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Range Review: Armstrong MA series

After last season’s barrage of high-aspect offerings across the board, pushing the speed and efficiency of foils in quite an extreme direction, the market has reacted by wanting to blend these characteristics into a more palatable offering for the average user, and improve turning and feeling in the surf. This is where the new MA system from Armstrong slides efficiently into the picture, sitting between the existing HA and HS series. It’s been eagerly awaited, and the online hype on release was massive. We were kindly provided with the whole range to sample, and pushed it into a multitude of foiling situations over the last couple of months.

On first inspection you’d be forgiven for taking a glance at the shape of the MA and falsely assuming it’s a simple shape, whereas there’s subtlety and high design hidden in here. There’s a fairly standard delta swept outline, mid-aspect in plan layout, and the nose of the leading edge is fairly pointed. The trailing edge hides a little kick in the lower camber which runs across more or less the entire length of the wing, fading gently flat into the tips which have a very subtle twist. The maximum chord thickness sits about a quarter of the way along the profile, following the sweep in the front of the foil. Looking from the front, there’s a hint of gul wing, but nothing like the amount found in the HS or HA ranges; overall it’s far more flat than either of its stable mates. All these attributes hint towards speed, efficiency and mid-aspect practicality, and you wouldn’t be off the mark with that assumption.

The MA800 and MA1000 scream performance prone and wingfoil use; they like to be pushed into their speed ranges quickly with either wing or wave propulsion and their glide levels allow them to stay there, providing high levels of speed and maneuverability. We feel that they seem to pair best with the 205 flow stabilizer to provide a lively electric feeling set up underfoot, and we found a single red shim seemed to calm down the pitch sensitivity somewhat. Kite foiling the MA800 in particular was a joy, its playful nature and searing speed letting you crank along with power and float nicely though your maneuvers. Rail-to-rail these are impressive foils running quite neutrally footed as stock.

Pumping these two smaller sizes, we found the MA likes to be kept high on the mast, and requires some attention to detail and technique to get the best out of. Once your cadence clicks with the system you can get plenty out of it and it feels very efficient, but some retraining was required, perhaps pumping in a flatter manner rather than exaggerating your back foot and adjusting pitch through your body stroke. It feels neutrally balanced between front and back foot pressure and needs to be treated delicately.

The MA1225 sits as the allrounder of the bunch, and perhaps has the most usability for an intermediate level average weight 80kg rider. We threw this into SUP foil and lighter wind winging and it shone in more or less all situations, and for a front wing with quite a bit of span its eagerness to roll is impressive. As the wings scale up the pumpability becomes less technical and we could link waves on this relatively simply with the SUP, particularly with the flow 235 tail. With wing propulsion in lighter offshore conditions with clean swell and a smooth water state, this foil performed excellently. It’s got enough efficiency to pick up and be propelled by the swell when the wind is working against you, and the turnability and loose feel for a mid-size wing is impressive, letting you get around the wave well and position yourself where you want to be.

The MA1475 and MA1750 top out the range with the MA1750 having 110cm of span. These definitely reach into the realms of downwind board use for novices, but the MA1475 in particular has a killer lightwind wing and smaller wave SUP application. These two larger wings are far easier to pump than you’d expect, and their comfortable speed ranges and roll ability are impressive considering the amount of simple lift on tap. We’d definitely recommend the performance mast with these to really lock in these higher span wings.

Practicalities-wise, the front wings come provided with the usual excellent reflective cover bags and a spare set of titanium fixings taped into the apertures. It’s worth noting that the larger 1475 and 1750 front wings have an extra fixing which is intelligently color coded in gold to stand out from the standard length.

So how does the new MA series sit amidst the rest of the current Armstrong range I hear you ask? Glide levels outperform the HS at comparable size increments and feel not dissimilar to the HA. The usable speed range per size on the MA series is probably extended far beyond either of the other two series, particularly if referring to the low end of the HA or the top end of the HS. The MA doesn’t replace either pre-existing series, it’s more of a case of it blending the characteristics of the two making a very logical, practical addition to the product line up which should suit a wider audience.

We’d emphasize that it’s worth getting the new Flow 235 and Surf 205 tails at the same time as the MA wings, as they were co-developed and match the MAs far better than the legacy HS232.

Across the entire range, we found the breach and recovery characteristics some of the best we’ve tested to date. On the SUP, a prone friend saw the MA1225 fully breach on a steep drop and reengage with zero fuss on a big messy drop. With a kite you can slide the tips out to your heart’s content and for hitting white water you’ll struggle to find another foil as easy to re-engage. The eager rail-to-rail roll characteristics span across the entire range regardless of size, and a neutral fore and aft foot balance will appeal to plenty of riders.

As usual with Armstrong, the MA range covers a multitude of foiling genres in a very comprehensive manner. The riding characteristics of the MA carries through the size range well, and scaling up for different situations doesn’t require much adjustment. All sizes of the MA like to sit quite far forward in terms of foil box position and the shimming options are important to play with to get the best out of the pumping and maximize sure footedness. It’s a system that takes some dialing into, particularly in the smaller sizes, but once you make time to achieve that physical adjustment, you’ll quickly feel comfortable and learn to trust the system, then you can unlock a pile of performance.

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