At A Glance
SUP foil downwinding is taking the world by storm, well, the foiling world at least. It feels like every other video right now is Jeremy Riggs doing flat water paddle up, James Casey sending it hundreds of kilometres, or your mates, trying & failing to get on foil. So it was hard to hide my excitement when the 6’2 F-ONE Rocket SUP Downwind arrived at my door. It wasn’t without its frustrations though… but I’ll come to that later.
As we’ve come to expect from all F-ONE gear, this board is exceptionally well-built. For a 105L board, it feels incredibly light. The vibrant orange that we’re accustomed to with all F-ONE foil boards looks great. Shape-wise, it has lots of forward volume in the nose for early take-offs, and a sunken deck for a closer connection to the foil. It has straight bottom lines & bevelled rails to reduce drag. A full bamboo construction with a Double Bamboo deck makes it stiff & responsive.
The ROCKET SUP DOWNWIND is available in four sizes: 5’10 (90L, 23.5” wide), 6’2 (105L, 24.8” wide), 6’4 (120L, 26” wide), and 6’6 (140L, 27.8” wide). On test this issue is the 6’2 (105L, 24.8” wide).
On The Water
It’s worth mentioning that this board is my first downwind SUP board and therefore my first attempt at it. I used to SUP surf a fair few years ago, have done a small amount of SUP surf foiling, and tons of wing, prone, dock start foiling, etc. I’ve also been doing ‘shorerunners’ and dock starting into downwinders for half a year or so. So I felt in a fairly good place to give this a good shot. Let me tell you though, this sport is seriously challenging!
A lot of that challenge comes down to foil choice & placement, the conditions available to you, and the time it takes to organise lifts or walk back upwind.
I started with a couple of SUP surf foil sessions on it and found it to be super fun. It tracked well when I paddled and caught small unbroken waves really well. The SUP has a fair amount of forward volume, I could feel that helping nicely helping me get up on foil in those unbroken waves. I was on a 1600 mid to high-aspect foil and, once up, pumping was good. The lightweight construction of this board is really noticeable compared to other SUPfoil boards I’ve used. Now, it obviously wasn’t going to pump as well as the prone boards I use, but for it’s size the efficiency was quite remarkable. The narrow shape also enabled me to turn without catching the edges of the board as soon as I have done with wider boards, this is particularly useful when exiting a fairly critical section of the wave and pumping towards your next link-up.
Now, onto the downwinding. Let me tell you, this is not an easy sport to learn when are short on time, conditions need to be good AND you need a lift back upwind. What I did have success with was doing ‘shorerunners’, but I’ll get back to that. Through all my different attempts I never seemed to find bumps steep enough to get on foil, my local spot has a headland that shelters it from ocean swell, so ideally I needed 30 knots plus to get steep & powerful bumps. That never came together for me, not everywhere is like down winding in Hawaii…! Watch this space though as I’m still on the search for that magical day! It’s worth noting that the largest foil available to me regularly is a 1600, with an 80cm mast. In an ideal world, a bigger foil and shorter mast (reduced drag) would have increased my chances.
Back to shorerunners. I’ve done lots of this on prone foil now, small breaking waves and 20knot cross-shore winds provide great conditions to get a kilometre or so down the beach on each take-off. The Rocket SUP Downwind worked really well in this discipline. I caught waves further out than I usually would on prone, pumped offshore a bit, and linked the small bumps along the coast. I found this enormously satisfying, so much better than having a wing getting in your way, it really gave me insight into what downwind SUP foiling will feel like. I genuinely can’t wait to unlock it properly!
As you might have noticed, this board is not a one-trick pony. It’s an excellent wing board, early planing makes it great for light wind riding or beginners looking for their first flights. I've had some fun sessions on it cruising around our local harbour, having confidence that if the wind died I’d have had plenty of buoyancy to get me home. It's lightweight and handle placement also makes it user-friendly for learners.
The final challenge for me on this board - flat water starts. Inspired again by the likes of Jeremy Riggs, I managed to borrow a super fat foil from a friend for this task (thanks Nick!). It was a 2500cm2, an absolute beast! As recommended online, we put it right at the front of the box and headed to the local marina on a windy day. Flat water & downwind - we needed all the help we could get! We gave it a good hour of attempts, but this is something that needs more than just one go. I felt close, I could feel the foil engaging and giving me some lift but I lacked the technique to finish the job and get right up on foil. Again, this is super addictive. I’m looking forward to another go, lots of things to work on. We actually needed to move the foil back halfway through our attempts, and perhaps could have gone even further back as I felt like I was stalling a bit. Thanks to Ben Felton for helping with this.
At this stage, I imagine lots of you will be thinking, but what about those new super slim downwind boards? This sport is changing extremely quickly, however, we’re far from having all the answers. While an 8ft by 17 inch might get you on foil quicker, it can’t be for everyone. Pumping a long board will be tricky, as will turning it. I also believe that shorter spaced steeper bumps will be better suited to shorter boards. So it will depend on your local conditions.
The ROCKET SUP DOWNWIND is a beautiful bit of kit. In the time that I’ve been testing it, I’ve discovered an excellent all-rounder. We’re under no illusion that times are hard for everyone right now, you want a board that serves more than one purpose. The Rocket SUP Downwind is exactly that. A downwind board that can surf & wing, I’m a big fan of the versatility of it. There’s no doubt that a board like this will increase your days on the water!
This review was in Issue 14 of Tonic Mag.For more information visit F-One