The Kona 380 Elite Raceboard Experience.
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For some time now I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a performance windsurf longboard that sails superbly upwind for cruising the beautiful coastline and estuaries around Falmouth where I live. Much as I love wave sailing I also enjoy simply being out on the water and doing that on a windsurfer without the need for loads of wind, a good swell, the right tide etc. or driving for an hour or more to find the best spot has a lot of appeal. I’m fortunate to have a lovely sandy beach (Maenporth) with cheap and easy parking just a few minutes from my house, from there I could explore the coast and local estuaries in almost any wind or tide state on a board that glides and sails properly to windward in the light to moderate winds that we have on most days in these parts. A good long board will also be fun and technically challenging on windier days and summer evenings when I may not have the time or inclination to travel elsewhere.
The next question was what board to get. I toyed with getting a second hand raceboard of old and with building something myself but finally decided I’d rather try something modern and with a tuttle fin box, see what has changed, and take it from there. That quickly narrowed my choice to Starboard Phantom or Kona Elite and perhaps the Starboard Serenity but that is probably too light wind focused for my needs. Well, it seems Phantoms are hard to find just now for one thing and it so happened that retiring Kona importer Surf Sales (https://www NULL.surf-sales NULL.com/surfshop/) has/d very heavily discounted Elites for sale and as I rather like Kona/Exocet as a brand that does things a bit differently while also being very active in the longboard market the choice was easily made. I have few racing ambitions so the question of which board is the most competitive around a course didn’t figure much at all, though now that I have it I do note a slight temptation to enter a race.
At first look its a pretty wild looking thing with its high volume, boxy rails, round fat nose, narrow pin tail, blue graphic and shiny black finish but I can see function in the form. Hard square edged rails give clean water release, lift, and bite upwind, the wide nose allowing maximum waterline length forward for windward performance but it is only when I first sail it that I realise how easily that bulbous nose also passes through chop when the board is railed to windward. My GT31 GPS showed I was managing 8kts beating in about the same amount of wind using a Tushingham Lightning 7.0 which seemed pretty good to me.
Working the well made daggerboard however was nearly impossible due to the heavy rubber slot gasket/flusher that drags badly giving huge frictional resistance to the long 85cm daggerboard making it very difficult to operate. Some web searching revealed that this problem is pretty common across brands, ummm… The accepted trick seems to be to apply some kind of silicon lube, car polish, soap or even grease. Not ideal by any stretch, but anyway I had some decent water resistant bike lube and applied a good coating of that before my next outings and it helped a lot and made it workable (with boots on) but I was still not happy with it at all even then. So I took the plunge, got my tools out and replaced this nasty “sticky” rudder with some mylar slot strip (http://www NULL.hawkmarineproducts NULL.com/slot NULL.htm) as typically used on dinghies (And sailboards in times past) and now it functions with ease without the need for any lubrication BUT it does crease at the front of the case causing leaks so I’m definitely calling this modification a work in progress….don’t change your seals just yet. The other snag is that the board arrived without any kind of fitting for the sliding mast track and it’s only because the ever helpful Rob at Westcountry Watersports (http://www NULL.westcountrywatersports NULL.co NULL.uk/index NULL.asp) had experienced similar problems when getting Phantoms for his customers that he was able to supply me with a complete UJ that he’d made up himself thus saving me the delay and hassle of scouring the country for one or the necessary bits to make one. For boards retailing at around £1800.00 I think this is unacceptable, surely the small aluminium pin that fits the track should be supplied as standard at the very least? Happily the mast track function is very good, way easier than I remember some of the 80’s ones and the daggerboard slot and pivot mount is simple and easily accessible.
Quoted weight is 13.5kg +/- 6% which means it should come in under 14.31kg bare in reality its 14.51. That is 200 gms above specification which does not surprise me as I know just how hard it is to build such a large board to these tolerances. 14.5kg remains light for 295 ltrs of 380cm board so I’m not complaining too much.
Add it all together
- Board 14.515kg,
- Daggerboard 1.400kg,
- Fin and bolts 0.588kg,
- Straps and bolts 0.974kg
- Total 17.577kg
On the water
Just lots of fun and in light winds sailing upwind is the best bit which makes a very pleasant change from short boarding. I’ve enjoyed many cruises now in a variety of winds from 6 to 25kts plus and am having a great time longboard windsurfing again. I just nip to my nearest beach strap on a hydration pack and go. The board is technical and interesting to sail requiring careful trimming with the narrow tail being easily sunk and creating drag if you get your weight too far back, mast track position also makes a huge difference and mastering these intricacies is keeping everything entertaining. High speed planing has me grinning as I watch a couple of meters of board hovering over the water in front of me and experiment with trimming for maximum speed yet without catching the nose. To date my best speed is 23kt in some very gusty 25kt+ offshore winds. I’ve not been out in a heavy sea and I’d imagine that could be a quite a handful, as would launch and recovery in any kind of high tide shore dump but then those are not the conditions it’s intended for.
In the offshore winds I’m using it in it’s nigh on perfect and allows me to sail to some normally hard to access river mouths and headlands where the local wind is funnelled and accelerated. Sailing in offshore winds also brings a fun degree of risk due to the difficulty of self rescue but this just adds to the adventure and as long as you’re well prepared and let someone know where you are going then you aren’t going to be fairly accused of recklessness.
I’m very happy with my purchase, it meets my needs well, the Kona Elite due to its superb windward performance is a very capable craft for coastal exploring, especially in off shore winds, and better suited than windSUPing or any hybrid or short longboard. It sails beautifully to windward (I can point as high upwind as most yachts) and perfectly well on all other points of sail and this means I’m free to really explore with little concern over fickle wind and tide considerations.
Brilliant! I’m now sailing so many more days a month and exercising my windsurf muscles ready for the windy short board days, reminds me of why I started and fell in love with this sport oh so many years ago.