The North ID, Gaastra's Pure and the new Neilpryde 'Wizard' sail have one big thing in common: they are sails for riders who are purely dedicated to freestyle. Light, colorful and meant to be fired through radical new school maneuvers these sails make every wish of a freestyle windsurfer come true. Whilst there has been development and testing of new sails in the winter months all over the world, Roberto Ricci Designs (RRD) R&D department has been one of the most active. The result is the 'STYLE PRO' - the new sail in the RRD range, which is designed for the unique needs of new school freestylers. We talked to John Skye, who happens to be the new 'key-man' in the sail development team of the brand. The British sailor lives in Gran Canaria and has now been with RRD for a number of years, where he worked his way up from a professional wave sailor to RRD's main sail development.
EFPT: RRD freestyle riders have usually used the old freestyle/freeride concept sail 'Superstyle' or the wave-sail 'Vogue. What where your intentions behind developing a whole new sail-line and how much input did riders have?
In the past the super style has served as the perfect do it all sail, the freestylers loved it, but also the Freestyle Wave users too. Now however the demands of the freestylers are pretty unique, and so much depends on being able to duck well, to set up for all the big moves. We decided to basically split the super style into 2 sails. The MOVE is now dedicated to the free move/freestyle wave sailor, great for bump and jump and general fun sailing. The STYLE PRO now is 100% dedicated to the pure freestyler. Our riders said they were actually preferring the VOGUE for the high level tricks, as it ducked the best from our whole range. However it lacked the power they needed for freestyle, especially in the lighter winds. So we took the Vogue as a starting point and tried to make it more powerful without ever compromising the ducking ability. It turned out really nicely in the end, being super powerful when you need it to be, but also really controllable when required. We also lost a batten, which helped in both reducing weight and giving the sail a more responsive feel. It's now powerful enough to get you going quickly, but in the moves it feels so balanced, everyone that has tried it so far has been stoked with it. Also it seems to be working well for all levels, even if they are just working on the basic moves… I even used it for wave-sailing and was super impressed!
EFPT: Can you tell us some specifications of the new RRD freestyle sail?
4 battens. Just 4 key sizes. Fairly high aspect ratio to keep the head smaller and the boom shorter. Nearly all the freestyle moves rotate in the horizontal plane, so having it high aspect ratio makes it much easier to spin quickly. The exact specs are:
5.7. 178 x 440.
5.2. 173 x 425.
4.7. 162 x 409.
4.2. 154 x 391
EFPT: The RRD sails from previous years were usually just one colour. What can you tell us about the dramatic change to the new sail design?
I think in the past we always had 3 colours schemes, but they were more conservative. This year as we were going for a dedicated freestyle sail we wanted it to standout a bit more. We have 2 really good graphic designers at RRD and we basically let them go crazy. The first prototypes were alright, but after seeing them on the water we tweaked them some more. The final colours are mind blowing. Freestyle is for the younger generation so we wanted to appeal to them more. Its just 2 colour schemes, but they both look amazing!
EFPT: While the wave-boards of RRD always were as colorful as a board can be, the freestyle line was not as playful in terms of design. Will there also be a change in the board, or is RRD sticking to its more classic design?
You never know what the future will bring, we are open to all ideas and colours have always been very present in the RRD line. So wait and see what will be next.
EFPT: Can we expect the RRD freestyle-team to grow or can you tell us anything about the company's wishes/demands in that area?
We are happy to work with national team riders and keep growing from there. Freestyle is a very young targeted sport and we like to help the boys and girls who start rather than the big champs... we love to see this sport grow with fresh young blood.
EFPT: We know, that you also competed in freestyle back in the days. What were the moves that mattered back then and how did the development in equipment changed the scene?
When I first started on the PWA, freestyle was my main discipline. Back in 2002 I was 2nd in the world ranking after two events, behind Ricardo. Unfortunately I messed up the next event and finished 9th, but I was definitely up there for a while. That year it was all about the flaka. I learnt them with Kauli and Ricardo whilst in Maui and that was the move of that year. Back then we also used to have more jumping events, so some sort of wave performance was important. At events like Pozo and sometimes in Lanzarote, we had some sick jumping. Ricardo used to land doubles in nearly every heat, even on his big freestyle boards! By the time I stopped everything was already switch stance and getting pretty technical. For sure all the gear has changed loads in that time, but definitely it is the sails that have made the biggest difference from what I can see. They now give you so much control they make everything easy. Saying that, I know the boards also have so much more pop. I think the guys would struggle to get so much height and power in the moves with the old gear.
EFPT: Do you feel more comfortable in doing new school moves with the new RRD sails, like ducking maneuvers etc.
Actually I had kind of given up with the new moves until I started testing the STYLE PRO's. I was testing in South Africa with British Freestyle Champion, Adam Sims. I was following him around trying whatever he was doing. With the new sails it was sooo much easier than ever before. It was the first time I could consistently get the duck good and suddenly it opened up a world of moves that hadn't been possible before! I made a switch kono, a bob, a funnell and almost an air funnell too. For sure my style and landing were very rusty, but I had so much fun. I know those moves don't really cut it anymore at the top level, but the difference the sail made was amazing. I am planing to head over to Fuerte when the world cup is on to start work on the new sails, and I am really looking forward to it now!!
Pics by: John Carter; Hanna Poschinger