At A Glance
The Mode is North’s brand-new offering to the market. Available in only 3 sizes, featuring the exciting new N-Weave material, and competitively priced, this wing has been highly anticipated!
This wing was originally designed specifically as a race wing however it turned out at some point during North's testing to be incredibly versatile. Hence why it has come to market as an all singing all dancing wing not just for racing but also wave, freestyle, & freeride.
Let's start with the N-Weave material, it’s immediately noticeable & unique when you get the mode out of the bag. I felt like I was picking up a high-performance dingy sail from an Olympic boat. You have to remember that North is part of the North Sails group, which makes sails for Americas Cup yachts. So it’s no surprise when you feel the quality of this material. Technology-wise the N-Weave is a woven fibre material, claimed by North to be 3x stiffer & 40% lighter than traditional leading-edge materials. The Mode can be pumped to 9 PSI and I have no doubt that the N-Weave material is part of the reason the airframe holds its shape so well under such pressure.
The Mode features rigid GripLock control handles, there’s a lot of debate around rigid vs soft handles in the market right now but at first sight, they seem brilliant. Plenty of grip and a comfy diameter.
North has put a great deal of attention to detail into this product. Even the bag has useful features like a ‘foil assist’ strap that has a rubber section designed to make carrying the foil on your shoulder more comfortable. This is a welcome addition, especially if you like to travel off the beaten track for your wing adventures. Another thing I really like is the dual inflation valves with a connecting tube to make inflation quick and easy, but if want to add specific pressure in either the strut or leading edge, you can.
As I mentioned above the Mode comes in 3 sizes, 4.2m (on test), 5.5m, & 7m. I’ll attempt to go into detail below but North state the smaller number of sizes available is because the Mode has a larger wind range than other wings on the market.
On The Water
Almost all of the sessions I got on the Mode were in gusty winter conditions here on the South Coast of the UK. Some might say it is the perfect type of weather to test to a wing, in some of my sessions I honestly had lulls below 15 knots with gusts over 30 knots. I was testing it with the North Swell 4’2 & Sonar HA1050.
I’ll start with the reason this wing was initially created - racing. That means that upwind performance has to be on point, it definitely delivered! I know that upwind performance is subjective unless you’re genuinely on a start line, up against other brands. That’s not something I got to do, but if I was to enter a race tomorrow this would be my wing of choice. I spent most of my sessions with the Mode surfing bumps & swell downwind so getting back upwind quickly was essential. I felt like I got there in no time. In lulls, I maintained power & speed in the wing well, in strong gusts I was able to sheet out slightly or even just point higher.
I could almost feel that N-Weave material helping maintain canopy tension when those gusts did come, it maintained stiffness throughout and had very little ‘flapping’. Something I also felt was the stiffness in lulls or lighter wind. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get going on a sinker board with a bendy flappy wing, it really kills a session for me. This was the opposite, when pumping to get on foil it felt incredibly responsive & powerful. Again something that would be super useful when racing. I believe the range I’ve discussed above is the reason that they’ve only needed to make 3 sizes in the Mode.
So what do I think of the rigid handles? My first impression was positive for sure, I think ultimately it will depend on your preference, ex-windsurfers will no doubt be swaying towards a design like this. I found they gave me a good connection to the wing and allowed me to make micro-adjustments when needed. I also found the length of the handles, which is longer than most soft handles, meant I could change up where I was holding the wing and even fly it one-handed when going down a wave face.
When ‘free-flying’ the wing going downwind or riding waves it flew with stability behind me and left me feeling very controlled. What about jumping? As I mentioned above this wing wasn’t specifically designed for freestyle, but stiffness in an airframe translates to speed and what do you need speed for? Jumping. I had a great time sending it on the Mode 4.2m, something I particularly noticed was the ‘float’ as I came back down to land. I’d often have more speed than I’m used to when landing, which felt ace. With equipment like this, the sport will no doubt be moving closer towards foiling landings, rather than slapping down to a stop.
I started winging just under four years ago now, I thought at the time that the technology was next level. How wrong I was. Wing design has come on leaps & bounds and North is at the forefront with the Mode. It really is an exceptional bit of kit that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face regardless of whether you’re racing, riding waves, or doing freestyle. Try one and see for yourself.
This review was in Issue 15 of Tonic Mag.For more information visit North