Making its appearance in 2017, TOUGH TEC thermoformed technology, combining a solid polystyrene core wrapped in a polyethylene skin, has sparked something of a revolution in the windsurf and stand up paddle markets, replacing and updating the celebrated DURA-TEC (using a polyurethane foam core) boards that had enabled BIC SPORT to establish itself as market leader for equipment for sailing clubs and schools over several decades. And what better way to understand the progression and benefits of these boards, that are very often put to intensive use in schools and rental centres, than to speak to the teaching professionals who’ve been putting them through their paces on a daily basis over the last year. .
Windsurf and sailing instructor
Centre Nautique de Fouesnant Cornouaille
(French Cornwall, Brittany)
Hello Benjamin, here we are at the Cap Coz centre where you’ve been working for quite a few years. Roughly how many people come here for a class or course each year ? And what mix of skill levels do they have?
I’ve been working as an instructor at CNFC for 18 years now, with the majority of my teaching going on windsurfing in recent times. The centre has ten full time staff who are here all year, plus another thirty seasonal staff who are here in the summer season. We take in about 250 students per day in high season at the sailing school. We have students with very differing skill levels : experienced sailors who train hard all year, school parties who come mostly before or after the main holiday season, and of course a huge number of beginners who come during high season to learn to windsurf
I can see among all the equipment here there are some of the latest BIC Beach boards, that use the new TOUGH TEC construction system. What kind of investment did you make, and when?
Yes, you’re right, just before last summer we bought a fleet of 8 BIC Beach 185s, plus 2 more 225s for our heavier students, because we’d learned through experience that for beginner riders over 80kg you need much more board volume.
So, after a full season of use, what’s your honest/objective view of the resistance and durability of this type of board?
We’d been through numerous fleets of fibreglass boards, we thought it was time to move back to polyethylene constructed boards and the BIC Beach TOUGH TEC model was very much an obvious choice. The first thing I’d say is that, after almost a year of intensive use, they have no visible indentations or bumps, on the deck or the hull. There’s no sign of the “golf ball effect” that you see on other boards. Better still, for now we have no worries as regards all the small dents, scrapes and scratches you often get on the hull, which is very much appreciated. It saves us a huge amount of time, not having lots of small repairs to make. We’re on a beach with quite a lot of stones and the boards really suffer when the kids beach them or put them down a bit too heavily. There are plenty of other models in our stock that are already looking pretty rough. It’s important to keep your eye on that kind of thing and be very careful in your choice of equipment, that way you have fewer problems.
We’d been through numerous fleets of fibreglass boards, we thought it was time to move back to polyethylene constructed boards and the BIC Beach model was very much an obvious choice.
How would you compare these boards with your previous experience of using thermoformed polyethylene-based boards?
We’d tried polyethylene models in the past, but they weren’t the same, the core was Polyurethane foam I think ? In any case, they ended up looking much more damaged by dents and knocks. And they were much heavier too.
Anything else you like about the latest Beach models?
We use the Beach 185L for the vast majority of our students, and what I like is that it has exactly the same shape as the Techno 293, also from BIC Sport. That’s another board that we’ve been using for quite a few years here at the centre, for our intermediate and advanced students. Some of our D2 members use them for open racing. I find that really positive, to teach on a design that has nothing left to prove. We went through that period of really short, wide boards inspired by the Formula craze, and which didn’t suit the younger riders, who don’t really have any lateral stability problem that could justify such wide boards. The more classic shapes of the Beach 185 and Techno 293 give you much more chance of sailing and having fun in lighter winds. Another thing I found interesting about the boards was the rear fin. It’s got a slightly wider, shorter shape than most other boards, which means you can beach your board more smoothly, with less risk of scrapes. For beginner teaching it’s proved itself to be an excellent choice and I’ve had no problems with it at all up to now.
Any criticisms you have?
There are always little tweaks and improvements that can be made. For instance, the deck/foot pads are a bit thin and can suffer a bit under intensive use. But that’s easy to solve. The centre fin/dagger-board is easy to action, but sometimes has a bit of play and wobble, it would be good to have it fitting tighter, maybe with a couple of rubber pads to hold it steady. And why not think about enlarging the range by adding a bit of colour, to change from the standard white?
What level or kind of rider do you think the Beach is best suited to?
It’s a great board that’s a really good choice for any clubs, schools and rental centres, but actually could suit quite a lot of other occasional sailors. It’s the kind of board you can leave at a seaside holiday home, for instance, that anyone can ride, and without fear of it being damaged !
We use the Beach 185L for the vast majority of our students, and what I like is that it has exactly the same shape as the Techno 293, also from BIC Sport.
Hello Hervé. It seems Stand Up Paddle is becoming more and more significant in what your organisation does, how many boards do you have there at the moment?
We have two locations, one at La Flotte and another on the beach at Rivedoux, doing a lot of paddle board rentals, but also a lot of beginner classes. We usually do our discovery/beginner classes in the morning, lasting an hour or two, but the rentals are available all day. In the Spring of 2017 we invested in a fleet of 10 BIC SUP Cross 10’ boards. 2 of them were the old ACE TEC versions, and the other 8 were the new TOUGH TEC boards.
So now, after a year of what I’m sure has been intensive use, what’s your feeling about the new boards and construction?
I can honestly say, we’re very happy with them ! The first thing that I noticed is how well they’ve aged. They’ve kept their colours and their “brilliant white” finish very well, they seem to have suffered much less from UV fading than other boards we’ve had in the past. Our boards spend their winters stocked outdoors, and these boards are still as bright white as the day they arrived here. The general “look” of the boards hasn’t changed, that’s a real plus for us. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the deck/foot pads, which have stood up very well. Quite often the pads can start tearing or coming away from the board under the heat or just through regular use. True enough, the boards are a bit heavier than a sandwich construction, but for complete beginners and for rentals the weight isn’t really a determining factor. They’re only 1.5kg heavier than the ACE TEC versions. A beginner won’t notice any difference. My personal view is that what counts is that the boards stay looking as new and attractive as possible as long as possible, with no obvious signs of repairs.
Anything else you’d like to say about TOUGH TEC boards?
I’ve found that, generally speaking, that we have fewer problems with bumps and indentations, no question. As it stands, after a heavy year of use, we haven’t seen any real signs of damage done by our users. So for the time saved on maintenance and repairs they’ve been really good ! Before we had the BIC fleet, we’d bought various different models from another big manufacturer, but they started showing their age very quickly.
We wanted a board that would be good for complete beginners to learn on, and suit the rental market and people who’ve already learned the basics.
Did you ever try the previous BIC SUP constructions, the older Dura-Tec boards that TOUGH-TEC has just replaced ? And if so, have you noticed any difference in how they stand up to wear and tear?
We’ve never had any of those at the centre here but I’ve seen some at other clubs, and I get the impression that they age much less well. I saw quite a lot of indentations, and overall a less high quality finish that itself was showing signs of wear.
Apart from the construction, which we’ve just mentioned, your board selection has been exclusively the Cross 10’ model, what else was there about that board that persuaded you to choose it?
We’d decided that we wanted something very versatile and that would suit the widest range of riders possible. We wanted a board that would be good for complete beginners to learn on, and suit the rental market and people who’ve already learned the basics. Personally I found it to be particularly stable and re-assuring. And the design of the bow shape with that slight stem makes it a more comfortable ride, especially in choppy conditions, for riders who already know how to paddle a bit.
We’ve seen some schools and rental centres choosing inflatables for part or all of their board fleet, did you consider that option when you were making your investment decision?
Inflatable SUPs are a good option, and nowadays there are some very interesting and pretty rigid inflatables available, but all the same, they need regular maintenance and attention that we simply don’t have the time to give them in high season. We’ve never really had inflatables at the club, but I had checked them out previously. I know other centres where they have inflatables, and I’ve seen how you need to regularly check the air pressure, check for scrapes and scratches, rinse them down, etc…. For the kind of intense usage of our fleet and the physical location of the centre, it’s more sensible to have rigid boards that don’t need all that regular maintenance.
After a year’s experience with them, do you have any other comments or criticisms about the TOUGH TEC Cross 10’?
Well, nothing too serious, but there’s a bit of an issue with the removable fin that clips in place without needing any screws. It’s a great idea in principle, it means you can pile the boards up on top of each other for storage, but it can be a little bit of a problem in use, especially for beginners. Beginners have a tendency to only come to a complete stop and get off the board when it’s been fully beached. Unfortunately that means the fin can end up being dragged and scraped through the sand or stones, and even come off completely sometimes, we ended up losing a few that way to begin with. We managed to sort that out by inventing a kind of fin leash using a short piece of cord, so that we didn’t lose them. Actually, it’s a good idea to have a detachable fin, it means that it comes away under heavy impacts, which is far better than having the fin box/housing break, which is a much more problematic repair issue !
The first thing that I noticed is how well they’ve aged. They’ve kept their colours and their “brilliant white” finish very well.