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Last year’s North Mode was a decisive leap into new materials for the brand. Its race and high-end freeride focused design and concise range of sizes worked well, and it proved a performant and well-received wing. For 2024, we’re presented with the all new Mode Pro, this year extending the range into five sizes from 3.5 through to 6.8m. As we are proudly reminded in their marketing, North Foils are part of the North Sails group, giving them access to a massive bank of knowledge and resources from a brand at the forefront of the world’s yacht sail manufacturers. This puts North in a unique situation where rather than source airframe material from an existing manufacturer, they can simply develop and manufacture their own, affording them a huge amount of freedom from a design perspective. This also enables them to work from the purer wing design specification backwards rather than the off-the-shelf material as a starting block.
In any case, this has led them to develop their all new N-Weave 45 material, which utilizes a similar material to last year’s cloth, laminating what appears to be a lightweight X-ply material to the inside, set at 45 degrees to the warp and weft of the outer material. This has the benefit of stiffening the material in all directions making for an even more deflection resistant airframe as well as toughening the tubes to abrasions, cocooning the inner bladders and making the wing extremely wear resistant. The extra stiffness allows some minimal tube diameters without compromising the structure. There’s no point stiffening the airframe this much and leaving the canopy in a standard material which will bag out over time, and North haven’t scrimped in this department either. A completely revised ripstop material has been implemented; North have coined this the Matrix-NHTRS. It feels silky, highly water repellent and crisp to touch and is a slightly heavier gauge. From a stretch perspective its statistics mean it’s far more robust and will keep the wing true to its design, extending the potential life cycle. The low-diameter rigid carbon handle system more or less carries over from last year with some slight revisions to the EVA grip texture, providing the same ultra connected feel. Windows are placed in small geometric shapes in various positions, including a small peephole number at the back of the strut which will be useful for racing. Inflation is handled by the usual North bayonet valves and a one-pump system is implemented with a lock off, however a second inflation valve is situated on the strut to top up the strut if you like to ride it ultra stiff, for freestyle for example.
So with all this new technology implemented, what are the tangible results in your hand? The keywords would be efficient, punchy, explosive and fast. When you want to turn the gas on, minimal effort is required, and the power delivery is both progressive and effective over the sheeting range.. Forward speed is at the higher end of the spectrum, and it would be a crime to use this wing with a slow foil. Handling the Mode Pro is instant, and the handles make more technical maneuvers a tactile experience both on the surface and airborne. The stiffness enables you to initiate lift really crisply, and expect that solid airframe to bring you back down in an elegant fashion, with surface speed to ride out with.
Whilst it’s a wing that’s unashamedly aimed to run in positive wind conditions, we actually found the low end to be improved over last year’s Mode. We found the two new materials complement each other and transfer you pumping energy far more efficiently, which is important for a wing with a shallower profile. This more streamlined wing in turn enables decent upwind ability, running well through lulls on apparent wind with a glidey foil. In the top end it absolutely thrives, and manifests an enormous amount of composure (and therefore ease of use) when other wings of a similar size would perhaps be on the limit. This is particularly noticeable through more complex maneuvers and running hard into wind in an offshore wave scenario, or simply running a fast high-aspect foil into a tack or 360 on the surface. The transition between backwinded and running normally was clean, seamless and controllable, keeping you on foil.
In short, if you’re looking for speed and composure, and a hyper direct control feel, the Mode Pro should be high up the considerations list for high-end performance freeride and race applications.