GET A GRIP – A REVIEW OF HOW TO CHOOSE A WINDSURFING BOOM
Selecting a windsurfing boom need not be complicated and is simply a matter of matching your preferred sailing styles, equipment – and budget!
The major factors that affect price and performance are stiffness and durability.
The boom-shape outline and grip diameter are also important factors to consider.
A stiffer boom gives a crisper, more direct connection to the power source (sail) and allows efficient transfer of energy through your body and into the board. Clearly for racers and speed freaks, advanced wave sailors and dedicated freeriders, this is highly desirable.
View videos on all booms in our range.
CARBON VS. ALUMINIUM
Carbon gives the ultimate stiffness under load, although modern aluminium booms can also deliver impressively ‘hard’ handling as well.
If, for example, your sails are powerful slalom models, then it is pointless having an expensive cammed engine when the transmission of the power is lost through a ‘soggy’, shaky, loose or flexible boom.
In larger sizes of serious, camber-induced sails, only carbon can deliver adequate rigidity and strength.
Other sailors, including many top freestylers, prefer a slightly more ‘absorbent’ feel to their rig when preparing for and performing tricks.
For some, the more direct the connection the easier it is to channel the power of the rig and allows longer sessions – and more fun! For others, flex and forgiveness when cruising around their local stretch of water give the same result – a big smile on their face after a super session!
It really is just a matter of preference what you pick.
Illustration of monocoque construction and it's 'one-continuous-tube' strength benefit.
BOOM SHAPE OUTLINE
Traditional, classic, ‘wishbone’ booms hold a shape that fits the curvature of a cambered sail, where the front hand is also closer to the luff and is comfortable for those that favour an underhand grip on their forward side.
Modern C-Shape booms allow the wrist to remain straight (see diagram), stress the forearms less and deliver longer, more enjoyable sessions where the power can be controlled more efficiently.
C-Shape booms’ increased parallel-tube outlines also allow the back hand to be nearer the body and therefore the body to be more committed when bottom turning for increased control both in wave riding and in the air.
Of course the outline also means the parallel tubes are under less stress and so the C-Shape is also markedly stronger.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Both metal and carbon options now have impressive lifetime and can last several seasons, so it’s worth spending what you can to maximize the value they can deliver to you over time.
Years ago, carbon’s stiffness caused some problems with brittleness and many found the small amount of flex and forgiveness in aluminium booms gave a longer lifetime.
However, technology has advanced – especially with the use of monocoque, single enclave (one-piece mould) technology – and carbon booms are now stiffer and stronger than ever with fewer weak points for energy to focus upon. (No screws or joined-up pieces, enhanced stiffness and single-shell impact resistance.)
This strength arguably delivers greater value for money over the lifetime of the product, but aluminium booms – especially if high quality T8 alloy is specified - are still exceptionally durable and perform well at an attractive price point, especially in the modern, C-shape outline (See more below) and in their own version of monocoque forming.
Extension range is another factor that affects strength. When a boom is fully extended it is clearly weaker at that point than when ‘doubled-up’ and compacted to the shorter end of the adjustment span.
This is where carbon really comes into its own on grunty, low-aspect sails that demand maximum in-built strength.
When buying a boom and planning your sail ‘quiver’ you need to try and fit the most realistic range of extension to cover as many sails as you can without compromising performance.
Windsurfing booms are usually for sale in either regular, Standard Diameter Grip (SDG) of about 29 mm. or Reduced Diameter Grip (RDG) at about 26 mm. (Unifiber measure their quoted tube diameter – not including the EVA grip - in the centre of the harness line area as the tube diameter does taper through various parts of the ‘wishbone’.
There are many combinations of preference for grip. Some riders are ‘heavy handed’ and hold the boom tightly and some have a lighter touch and enclose their fingers less around the tubes.
These preferences determine the diameter you prefer, as do the size of your hands. (Therefore smaller sailors, some ladies, kids etc., often feel more comfortable with a RDG.)
A summary of 2015 Unifiber windsurfing booms features to compare and help you choose the right combinations and best model for you.
NOTE: An updated version featuring 2016 models will appear here in February 2016.
REDUCED DIAMETER GRIP
RDGs are also popular amongst braver, mid-winter sailors in colder areas, who find the thinner tubes easier to grip and control without getting cramp while wearing open-palmed neoprene mittens or gloves.
STANDARD DIAMETER GRIP
SDG tubes of 29 mm. give a positive weight-to-strength ratio in both carbon and alloy, but other factors can affect this, such as wall thickness.
There are also other ‘V-shaped-tube’ booms on the market as well as elliptical profiles. The idea behind these tube shapes is that grip is enhanced and strength/stiffness increased.
The V shape does fit some palms well and the strength benefits are hard to argue against, however some riders find the taper of the cross-section causes more blisters and callouses on their hands, especially if they’re actively sliding their hands up and down, such as when wave riding or jumping a lot.
WIDER VS. NARROW BACK ENDS
Larger, deeper-drafted sails, such as slalom models, need a wider tail piece to accommodate the extra body the camber inducers and low-aspect shapes of larger, lighter-wind sizes.
These types of sail are also often used in conjunction with an adjustable outhaul setup that requires more pulleys in the back end.
However, a recent trend in modern wave sails, that also have their draft further back and increasingly set better with less and less outhaul to benefit a growing trend for more ‘backhand’ pressure for tightening-up critical, onshore-wind bottom turns have seen more demand for wave booms with wider tail sections too.
In combination with a ‘C-Shape’ outline, where the tubes are more parallel – and therefore stronger due to decreased stress – a wider back end then brings further strength benefits and longevity too.
Wider, adjustable-outhaul-compatible back end for race boom illustrated.
BOOM HEADS AND CLAMPS
Long ago booms were tied to the mast using an ‘inhaul’ line! But since clamps replace this method in the late 80s, the connection point to the mast has remained solid and allowed the standard of the sport and control over the rig to progress incredibly.
Most manufacturers use ‘axial’ heads that allow the head to angle to fit varying clew heights and multiple cringles common on modern sails, as well as a range of sizes of sail.
If your boom also has a monocoque construction, this means you have ultimate strength as a one-piece tube passes - without any fixing or weak points such as screws or joins – through the clamp head mechanism and will not stress the mast thanks to the axial up and down angling motion from luff to leech (front to back.)
Some booms sold as Reduced Diameter have front ends suitable only for ‘skinny’ Reduced Diameter Masts (RDMs) and some only as SDM (Standard Mast Diameter) compatible, that will need an adapter to fix them to an RDM mast.
Of course many are supplied with adapters and interchangeability is pretty common – just don’t lose your adapter when you pack up!
Removable shim for RDM / SDM interchangeable use.
Boom height – how high you place the clamp in the luff cutout - can have a massive effect on your sailing performance.
Generally, having it higher - say more than shoulder height when standing on the board - can help with early planing and generating extra lift.
Moving it lower can help settle the board in stronger wind and pin the nose down and lessen the amount of power going through your arms legs and lines.
Raising or lowering the boom can also act as a useful, extra dimension to outhaul sail trim. For example, lowering the boom height effectively increases the outhaul while raising it can deepen the sail draft too.
Combine this with extra outhaul and downhaul tweaks and you can maximize your sail range more than you otherwise might think.
There are exceptions and compromises of course. For example, some riders prefer the boom lower for early-planing in lighter winds as it puts them in a more ‘active-planing’ stance with their body lower and the weight off their legs.
Wavesailors also like the boom low in certain conditions for increased leverage and lean in their turns, while some wave riders, especially in onshore wind, like it a little higher in strong wind to help maximize mast foot pressure in tighter turns.
Windsurfing is a wonderful sport with millions of combinations and half the fun is experimenting to find what feels best for you!
Unifiber produce a full range of booms, no matter what diameter, material, or curve for the ultimate connection to suit your hands.
Every boom benefits from the best mix of comfort and stiffness, whether reduced or standard diameter grip, C-shape or R-shape outline, aluminium or carbon construction, regardless of size or price point.
All booms feature double pin locks for rock-solid fastening of the back-end. Premium nylon is used for all external plastic parts, and robust multi-pulley blocks on tail sections for easy fine-tuning on-the-fly.
We also added handy EVA graphic increments to aid matching your favorite harness line positions.