Rider Review of the 2022 Unit D/LAB wing

Welcome to the rider review of the Duotone UNIT D/LAB WING. We are joined by Klaas Voget who is head of marketing and product management at Duotone’s and Fanatic’s wing foiling division. As also being a member of the test team, we get his feedback and insight on the new wing.

Welcome, Klaas, is this your first trip and time flying the Duotone Unit D/LAB or have you had the chance to ride it back at home?

I had a couple of sessions previously on the Unit D/LAB, being involved in the R&D, I had my hands on some of the first Aluula Units that Ken designed and I must say, from the first moment I touched one of these wings I was incredibly impressed with the flying characteristics. If you’ve tried the new Unit Original you’ll find it is really nice and stable during flight, very positive lift and feels very light in the air. When going onto the D/LAB, it’s just next level, it’s so light, it’s just incredible! You can fly it holding on with two fingers on the handle!

You can throw it on the leash and it just follows you. It has an enormous lift and grunt that just pulls you up. I did one of my biggest jumps ever here in Mauritius during this trip on the Unit D/LAB and I’ve had some pretty awesome jump sessions on it back home too. I think where the Unit D/LAB really shines is when we talk about light wind efficiency because the wing is so light. Even in the lightest breeze of 5-6 knots, I was able to pump myself up onto foil with the 6-meter Unit D/LAB, that’s just impressive! There is so much grunt in that wing, it’s so direct and very, very rigid. I think these are the main things that set this apart from the Unit original aside from the price tag! Everyone will be really impressed when you fly the wing for the first time.

What sizes are available?

The Unit original is available from 2 to 6.5 meters, as the D/LAB really excels in lighter winds we decided to make the range available from 3.5 to 6.5 meters. When you go out on a 2.5-meter wing it’s pretty rough conditions and you’ll appreciate a wing that is a little bit softer and forgiving as the Unit original is when compared to the D/LAB. The 6, 5.5 and 5-meter Unit D/LABs will be really popular and get good feedback as these are the conditions when the wind is lighter and other riders will not be able to fly even on a 7-meter and the 5.5 or 6-meter D/LAB will be going no problem. I think that will be quite impressive to see.

We’ve talked about the performance gains in lighter winds but you recently commented after a jump session out here that the lift it generates on jumps surprised you, tell us a little more about that.

The original Unit also jumps really well, they both have a really positive lift, they’re not pushing down if there are strong winds. Some of our previous wings tended for the nose to push down a little in strong winds, that’s been completely resolved with the new Unit. The Unit D/LAB has an enormous lift as it's so rigid and so direct. If you get a gust on the take-off it just pulls you straight up. I remember one session on the 4.5-meter, by the time I was out on the reef I was quite overpowered, but it was still easy to handle the power. I remember the first kicker I took I felt I was flying to the height of the kite out there, it was a pretty big jump!

Part of the original design for the Unit has been a focus on down winding and wave riding, we’ve had some good sessions out here in the waves, tell us about the performance of the Unit D/LAB in the waves.

The great thing about the Unit D/LAB is with its direct power transfer you can ride a pretty small wing, for example, if you think you would usually need a 5 meter you might be fine with a 4 or 4.5-meter D/LAB. With the physical weight of the wing being so light and the positive lift attributes, it feels like you have nothing there and you are just prone surf foiling, the wing just follows you around without any effort and that is pretty impressive. The Unit original is great in this regard too, but the Unit D/LAB is light as a feather. Unfortunately, the Aluula material is not cheap and brings up the price but people who want to spend the money, I’m sure will not be disappointed and will love these wings!

Let’s talk about air pressures, what do you pump the wings to and how critical is this to the performance of the wing?

Air pressure is a topic we have been exploring more and more on this generation of wings. For our first wing and the Echo, we recommended an air pressure of around 6 psi. We have learnt that the size of the tubes and having different air pressures have a big impact on the character of your wing, if it’s rigid and direct, or if it’s a bit softer for more comfort. The Alulua material featured on the D/LAB has a stiffer character by default. If you pump it to the same PSI as the Unit Original with Dacron, the D/LAB will feel more direct and will be stiffer.

If you have a windsurf background this would be like comparing a glass fibre mast to a carbon mast, which has a faster response and is lighter. The flex is more snappy and direct, it’s crisper and has more performance. This is the difference between the Dacron and Aluula. You have the ability to tune the air pressure you put in your wing, if you are a lighter rider you might not want to put too much pressure your wing as it might be a little too much for your size and shoulder comfort, so you may find you might want to reduce the pressure on the Aluula Unit D/LAB as a lighter rider for example. On the other side, if you are a heavier rider you’ll really appreciate the rigidity and direct response of the Aluula frame of the wing.

You have the opportunity to ride any of the wings in the Duotone range, what sessions are you choosing this wing for and how does that compare to say the Slick?

The current Slick we have has the unique point of the boom, it has infinite hand placement. If I want to do freestyle moves where I need to place my hand in the middle of the boom, or fly one-handed, I can’t do that with the Unit or Unit D/LAB. They have two very good handles and have a decent amount of grip range and options but they don’t cover all the way through. A great point for the Unit and Unit D/LAB is if you want to have the inflate and go option and the same for a quick and easy pack down, not having to remove or fit the boom is a great feature many people will love.

I will use the Unit or Unit D/LAB when riding waves. The handles are lighter than the boom, each handle weighs just 100 grams. If you want the best wave riding performance the D/LAB being the lightest wing we have and would be the choice. With its direct character, the D/LAB Unit is a really good light wind wing. If I was to go out on my local spot with less than 10 knots on a 6-meter Unit D/LAB  the Unit D/LAB would be perfect, it’s just a grunt ball, it pulls me up with ease and brings me through every wind hole. Riding is effortless as it is just so light. If I would enter any race I would pick the D/LAB as every gust translates directly into speed.

I would still choose the Slick for anything freestyle oriented, we launched the Slick last March and are doing further development behind the scenes with the Slick, so ask me in a couple of months from now!

A bit of secret information there! Well, I think that covered everything, thanks again for taking the time to talk us through your thoughts on the Unit D/LAB today Klaas.