SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”: the review with Hugh Mitchell

22nd December 2023

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In one of our latest reviews of SUNOVA boards, @jb_zazou, owner of an Aviator Downwind Elite, told us what a great board the SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18″ seemed to him. We wanted to know more! So we asked Hugh Mitchell to review this board for us. After Sven Mayer, who introduced us to his Aviator Wing, and Tom Saunders, who gave us a tour of the new Carver board, Hugh Mitchell is another talented Australian rider who’s very much into SUNOVA. First a wingfoiler, then a surf foiler, Hugh is now full into downwind foiling, but always with a SUNOVA under his feet. Co-creator of The Foil Project podcast, Hugh tells us all about his SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”.

Hugh with his SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”

Hi Hugh, welcome to TotalWing! First of all, can you introduce yourself ?

Thanks for having me Laurie! Most people around foiling might know me by my instagram @mitchell.foils but my full name is Hugh Mitchell. I first started foiling in late 2019 when my Dad bought a wing set up for us to share, and I was hooked. From there, I continued to learn to wing foil and started to learn surf/dock foiling, and now my latest addiction, Downwind foiling. I have progressed through heaps of gear, starting on Axis foils then moving to Lift and finally to Code Foils, but the entire time I have been using Sunova boards. I have also worked in The Foil Shop and run The Foil Project podcast since I finished high school in 2021. I have met so many amazing people and stoked to be a part of this epic sport!

Hugh at the Mayor’s Cup Downwind Foil Race

Can you tell me a bit about your podcast The Foil Project ?

The Foil Project initially started in early year 12 when one of my design teachers, Steve Mclean (or to us Mr. Mclean) invited a group of boys to be a part of a co-curricular board building course. Steve was already building and designing boards himself, and just like me, he had recently been introduced to foiling.

Making of the Foil Project board

So along with a group of 5 of my best school mates we started shaping prone foil boards from scratch. Soon the large 4x2m blocks of foam turned into our carbon vacuum packed boards with high density foam inserts and even a rice paper graphic on the bottom of mine.

The Foil Project board with a rice paper graphic

After we completed our boards, Steve floated the idea of using the podcast studio in the school to create a foil specific podcast. I had some experience editing videos so along with two of my best mates Max and Noah we jumped on the idea and filmed our first episode. Initially we had all the gear and no idea, and the first couple of episodes were a bit shaky. At some point we invited our first guest Marcus Tardrew in to join us, and from there we found our feet. Since then we have done 9 casual sit down interviews with guests at the cutting edge of the sport including James Casey and Armie Armstrong.

The Foil Project board

You seem to ride only SUNOVA boards, what’s your connection with the brand?

From working in The Foil Shop I have gained a good relationship with Marcus Tardrew who is the lead designer for Sunova. I have always been impressed by his knowledge of foiling, and trust the decisions and designs that he creates. So for me it has always been an easy decision to ride Sunova. Marcus has also been very generous to me, giving me the opportunity to ride some of his prototype boards. I have always been stoked with my Sunova boards quality and it has been amazing to see how the design has progressed over the past 4 years.

Photo: @samgraymedia

What’s your SUNOVA board quiver?

At the moment I have just two boards in my quiver, a 4’5 Sunova Pilot and a 6’10 Aviator Downwind 18. The Pilot covers all my Prone foiling and dock starting needs, while I use the Aviator for Downwind nearly everyday during summer! I also recently sold a 4’6 sink start wingboard as I found myself winging far less now that I have been hooked by the downwind bug. Hopefully soon I can get another wing board in my quiver, and this time I would definitely be looking for something that is not a sinker so that I can land airs without sinking underwater. I think one of the smaller carver boards would be the perfect choice.

We wanted to talk to you specifically about the Aviator Downwind 18. Can you tell us about it?

As the name suggests the Aviator Downwind 18 is 18 inches wide, so they are super long and skinny and look almost like a toothpick. Some of the interesting design features include: rounded square rails which help with stability; a triangular shaped hull towards the nose that helps the board pierce the water, this then transitions to a double concave and eventually a flat base for the foil attachment; and tail that lifts up to allows the tail to easily and quickly release from the water when paddling up. The board is designed to help the user paddle up easily by slicing through the water, but its skinny width also makes it surprisingly maneuverable and lets you place the board on crazy angles without it touching the water or the wingtips breaching. Like all Sunova boards the Aviator Downwind 18 is made using the TR3tec which involves carbon fiber rails and a fiberglass balsa wood sandwich along the rest of the board. I find mine to be crazy light and comparable to a completely carbon fiber board.

Hugh at the Mayor’s Cup Downwind Foil Race

This board is 18″ wide, but is available in several lengths, from 6’6″ to 8’6″! What size do you have it in? And how do you recommend choosing the length?

I currently have the 6’10 model, which for me is a good balance between volume and maneuverability. I think picking the length can vary drastically for what someone is trying to get out of the board. For people getting into the sport for the first time, I would always err on the side of caution and go for a longer board because they are much easier to paddle up onto foil with. Apart from that I think it comes down to the volume factor. My board is 10L more than my bodyweight, and as a relatively experienced rider I would not go any less than this. The majority of riders would probably want to use boards with 20L+ volume over their body weight. I also think that most riders would have more success using a board that is 20” wide as it just lends a little bit more stability in choppy conditions.

Hugh winging with SUNOVA Downwind prototype

For which program is this board designed, and in which conditions have you used it?

The Sunova Downwind 18 is specifically designed for Downwind SUP foiling. I use it in all wind conditions ranging from light breezes less than 10kn all the way up to absolutely crazy days with 40kn+ gusts! To deal with these wind differences I often change my foil setup.

What do you like about this board? How did the SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18 feel on the water?

I really like the lightweight feeling of this board, I was very surprised at how well you can crank turns once you really want to. Before you are up and foiling, the board is undoubtedly trickier to stand on than a wider board, but once you get the hang of it you can paddle surprisingly quickly.

Hugh with his SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”

With which foils do you use your Aviator DW 18?

I am currently using Code Foils. I own the 850S, medium fuse and 150AR tail combo with both a 75cm and an 85cm mast. This is the most common setup that I use, but from working at the shop I have had access to test and try some of the other code foils. If the wind is light I will likely use the 770R or 860R front wing for their amazing glide, and if it is getting windy I will normally opt for the 720S. The 720S + 142 tail combo turns like nothing I have ever tried before.

Hugh with his SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”

I’ll leave you with the last word?

Just like I leave in the description of The Foil Project podcasts: Until next time… Stay Pumped!!!

Hugh with his SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18”

More about the SUNOVA Aviator Downwind 18” on the SUNOVA Website.

Follow Hugh Mitchell:

More about The Foil Project:
Instagram / Official Website / YouTube

Watch the Foil Project with Marcus Tardrew:

More about SUNOVA:
Facebook / Instagram / Official Website

About the Author

Laurie Montagner

From SUP Racing to wing foiling, through windsurfing, wakesurfing and surfing, you will always find Laurie somewhere in the South-West of France. Passionate about watersports, Laurie spends her time surfing, whether on the wave... or online! Laurie is indeed a specialist in social media marketing and web development, from writing lines of code to making professional videos. Very much a competitor, you've probably already met her on one of the SUP and wing events all over France!

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