Tabou Rocket Mods

Volume:140 litres
Sail Range:6.0 - 9.0
Optimal Sail:7.5
Length:247.6 cm
Width:74.4 cm
Fin:Tabou freeride 48 cm (power box)

Tabou Rocket 140

Without doubt my Tabou Rocket is my favourite board. I read a lot of reviews about this board before I bought it, and it did not disappoint. Here are some of the reviews that convinced me it was the right board for me.

Boards Windsurfing Magazine Freeride, Freerace or Slalom? Tabou Rocket 115
Board Seeker Magazine Tabou Rocket 125
Windsurfing magazine review of the Tabout Rocket 140, which is the model I bought.

Tabou Rocket Mods

Basically, its a fast, easy planing board that has good control and is great for intermediate gybes and heavy weight sailors like me. The only slightly negative comment the reviewers made was that the foot strap positions are "aggressively positioned over the rail". So while I really love this board, there were a few things I wanted to change to make it perfect.

These were:

  1. The nose needed protection from me crunching it while I learned to gybe.
  2. The 48 cm fin was too long for shallow water blasting at Elliott Heads.
  3. The rear foot straps needed more inbound positions.

Nose Protection

A lot of windsurfers probably think having a nose protector is pretty lame. But the first day out on my brand new board I hit a sand bar and split the tip of the nose. A few months later I did it again, but this time it required a major repair. I want to be able to practice new techniques without the fear that a high speed catapult is going to put my board out of action for a few weeks. The board lady recommends nose protection, so I decided to adopt her approach.

Nose protector

I got a piece of cardboard and traced the shape of the nose and cut it out to make a pattern for the shape I wanted. I took this to Australian Foam & Rubber - a local foam rubber supplier - who used a band saw to cut out my pattern from some high density EVA foam. Next I used and angle grinder and random orbiral sander to smooth out the shape. The grinder is pretty agressive, so you have to be very careful. On the under side I cut several slits evenly spaced and parallel with the rails, using a fine cut-off wheel on my dremmel, these allowed me to curve the foam around the rails on either side of the nose of the board.

I used contact adhesive to fasten the nose protector. First I ran a bead down each of the slits on the under side, squeezed them together and wiped off the excess, then allowed them to dry before compressing them to form the rail curves. I had previously used a random orbital sander with fresh 280 grit sand paper to take the grip off the nose of the board. I then used masking tape to mask off the area where the contact cement was to be painted. I painted both surfaces. Waited for them to dry, then carefully aligned them starting at be rails towards the back and gradually pushed them together, ending at the nose.

I am really happy with the result. I like the fact that I was able to make a window for the Tabou logo, so it now looks like the nose protector was made for the board.

Shallow Water Fin

Elliott heads has a lot of shallow water areas, and it is sometimes difficult to gauge just how shallow they are. The problem with upright fins is they give you little warning. You hit the sand and catapult, and in severe cases damage the fin or worse, the fin box.

Surf Grass Fin

To resolve this problem I decided to look around for shallow water weed style fins. I had tried Select weed fins and wasn't very happy with them because they stuck out too far from the back of my board and chewed up my boom grip every time a rig recovery required me to pass the rig behind the back of the board. Then I came across the True Ames Surf Grass fin. This one is only 26 cm (10") deep but can handle 6.5 m2 sails easily and even 7.5 m2 with the occasional spin out. It is also a really tough fin, I have felt it grid though the sand many a time, but the outer edge still looks good as new. These fins aren't available in Australia, so I had to mail order it direct from the US. I was so impressed with this fin I purchased the larger 30 cm (12") model to go with my 8.4 m2 Ezzy Freeride sail.

Inbound Rear Foot Straps

This dilemma was a little more challenging to solve. I found that the foot strap positions on the Tabou Rocket were just too aggressive for me. While I could get into them, they were so out-bound, that in lulls I found it difficult to get my heavier weight off the windward rail enough and I would tend to point up, stall the rig and fall in. I felt I needed just another inch of space to make the rear foot straps work for me. However the thought of having to install permanent inserts, just seemed like a bridge too far. Especially on a brand new board. Then a fellow windsurfer suggested that I just make a pair of stainless steel straps between the existing mount points and add a couple of holes in them to place the foot straps where I wanted them.

Foot strap position adjustment

This turned out to be a really simple and practical approach. I used 20 mm by 3 mm 316 marine stainless steel. I drilled three holes for the foot strap positions, one in the middle (just in case) and two further outbound. These were all countersunk to make the bolt heads flush with the stainless strap.

Stainless strap

To grind the rounded ends, I clamped my angle grinder to the bench, with a bit of insertion rubber underneath it to stop it from shaking loose. I then put a bolt thought the hole at the end of the strap and clamped it so it was up against the grinding wheel. Now with the grinder running, I slowly rotated the end of the strap around to cut the curved end. It sprays lots of sparks and gets pretty hot, and only does a rough job. But with four of these to do it saves a bit of time and effort.

Grinding stainless strap

The grinder only did a rough job, so I used a flat file with the strap in the vice to shape it and then some fine grit sand paper in the random orbital sander to get rid of any potentially sharp edges.

Sanding stainless strap

The front strap needed to be bent in a slight curve to match the curve of the board. This was pretty easy to do by hand using a vice, bending each segment a bit at a time, until they were all the same. Countersunk bolts and Nylock nuts were used to attach the foot straps to the straps so they were flush with the board. Countersunk screws were used to attach the screws to stainless steel straps to the board. The tips of these were cut off to ensure that they didn't penetrate to deep.

Strap assembly

Conclusion

Just a few mods made this great board, perfect for me. Now I can aggressively practice carve gybes without the fear of crunching the nose again. The nose protector shape doesn't feel like it causes any extra drag, unlike sticking padding on the boom and mast. The surf grass fin is great, and really makes the board responsive to foot steering, although doesn't point up quite as well with big sails in marginal conditions. Finally the new foot strap positions are perfect, and if I change my mind, they can easily changed or removed altogether.

UPDATE (31/3/2011)

First week out of the modified board and it feels great - as usual. The back foot straps are much quicker to get into, but I do find myself searching for the back rail to get a little more power out of the sail. Had to play around with the boom height, mast base position and harness lines to get it right. By the end of the week I hit a sand bar and smacked the mast right down on the tip of the nose. Fortunately the new nose protector did its job well and there is no damage to report.

Posted by Henry Thomas, 6 years ago on Tuesday, April 19, 2011

17 comments:

Mat said...

nice job.....great

Posted 6 years ago on Friday, May 20, 2011

Nikolas said...

How does the board age? Is the board durable? Im thinking of buying a tabou rocket 125 lt 2010 and i wanna know if it will last long

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Henry Thomas said...

It certainly can take some abuse, but not as durable as a beginner board like a Bic or Starboard with tough skin. In my case, I really clobbered the front and it was only a small bit of damage, so it pretty durable.

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nikolas said...

I have the option of this and a 145 rocket of the same year, will it be alot harder for me to learn on the 125? I have about 15 hours experience on a RSX board and about 3 on a bic. I have a 5.7 neilpryde. Thanks for the help so far btw

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Henry Thomas said...

It depends how heavy you are. I weigh in at 110 kg, and I use my 140 as my strong wind board, and my Starboard GO 165 as my light wind board (which I also learnt on). I also have a 190 Z Class formula board for really light wind ocean cruising. Based on my experience I would suggest at least 50 litres of positive buoyancy if you are a beginner - so if you are around 90kg the 145 would be a good fit. It all depends where you are up to. If you are a real beginner and falling in a lot - a soft EVA deck is a really good idea to protect you from injury - you can lose a lot of skin from your shins falling on those sandpaper like hard deck surfaces. If however you can confidently uphaul and/or beach start without falling off then a hard deck may be for you. Don't underestimate the need for a good 50l of positive buoyancy - without it learning and light wind days (12-14 knots) get really tiring because the board is lower in the water and the drag is hard work on your arms. The other really important factor is the width. If you are uphauling, 90cm wide makes it much easier, 75cm and you will fall in a lot, but eventually get there, but 65cm is too narrow for a beginner and you will likely give up from embarrassment long before you feel the joy of any success.

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nikolas said...

Can we give us a more precise definition of the nose protector material?

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Henry Thomas said...

The foam rubber is called high density EVA foam - I purchased mine form a local foam rubber supplier. Its a bit like the stuff that camping or exercise mats are made from, but firmer. You may also see squares of high density EVA foam sold in hardware stores as mats to stand on in your workshop to stop your feet getting tired - these floor mats are the high density type of foam, so could be used as a substitute.

Posted 6 years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nikolas said...

Yeah i googled the material and thats what i found. When you say contact adhesive i presume you mean the black contact adhesive glue? Overall great site with very nice information and pictures.

Posted 6 years ago on Friday, September 9, 2011

joe windsurfer said...

You say that you read many reviews on the Rocket before purchasing. But how did you decide on the volume? Is 160 to 140 not a very small drop ?? I too am a heavyweight at 100 kilos and use an AHD 160 liter 79 cm wide board. It is best with 8-oh/8.5 sails. Some have suggested I go to 125 liters from 160. So, how did you decide on 140 and are looking to go even smaller? thx joe windsurfer http://joewindsurfer.com ntw nice site and vids

Posted 5 years ago on Monday, December 12, 2011

Henry Thomas said...

Hi Joe,

When me and my mate Gavin decided to get back into windsurfing after a 20 year absence, we both purchased large floaty progression boards. I got the Starboard Go 165 (circa 2004) and he got a Bic Tecno 148. I was 110kg when we started and Gav was around 90kg, so both these boards gave use plenty of buoyancy. Nevertheless, my board was much wider, at 91cm which made it more stable. Gavin and I used to share it, taking turns on my board in the early days when we were learning to plane because it was so stable, and much easier to ride.

Later we discovered that once you progressed to outside foot positions on the Go, it was actually a very fast formula style board. Perfect for light wind sailing yet very forgiving. Gavin ended up purching a Starboard Go 170 more recently because he enjoyed sailing my board so much.

Experiences that influenced volume decisions

When it came to choosing a volume for my next board there were a few experiences we both had that played into the volume decision. We were both pretty reckless when we started windsurfing - we were so keen to go out, we often didn't do a great job of judging the conditions. One time Gavin had a rig failure - I think his boom broke -and drifted out to sea with the tide, so he had to ditch his sail and paddle back in, which was a huge loss. I also had a few mishaps, perhaps the worst was one time before I learned how to waterstart, I got into some trouble uphauling at high tide in a heavy swell and also got washed out to sea, I ended up getting sea sick and throwing up - not pleasant. Fortunately for me, a guy on a jetski saw me out there in trouble and he and a mate rescued me - and my board and rig - which was very fortunate.

25-30 litres positive buoyancy for intermediate progression

After those experiences Gavin and I were a little more cautious when it came to purchasing our next boards. We both decided to progress to smaller volumes that still provided enough buoyancy to uphaul if the wind died. I opted for the Tabout Rocket 140 and Gav ended up getting a Starboard Kombat 117. Essentially we were both looking for around 25-30 litres of positive buoyancy.

Most of the really light weight windusrfers we know (75 kg) have three boards, a 80, 90 and 100. They rarely get to use their 80 litre boards. So they have 15 and 25 litres of positive buoyancy in their main two boards. However they also sail smaller rigs that tend to be several kilo's lighter than ours - so you have to factor that in as well.

Smaller board need more wind to be fun

What we both discovered was that as heavy weights, the boards we ended up getting were no fun under 16 knots. In light winds you are just working all the time just to stay up and it is exhausting - its better to come in and wait for the wind to pick up. These boards really need 16-20 to get going, and over 20 is the sweet spot. On our big Go boards, 12-16 is plenty, and in light conditions it is still fun to slog around and goof off. We used to always wonder why when the wind dropped off everyone else came in, when we didn't - now we know.

In an average year, over 50 percent of my sessions are on my 8.5m or 11m sails with my Go board. Another 15% are probably still better on my Go using a 7 and only 35% of sessions are really suitable for my Tabou Rocket, using a 7 or a 6. I almost never get to use my 5.1.

One thing I would also mention, is that once planing, the Rocket 140 does feel like a smaller board under foot than it actually is - at least that's what other sailors who have had a go on my board report.

What board size do I recommend?

Based on my experience I would look up the weather statistics for your area like I did (See Predicting the Wind). What you really want are the wind roses for each month. These will give you an idea of the extreme wind ranges and how prevalent they are. From this you can make a judgement call on how small you want to go.

The other thing is to make sure you really are getting the most out of your current board. Push it to the max - set the foot straps to the outer positions, learn how to get you feet in them, right out on the rails and see just how fast your current board can go.

All that being said, for a heavy weight sailor I would recommend a minimum of 20-30 litres of positive buoyancy for an intermediate progression board. The difference really comes down to the size of the sails you plan to use on it - which depends on the dominant wind speeds in your area. If your sail a 6.5 or smaller, I would go with 20-25 litres of positive buoyancy. If you sail larger than 6.5, I would go with 25-30 litres of positive buoyancy.

Don't get fooled into going too small

I think the whole windsurfing industry has a lot to answer for. All the magazines are full of pictures to pro's sailing at places like Maui where the wind blows 20+ knots day after day. So they push this image that smaller boards are more fun, extreme and thus way more cool. In the real world where most of the rest of us live, this is an absolute crock of s**t - and to many people get conned into making very poor decisions about boards and sails because of it.

As I said earlier, the light-weight sailors I know who have 80 litres (extremely cool boards) rarely ever get to use them. So you either have a cool board and quiver, and rarely get to windsurf, or you get real, and muck-in when ever you get a chance and simply make the most of it, and choose appropriate gear to match.

What Gavin and I discovered it that while the big days can be fun, the water is rough, the wind is gusty and the sessions sometimes brutal. Gear gets trashed, and its pretty stressful - but its also is also such a rare event, we take on the chin and just go for it.

By comparison, the 12-16 knot days are common, and if you judge the conditions right, you get beautiful, serene blue sky days and flat water. Hiked out on the rails blasting around in 12 knots is like the Zen of windsurfing and it gets pretty addictive. Those are by far my most favoured sessions.

Are you looking to go even smaller?

Yes and no. I would really like to get a wave board - one with rubber shock absorbers under your heals. So I am looking for a big wave board. The best I have found so far is the Exocet Kona Mini Tanker (which in 2012 is called the Exocet Carve 120). I like the compact wide shape with the duck tail. This is the bigest small wave board I have been able to find, (without going to a true long board) so my plan us to loose 10 kg over the summer so I can essentially fit into it ;)

This raises another issue you really should consider when choosing a board. Make sure you can handle the narrower widths. I can't really go much below 65cm planing from a water start, and 75cm is really my minimum for a beach start or uphaul in marginal conditions. At my age, I am just too uncoordinated to go any narrower.

Final thoughts...

Sorry for such a long post to answer your question, but choosing a new board is a serious undertaking, and you kind of get stuck with it once you have made your purchase - particularly if you buy second-hand gear off eBay or Seabreeze. So its a decision that requires quite a bit of deliberation and research.

My key recommendations are:

  • Figure out what you enjoy most about windsurfing.
  • Understand the range and likelihood of conditions you get at your favourite launch site.
  • Decide on the amount of positive buoyancy you will need for your skill level and future skill progression - but as I have pointed out, be realistic.
  • Arrive and some critical numbers for volume, width and length.
  • See if you can get along to a demo day to try out some boards. Be sure to ring them in advance to make sure they have a few boards in the volumes you are after - even 2nd hand trade-ins they might have on the floor. Alternatively go for a holiday somewhere you can hire a board in the volume you are interested in buying.
  • Figure out your budget, and start looking for boards that fit the bill.

When you do get a new board, make sure you push it to the max, get right out on the rails in the straps, before you make any judgements about whether you really like it - or not. I really felt pressured to progress from my Go 165, but every-time I am blasting along in ideal light wind conditions while everyone else in sitting on the beach, I just smile and think who is fooling who - this industry really needs to get real and let people know that a lot of fun can be had in places that are not like Maui by not being extreme ;)

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, December 13, 2011

joe windsurfer said...

Hey Rig Geek Thanks for your prompt and thorough response!!! Like you, I have discovered that I truly enjoy the lighter winds. Anything over 20 knots starts to feel a little intense. Not to say it is not fun. Just like to avoid some of those situations you mentioned. Gear problem is one thing, but weather, water and/or fatigue can get serious quickly.. So, what I have done is purchased a 1990’s Fanatic Ultra CAT this summer and was out planing one day with my MS-2 8-oh while all the kites and boards sat on the beach !! This board goes well with the 8-oh and cruises nicely with my TR-4 10-oh. Once the wind hits 15 knots, I start to consider the AHD 160 with the 8-oh. I can push the board hard and my feet are on the rails at the straps. I have a strap phobia -- straps are at the inward position and I am now considering moving them out since that is where my feet are already! I also purchased a 2000 Fanatic BEE 124 LTD last fall. It was NOT expensive and I wanted to see how I could handle the volume. I can actually uphaul the 8-oh and even schlog home if need be. Wrote a small piece on my blog about uphauling on smaller shortboards … However, there were not many winds to use that board this year. That is why I was wondering if it is worthwhile to have a board inbetween with more flotation. This summer was such a write off !!! Had about 60 outings with over 50 % on a longboard (have a BIC Dufour too – used b4 the CAT) and over 85 % were with the 8.0/8.5!! The 124 is to have me practice shortboard skills and whether there needs to be a board with more liters and width. Think we are in the same category – “older” heavyweights with not too many years on the new shortboards. I weigh 100 kilos, am over 50 and have had what I call 3 good shortboard years – the first one did not count. What this sport brings to us is sport, fun, camradery, and health conscience. I lost about 25 pounds since I started and still jog inbetween summer and winter windsurfing. Yes, I windsurf on ice and snow  Broke my left shoulder testing my first prototype … Now all I gotta do is move where I can windsurf year-round too… Keep up the words and videos !!! joe windsurfer

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Henry Thomas said...

Joe,

Given that most of your sailing is done on an 8 metre free race sail, you are only going to get a marginal benefit from a smaller board - as you point out maybe 25% of sessions. Still, when it blowing a gale, you don't what to get stuck on the beach for want of a smaller board. The thing you have to remember is that biger sails bog the nose of smaller boards down - so you may need some smaller sails too.

I have always found that its better to go with a smaller sail and rig it a bit baggy than a big sail that is tight as a drum and over powered. The centre of effort on a tightly rigged sail tends to get twitchy and is less forgiving. Also if you fall on a tightly rigged sail, you are more likely to damage the stitching.

I developed a gear calculator for wind surfers to help estimate the sails for a full quiver. If you type in 100kg for your weight, your 10m and 8m sails are pretty much sport on, but you would benefit from something around the 6.3-6.5m size for stronger conditions, and a 135lt board might be fit for 16-20+ knot winds.

Still, I would highly recommend that you get your feet in both straps out on the rails. You may need to change your sail trim to accommodate sailing in this position. Mast foot in the centre, long harness lines and boom chest to chin high. Start with getting your front foot in, and the back in the middle for control, then as soon as you feel comfortable start trying to get your back foot in the straps as well. You just need to get on the plain, and before you get too much speed up, point up a bit, to take pressure off the sail, slip your back foot in and point your toes to steer the board back down wind as soon as its in the straps -- if you are too slow, the board will keep pointing up and stall, so its a bit tricky to learn, but well worth it. The difference in speed and control is phenomenal.

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, December 13, 2011

joe windsurfer said...

thx again. I do have am okay 7-oh with cams and an old 6-oh that i use for ice windsurfing. The smaller sails - even 7-oh mean i am in choppy conditions. Thus the need for a smaller board - probably 135 would be ideal as you say - this is what Tinho Dornellas was suggesting as well......As you say, the most important next step is "get in the straps".. Wish i had seen your videos sooner. Better than Jem Hall !! :-) thx again

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dave said...

Hey I am looking at adjusting the rear foot straps like you have, great idea, just 1 question how did you fasten the straps to the stainless steel? I didn't see a thread in the stainless steel mount you made up, I don't think that there is holes in the board in this position to screw the straps into is this right?

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Henry Thomas said...

Hi Dave,

To attach the foot straps, you will notice that I countersunk the opposite side to the bolts that attached to the board. So I countersunk bolts with nyloc nuts. The countersunk head was flush with the strap against the board and the nyloc nut attached inside the footstrap. The Tabou footstraps include a plastic plate, but you could also use a stainless steel washer if your footstrap doesn't feature something like this. This helps to keep the footstrap from twisting as you tighten the nyloc nut. Obviously you have to attach the footstraps to the stainless steel straps first, make sure they are tight, then attach the straps to the board - otherwise the countersunk bolt will just spin because you have no way to hold it in place.

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dave said...

Ahh thanks for that, I missed that detail, great thanks for that I will start on this ASAP

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

joe windsurfer said...

Just to complete the story from my side... I still have my Fanatic Ultra CAT longboard and now also have a BIC Techno Formula which is 94 cm wide. With my 95-100 kilos i can plane from about 10-12 knots using my 10-oh. Between these two(2) boards - over 80 % of my sailing is covered. I have started to use the 8.4 on the Free Formula , which means we are approaching over 90 % of my sailing with the 2 boards... I am now considering selling my 160 litre/79 cm board. That is - once i am proficient with my 7-oh on the 124 litre board. As you say - GET REAL - and rig for the local conditions. Some locals only go when 20 + knots and are wind chasers. I am happy for them, but that does not work for me .... Hope others are learning from our perspective on this !!! good winds joe

Posted 4 years ago on Sunday, June 9, 2013

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