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The Starboard and Airush collaboration has now spawned its third version of the FreeWing which has stuck to its roots as a well-rounded, multi-purpose wing, sitting alongside the Nitro which hits the performance freeride sector, and the FreeWing Pro which is a race-focused X-Ply construction. The FreeWing AIR V3 is made from traditional and proven Dacron and ripstop, and is relatively lightweight compared to its freeride competitors.
Visually its shape looks like a very straight evolution of the series, with the trademark squat mid-aspect layout and boxy leading edge, with a subtle and minimal dihedral shape. The strut has had a redesign this year with far more curvature built in to amplify the wing’s profile and a direct connection to the canopy in its last quarter at the tip. The leading-edge design looks to have been reduced from the V2, particularly in the mid-section but still has relatively high diameters as it fades out to the tips providing a stiff and robust airframe. The arced windows remain in the front third of the FreeWing, giving decent forward vision. The canopy panel layout runs from leading edge to trailing edge in straight sections with some anti-flutter trailing edge darts comprised of mid-density EVA foam sewn into pockets to control the leech. The front nose handle is large and easy to grab, and has enough stiffness to correct the wing if it starts to wander when flagged.
The most noticeable change this season is the handle options – two Torx bolts allow you to swap between a rigid carbon system and a more traditional, but fairly stiff, webbing strap. These bolt on and off with the same T30 tool you use to assemble your hydrofoil, which is a convenient touch. Two plastic inserts either side of the main stainless bolt thread locate the handles at the correct angle to keep them perpendicular to the strut. Both sets of handles are quite long and allow for a decent level of trimming and allow you to find a comfortable balance point for your stance.
The canopy has been tightened up from the V2 with the maximum chord moved forward slightly; across other freeride wings, the canopy is still quite deep making for quite a specific pumping technique, allowing the wing to fill like a spinnaker to generate forward speed with a slower pumping cadence rather than short sharp bursts. This caps the low-end ability a little compared to wings of a similar size, but the relatively loose canopy with a deep profile has the dual benefit of being very stable when luffing on the front handle and also means once you foil, it provides a powerful and engaging power characteristic through the arms. Its short and squat mid-aspect design suits smaller riders and minimizes and tip drag when building speed on the water surface. It’s also very easy to pivot round on the handles when changing direction.
With Starboard’s history as a brand it makes perfect sense that the FreeWing V3 is a wing perhaps designed to cater for a transitional windsurfer, with plenty of grunt and power on tap and simple handling characteristics. This year it’s been refined, its tube diameter diet definitely makes it quicker in a straight line, and a few degrees better upwind.
The modular handle options are an intelligent design decision from Starboard, again particularly with their established windsurf market. It means the end consumer doesn’t have to choose between soft and hard handles at point of purchase, which broadens the FreeWing AIR V3’s appeal and its scope of use between waves, freestyle and flat-water blasting. It’s a wing you can throw into pretty much any situation with predictable results and a worthy upgrade to the FreeWing series.