Design: Unlike the 76L model tested in the last issue which was a new shape for ’09, the 97L is carried over from last season. It features a very unusual design – the shortest board on test at 233cm but effectively shorter still if you consider that 6cm of that length is the duck tail behind the waterline tail of the board. Its max width is relatively wide, but it’s extremely wide in both nose and tail. It features no tail rocker but a very short planing flat with its 138cm 2cm point.
On the water: The duck tail causes a small amount of extra drag, particularly for heavier sailors. However the very wide tail and low tail rocker means that with active technique or with lighter sailors the board will plane very early. It is quite comfortable with a 6.5m and could possibly take bigger.
The ride it gives is quite unique. The short planing flat and extremely flat-decked, upright stance makes it feel very lively and ready to manoeuvre in waveboard style, if not the most comfortable board for prolonged fast blasting. The wide tail gives good lift and acceleration but tends to get a little bit bouncy in choppy water and despite its length and believable volume it is effectively a very big board in this category.
The major strength of the 97 is its easy manoeuvrability. Although, with such a wide tail, it can’t be described as nippy or nimble, it is extremely loose and pivotal and easy to play around with on the swell or in waves, and it keeps its flow even at very low board speeds. Gybing in a wavy style is fun and easy and low speed riding in smaller waves can also be very satisfying. Freestyle too is excellent given the high stability, easy planing and good slide but it is highly advisable to change down from the 28cm fin provided.
Fittings: The new Tabou straps are excellent and a huge improvement on previous years. The pads are soft and cushioned but in conjunction with the relatively flat deck are only comfortable if you like a very upright, flat decked stance. The fin is relatively stiff and narrow.
Overall: The 3S is not intrinsically a straight line blaster, particularly in choppy conditions. Where it comes into its own is for jumping, riding, playing in the swell and doing freestyle – it is perhaps the most loose and pivotal board on test, and a lot of fun. Being so big, we’d recommend the 97 primarily for sailors of over 90kg – the 3S 86 or even the 76 would be the better option for lighter sailors.