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2022 heralds the second iteration of North’s Nova wing. It’s no secret that North have access to some ground-breaking design and materials resources as a subsidiary of the North Technology Group, which incorporates North Sails, a long-term colossus in the sailing industry, as well as North Windsurfing. We were eager to see what they would come up with, with wing foiling expanding and developing so rapidly as a sport.
From our observations it certainly feels like an almost ground-up rebuild from the previous model, and the most significant update that you’ll immediately notice is the change to the rigid handle system. These are low diameter in comparison to the competition and wrapped in a textured EVA grip to make them extremely comfortable in the hand. They also span widely across the strut, giving you a massive amount of potential trim adjustment, accommodating a range of different arm lengths and promoting easy one-hand control through transitions. The sail shape is squared off at the tips, which gently taper and hold quite a bit of diameter over their length, maintaining good airframe stiffness. A reduced wingspan also makes for simpler handling when spinning the sail and less tip drag through the water. The strut is gently curved in the front section, and allows the canopy profile to be pushed forward, providing some extra grunt and forward pull.
The build is unashamedly high end and detailed. EVA darting integrates into the canopy seams and sits on the trailing edge to control flutter. Twin pipes connect the center strut to the leading edge to make deflation as convenient as possible, and a bayonet-style, high-volume valve means getting out on the water is quick. Intelligently placed and lightweight scuff protection covers the leading edge segments and wingtips from abrasion generously. They’ve used the same Kevlar strut to leading edge connection as their kite range to firm up this all-important juncture on a hand wing. Some small windows sit in the front section of the sail which are well positioned giving you decent vision of potential hazards. These make a good compromise between overall weight and scope of vision. The backpack style bag is practically sized, well-tailored and has a pump attachment.
In the hands the Nova feels lively, balanced and purposeful. You’ll immediately notice the tactile benefit of the new handle system, with a connected and progressive feel to the power delivery on sheet. What was also very apparent with the Nova after more lengthy testing in some gusty Portuguese conditions was how wide the usable sweet spot was; it’s packing some serious wind range per size. This makes it all the more applicable as a sportive freeride wing. The lower wind range and impressively stable front handle luff characteristics enable some fuss-free wave riding, whereas the stability and rigidity in the sail in the higher wind ranges made for some easy-to-initiate jumps. The airframe holds its shape very well when loaded and initiates positive lift and easy landings. This also transfers when you’re simply blasting around; it’s noticeable how much forward drive and upwind potential the sail has.
Some of the rigid handled wings we’ve tried have a harshness to them which can give you premature fatigue, but North seem to have pulled off an intelligent and balanced profile, which doesn’t give your upper body much punishment. Even when it’s severely gusty, the Nova seems to absorb the power increase smoothly and pushes you forward, without any side-to-side rocking. It’s also worth noting that at no point does the wing feel too heavy, which is another common stumbling block of the rigid handle concept.
North have achieved an exceptionally balanced character to the new Nova, which luffs well in waves, pumps positively, and powers up to crank upwind and gain good forward speed well. For those transitioning onto higher aspect foils, it’s going to make this jump all the more achievable. It’s definitely amongst the most direct and comfortable rigid-handled wings we’ve tested, and a testament to what a well-resourced design team that’s in tune with the progression of this fledgling sport can achieve. This seminal second version gets the Nova firmly in line with riders’ increasing ability levels and aspirations. It is everything you’ll desire for a sportive ride across the rapidly developing disciplines of both wave and freestyle. RB