Had a chance to chill with the Tona crew at the Surf Expo this year. Decided to do my duty and scope out as much info about the boots as possible. I’ll divide this up by company. Obviously this is just a brief summary and I’ll try and get out our annual in depth, just numbers, boots review as soon as the nice people at all these companies give me boots to test. *hint* *hint*
Got some nice pics of the Pastor boot. Alex’s Lion logo makes an appearance on his signature boot built at the Hyperlite factories. Seems like Airush did some solid RnD and really beefed up the stitching in the toe and the heel. They also have another boots that seems to focus more on making it easy to make the transition from Straps to boots. A worthy cause if you ask us.
While there were rumors that Best was coming out with their own boot line, in reality it seems like they will be teaming up with Humanoid boots. Specifically they’ll be selling The Howl. Didn’t get too much info, but the mounting hardware for Humanoid seems beefy as all heck and Rich Sabo gave his stamp of approval. We’ll wait to test it when we can, but looks to be a solidly constructed boot.
Cab put handle inserts into their Custom, but decide to step into the Binding game as well. Looks to be a pretty generic boot, reminds us of the LF boots actually. Seems pretty similar to Airush’s non-Pastor boot model as well. Focus is more on comfort and ease of entry/exit. We’re all for getting more people into boots, so we’re stoked to see how these are going to go over with the Cabrinha riders. We’re hearing that they were built on the chassis structure of a Double Up boot.
Systems remain largely the same, which is fine. These are the boots I personally ride and I love them, so no huge changes is ok by me. However, they seemed to fix one of the issues pro riders had with these boots: supposedly weight of the boots has been reduced by about 25%. I’m stoked on that, as long as it doesn’t decrease the durability. It is nice to see Hyperlite address their largest weakness. The Toe cap on the System Binding has also been modified, supposed to make it more comfortable. I’m excited to see how these guys are going to mass out again this year. Unfortunately, the Mareks still have the BOA system on there, which leaves us kiters with less options. Would have loved to see a Marek with a traditional lace setup.
We’re actually really excited about a new LF offering this year. Sure, they’ve been busy producing foils, but that doesn’t mean they’re neglecting their boot lineup. They’re coming out with a super affordable light weight boot. Integrated liner and outer shell, as we said before super light and also at a very low price point. While it’s nice that Airush and Cab seem to be trying to bring more people to the dark side, price point does make a helluva difference, and offering a lightweight boot is definitely another approach to solving the same problem.
North boot looks good matched with this year’s Gambler for sure. Built at the Hyperlite factory, like the Airush boot, we definitely see the similarities between the two. It’s a complete change from last year’s rebranded Frank, Craig Cunningham seemed fairly excited about this year’s offering. Must say this, although it is unrelated, the new wakestyle bar is the tits. Looks awesome, looks like a great deal of thought went into it. With Craig, Colleen, Tom and Aaron within the fold, North is going to be doing some very good work soon. North seems to be listening to their rider’s feedback.
Ronix.. wow Ronix. It was pretty exciting at the Ronix booth for sure. I hate to toss around the word “Gamechanger” but I just did, so let’s go with it. So Ronix has made their boots, modular. Not in the same way that Hyperlite has, it’s still a very traditional wakeboard binding. However, you can now replace the liner and they’ve constructed their boots in such a way that the liner controls the stiffness.
What this means, is if you dig how the Ones look, but want the flexibility of a Frank, you can just swap out the One liner for a Frank liner. This also means, that when your liner gets all floppy and old you can go out and buy just a liner and replace that part of it, making your boots feel newish. Of course, they don’t sell the outers by themselves, so if you want a Frankenstein boot, you will have to pay extra. However, this approach is definitely nice for those of you that care about matching your boots to your board. (I’m not judging, it’s cool .)
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get good pictures of the new Slingshot boots, I say this because this year’s color schemes are actually pretty awesome. Luckily images are up on their website for both the RAD and the KTV . While other boots manufacturers seem to be subscribing to the “brighter is better” school of thought, Slingshot keeps things simple. A nice even blue and a nice even black. The boots appeared pretty solidly constructed as usual. I’ve never heard any complaints about Slingshot boot build quality. They also mentioned that the new builds should be lighter than last year’s models.
I’ve always dug the Slingshot approach. Nothing flashy, nothing gimmicky, because they don’t need to be. Just good solid construction and boots, equipment that works well but doesn’t cost you your first born.
Seems like the usual moderate increments of innovation for most parties, although I have to say I’m impressed with Ronix’s new direction. I can’t say for sure whether or not it’s going to work out, and what it means for overall durability, but I like the thinking out of the box. It’s nice seeing kite companies embrace this side of the sport and putting out their own bindings. It’d be interesting to see if they really are dedicated kite bindings, or if they’re really just a rebranded wake boot. All this talk of durability increases is pretty cheap. Hopefully in a year or two we can get the verdict from those of you out there who end up buying those bindings.