Axis Vanguard 2016 review Kiteworld Magazine issue 80

AXIS Vanguard 137 2016

Axis Vanguard 2016 review Kiteworld Magazine issue 80


AXIS focus purely on boards and head designer Adrian Roper has literally decades of various board building design experience under his belt. It seems the Vanguard is the result of lots of carefully tested ideas.

The Vanguard doesn’t conform to the expected freeride / freestyle outline, bottom shape or flex pattern norms. In fact, with its thick rails, wider shape and aggressive channeling, there is more than a hint of a wakestyle feel to the construction and look. As always, we were frothing to see how it would feel out on the water.



Contrary to what you might think when you first pick the Vanguard up and give it the obligatory ‘car park flex test’ by pushing the heel of your hand into the middle of the deck, the Vanguard has an instantly playful feel on the water. Why?

AXIS have created quite a stiff, flat board, added a big, soft rail and generous channeling underneath. Rarely do we see a twin-tip with such thick rails, but they really compliment the stiffness of the board which gives the board its get up and go, while the big, soft rails provide the looseness of a increased rockerline. Unlike a deeply rockered board there’s no chance of the Vanguard losing its drive through the water, though. It has a very playful personality, even in heavy chop, but yet can deliver a serious side of performance.



The Vanguard’s reassuring sturdiness underfoot comes from a resounding stiffness. It’s not uncomfortable, but tells you that the Vanguard is ready to play when you are. Exert a bit of back heel pressure and you can feel that sturdy weight when you get started, but even when only moderately powered, you’re soon up to speed and suddenly it’s not weighty at all; it’s nimble, like its thrusters have all started firing and it’s in its happy place.

There’s never a hint of the board sliding out from under you with those channels obviously helping out and adding lots of comfort considering how stiff the board seems. On landing the Vanguard tracks beautifully every time and can absorb whatever you can throw at it, saving a lot of ‘oh shit’ moments for your ankles if you ride aggressively.

The carve is beautiful and, unlike so many twin-tips which lose their way mid turn, this really comes into its own from halfway through your carve, keeping its boosters on throughout and really helping you maintain good speed on exit. It’s quite astonishing the first time you get it right. Thanks to the grip and confidence you get from the rail and channel combination, you’ll find yourself really tearing into your carves, comfortable in the knowledge that the board won’t skid out midway through.

The fat rail actually tapers very nicely from the middle to the tips, adding to the board’s usable feel and response. In fact, you could give this to a beginner; it’s wide, comfortable, and because beginners are all off / on with their kite control, the stiff stability mixed with the rail forgiveness in the Vanguard would help them out.



Through chop or when slashing the top off a wave the Vanguard offers pace, but also surprising comfort. The obvious grip from the channels encourages you to ride the Vanguard a little flatter, engaging the base of the board into a wave face rather than having to focus on burying the rail to make the board grip, which feels really rewarding.

While the Vanguard has lots of carving grip it also has a very clean release off the water, thanks to the tapering at the tips, which freestylers will really appreciate. The playful, loose feeling means you’ve got a bit of leeway to edge the board round if you land a little shakily to blind, but it also tracks well if landing flat and with a lot of power.

The Vanguard is quite clearly built with durability in mind and our test team had no doubt that you’d be able to throw a lot at it before something went wrong. Bully likes to ride in bindings in the summer and felt that the Vanguard would be an ideal choice as a board you could stick boots on if you felt like it, safe in the knowledge that it would stand up to the extra pressure and still perform well.



The straps and pads offer solid, sturdy support, cupping the heel nicely so you can get very locked in. You can also manoeuvre your heel to find a different angle to twist and lock in for your various grabs. The pad is first class with a couple of different toe bars that will suit different feet and there are five stance angle setting options. Riders with narrower or smaller feet might find themselves wishing for a slightly tighter fit over the bridge of the foot, but the straps / pads do come in a smaller size than the medium / large set that we used.


There is so much substance to this board. Built like a truck, it drives like a Camaro, grips like a Formula One car and handles terrain and landings like an off road Land Rover.


Bombproof construction, beautiful attention to detail, awesome graphics and there’s grip where you need it mixed with a playful ride feel.


We absolutely loved the Vanguard, but it is a beast and some of you may want something softer and lighter – which you’ll find in the AXIS range.


Build quality: 9.5

Fixtures and fittings: 9

Speed: 8.5

Pop: 8

Drive: 8.5

Flex: 7

Comfort: 7.5

Looseness: 7

Grip: 8

Upwind: 8

Slider proof: N/A

Boots applicable: Yes

Freeriding: 8

Freestyle: 8

Ease-of-use: 8.5 (For ambitious freeriders)

SIZES – 148 x 46 /  141 x 44 / 139 x 43 / 137 x 42 / 135 x 41.5 & 133 x 41cm


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