These small bits of foam and carbon that give so much pleasure. Our local supplier does Tabou and Fanatic so we are all pretty well up on these designs.
The Tabou Rocket has to be one of the finest freeride boards available today. They are fast and controllable and I've watched them speeding away from me far too often. For me they are too heavy and a little uninvolving to ride. I prefer the equivalent Fanatic for its lightness and the involvement you get with the ride. These things are important enough to me to forgo a bit of speed. This is my view and as you can imagine is not widely shared.
The new Mantas are fantastic over chop at speed and the Manta freerides are even better over rough water. What I like about Tabou is that they don't mess with things that work and changes are small, incremental and obviously well thought out. Fanatic on the other hand is apt to change everything in a range at once. The 2008 Falcons were great - early planing and fast while the 2009 models were all different. 2010 saw another complete re-engineering of the range. I'm sure that you get breakthroughs with this approach and it provides excitement for us but I would be very wary of buying into a new range before I was sure that the shapes are going to work for me. Peter Volwater is a very different type of sailor to me. Having said this I am a Fanatic fan and Sebastian's designs usually work for me. Fanatics are generally lighter than equivalent Tabous and plane earlier - both good things as far as I am concerned. My views are not shared by all. My sailing partner Gareth prefers heavier boards which he says are easier over chop and do not break as easily.
I helped with the testing of a new Fanatic deck last year and had to put a lot of nautical miles on a proto 112 Falcon (a tough job but someone had to do it) Once I found the right fin for this board it proved to be awesome and I think that the 2011 range is even better. There is something magical about the way the boards track and keep their trim when overpowered. Incidentally the deck we were testing was phenomenal - light as a feather, solid as concrete. I don't know if they incorporated the technology into the 2011 range but I doubt it as their board weights seem to have increased. Not good. Anyway Fanatic in my book is near the top at this point in time.
Other brands of interest for blasting are Thommen with their CrossX and Naish with their Grand Prix. What I like about the Naish models is that they give us two rows of footstrap positions. Most other brands have only one row on their slalom boards. This may be OK for the pros but when you are going way too quickly over rough water it is nice to be able to have your feet a little bit inboard. You can then soften the board's attitude further with a fin like Deb's SL4 and the added comfort will add a whole lot more speed. I would really appreciate it if other brands gave 2 rows of screw holes on their slalom boards - even if only on their small sizes.
For proper board weights have a look at OPC's boards. I have not ridden or even seen an OPC board in the flesh but they look good and their weights are something other manufacturers should be aiming at. I would really like to get my hands on a sample of these interesting boards. Their range of models looks so right to me.
Last year I rode a Starboard iSonic 111 and it was as good as it looked - Fast and easy to gybe. What a pleasure. That model was from 2009 and I believe that the 2011 models are even better. Like the Pryde race sails the iSonics are pure class. I also rode a 112 JP Slalom. Ben VD Steen left it behind after some racing here and one of our speed guys was trying it out. Also a phenomenal board but very technical for me with the straps right on the rails. Clearly a professional piece of equipment. It ate through chop, and seemed to shrink in size as you got going. I battled a bit with the gybing though. This is a machine for really good sailors and pros.