Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gaastra Echo Limited Edition (LE), the review

I've been on Gaastra since I started surfing, rockin the various Manic models through the years; but it wasn't until last year that I found the sail that would change everything. Spending the -09 season on Bonaire, seeing Kiri on his 5.2 in all conditions - always in control ducking the sail like it was nothing - got me hooked. He was on my case about it for a while before I was convined though, but when we swapped sails I just lost it. I'd been working on Switch Chachoos for so long without getting full control for the sail, but when I got on his 5.2 I just had to try once and the sail was right there all the way through the move. This is the most important quality on the Echo: It makes moves easier. And who wouldn't want that?
35 knots? Easy peasy! Echo LE 4.4
 When I came back home I immidiately set out to get a line of Limiteds, but it wasn't an easy task. I e-mailed every Gaastra distibutor in Europe, as there weren't any in Sweden due to... It puzzles me. During the following 2 weeks I got replies from about 20 different shops who didn't have any Echos at all. The best sail couldn't be found. This turned out to be a stroke of luck though, as I got another reply a few days later; Göran Nyman from Windparadise in Barcelona wrote - we have the sails you want, in the colors you requested. Göran was Swedish too, a huge surprise to say the least. Anyway, I got my first pair (5.2, 4.8), rocked them all winter in the Philippines and learnt shitloads of new moves.

This brings us up to date, and as I'm writing this I've recieved my new set of Limited -10s, tested them twice and got them striped up with numbers just yesterday. The difference from last year is that I got my hands on the all elusive mini sizes: 4.4 and 4.0. Actually, this process goes as far back as before summer; Göran helped a lot hooking me up with Gaastra, who made me a fresh custom set of sails. A little more than 3 months after the deal went down I got to riding on a 4 sail line, which is a huge advantage. Now I can stay in control even on the days when it's bombing.

Go for the sky. Echo LE 4.8
Okey, enough stories, let's talk tech.

The -10 LE is totally similar to the -09. Makes much sense, as if it ain't broke don't fix it, right? There are some minor cm:s difference in boom and luff, but apart from that the feeling is that same sweet mix of power and control all packed into a 4 batten super light weight format. The model is advertised as a sail that you can use one size smaller, which is true. But it can handle a ton of wind too, if you want it to. There's a genuine harmony in the whole sail, with a flat top and pin-point precise power in the belly that sits at the front close to the mast. When powered up - even if it's gusty - the power never travels, but stays focused on the harness lines. Due to these qualities I feel that I can always go one size bigger than I would on any other sail, which is great for doing sicker tricks with more hang-time. All of the above makes for a steady balance entering moves and total neutrality during the spin, but also a readiness to power up for a double rotation or whatever you can put your mind to.

Time above the water is what counts. Echo LE 4.8
It's possible to rig the Echo super flat or with a good profile - I've found the latter to be the best setting. That means good downhaul, but not too much, and enough outhaul to keep it nice and tight at the clew. The sail will stay on the boom a bit, but there will be a fuller feel to it, and most importantly: It's going to get so powered when ducking. This brings us to the most important technical feature which also happens to be the reason why this sail is the bomb for new school freestyle:

If you want to do Konos, Burners or Air Funnels, there is no comparison. The Limited Echo is made for ducking. It slices into the wind easily, keeps the power and is real controllable when back-winded. The top is flat, which gives good balance and control, as the power will stay close to you in the pocket by the mast, focused on the harness lines. In addition the foot is cut high to make for easy getting under the sail. To do well in the ducking moves you need to be able to duck (obviously), steer while back-winded, and pop with a lot of power when and where you need it. The Echo has all of those qualities, so instead of struggling with getting the sail in front of you - you can spend your time deciding whether you want to go big or just ridiculous. Mark my words, you will go bigger on this sail than you've ever gone before. 

Mid-duck, total control. Echo LE 4.8
In addition to the above I though I'd mention the fact that the Echo LE is extremely consequent sizewise. By this I mean that the feeling is the same throughout the whole line. I've heard guys riding other brands talking about how their 5.2:s feels too different from their 4.2:s, or in some cases even their 4.8:s. An unbalanced line like that would be hard to get used to, especially for freestyle, but with the Echo that's not an issue. My 5.2 is the same as my 4.4, with the exception that the 4.4 is really tiny.

To finish this off I want to point something out: I've ridden Gaastra sails (and tried all the other brands too for that matter) of different years for 4 seasons now, and every time I get struck by how the quality and feeling is so uniquely genuine. The -08 and -09 Manics were damn good, and the -06 Echo was great too, but the new Echo LE is nothing but the best. Hands down

So whatcha waiting for? I got mine, now get yours.

Erik Håkman, S-1988

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