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Double Dip: North Nova Freeride + Nova Pro

This year North present us with two distinct versions of the Nova in the form of the Nova Freeride and Nova Pro. Both Novas have a host of well-designed proprietary features for comfort; you can tell it’s all been well considered and someone with a keen eye has been in charge of fixtures and fittings. The TPU bump stops on the front of the handles are a prime example amongst many, avoiding denting boards and knocking into things. This level of detail continues throughout even down to the elegantly covered single-point inflation clamps, beautifully practical bags and comfortable TPU anti-rub pad behind the flagging handles. Both wings come with high-quality bungeed wrist leashes as standard with a waist leash option available. Both wings feature a radial load diffuser sat at the end of the strut to spread load evenly into the rest of the canopy, and the sail cut and seaming are tailored to enhance this. Where the wings differentiate most obviously is not only in their shape but in their material choices and handle interface. They are very different beasts.

The Freeride version is made from high-end materials, North’s own N-HTRS canopy material coupled with lightweight Dacron for the airframe, so a more traditionally constructed wing, albeit from premium materials. It has a few tricks literally hidden up its sleeve though, with Carbon Udi in the wing tips to increase the stiffness in this critical area and allow them to reflex back after a gust. You’d be forgiven for missing some more material tech hidden in the trailing edge where there is low stretch N-X6 material framing it to prevent any distortion here and increase the longevity of the wing. The Nova Freeride comes in eight sizes from 1.9 to 7m, so a large range of choice. Two long and well-placed round-profiled rigid handles bolt on and off quickly with a Torx driver for a compact travel pack down size.

The Nova Pro has all North’s proprietary in-house material technology thrown at it with a super stiff and resilient N-Weave 45 making up the center section of the airframe and really stiffening the strut to front tube connection; this fades out into a more traditional Dacron in the wingtips to allow a little comfort, important for a hard-handled multidiscipline wing. The canopy also hasn’t been neglected, with the rear two thirds made from a highly coated and slightly heavier and crisp cloth, fading into a lighter cloth in the front near the leading edge with a pronounced radial cut in the panel layout. Four battens nestle in the trailing edge controlling any potential vibration there.

The Nova Pro also gets the all new Shiftlock track handle system, which uses an ingenious twin bolt rope system to camp a massive array of handle configurations and accessories onto the strut. GoPro mounts, paddle holders for downwinders and full length booms for freestylers are available and clamp on easily with a few Torx bolts, trimmable to the millimeter wherever you want, allowing ergonomic comfort for a massive range of different humans. The handles and boom have a comfortable oval shape that sits in the small of your fingers comfortably and plush EVA grip. This system really makes the Nova Pro unique in the marketplace, and it’s worth noting you order the handles separately to the wing so all options are available on purchase.

So who should choose which wing? For a change this is extremely easily defined. If you’re starting out, or want a more forgiving feeling wing, take the Freeride. If you’re further into your journey and have freestyle, race or performance wave ambitions you’d take the Pro.

In handling terms the wings are quite chalk and cheese. The Freeride has an amazing level of static pull and a great low end, pulling you up onto foil with little pumping required even in a lighter wind situation. This is a brilliant character trait for those at the genesis of their wingfoil journey dialing in the board release. It’s a forgiving allrounder, with excellent upwind ability and a sweet spot focused around its low end, and very powerful per size.

Conversely, the Nova Pro has a super direct and agile power delivery over minimal sheeting, and holds its shape incredibly well when in the top end of the wind range, where you can really feel that stiff airframe doing its thing. It certainly doesn’t feel unforgiving though, with that little bit of flex in the wingtips shrugging off gusts effectively to give a suitably comfortable user experience even when overpowered. The shorter span lends itself well to mixed discipline use, trailing well on the wave and very easy to load up a jump with, holding its shape effectively in the air and making landing rotations clean.

It's interesting that two wings from the same brand, which share some of the same tech, are drastically different in terms of performance, with Nova Freeride far more beginner focused and forgiving and the Pro model laser sharp for the more ambitious rider. The price point on the Nova Pro is a little more than the Nova Freeride, but you’re getting a lot more for your money in terms of tech and performance, even when you add the handles to the purchase cost, so in a way it’s very good value for money in context of other cross brand, next generation material wings. Either way North have done a sterling job in producing a pair of versatile freeride wings catering for everyone.

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