On The Water
The Freedom Foil Board FTW Pro is Brian Finch’s pro model, FTW standing for ‘Foil The World’, which is his popular Instagram handle. Coincidentally, you can read our interview with Brian in this issue.
The board has been designed, in conjunction with Brian, with progressive prone foiling in mind. Made to match his ‘connect & release’ style. It has sharp edges, a flat bottom & a step tail. Footstrap inserts allow for airs - but also wingfoiling. There are two sizes currently available in this model, 4’2 (30L) and 4’5 (33.5L). We had the 4’5 on test. We believe there is also a thinner, 4’4 version coming to market next year which will be worth looking out for.
Two of the Tonic Mag test team took this board out for a spin, Rick Parkhouse - who took it prone foiling, and myself, Jack - I took it prone foiling & winging.
Rick - Out of the water the board feels reasonably light. It was slightly heavier than my Amos Raptor but not unduly so. The construction is excellent - the board feels bombproof.
I’ll add to that by commenting on the aesthetics - it looks rad! A striking pink paint job merges effortlessly with a brushed carbon look. The black deck pads & cool ‘FREEDOM’ logos finish it off nicely. You can’t help but feel good when you carry it down the beach.
On The Water
Rick rode the FTW pro model in clean 1ft waves, with the Signature Foils Game Changer 195. He placed his mast in the usual position - all the way forward in the box. I surfed it also on clean small days but also on a few ‘shorerunners’ and went winging on it in gusty 25knot+ conditions. I used my AK Durable Supply 1300 Plasma and had the mast quite far back for prone (mast position 2) and in the middle for winging.
Rick - In the water, the first thing I noticed about the board as soon as I paddled it was the forward volume. I actually had to shuffle my chest forward an inch or so from where I would usually have it to compensate for the additional buoyancy. The extra volume made paddling into the gutless waves extremely easy. Surfers would have struggled to catch the waves I was catching on it.
Under the feet, the step tail made ollying up onto foil nice and easy. The board was nice and stiff - it pumped efficiently. I found that I needed to have my back foot further forward than usual for a comfortable angle when pumping back out but this was not a hindrance - just slightly different to my usual setup. It pumped really well with very little swing weight. There was actually a bit of SW wind on the day I rode it and even pumping into the wind was pretty easy on this thing.
In my opinion, one of the most genius features on the board is the half arch bar in the rear tail pad. It gave tactile confirmation of your rear foot position when moving back to turn and made me realise how much I’d missed having that as an ex-surfer. Most rear foil pads are flat, unlike surf tail pads which usually have a pronounced arch bar. Having half a bar is clever as the pad is flat when your foot is in pumping position and only feels locked in when you go back to turn. It’s a small detail but it made a big difference. I knew exactly where my rear foot was when riding in a way I haven’t before - kudos to the designer Brian Finch because it’s absolutely awesome.
The board felt lively underfoot and responsive in turns. There was a definite whip to it which I really liked. However, it’s quite a thick board so doesn’t feel as ‘connected’ to the foil as thinner foil boards. I usually ride a slightly lower volume and the lack of thickness means your back foot feels slightly more connected to the foil. I was riding the 4’5 FTW pro which at 33l is 6L more than my daily driver. If I were to buy one I would choose the 4’2 (which is 30l) for this reason.
The test conditions were small, so I only had the chance to hit whitewater sections 2 or 3 times, but when I did the sharp rails near the tail redirected the board nicely out of the foam. They’re the sharpest rails I’ve ridden on a foil board and I feel they would actually be great for hitting whitewater sections and redirecting confidently if I’d had a wider variety of conditions in which to try the board.
Jack - Rick is a more proficient surfer than me and I believe the difference between our surfing skills shows this board's strengths. I really enjoyed that forward volume for helping me into waves. I had a session on it in Cornwall where the waves were tiny, I wasn’t sure if I’d even catch them. It turned out that I caught loads, and once up, the stiffness & lightweight mentioned above meant that I could pump and stay up on foil for ages. (That session is the one in the YouTube video linked to this article). What I’m trying to say here is that it fits an intermediate to advanced market - easy to catch waves but you can get radical in your turns.
Some of my best sessions on the board were doing ‘shorerunners’ along the coast in Bournemouth. This means catching a wave and then riding a combination of wind chop and waves downwind along the coast. I’m still a newbie in this discipline but I made a ton of progress on the FTW Pro and got my first runs over a km on it. I found it just gave me confidence, the stiffness & weight meant I had stability when pumping and great control when connecting waves & bumps.
The foot strap inserts allow prone foilers to get airs. While I’m yet to try this, the foot straps themselves are thin, which means paddling on them on your chest would be no problem. I did however use them wingfoiling - Brian discusses in our interview this issue that it was an unexpected surprise that the board would be good for winging. Well, I thought it was fantastic. The footstraps were well placed in the board and the forward volume meant I was quick to get on foil. I love riding a sinker board of this size. The manoeuvrability, pump ability, and jumping are just so much better than on big boards, for me, it is always worth the extra hassle of getting on foil.
Now I am fairly light (68kg), but what this means for me is that the 4’5 FTW Pro would be my prone & wing board - which saves a lot of money! And while I didn’t get time to try it, I’ve also seen it dock started in videos online, so it ticks a lot of boxes.
We both thoroughly enjoyed riding the FTW Pro. It’s a well-thought-out, well-built foil board that will not exclude intermediate riders but still offers high performance for advanced riders. Both myself & Rick just wished we had more time on it!
This review was in Issue 14 of Tonic Mag.For more information visit Freedom Foil Boards