Firewire Vanguard Review // Strapless Kitesurfing

Story of a weird and futuristic shape : The Firewire Vanguard shaped by Daniel Thompson for FireWire Surfboards.


Mark Price, Firewire CEO announced last year a collaboration with Australian surfboard designer/ profesional free surfer Daniel Thomson, founder of Tomo Surfboards.
Non content to work on refining existing design principles, Daniel set out to reinvent the modern surfboard. Drawing on his rich knowledge of design history and utilizing his own elite surfing ability, Daniel is personally able to test his theories and build on the creations that carried the most potential.

Daniel Thomson in Baja testing the Vanguard

Here’s a Daniel Thomson’s interview about the board design :


Kelly Slater on Stu Kennedy’s TOMO planing hull design.



Marc Price – Firewire – CEO, the philosophy of the brand :

“Firewire believes that refinements to the shape of today’s modern surfboards can only produce incremental performance benefits. Exponential improvements in performance require the ongoing development of new materials and construction methods which, in turn, will fuel new design opportunities.”


CEO Mark Price and designer Daniel ‘Tomo’ Thomson talk innovation and the sustainability of Firewire Surfboards.




The story behind Vanguard’s design by Bruce Campbell in Miller’s local blog.

The original board design comes from the shaper Daniel Thomson.  Thomson has forged his reputation on blending the design principles of the thruster – those three-finned, wave-destroying machines that have become standard issue on surfing’s World Tour – with the speed and flow of the 1950s-inspired planing hulls and fishes that have come back into vogue over the past decade. The boards look downright futuristic, some of them resembling fighter jets. Stu Kennedy (pro surfer) was over at Thomsons house for a party and Stu started digging through his boards and when he found this design he simply got up and left and went straight to the beach. It has just grown from there onwards.
See more at


The vanguard tested by Stu Kennedy.

The review :

Part 1. Felix Pivec’s review


First impressions from Felix Pivec (Switchkites boss/ Firewirekiteboards) about the 5’4” Vanguard tested at Mokes, Oahu.
Sailing conditions :
Wind :15-24knots
Kite :7m SwitchKite Combat
Waves: 3-5ft.

The Vanguard goes up wind very easily. It’s like there is no resistance as if you were snowboarding in powder.
On the wave the board glides through flat sections.
The board can be thrown into a variation of turns. The nose comes around out of step section very easily and as there is no swing weight. Feels super sick.
The board has no hook ups and can be contorted into any section of the wave.

Conclusion : Very Interesting Board. I think I could get away with one size smaller as it just has no drag.

The Firewire Vanguard 5’4″ tested by Felix Pivec




Part 2. Review by Philippe Leclair -Team Cornershop Paris , France.

Philippe Leclair on Firewire Vanguard 5’4″

Sailing conditions :
• Side-on regular 20 knts droping to 15 knts at the end of the session
• Rising Tide (current in a good way)
• Rough sea (strong wind at night)
• Small swell 1m / 3-4ft
Board: 5’4” FireWire Vanguard tri fin set up
Kite: Naish Park 9m – 20m lines
Rider: Philippe 1.91 m – 84kg / 6’3” -185lbs

First observation, the tested version is the surf construction. Very light but fragile and it doesn’t fit with a jump session. We decided to protect the deck by a full pad.

The weight is outrageous : 2.9 kg fully covered by a pad and tri fin set up.
The reduced dimensions of the board (length: 5’4 / Width: 45cm /volume: 25l) seemed a bit tight for me. In fact, its special rectangular shape (outline and volume balanced distribution) match more with a 6’0 or 5’11 in a classic shape. No adjustment problem at the first contact, it is stable and starts like clockwork.
It took me a quarter of an hour to find the good feet position, stance and load distribution. The Vanguard requires to surf with your weight more marked on the back foot.
Pleasant surprise, the board is super comfortable and does not hit the chop, thanks to the concave hull and the relative flexible surf version.
The parallel rails (and probably channels on the back hull?) allows sharp up wind.

Surfing on the Vanguard is pure ballin’ because of precise bottom turns and very impressive, aggressive cutbacks. A real toy in this daily skatepark.

On the other hand, I was surprised by the acceleration of the Vanguard going down the wave … unforgivable in strapless riding… but what a fun to chain full speed rollers.

Otherwise, the board is pretty well easy and stable in jibes because the large rear twin diamond tail compensates the general narrowness (for my weight).

I didn’t tested strapless jumps … work in progress on that side.

Conclusion: Tested and approved, longing the kite version of the Vanguard !


Vanguard action video

Here’s a little video sent by Vince Hamon Firewire dealer at Cornershop Paris testing the new gopro line mount and the Vanguard 5’4”:

 Other views of the fighter jet :




Positive points :

  • # Efficient on up wind tacks

  • # Smooth riding sensation

  • # Fast

  • # Predictable whatever the wave section

Negative points :

  • # The Vanguard kite version, reinforced and bullet proof will be available only in 2014 in Europe


Visit  FireWire and The Cornershop to find more infos and grab your Vanguard.



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