It's actually quite rare for an entirely new innovation in wakeboard design to come out these days. The O'Brien Valhalla though is a board that breaks the trend and introduces something new.
The Valhalla's innovation comes in the form of Crook fins. These fins are curved fins that are bolted on to the tips of the board on each side.
The theory behind the fins is that by their placement they allow the board to track loosely when the board rides flat, but on edging and landings the fins help it track very well.
The Valhalla tested was the 143 cm version, and it's size is pretty similar to most high level wakeboards on the market right now. It's got 43.1 cm of width making it a nice wide ride that isn't too wide. It's got 2.5 inches of rocker which is also a good solid amount. These are tried and true sizes that have been succeeding for wakeboards for years now.
The Valhalla's shape itself is just a very solid wakeboard shape. It's got a 2.5 inch progressive rocker that provides nice solid pop.
It has variable beveled edges which means they're sharp on the very edge for quick response, but are a thicker edge in general which keeps it from being too fast.
It has a nice V concave to soften landings and provide for quick response on edging.
Besides the Crook Fins it has two molded-in fins, as well as removeable center fins.
The fin choices provide all kinds of options when riding the Valhalla. You could ride with all six fins for maximum tracking, remove the middle fins for a bit of a looser ride, or remove the Crook fins as well for the loosest ride possible.
One thing that bothers me is when board companies pick a name of a board, and slap some graphics on there that have nothing to do with the name.
It's more fun to have a board theme. The Valhalla is one of the best themed boards I've seen.
Not only does the viking graphic fit with the name Valhalla (the viking heaven), but the chrome Crook fins have a sword-like metal quality to them.
When I hopped on the Valhalla and started edging around, it felt like a good solid wakeboard. I rode it without the middle fins, so it had a loose feel like a Liquid Force Substance or a Hyperlite Premier.
The difference came when I really gave it a hard edge such as when edging out hard, or getting in a deep progressive edge. The Crook fins just lock the board in and provide a solid grip all the way through the wake.
I was specifically curious if the Crook fins would cause problems on lipslides, boardslides, surface tricks, or just made it more likely to catch an edge.
I tried various slides on the wake, and had no problem whatsoever. To give it the ultimate test, I did a wake to wake backside 180 and landed wrapped. Instead of passing the handle, I just slid the board back around to unwind myself at normal speed out in the flats, and the Crook fins did not catch the water or disrupt the slide at all. Impressive design by O'Brien.
The Bottom Line
The Valhalla is basically an extremely solid and successful type of wakeboard shape, with the addition of the Crook fins to lock in to serious edges, and help catch yourself on landings.
I will be riding this board quite a bit next season, as I like the combination of the good pop and controlled edging.