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Range Review: Armstrong HA Foils

I guess it was two years ago that Armstrong’s first generation HA range was released, and it sat firmly at the bleeding edge of high-aspect foils available at the time from the main brands. It was fast, loose and uncompromising, and required a high caliber of human on top to keep it in check and get the most from it – technical to ride, but very rewarding once you learned to handle it. The revised second generation has now hit the market, with a range of seven sizes currently from 580 through to 1180cm2 in 100cm steps. The design focus has shifted and is now set firmly on surf riding, glide, pumping, easy roll and accessibility.

In the hands, it’s evident that there’s been a high level of design input, and there’s not a straight line in any direction, with gentle concaves in the trailing edge of both the bottom and top surfaces, and a gentle moustache shape in the tips. The foil carries a fair amount of thickness across its span with the all-new foil section prioritizing glide. The taper into the tips creates a lively roll characteristic that transcends the entire range, with even the larger sizes being very playful.

One of the most stark and immediately noticeable differences from the previous HA series is in the low end and stall speed; where the old foil preferred to be kept be kept in the upper echelons of the speed range, the new HA has been geared down for a luxurious low-end torque. It lifts extremely early for its stated size, not just amidst the Armstrong eco system, but across all brands, which is worth taking into consideration if matching into an existing quiver or building a new one.

Prone and SUP foil are definitely the target remit for the HA – as soon as it’s on the wave it absolutely excels. The more gentle pace and progressive acceleration enables you to sit comfortably in the pocket and not overshoot. The eager roll ability allows for an extremely reassuring and precise turns, with very even and predictable feedback from the foil, allowing you the confidence to take more risks than usual and become increasingly cheeky with your placement, as you’re likely to get away with it.

Pumping the HA is magic and really forgives poor technique, and we found it extremely easy to tune into the correct cadence. The stall speed is exceptionally low per size and allows you both time and warning to dig yourself from the proverbial grave. You can clamber back high on the mast and it translates your energy into forward motion very effectively.

Whilst the design intention of the new HA is undoubtedly a surf focus, wingfoilers are going to find it an early starter that requires relatively little effort to get on foil per size, with an extremely reassuring response in the turns, where it feels really balanced and easy to initiate roll with. Tip breaching is controlled predictably with some immaculate behavior through white water and disturbed water states.

For riding windblown lumps of groundswell, the glide and carry characteristics really shine, and the ability to sit in that ocean energy without having to pump really surprised us. Rather than choose your foil for the wind speed, it’s worth picking a foil to match the wave speed. Winging a surf-focused foil like this, it was inevitable that you will find the top end, even with the 680, but at this point of terminal velocity across the range, the HA remains extremely composed, and in most scenarios the lack of shooting forward will give you the control to get deeper into the pocket and allow you to rip harder turns. For those more focused on speed and flat water blasting, the accompanying MA series probably fits this more comfortably.

We played with various tail combos across the range, and it’s important to balance these as the front wing sizes change, matching smaller tails with smaller foils. The Speed 180 and Dart 140 are similarly shaped and make a great job of providing extended glide and speed. The Surf 205 and Flow 235 enhance pitch stability and loosen up the yaw respectively.

A foil that completely belies its dimensions, it has the pump capability of a larger wing, but the turning capability and feeling of something much smaller. It seems to balance and amplify a few characteristics which defy conventional logic, and to retain the high glide and efficient feeling without the compromise in low-end stall speed is a little magic.

The HA embodies a new level of accessibility for a high-aspect foil. An absolute hero maker in the surf, the new HA Series should be high on any intermediate or above wave-focused rider’s list for a foil which will yield as much personal advancement in your ability as possible.

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