... but nothing's just black or white ....
Praising some windsurf companies, that elsewhere in these pages are criticized for questionable moral.
Here you shall find a couple of examples that the same companies that elsewhere in these pages has been rightfully exposed to contempt also display some qualities.
Maui Sails (Spanier/McGain): Communications - and solutions without frills.
Maui Sails shall be credited for having a homepage with an open forum that to my knowledge isn't censored. OK, Spanier might be a little self-righteous and sensitive - especially when it comes to the near history (he loves to hate Neil Pryde!). In a time when free, open exchange of views more and more are subdued to (short-term) commercial considerations (Neil Pryde closed its international forum in the autumn '06 after heavy - but fair - critique), Spanier shall be praised for his stubborn sticking to a democratic debate that isn't always in favour of his own products. And although the debate in the Maui Sails' forum perhaps isn't as intensive as it was in the old Gaastra forum in the good old The Team days - the Maui Sails/Spanier forum is still the place to visit, when it comes to interesting, nerded and loooong discussions.
Maui Sails are proponents of the small steps philosophy, and is thereby not giving the buyers/sailors that kind of cruel experiences with breakdowns, often ruining the whole season. Spanier seem to be pretty traditional in choice of sail cloth and other materials, and he's very concerned (and quick to point out) if the new things coming from the competitors are gimmicks. Even if Spanier often almost has to be forced by the market mechanism to take new actions (for instance in the question about wide mast sleeves that he first accepted after having criticized the concept for 3 whole seasons) his approach of reluctance has pretty often helped us (the sailors) to wait a little jumping on the newest, somewhat risky "breakthroughs".
Starboard: Communikation, innovation and diversity.
Even if it ought to be a matter of course that the biggest windsurf companies have a kind of forum linked to their homepages, unfortunately this isn't always the case. Bic/Tiga, F2 and North Sails, for instance, have never dared to communicate with their costumers, and lately also Neil Pryde has sought shelter. So much more you have to credit Starboard that this company both sees the opportunities in discussing with the customers - and from time to time also accepts a good punish from sour and hot-headed people.
There is one reason, why the Starboard forum is one of the biggest and most visited in the business: If you're lucky to push the right buttons most of the experts of the company shall discuss with you or answer your questions. And to notice - the experts know what they're talking about.
Starboard also has a rather unique combination of being innovative in materials (for instance glass/wood (veneer) sandwich instead of carbon/PVC (or equivalent) sandwich) and design (for instance very short, wide boards or deep channels in the bottoms) - and at the same time remembering to work hard to get away from the quality flaws that always happen from time to time (fin boxes, delaminating spots etc.). It seems as if Starboard is pretty close related (at least geographically) to the all domination boards plant on earth (Cobra), and this probably makes it a lot easier to catch most of the construction defects and other quality flaws relatively quickly.
Finally, let's not forget that Starboard has a enormous selection of boards. If you like the Starboard-typical designs or the solutions in the details you shall be very unlucky not to find a board to fit your preferences in size and/or sailing conditions.
Neil Pryde: Development, innovation – and best performing sails.
Neil Pryde has a well deserved reputation for pushing the sail development forward. Of course, we can't overlook the other side of the coin (over-commercial ("oily") customer contacts, fragile designs and not always durable solutions) - but we can't overlook the very competitive (as to sailing performance) designs, the expensive/exotic materials and the sophisticated constructions either.
For the reason alone, that Neil Pryde is the biggest sail brand - and having some of the best sailors in their team, of course - Neil Pryde probably has the best test program (as to functions, not durability). And probably it's also a little easier to test the sails, when the distances between the sails (at least in the formula sizes) are almost 1 meter. Other brands often have distances of down to 0,5 meter, and it's a qualified guess that not all sizes are tested very well.
If you look for reasons for the good performances, notice the details. A couple of examples:
When it comes to the performance issues, there can be little doubt that Neil Pryde sets the standard that other brands constantly try to reach (most often in vain). You can feel it very clearly, when you try a Neil Pryde race sail, after having sailed with a race sail from an other brand through the season. It's just like coming home again - the static/dynamic weight, the balance, the predictability, the wind span and the stability is second to none.