. This board was liked by all our riders and makes a great entry level board.
If you want a good entry level board this has got to be the one to choose, it has a great retro look with the treated wooden deck, this board is great. The deck has a great feel to it and with the channel trucks provides a great ride and the weight and pop made it great for jumping. The only disappointment was the bindings – but this is an entry level board!
Another surprise from Kheo, this is their top of the range ultimate freeride board and it is very nice. It has a carbon composite deck which has a great feel, the balance between pop and flex is spot-on. The red tyres look like they should have come off a tractor but are great, loads of grip when you want it, but work comfortably riding over sand. The bindings are on a par with the MBS f3’s, secure and easily adjusted. This is a great board for cruising on the beach and popping a few jumps “nice”.
If you don’t want a comp16 and can’t afford a Trampa and want to stand out from the crowd – buy an Epsilon. The deck is great almost on par with the comp16. The channel trucks are excellent and it has big red tractor tyres which provide just the right amount of traction but also let you slide the board. The bindings are also great nice and secure hold. Overall this is a top notch freeride board, excellent pop and flex for jumping and overall a superb ride, coupled with nice equipment.
Trampa 16 ply 35° Channel deck
“it rocks!” appeared to be the general consensus about the Trampa from everybody that rode it. The deck has superb feel with pop and flex that could not be rivaled. It allowed the power to be held down before jumping. With the matrix trucks it was stable and great to ride. The dirt theory bindings weren’t as popular as the MBS F3’s. The only down side is that this is the most expensive board in the test but if you want one the deck will be custom built to your weight/height/ride-style and you can have it fitted with the kit that you want.
This board is also superb downhill and rivals the comp16, again the deck provides great feel for the terrain with the pop and flex making jumping comfortable. The dirt-theory bindings are great, no problems with jamming and hold securely. Matrix trucks are some of the best on the market with their range and ease of adjustability. This is a great board that inspires confidence; the only downside is it is heavier than a comp16 to take back up hill, but you will never break it and you can always upgrade it – and the cost (‘cause I can’t afford one!).
The boards that were most liked by the testers were the MBS comp16 pro, Kheo’s Epsilon and Basik, Scrub’s Ejector and Regolith and the Trampa.
What made these boards stand out is that these boards all have great decks, as regards their pop and feel, all tied together with great equipment – the bindings, wheels and trucks. They can also cross disciplines so if there is no wind you can go and play on a hill or visa versa. They also cover a wide range of budgets.
At the end of the day this all came down to the testers personal opinions, and unfortunately we were unable to test all the boards on the market. There are the new Ground Industry boards coming out in the near future, Kitedeck make some superb boards and all though we did have the offer of the Flexifoil flexdecks we weren’t able to get hold of them. If you can, try before you buy – the type of board that I like may not suit you.
Would I do it again?
It was a nightmare to organise, trying to get all the boards at the same time, coordinator the testers, the wind, weather and tides, then get the boards back to the manufacturers! But yes I would love to make it an annual event, testing all the new boards, as I am sure as things develop boards will just keep getting better and better and I love riding and talking about them.
My personal favourites
The comp16 (my own board), the trampa (I had better start saving), the epsilon (surprised me and its French!), and the ejector (it’s just a lovely board).
Bring it on……