Witchcraft is a Fuerteventura-based custom house run by Dutchman Bouke Becker that has recently branched out into larger-scale production via their own new Bulgarian factory. Bouke has some pretty unusual ideas about waveboard shapes that translate into some rather strange looking designs. There are various peculiarities to these boards. For a start they feature a tri-fin arrangement – not exactly new (Bouke reckons to have been working on them for 10 years), but with all the hype currently surrounding twin-fins, side fins are certainly on the agenda right now. More unusual is the nose shape which – with a very low ‘bow’ but high, rounded rails, – looks rather like a small boat. Perhapsmore different and more relevant than anything to performance are the incredibly hard and sharp rails going from the tail all the way to the mast-track, making the board look more like a slalom design! Then there’s the unusual rocker (a parabolic curve which flattens progressively towards the tail, but no flat areas anywhere) and inverted vee underwater shape, which works a bit like single concave but with a difference… For sure this board gave us a lot to think about – and it feels as different on the water as it looks on the beach.We won’t try to match up the designs to their effects. No doubt some will stick around and become familiar to us while others will disappear with time, but in the meantime there’s one board on the beach getting most of the attention! (If you want more information on the boards and intricacies of design check out the website at www.witchcraft.nu).
On the Water:
The first thing that becomes blindingly obvious is that you need a little time to adapt to this board. It is not conventional. The board is very short and the stance is wide, making it appear even shorter. It isn’t a board that you really want to spend a lot of time slogging on – certainly not in the smaller sizes anyway. The small size (and possibly that rocker profile) meant that it took a bit of initial unsticking, though once unstuck it is very easy to get and keep planing with excellent acceleration that’s more like a fast-tail freestyle-wave than a waveboard. It has good grip which translates into excellent upwind ability.Whether it’s the three fins, the hard rails or the general combination of design, it was always the first board upwind and this is actually a great quality in a waveboard because the quicker you get upwind the more riding you can do! The other unusual quality of the board is its grip in the turn.The rails bite very powerfully and seem to accelerate you round the turn.Where we noticed this most was in its jumping since you can carve hard and go a long way upwind without losing speed to hit the wave head-on even when sailing in very onshore conditions. Once in the air its small size and the wide stance make it very controllable. In terms of just blasting along, the board isn’t particularly difficult to sail and it cuts through the chop very well. However, it likes to be sailed hard all the time and is therefore not relaxing to sail. Sailing it makes you realise that a lot of the time on other boards you are sailing but also resting.TheWitchcraft is really lively but seems to need constant input. It is very well behaved at speed if you keep the hammer down, but that does need some skill and concentration. If you take your foot off the gas it really doesn’t perform so well. The same can be said for the gybe where the rail bites beautifully, carrying you round in a very fast, tight turn. However, again, if you take the power off or are lazy with the rig flip it will either carry straight on or just stop and luff. For riding it’s like the opposite of an Evo style board. It is very dynamic, but in a very carving way. It isn’t at all pivotal and needs to be turned at speed on the rail. Having said that, the rail bites beautifully and accelerates you hard into the wave and the board goes from rail to rail very well to allow easy changes of direction. It needs more speed than the softer, slidier boards and has a more dynamic and connected but less pivotal and slashy feel. We didn’t fully get to grips with all the finer points of its waveriding but the more expert of our team did find that the rail needed to be buried well forward in very fast, hard bottom turns and that occasionally the low nose would ‘bottom out’, but this could easily be a case of acclimatisation. Overall it was generally considered to be a powerful riding board that could handle a wide variety of waves but that has a very specific carving style.
Fittings:The three G10 fins are of similar size with the central one 2.5cm longer than the thrusters at 15cm.We can’t be sure what is attributable to the fins and what to the board design as we didn’t have time to play around with them.We can say the board flies upwind. However, we can also say that it is easier to spin out than the other boards and sometimes one fin is spinning out giving a very slight feeling of drag and uncertainty to the tail. It is hard to sail very broad at speed (though this is seldomnecessary on a waveboard!)
Thruster fins take a while to get used to. Initially, you’re not used to them being there when waterstarting (or even just carrying the board), and two of us did nasty damage to our toes by kicking the fins both in and out of the water. Obviously they will also be a pain for anyone who always takes fins out after a session. However, on the plus side you can afford to sail over shallow reefs secure in the knowledge that you draw virtually nothing and this can be a bonus in some wave breaks. Overall the jury is still out on the tri-fin, although the board certainly works well with them. The board came supplied with Pro Limit kiteboard-style footstraps.Witchcraft say their comfort is popular with customers, but being unaccustomed to them we changed them for conventional straps for testing purposes. We found the deck and pads just a little bit slippery.
The board got a mixed reaction. One guester liked it so much he is considering a purchase while another found it a bit too hard work. Generally it was very popular with the testers who are extremely excited by the board but still not absolutely certain exactly what they think and why, even after extensive trialling!
It will take a bit more time to reach firm conclusions about such a very different board, but the initial findings are mostly very positive. It is an extremely dynamic board, fast and exciting, that seems to turn with extraordinary speed and bite for a waveboard allowing very fast clean carves into waves and amazing jumping. It is, however, quite a challenging board to sail and we would be very wary of recommending it to anyone who didn’t consider themselves already very proficient on a waveboard. It is certainly not a board that we would consider using for simple high wind use in swell and chop as it’s too fast and not relaxing enough – and if this is a significant part of what you buy a waveboard for then it’s not for you. However, if you like a bit of speed and adrenaline around the break then it provides excellent jumping, upwind potential and a fast, precise style of waveriding that can be exhilarating. Construction appears to be very sound and a more expensive version (HDD) with an 18 month warranty is available if you happen to be tough on your gear. Witchcraft currently only have one UK dealer published on their website (Demon Designs 01209 613208) but this is due to be increased.