Fresh Off The Press

Two weeks ago I looked at my board and said, "This thing is killer." Now I look at my board and think, "This thing sucks." It's too long, too slow, has too much rocker in the middle and not enough on the tips; it doesn't have enough fins. The boots have no adjustment buckles, and the graphics are lame. The point is, I loved my current wakeboard gear ... that is, until I saw a glimpse of things to come.
Boards
There are so many boards on the market now (Hyperlite alone has over 20 models) that there is no one real trend in boards. Every manufacturer makes something for everyone. But there certainly are some interesting developments.
Most notable, and you've already seen some news on it here in our last issue, is Liquid Force's Trip model and Hyperlite's even more unusual-looking Drifter and Project Series. The Trip is a revolutionary six-fin design on which Gregg Necrason has been ripping so hard that the other Liquid team members are jealous they don't have their own. Hyperlite's Drifter and Project are futuristic four-fin designs with wide outlines and big swallow tips and tails. These boards are so new the team riders have barely gotten time on them, although the early word is they're for riders who want to generate maximum speed with a minimum cut.
Cobe's new Full Tilt board as well as Byerly's bat-tailed Wake Tech both have some extremely interesting
channels on the bottom which are so deep they are essentially like a six-fin model. Hooked rails like on the older Jobe Ruler and Neptune Impala are showing up in everyone's lines. Byerly's board has taken it to a new extreme.
I'm also starting to think that pinched rails, much like Stinger has had the past two years, are starting to come into vogue. The new Thruster board as well as a couple of new Neptunes and some O'Brien models are showing this. One thing is for certain: 1998 season will be the last year for the true old- school type boards (anything under 15 inches wide).
Another guarantee is to look for more wakeskates this year. Hyperlite has three models, a 124, a 131 and a 137. Liquid Force has its soft Sponge that should come in at a price well below that of a normal wakeboard.
While we haven't yet seen most of the lines, here's a glimpse into what we know as of press time. Neptune probably has the most new action going on. All of its models are brand-new. Two of the most interesting-looking are the Influence 127, a 16-inch-wide spinner with lots of lift, and the Blur 143, which features a unique M-tail and pinched rail design. CWB will release its new Zane Schwenk Pro Model which will be 17 inches wide with a round tip and tail. They also have a new grommet board called the Stump at 123 centimeters long. Struharik's Pro Model will be available in three sizes for 1999.
Liquid Force's new Rhythm series is a totally new fun shape design. They also are making a larger version of the Squirt, and Ryan Seibring will be getting a signature model, which will be something like a bigger version of the Super Squirt. O'Brien has a bunch of new boards, the most interesting-looking being the Shifty, available in 132 and 137, which designer Pat McElhinney says has the pop of the Phatty but a good hard edge for lots of speed.
And of course the board graphics revolution keeps on mounting. Blindside's Charley Patterson Pro not only got a new tip and tail shape, but is sporting a new graphic this year that looks surprisingly like someone you might see if you went to a, well, gentlemen's club. DoubleUp, CWB, Wake Tech and the rest have all followed suit with outrageous new graphics, and we even hear that O'Brien's Darin Shapiro model is going to look like a Salvador Dali paintingg.

Boots
There are couple of trends in boots that I really like. First, at least two companies are making mid-performance mid-wraps that are so highly adjustable, they fit nearly every foot. O'Brien's Morph, through a series of Velcro wraps, can be both adjusted and then left set at a size and entered as a normal mid-wrap, yet still readjusted for another size foot. Similarly, Hyperlite has its Shifter, which is another highly adjustable wrap. Neptune has its Universal Fit, which has three big adjustment buckles to clamp down on a variety of feet.
In other boot news, Iconn has a boot called the Slingshot, which is an easy-entry mid-wrap. Liquid Force is continuing to develop its Pro-Suctions/Super Suction line of boots, with its new Ultra Suction, a lighter zipperless version of the popular boot. Neptune is showing a burly pro-wrap that might be called the Contact. Its material kind of looks like Batman's latest suit. Bad Ass has made some improvements, most notably having the coolest-looking graphics on the market. Graphics aren't just for boards anymore.
Boots having snowboard-style buckles have been around for two years now, first with Full Tilt's XTC and last year with CWB's Verts, but now it appears that many more are on the way. Their advantages (according to converts) are long-term comfort (you can wear them all day without your feet cramping up), ease of entry, wide range of size adjustability and light weight. And manufacturers are starting to make inroads on snowboard-style buckles' disadvantages - they lack support and are difficult to put on.
O'Brien gave us a sneak preview of their Plush boot, which seems to combine the best of all worlds when it comes to boots. With only one big, burly buckle across the lower ankle and a wrap around shin strap, these are oozing with support and simplicity.
Mike Rogers showed off his Thruster prototypes with a couple of buckles in unusual places, including one that seems to really cinch your heel into place. Look for improvements in CWB's Verts in the form of the Vert Pro-having more support than last year's model.