85l Sunova Carver: Gorge Review

85l Sunova Carver: Gorge Review

*This is a long post.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or asked to write this review. I’m a waterman who enjoys writing, crunching numbers, learning from my data analysis, and sharing knowledge with others. Hopefully you find this write up as useful to your progression as I have to mine.

I’ve wrapped up my initial thoughts and experiences on the Sunova Carver and am sharing the info for anyone wanting to pull the trigger before the upcoming season.

Pre-review reminder: In my opinion, the most important thing you can to do progress your riding is to learn and identify what kind of rider you are, and want to be. Every foil, wing, and board is going to enhance, or hinder, certain aspects of various rider’s styles. Once you know what your style and preferred direction is, equipment data and reviews become much more valuable to you.

Rider skill and style:
I consider myself an intermediate with advanced skills in my stylistic pursuit. After approximately 200 days of wing foiling I still have little to no interest in learning wing tricks or jumping. I prefer fast rail to rail surfing enhanced by my wing or casual/stylish/flowy riding when flagged out riding swell. I learned the basics of DW SUP and further identified that I prefer to foil “down the line” like a surfer on a wave (which is commonly across the wind here), more than I like going straight downwind and surfing back and forth on swell.

Why I bought this board:
I have a very strong preference for riding small wings and foils. I wanted a board that was going to help me ride winds lulling below 10 knots with a wing no larger than my 4.2m and foils smaller than my 1000. At the time of purchase I needed my 1150 in order to ride winds that light. At the extreme high end, I wanted a board that was fast on the water to allow for tiny foils and 2m wings to be used in winds in 40-60 knots. My previous board really needed an 850cm foil underneath, even in the most extreme winds.

Foils and wings used were all Cloud IX fs range unless otherwise noted. I have an 8.5 aspect ratio on all my foils except the fs900 which is 10.1.

The Basics:
Sunova does a good job of giving info on shape, design, dims, goal, intended rider, all of that great stuff on their website. I highly recommend you look there for all of your basic information on this board.

Testing Data:
Board information:
85l Sunova Carver. 5’10”x20” and 4.89kg. No footstrap inserts, vapor construction, both of which are free alterations. (standard construction and footstraps bring expected weight to 6kg).
Note on alterations: Sunova will customize nearly anything you want on their boards for what I consider to be very reasonable prices.

Previously, I came from owning four consecutive Kalama boards:
5’10”x28.875” 123l e3
4’8”x26” 83l e3
8’x21” 111l Barracuda
5’3”x22” 83l e3
I also did quick single ride demos on approximately 10 other boards in the last year ranging from 40-80l.

Rider weight: 99kgs with a soaked winter wetsuit and impact vest on. 82kgs in summer with boardshorts (untested at the lighter weight).

BAR+GF= 4.36

Total time spent in flight on the Carver for this review: 12.5 hours

Wind and water notes: It’s cold in the Gorge right now. Water temps are around 39 degrees and air temps are usually in the 40’s when I’m riding. Winds have a tendency to be gusty this time of year (20 knot range). I tested a mix of extreme east and mild west winds.

Lightest lulls: 6 knots west wind, east current with my 1000, Catalyst, 76cm mast, and 4.2m SLE.
Lightest average wind speed: 10 knots west wind, east current with my 1000, Catalyst, 76cm mast, and 4.2m SLE.

Strongest gust: 43 knots east wind, east current with 900, Catalyst, 76cm mast, and 2.5m OR Glide A wing.
Strongest average wind speed: 35 knots east wind, east current with 900, Catalyst, 76cm mast, and 2.5m OR Glide A wing.

Foils tested: 700, 850, 900, 1000, 1150. All with Catalyst stab. 66cm and 76cm masts were used.

Wings tested: 4.2m and 3.5m Cloud IX plus 3m and 2.5m Ocean Rodeo Glide A.

Foil selection leading up to Carver purchase: Almost 100% use of my 850 for 20 straight sessions leading up to the my first on the Carver.

Foil selection since acquiring the Carver: 850, 700, 700, 700, 700, 1150, 1000, 900, 900, 900 (900 is a new 10.1 AR vs the 8.5 of others and takes off in between the 700 and 850).

Narrative:
Getting new equipment in the middle of the winter is always a little nerve racking. We have extreme winds and painfully cold temps so changing your kit when the weather isn’t all fun in the sun can be stressful. However, my first day out I rigged pretty aggressively and had light winds for my first rides. I was delighted to be riding my 850 with a 4.2m wing in 13 knots of west wind with lulls down to 9 knots in swirling storm winds and rain (this normally required my 1150). My second day was just as light, and I was able to ride my 700.

On those first days I immediately I noticed that while the board is undeniably quick on the water, the most impressive thing was its release. There is something about the hull shape that feels incredibly “not sticky.” Better than any hull I’ve personally ridden. In light wind where my last board would occasionally grab and throw me over the nose when trying to pump onto foil, the Carver keeps driving forward and releasing water when I pump (is this because of the “flat to flipped nose” rocker?) Most excitingly, it’s snappier in the air than my 5’3”x22” 83l Kalama e3 at 5.23kg. This board LOVES to carve rail to rail, better than any I’ve ever experienced. I expect this is due to a combination of being .34kg lighter, 2” narrower, and having a more pointed/lower profile nose. Plus, despite being 7” longer in total length, the Carver only shows 2.5” more nose in front of the mast. My mast is positioned just barely in front of center in the box. I could theoretically try to nudge it forward to decrease this even more. All of this adds up to a sporty comparison to my last board. Match all of that with the fact that it activates a smaller foil with the same effort and wind and you can see the performance benefits are piling up.

I continued to click through more sessions on the Carver in various conditions. Light winds to heavy with foils from 700-1150. With each session the Carver had me consistently out on wings that were up to 2 full sizes smaller than others on the water as well as foils as much as 500cm smaller than other riders out with me.

I very quickly found myself gravitating to my two foils with the highest takeoff requirements (700 and 900) and am pleased with the way this board performs when using both of them. The vapor Carver has enough weight that you still feel a natural drive and flow to your riding when turning rail to rail, top to bottom, on swell of all sizes. I really like this. Feeling the board push back and return to my feet with just enough pressure to ensure me it’s still along for the ride and ready for the next turn is confidence inspiring. The narrow design of the board keeps all of its weight well balanced underfoot despite plenty of big frontside and backside tip breaches at wind speeds from 10-40 knots. Coming from SUP surfing I’m comfortable moving my feet on the board while in flight and the Carver welcomes this without issue. Touchdowns are practically inconsequential as the shape, length, and weight of the board make it skip off the water.

For the novice to intermediate riders: First off, Sunova recommends this board for intermediate to pro level riders and I think that is accurate. Why? I assume because this board is going to feel tippy if compared to the traditional beginner boards, especially in light winds. If you are considering moving to a narrow board, make sure your water starts are fast. No casual knee starts where you flip your wing into position and hold it in one hand. If your wing is in the air, your hands had better be on the handles.

Also worth noting for beginners: I’ve always felt like switching feet was easier on a narrow board. First, it’s harder to get your feet into the wrong position. Second, the drive and longer weight distribution in front of and behind the foil feels like it buys you an extra second of time while also forcing correct decisions. So, if you are at all nervous about this element I would tell you that I, personally, find foot switches easier on boards like this. I tested the Carver with my 700 and 66cm mast, my twitchiest and least stable kit, and there were no issues on gybes and foot switches.

For intermediate to advanced riders: This board is going to give you the freedom to access the smallest foils and wings in your quiver. Along with that, it has incredible performance in the air that will not slow your foils down. I’ve found that I prefer having a little bit of board length when performing my most aggressive turns which lends itself well to getting board feedback while you are laid over and quickly going rail to rail.

Above all else the following questions/statements in regard to stability are the most inquired about:

  1. “The Carver will be too tippy in choppy waters. You’ll never be able to water start it when it’s really windy.”
    Response: I, personally, have not had issues. I was riding 21” and 22” boards before this (130 sessions worth). Yes, this board is tippy if you are slow to get your wing in the air and hands in position. Expect this board to command you to speed up your water starts. Don’t be confused thinking this is aimed at light winds. It is a high performance board and what you lose in a handful of water starts is gained back many times over by the use of smaller foils and wings.
  2. Do you think this is a good choice as a light wind board?
    Answer: It can perform well in light winds. However, this board is at its worst for stability in light wind. If you don’t have wind in your sail, you very well might just tip over, I know I have. I would say its ability to slog is poor. If you are an experienced light wind rider this board will give you high end performance in light winds. If you are a novice who is exploring light winds and narrow boards I think you would be best suited with a shortened, downwind board like the Aviator Downwind 22.5. This will give you FAR more stability in ultralight winds, will allow you to use tiny wings and foils, and will allow you to grow into the Carver down the road. If you want a dedicated light wind only board, again, I would consider a small DW board that will give you the performance gains matched with nice slog your way home stability.

Board Driven Accomplishments:

  1. I don’t think I ever expected to be on foil with my 700 under 10 knots using a normal sized wing board. A full DW board, yes. My 850, yes. However, I have now had multiple sessions where the average wind speed was 12-13 knots with the lulls below 10 knots and the Carver enabled me to use my 700 with 4.2m SLE without a hitch.
  2. In extreme winds, I was immediately able to start using my 700 by upgrading to this board (2m wings are incredibly sensitive and you need a fast board to use them if the winds are gusty). My 700, as well as my high aspect 900, both have harder takeoffs but are so efficient moving through the water that without them, winging in 40-55 knots is just miserable. The intricacies of high wind riding are many and deserve an entire write up on their own.

To get the most out of this board:
Plan to buy a smaller foil and use smaller wings. If you are buying this board purely to get easier water starts with your same wing and foil, yes, you will experience that. However, you will be selling this board short. Don’t look at it as a casual upgrade. Look at it as a full quiver transition. This board will beg for a high performance foil and will really show you it’s full potential when you give it that.

Summary:
The Carver has immediately met my goal of using smaller wings and foils at both the light, and heavy wind levels. It is currently my all time favorite board and the only thing I would consider changing if I was ordering another would be to put some custom graphics on it. I would also be intrigued to try a vapor 6’2”x20” 95l Carver in the future purely for comparison. I’d like to see how its stability and slogging feels. I’d also be interested to see how much faster it feels on the water. I do not see the need for any other board in my personal quiver.

How to order:
Sunova has dealers worldwide so everyone has a way to get ahold of their boards. I wanted some customizations on mine so I reached out to Christian, the owner of Poseidon Paddle and Surf in Santa Monica California. Their website shows them carrying what looks to be the entire lineup of Sunova surfboards, sups, and foilboards which gave me confidence that they would nail my order. The ordering process was smooth despite my requested alterations. My board showed up faster than expected and I have nothing but great things to say about Poseidon as a shop, Christian as the owner, and Sunova as a company.

Thank you:
Huge thanks to Sunova for bringing this board into production as well as thanks to Marcus Tardrew for designing it. Big thanks to all my friends and riding buddies who make the coldest winter conditions so much more enjoyable.

Hope to see you on the water,
Bryan Lee

3 Likes

Hi Bryan thanks for the great review and thoughtful analysis of your board choice process. I’m currently looking for something similar. Currently have the 135l Armstrong DW and a 90l smaller board for the gorge. 100kg 6’6". I would like to get 1 board that would be good for light wind winging here in the inland NW lakes and something I could use at the gorge as well. Would like to be able to slog in light winds if necessary but also rip flagged out on swell in the gorge. Was thinking about a smaller Armstrong DW board 107L 7’5", what do you think? I have tried my friend’s AS 121L 7’7" and it really had an improved responsiveness and lighter swing weight compared to my 135L 8’3". Or should I be looking at something smaller like the 20" Aviator 6’10" 104.9L? I don’t think I could slog in light wing with the Carver 6’2" 95L. As you seem to have tried many options, and have a lot of experience with different boards, your advice is appreciated. (btw, I completely agree with you regarding the Kalama E3 as being a very slow reacting board).

1 Like

Good question and tough decision to make for sure. Is the Armstrong 7’5"? I’m seeing 7’2". It would probably slog a tiny bit better but the 6’10" aviator would definitely rip harder on the swell. I’m close to ordering the 6’6" 90l Aviator 18 as my lightwind weapon and prone paddle back home option.

Today I went out for slog training on my 5’10" Carver with 4.2m wing and 8 knots of wind. Pretty tough but my balance and slog skills are definitely getting better on that board.

Considering my BARGFactors and performance options of my boards:

83l e3: 2.75
85l Carver: 3.42 (Current favorite)
??? my next board ???
111l Barracuda: 5.83 (infinity slogger)

My next board will be an 18" width. I’m set on that. What I’m not set on is length.
Aviator DW 18 BARGFactors:
6’6" = 4.49 Slightly closer to my Carver, but still a huge jump up. This is most likely my choice.
6’10" = 4.95 Closer to my Barracuda and a decent jump up from the 6’6"

For you, BARGFactors:
Carver 6’2": 3.52 (A nice board, but not a light wind slogger)
Aviator DW 20 6’10": 4.3 (this is the board I would choose if I was you and I wanted a ripper and decent slogger)
107l Armstrong: 4.54 (In comparison to the Aviator, I think this is too close)
135l Armstrong: 6.03 (Supreme lightwind board)

Great review, any updates? Are you still riding this board?

1 Like

Still on it! Absolutely love it, best I’ve ever had.

I did, order the Aviator 18 in the 6’6" length, but it wont be here until mid summer. I want to get it to kind of put the final touches on my review/board progression and hope it’s a gem as well. I will admit though, it’s the first board I’ve ordered without a ton of stoke. The Carver is so unbelievably good that it’s tough for me to really want to ride anything else. In the spirit of R&D though… getting that 18" board!

I’ve ridden the Carver in all conditions now, no stinkbug start ever needed. From glassy 10 knots to hammering 40 knots in overhead swell I just kneel on it and go.

10-15 knots I use a 4m and my 1150 to make life easy and just pump around on ripples.
15-20 knots I use my 3m and a high aspect 900.
20+ I ride a 2.5m with my 700 or 900 depending on what kind of riding I want to do. I need to take my 550 out with it soon…

What else can I say? It’s the best board I’ve ever owned by far.

2 Likes

1100 miles into the Carver in Vapor and here’s how she’s holding up!

1 Like

I’m also on an 85 Carver, I’ll keep an eye out for you! Usually an Armstrong or PPC wing.

Yeah flag me down!

How much easier is it to get to shore if you are far out and too underpowered to get on foil, on a decent slogger versus the carver for you Bwalnut?
And how much more liters would you need on the carver to make it a decent slogger do you think?

I’ve actually gotten quite comfortable slogging in on it. I also can prone paddle it decently. I don’t know that additional liters would help too much, I think extra length would be easier, just because when it’s ultralight you have to be careful to not push the nose under.

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Bridge closure in Hood. Are all the SUP dw guys crying because half of their water time includes driving and they’re blocked off now?

If only there was a way to go upwind on the water. If only. :slight_smile:

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Windsurfers have been trying that forever. I don’t think it’s possible.

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Just means less people at the Hatch :stuck_out_tongue:

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