Hard Handles VS Soft Handles
Now here is another ongoing debate that is quite interesting. Why is it interesting? Simply because there is no correct answer and not one way to look at things. At the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference...
However, lets look at the facts of what hard handles give you vs what soft handles give you.
Hard handles are mainly used because of the direct control and feel you get out of the wing.
Just thinking about it logically, even if you have never used them before, you are bound to get more control out of them. Every movement, no matter how small causes a reaction and is a lot more precise because the connection you have with the wing is rigid. Unlike soft handles that flex and move, you can get very precise control and reactions from your wing when using hard handles or a boom.
Another advantage would be the hand positioning. Whereas with soft handles your hands always end up sliding down to a specific point of balance on the handle, which is where the wing decides it is balanced, the hard handles allow for more exact hand placements. This might just make the difference when trying to reach max up wind and down wind or the most comfort in specific maneuvers.
Soft handles on the other hand, have one very distinct advantage that I can think of.
They make the wing feel light. Making it lighter also means its easier to and more stable when you are dragging the wing behind you, floating it so to speak. Of course everyone just likes a light wing but the stability while floating and no interference when, for example, riding a wave is what its really all about.
For the above reasons, If there is an option, a lot of people would probably use soft handle wings for riding waves and hard handles for racing and freestyle!
I will say this however, at the time of writing this blog, the advances made already in hard handles make them so light while maintaining all the positives that the extra weight is really not a problem anymore. This is also the reason most brands are shifting to hard handles and at best maybe keeping both options instead of completely replacing the soft handle versions of their wings. If you can have more precision and control and still maintain the lightness of a soft handle wing, why wouldn't you. This means that at the end of the day the shape of the wing will make a bigger difference to things like stability while floating and the feeling of lightness, rather than what handles you have on. So, don't take anyone's recommendation as a complete fact. Try out both versions and see what YOU like more. There is no right or wrong and you might even see your preference shifting while changing your style of riding or simply progressing.