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The Astra has been in the North range for a couple of years now and 2023 sees a range of four sizes from 129 to 138cm available. It caters for the lightweight and smaller rider market segment, so we let TheKiteMag’s very own editor Sarah run it through its paces in some mixed-bag winter conditions in the UK.
Shape-wise, we’re presented with a gently tapered outline running into a fairly thin tip section. Gentle concaves run from a quad arrangement in the tip for water entry into a single concave under the center of the board and do a great job of smoothing out chop, with the rail providing a very consistent level of grip through dodgy water states.
The rail shape is fairly square throughout but the ABS is faired back so the rail is not harsh to the touch and measures around 7mm at its thickest point in the center section; it grades back progressively to a much thinner 3mm in the tips. This thin rail is perhaps where some of the magic lies for smaller riders, allowing you to easily load some energy into the board. The medium flex pattern really shines at this stage, and you can feel it power up, where stiffer boards can feel a little dead if you lack the mass to get them to bend and load up. Flex-wise, we found the Astra strikes an excellent balance between the ability to load a lot of power into the board pre takeoff and pop without being harsh to land on.
The Astra has a hard-wearing matte finish, a hybrid construction which mixes a Paulownia wood core with Basalt fiber running longitudinally. There’s a little recess in the center of the board on the toe and heel side for easy grabbing of the rail for board offs. The hardware pack includes some 40mm composite fins as standard, M6 fixings and some neat bespoke washers to spread the load elegantly over the fin apertures. The handle is lightweight and comfortable in the hand with a textured TPU coating making it extra grippy.
A principal gripe we often hear from smaller riders is getting a board with a comfortable stance. In this case, North have narrowed the inserts on the board and provided a range of options where you don’t need to ride with an 80’s rock guitarist’s power stance, this makes for a far more pleasant riding experience. A narrower width also aids the lighter rider to plant a decent edge and hold down more power, where with wider boards a light rider can struggle to load the edge effectively. The luxurious Flex bindings in small/medium size do a great job of catering for smaller and narrower feet, and seem to provide a good balance of cushioning and support, as well as a good range of adjustability in both angle across the foot and fit with a combination of strap placement as well as the Velcro options. They provide a decent level of feedback from the board as well as a direct and reassuring physical connection.
Lightweight riders sometimes get a bad deal when it comes to board choice, with scaled down models of the main product lines being offered without much thought for flex characteristics. North have addressed this admirably with the Astra and provided a twintip very much tailored for purpose, and aiming high with regards to performance. It’s far beyond what you’d expect from a women or kids specific board.
Four important factors combine and balance in the Astra to make it very tailored for task, these being the narrower stance, thinner rail, mid flex level and narrower width. It allows the smaller and lighter rider to ride as aggressively as they wish and hold down more power. Both performant and comfortable to ride, the Astra throws a technically advanced and fully featured board into a sometimes neglected market segment.