Between Armstrong and AXIS there seemed to be a race to be the first to bring out a series of super high aspect, reduced chord wings for their most experienced riders to enjoy. Armstrong got there first with their HA range but AXIS were hot on their heels with the ART wings a month or two later. Both brands have had huge success since these wings were launched and have arguably progressed the entire foiling industry well ahead with their break through ranges, with a good few brands seemingly being left behind.
As wing foiling has developed into possibly the main commercial foiling discipline (especially here in the UK), the brands have been pushed further and further into the pursuit of 'Glide' and speed by the riders. The most popular wing foil spots around the world were, and still are arguably less wave orientated spots. There was more of a push towards going faster for longer as opposed to slaying in waves (although i would argue this is changing now as worldwide ability levels increases).
The beauty of foiling was that we could enjoy these spots instead of battling busy surf lineups with a tonne of other surfers. As an example, one of Ozones biggest markets for the WASP wing in its first season was in fact landlocked Switzerland due to its massive lakes. We were all loving riding smaller swell and feeling like we were in actually riding bigger, more critical conditions. Riders ability levels were increasing and we wanted to go faster while at the same time seeing the potential to glide longer and longer on lines of swell without the power of the wing.
Although the surf wings on the market were ideal shapes for carving around on proper wave faces, they weren't quite so good with the sought after 'Glide' and were fairly slow in reflection. AXIS had a great track record with their Pump n Glide wing family which had much longer spans and were relatively flat compared to everything else on the market at the time. Adrian had anticipated this need for glide early on and had produced these wings for light wind conditions, but they were still fairly slow.
During his constant prototyping, Adrian started playing with longer span wings with increasingly tiny chords - eventually becoming the backbone of the ART range. By reducing the chord of these wings he was able to drastically reduce drag, increase cruising speed while maintaining great pumping ability and glide.
The best way to explain the feel of these wings is simply by saying it feels like the brakes and stabilisers have been taken off. These wings are very quick, and I very much agree with the product description of 'The ultimate friction free ride'. The average cruising speed of these wings is much higher than that of the likes of the BSC and PnG wing families. You may - like me - not consider yourself a speed demon, but once you get used to cruising around at the ART's regular speeds you'll struggle to step back onto slower foils in the same conditions. They allow you to get into and out of whatever situation you may find yourself in, quickly and easily.
We saw a lot of riders jumping from these averagely slower wings in the AXIS family straight to the ART wings when they arrived - and struggle with them. ART stands for AXIS Research Team - ie. these wings have been designed with the best of the best in mind, and I know personally from when I jumped onto the 999 for the first time I was definitely not ready for the difference - it took a lot of adjustment. We now know that the progression from BSC to HPS to ART is strongly recommended. Although not horrendously hard to ride, the ART's are far more responsive due to their reduced chord - in both pitch and yaw. Where the likes of a higher chord wing will let the rider get away with quite of a lot of mistakes before throwing them off - the ART's won't do this. The benefits are wild, but to get these benefits you need to be at a level where you can handle it.
In the waves the ART range can be exceptional, but you have to be able to control the speed, as they can spit you down the face of a wave and out of the 'power zone' quicker than you're used to. Although they will pick up even the smallest bits of wave energy due to their unparalleled efficiency, without action the ARTs will outrun less powerful waves and you'll find yourself out of the pocket and probably being broken onto or pumping to get out of the way of whitewater. All these potential negatives turn into massive advantages in the right hands and/or more powerful waves - where those slower front wings will feel terrifying. Have a watch of AXIS R&D rider Jeremy below for an example of the ART on big waves
The ART's excel in big open faces of swell that you can carve around fully and carry the speed through each turn. The ARTs are also reasonably good at dealing with tip breaching due to the squared off design with a slight twist, this can be a huge benefit while you're getting more and more dialled in with banking over further in your carves.
The ARTs can all handle a lot of speed, even the likes of the 1099 which is nice and refreshing for what will essentially be a lighter wind option for owners. We had the 999 on demo for a long time and got used to this before dropping to the 899 in more powerful conditions. The smaller wings can obviously handle more speed due to their size, but for general riding and reasonable waves the 999 does everything you need and more - you lose a lot of glide dropping down the sizes and this is very noticeable. Saying that, the 899 has become a firm favourite with us now due to its increased manoeuvrability and relative similarity in getting going when comparing to the 999.
The smaller wings are well worth considering if you intend on riding waves more consistently, whereas the 1099 and 999 will be great in smaller surf and for cruising round comfortably at higher speeds in lighter winds. A 1099/899 or 999/799 quiver would work fantastically for the vast majority of options.
The 699 is new at this time. We have no doubt it can be winged by the right riders, but its introduction is all about tow foiling the biggest waves possible - this wing will be lightening, but also twitchy as hell. Not for the feint hearted.
Considerations and Pairings
There was huge hype around the release of the ART family and a huge amount of people love the wings (including myself), however as they became more popular the common complaint about them was that they are less responsive in the 'Roll' axis due to their larger spans. Riders who push it in the waves enjoy their more swept back front wings for a reason - they can roll from left to right extremely easily simply because they have way less span to roll over.
To address this thought, AXIS released the Advance Fuselage's for both red and black series wings to open up 'turnability' and keep them more in line with their competition brands who have a more surfy background (eg. Unifoil - who have always had a much further forward mast connection and have been really popular with surf riders because of their overall feel) More info on the Advance fuselages can be found here in another blog post.
Although the advance fuselages work in opening up each and every wing in the AXIS range in the surf, we would argue the ART's benefit most from the change. Suddenly you get the standard benefits of speed and glide of the ARTs, on top of the turnability in the waves. If you're not bothered about waves, stick to the standard geometry fuselages, otherwise - there are very few disadvantages to moving to the Advance option.
Likewise we feel the ART's pair best with the Power Carbon HM masts, for any heavier riders on these larger span ARTs as well as anyone who rides hard in waves and pushes their gear - the Power Carbon models allow for the ultimate in stiff foil connection and reactiveness.
There seems to be a gap that needs filling - a wing that has the speed of the ARTs but the turning ability of something more surf orientated - we hear rumours of prototypes that are floating around, and Armstrong have just released their 'MA' range to address this same gap. I can only wonder if it won't be long until we have another AXIS product that may well fill this gap....