2022 UNIT: Behind the Design

In this instalment of Behind the Design, we talk to designer Ken Winner and delve deep into the new design and technical features on the latest Duotone UNIT WING.

Hi Ken and welcome, first off, could you tell us what were the design goals for the new Unit?

When we started working on the new Unit, we knew we wanted to achieve at least three goals. We wanted to have rigid handles. The floppy handles don’t work too well, no matter who makes them. We wanted to have a really good lift while luffing or flying on the leash so that when you let go of the wing or are holding it by the handle, it wants to lift rather than fall and we wanted to make sure it had really good stability for following behind the rider when the rider is riding on a wave or swell. All of these qualities are really valuable for surfing or down winding. The Unit started with the focus to be our surf wing and it still is a surf wing, but obviously, a better surf wing than ever before.

What changes have you made to the shape?

While improving the Unit we didn’t make big changes to the outline, the wingspan or the dihedral. We did add more twist as this helps with the stability and consistent power delivery. The strut shape is a bit different, in part because we have different handles.One of the other changes we made in the new Unit, is that we went to a deeper canopy profile in the centre and thinned that out to flat tips. Flat tips help with stability and high-end performance, and the deeper canopy in the centre helps with power. These combined with the stiffer leading edge deliver better jumping performance, so jumping with the new Unit is quite a bit better than the previous version.

What were some of the challenges with the new design?

One of the hard things to achieve with a wing is a consistent lift, you want the wing to be lifting all the time. Whether you have a big gust or a big lull, you would like the wing to be lifting rather than dropping and it wasn’t that easy to achieve the amount of lift that we were shooting for. By increasing the spanwise tension on the canopy and a couple of other small changes we have a wing that lifts really consistently, so if you want to do a tack we have a wing that creates lift through the tack. If you get hit by a big gust the wing lifts through the gust. This makes the high end range of the wing much better and it can handle a lot of wind much more easily.

One of the stand out features are the new rigid handles, tell us a little about the new handles.

A couple of things I can say about the handles, they are light, weighing in the same as the carbon boom from the Slick. Another is that you only need the two of them, you don’t need three or four or five as seen on other wings, these handles are long enough that having one in the front and one in the back are all the handles you need. You’re not fumbling trying to find the right handle, you can just slide your hand to the right position without having to switch to another handle.

We covered shape and materials, were there any other technical changes to the design?

One of the technical changes we’ve made to the Unit is we have given the canopy panels a spanwise orientation so that the warp threads, which are the strongest in the cloth, are aligned with the loads through the canopy. This allows the canopy to retain its shape through gusts and lulls which provides better stability and easier handling.

Alongside the drift and jumping performance, the team riders have commented that they have felt the Unit to be an overall stiffer and more responsive previous model. Have the materials remained the same for the new Unit?

One point of substantial similarity between the previous Unit and the new one is using Dacron in the leading edge, but one difference is the Dacron in the panels towards the centre is a heavier, stiffer Dacron, which means at the point of the highest bending loads we have Dacron with a higher resistance to bending loads, which turns out to be quite a lot stiffer in the most important place where it needs to be stiffer.

Thanks again Ken for taking us through the redesign of the Duotone Unit, please give us a summary of the features of the new model.

So overall the benefits of the new Unit design are better stability while luffing, better lift, through tacks, in lulls or gusts, better surfing and jumping performance