RE: Mistral Naish 8'11 - any experiences?
I'm sympathetic to that.
I've put an EVA foam pad on one of my boards - a C131 - I'm not really worried about the C131 but I had some friends that were struggling to get in the straps and on (what I viewed as) harder boards to sail and jibe, and I wanted to feel comfortable with loaning out the board. So I put on a nose protector.
In the case of the Naish, as I said it got accidentally dinged a couple of times, and I decided to sand the nose down to the glass (which, BTW, is a single layer of open weave fiber that I would guess to be about 8 oz. cloth) and added some layers of glass / WEST epoxy. Since the mods, I HAVE had some very hard launches (ran aground on a 3.7 day), and the nose is quite solid. I didn't want to make the nose "harder/stiffer" than the rest of the board, so I mainly glassed the rails and faired it into the body a good bit. The Mistral / Naish boards are FRAGILE, because they are made of the ultimately lightest production technology they could muster at the time. The upside is that they are fast as all getout and get HUGE air. Remember, Robby himself said about the 8'7", "The faster you go, the higher you jump". He got that right!
Depending on how you want to use a board, who's going to use it, what the projected conditions are, etc., I think the EVA pad is a logical pick.
Without naming specific devices, there are gizmos that attach to the mast base and are designed to deflect the mast away from the nose. I've never used one of those, because I intend to STEP right where they want me to put this THANG. So I reject all such options.
I myself wouldn't hesitate to get any of the boards in this quiver (in fact I've wanted my buddy to decide to sell me his 8'5" wave). But if I thought it would be vulnerable to nose dings, I'd reinforce the nose a little straight away. It's a good winter project...