Over the past year, three new windsurfers, all shaped like the One Design and all aimed at simple fun sailing, have been introduced to the market. Two very different longboards have also been announced, and Mistral has confirmed that they are still backing the IMCO raceboard.
None of these new boards is going to turn us off the Wally, of course, but it's nice to get that buzz of new stuff happening again in longboards.
First of the new-style old-school boards was the Exocet Kona. Unlike the "opposition" (AHD Summer board and Tabou Windstyler) it's got decent length and a decent centreboard.
One of the driving forces behind the Kona is Tor Bakke, one of Europe's top Windsurfer One Design racers back in the '70s and '80s. With the Kona he's trying to reproduce the fun of windsurfing in those days, when it was the fastest-growing sport in the world. The Kona will be raced in weight divisions, with marathon, freestyle and slalom events just like the One Design- they will even be borrowing our pumping rules.
Some Sydney Wally sailors have been trialling the Kona. It's lighter than the One Design and has an unusual "ducktail" bottom so it feels like a slalom board in strong winds. It's fast tacking and stable; pretty damn impressive in lots of ways. It also seems slower than the One Design in light winds, doesn't feel quite as nice to us upwind, and it's over twice the price and probably not as tough.
No-one in the One Designs thinks that the Kona will replace the Wally. It can just help revive our class, because it's proving that simple one design longboards still appeal to today's windsurfers, and it proves we're not alone. The first French event had 55 Konas racing, and there's an International championships planned for Thailand later this year. A few One Designers are thinking of heading over.
Like I said, no-one's talking of dumping the Wally - even Tor thinks we should supports the Windsurfer One Design class here- but the Kona just proves that there's a buzz back in longboarding again, and that can only help the Wally.