Action water pics: SUP North
The diversity offered by stand up paddle design is wide and varied – there have been thousands of boards sold during the last few years and many paddlers are now looking to broaden their watery ocean experiences. For some it’s about wave catching ability while many find solace pitting their wits and skills against other racers in a packed fleet. For large numbers, however – especially those piggybacking into the sport from windsurfing – windSUP is the draw (with maybe paddling following later). Likewise if SUP isn’t even on your radar, but windsurfing is, you may have had your interest pricked by the term windSUP and may have even seen the Arrows iRig inflatable windsurf rig?
Inflatable technology continues to advance rapidly and while the main focus is boards for many brands Arrows have concentrated attentions on the ‘engine’ that drives – the windsurfing rig (sail, boom and mast – although with the iRig these traditional components go straight out the window). With a big nod in the direction of kitesurfing the Arrows iRig M is a blow up sail, boom and mast all in one. Lightweight, easy to assemble and attach to a board the iRig will get you up and windsurfing, in light airs, within seconds – yes, seconds! Not minutes or hours. And no need for coaching – at this stage at least.
One of windsurfing’s main issues has always been the rig and its efficiency. Over time sails, masts and booms – even beginner gear – have evolved to be especially capable. Unfortunately that means a degree of time, with trial and error, has been needed for newbies entering the sport getting to grips with the basics. This period of familiarisation and nailing down fundamentals is eradicated with Arrows’ iRig. Inflate, attach, jump on and be sailing from the off.
The iRig is a very intelligent design. Manufactured with light wind in mind it features easily grabbed handles and is a swift process to set up and begin riding. There’s an adaptor included so users can inflate with their standard iSUP pump. And if you don’t have an attachment for connecting to your board then the brand provides this as an accessory. You can even add what Arrows call their Drift Stopper – essentially two plastic fins that halt sideways drifting. This means riding your inflatable board and iRig combo can now be taken to bumpier water states. The two magic things we noticed were in performance though.
Firstly the iRig floats on the water’s surface and doesn’t sink. This is a key point for beginner windies. In the past uphauling (or getting the sail out of the water) has been a hurdle for any new sailor to vault. Specific technique has been developed for coaches to pass on with regards to uphauling but it’s still a pain when riders fall and the rig ends up in the water. With Arrows’ iRig One this is gone – hurdle non-existent.
Also the sail part of the iRig is super efficient. That isn’t to say it’s a performance piece of cloth – at least not in a traditional high wind sense. It will, however, move riders along in barely a breath. And best of all it’ll do this without being critical of sheeting angle (or how the sail is positioned relative to the direction of the wind). If this was a traditional windsurfing rig then you’d be swimming, having been puffed off your board.
Anyone that can already sail will find the iRig offers pure fun. If you’re a seasoned windsurfer it takes a few minutes to adjust to the iRig’s feel – it’s no good being all brute force with it. Finesse and lightness of touch will be better rewarded. Mast foot pressure (downforce) is not something you can employ here. We attempted to deep water beach start (using the sail to haul us onto the board) straight away which resulted in the base of the iRig crumpling and us not getting aboard – obvious when you think about it. As a fully inflatable product the iRig won’t act like a hard rig so don’t expect this. Treat it as an air filled tool and change your thinking. After a period of familiarisation experienced windies will get used to the iRig’s way of doing things.
Arrows’ iRig is a fabulous concept that takes much of the pain out of learning to windsurf and windSUPing. It’s a cracking tool for beginners and erases many of the initial obstacles learners will face when using hard rigs. For those already versed in the art of windyisms the Arrows iRig provides a surprisingly efficient engine in the lightest of puffs. If you’re looking for a new challenge – in the easiest possible sense of the term – or fancy a nice accessory for your all round light air SUP life then it’s something you should check out. Designed to work in harmony with your standard all round inflatable sled (whatever the brand), making an already versatile machine more so. The iRig may look unusual but trust us when we say: ‘try it you’ll probably like it!’.
iRig One’s come in four sizes: XS-£265, S-£280, M-£320, L-£360
Drift Stopper- £75