Last weekend, we had a chance to take the new Fanatic Falcon 14'x25" Carbon out and compared it with the Fly Flatwater Carbon 14'x27.5" in a variety of conditions (flat water, choppy water and downwind). Here are the first impressions.
The objective when designing this board was to build a board that is at least as fast as the Flatwater but suitable for a wider range of conditions (incl. open water), eliminating the need for a specific downwind board so that riders can travel with only one board. Let's see how that worked out.
Tail: The pointed tail is much narrower vs. the Flatwater's. While the wide tail of the Flatwater made the slam turn really easy it always felt a bit like a drag, especially in longer distances (I paddled the 62km Ultramarathon in Podersdorf and the 220km Eleven City Tour with it). The Falcon's pointed tail makes the board much easier to paddle, it smoothly glides through the water. It's so narrow, it leaves almost no wake so it's very hard to draft off. Still, walking back and turning was easier than the slender look would indicate.
Nose: The nose is wider and more rounded compared to the very sharp edges of the Flatwater's V-Shape. In flat water, the Falcon's nose feels a bit slower vs. the Flatwater's nose, but it is much easier to keep the board on track when there is wind and waves from the side. The Flatwater was not an easy board in sidewind. I paddled the 62km Ultramarathon with it as the only women and was well ahead of Michi, who was on the Mistral 12'6" (which also has a more rounded nose), paddling about 1km/h faster for the first 25km, but then came a 13km part with strong wind and waves from the side, Michi passed me and I was never able to catch back up to him.
While the rounded nose might be a bit slower in flat water, it will make up for time when there is wind and/or waves from the side and the new nose gives great glide and speed in downwinders.
On a practical level, the very sharp edges of the Flatwater's nose were very prone to dinging and the pointed nose was very tough to properly repair in between races, so what is the point of having the perfect flat water nose shape if it's always dinged and never has the perfect glide because it is temporarily fixed? What has also happened to me a lot with the 14', especially during the 220km in Holland at the Eleven City Tour and when paddling on rivers, is that big leaves got stuck to the nose and slowed the board down significantly, getting rid of the leaves costs a lot of time. There were a lot of autumn leaves on the water but due to the more rounded shape, they did not get stuck on the new nose shape of the Falcon.
Outline: The Falcon has much more rocker, it almost looks a bit like a banana, this gives the board a great glide, especially in downwind. It catches waves very easily. This new shape of the bottom automatically adjusts to the boards position on a swell or wave, getting the most speed possible out of the moving water, which is kind of a unique feature. We asked Fanatic Brand Manager Craig Gertenbach about the rocker, he told us they had tested various outlines and all the prototypes with less rocker scoop were slower.
Stability: For a 25" board, the Falcon feels really stable, of course a bit more shaky vs. the Flatwater but even when it feels a bit shaky, you have a lot of room to adjust as it takes a lot of effort to actually make the board trip over. Due to the very round rails, the board tips a little more at first, but then only to a certain point due to the sophisticated bottom shape, it does not tip further. Means you stay in board! It's just the opposite for the Flatwater, which at first feels very stable, but then it throws you off with almost no warning.
Fin: It is no secret that the fin the Flatwater came with was not very good. The new Falcon comes with a superlight OneRaceAce fin which alone costs about 150 EUR. The Flatwater we used in the test did not have the standard fin, but the FCS Race Weed Carbon fin 10".
Speed: We were 3 lighter riders, 2 men and me, all under 70kg and raced against each other and tracked our times. Everyone was faster on the Falcon, especially over longer distances it seemed to cost much less energy to paddle and maintain the speed. In sprint, I was about 0.2 seconds faster per 100m on the Falcon and my max speed was significantly higher on the Falcon. Of course, it is to be expected from a narrower board to be faster but then again, the Falcon has more volume than the Flatwater.
Pad: The pad feels great, it is slightly elevated and smoother and releases water quicker but still has enough grip. Different from the rugged deck pad of the 12'6" Fly Race, my feet never went numb on the Falcon. Due to the high volume in the nose I had to stand quite far in the front, so the pad could be longer, we were told the final version will have a longer pad.
Weight: We did not have a scale, but when lifting both boards, there was no noticeable weight difference between them.
|Falcon 14'x25" Carbon||Fly 14' Flatwater Carbon|
|Volume||268 Liters||245 Liters|
|Fin||ONE RaceAce 9.75”; US Box||Fly 26 g10 (in Test: FCS Race Weed fin Carbon)|
Verdict: The new Falcon 14'x25" (267 Liters) is faster than the Flatwater 14'x25"(245 Liters). Due to the relatively high volume and the more rounded nose, the Falcon 14'x25" is not as fast as a 25" with less volume designed only for Flatwater board could be, but it makes up for this with much better performance in open water / side wind / downwind and excellent secondary stability. Personally, I really liked how nicely the board glides, making the most of any moving water. My maximum speed was noticeably higher vs. the Flatwater and it seemed to cost less effort to maintain the speed, something that would have to be validated by long distance tests.
All in all a great combination of speed, stability and versatility that works really well in a very wide range of conditions and that's what the whole idea was, the best board is the one you have with you and not the one you could have theoretically used had you travelled with 5 boards.
Thanks to Hein Droste / suppeople for his help in the test and with the photos.