all about our most exciting hobby

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Drone Surfing

If you happen to have a really expensive camera drone lying around and can´t think of anything else to do with it, why not attach a wakeboard rope and bar to it and go out for a wakeskate session! Before you get any idea though, this is not a cheap DJI Phantom drone – its a professional filming rig that might as well be worth what a boat would cost you.

The North Click Bar – Will you know how to fix it?

So it´s out, the “Real Game Changer” from North Kiteboarding and judging by the social media and various forum comments, it is creating quite a commotion. While there are many that applaud North for pushing innovation in our sport, others think this is all going a bit too far. It seems as if we will be seeing an even stronger divide between two kitesurfing groups: The ones who lean more towards the simplicity of sailing equipment, avoiding anything that would complicate their equipment and possibly ruin a windy session on the beach because of some kit malfunction and the second group, that is happy to spend extra money on the latest equipment that lets them enjoy the sport even more.

This split is also reflecting in the way kite manufacturers lead their innovations. While North is aiming for very integrated and “German” engineered bar, Cabrinha looks for a more natural feel, simpler solution to the spreader bar with their Fireball system.

But with such “complicated” equipment, you also have to accept that maintenance is not just a rinse in clear water and instead requires you to either read a manual or at least watch instructional videos. Judging by how often we need to explain how to correctly trim your bar, it´s safe to say the majority throws their printed manuals for their bars and lines into the bin as soon as they unpack their kit, so it´s a good thing North has decided to release a whole series of videos that explain in detail how to take the Click Bar apart and replace every single part in it.

Here is the one that explains how to replace the EVA floaters, which nicely shows the inner workings of the North Click Bar.

The Game Changer from North Kiteboarding is Here

Last month I wrote about how the depower systems on all bars are a bit of a crutch and would be the next thing that kitesurfing companies will be looking into changing. Now North has finally spilled the beans and released the Click Bar.

As most of you, I have my reservations on how this will last through sand, sun and salt but if you have a look at the patent that Boards & More (the company that owns North) registered back in 2010, you can see this is not a newfangled idea and has been thoroughly tested for many years.

B&M-Patent

 

The idea is laid out in detail and as I already wrote in last months post, other companies such as Ocean Rodeo and Best Kiteboarding, are also working on a similar solution to trimming the kite via the backlines. So it is safe to assume that North has put the Click Bar through some rigorous testing to ensure it will not seize up, no matter how much sand and salt water you throw at it. In fact, during the wave competition in Tarifa, a few teamriders were already seen riding on the Click Bar and considering that pro riders would not be too happy with gear failures during a competition, one can assume that this bar is a solid piece of kit.

Alas my wish for a grip shift system has not been realized yet but I would not be surprised to see something similar coming to the market soon. While I am sure that using the ratchet to wind and release the back lines will become second nature, I still think the ideal solution would be to be able to do the same without having to release any hand from the bar, similar to the grip shift systems on bicycles.

Sarah and I are now on our way to our latest spot (still a bit of a secret but let´s just say this will become the next Gökova in Europe) and will be busy shooting new instructionals as well as making a few gear reviews for North (PIQ vs. Woo….) and maybe we will get a Click Bar too, so stay tuned!

 

What passiert in der Türkei?

Have we reached “Peak Kite”?

Do you really want that knee brace in your kitebag?

 

 

Travelling to different kitesurf spots, you most probably will have seen quite a few kiters wearing knee braces and maybe your local pro is wearing them on both knees. Tom Court even released a video on how he went to get his braces made. And I am sure while there are a few out there that think it’s a fashion statement, the reality is that knee injuries are becoming quite a regular injury for our sport. So why is that?

One of the obvious issues is that as our sport changes, so do the “trends” and one of those is to be riding in boots. Now while there is nothing wrong with boots (I switched to boots a few years back), it does mean that there is a very solid connection between the board and your legs which in a crash will usually not come undone. And similar to snowboarding, this solid connection adds a lot of strain on your ligaments in your knees. While riding with straps, a wipe out usually comes with loosing your board and unless you are very unlucky and only one of your feet comes free, your knees will most probably be fine.

But straps are also not necessarily your savior – hard landings such as missed kiteloops or any other high risk trick, can also mean you are coming down hard and that impact goes straight up into your knees.

So then what can you do? Well one thing that anybody can and should do is train the muscles that support your knee and ligaments. My winter activities include mountain biking and snowboarding, both of which keep my legs in shape and ready for those hard landings. There are also plenty of videos online explaining best training practices for knee rehab and strengthening. Also remember to do some basic warm up and stretching for your knee joints before going out onto the water. But I hear you, we are not getting any younger and all that might not be enough so what else can you do?

Well, I will tell you my secret: I am 42 now and both of my knees are still holding up well, even after some very ugly megaloop smashes and that comes down to one thing: The right board! See that picture above? That’s my 6th broken board and I am smiling. No, I did not loose my mind and no, I don’t get my boards for free. What I do is I ride boards that are actually a bit on the softer side and in my recent years, wearing boots only made me choose a slightly larger size but not a harder board.

While your classic freestyle/wakestyle board is about as flexible as a tomb stone, I ride a North Jaime and if you check out the specs on that board, you will see it actually is not meant to be used with boots. In fact as you can see from the photo above, one of my landings in boots pretty much split that board in half and on my previous boards the crack would be somewhere close to the inside of my rear boot. Every time that happens I walk away smiling because the board took the punishment and not my knees.

So if you are in the “older” half of the age bracket or simply want to avoid having to wear knee braces at some point down your kitesurfing career, think about getting a slightly softer board, sacrificing a bit of pop for the good of your knees.

El Gouna IKA World Kiteboarding Championship 2016

It´s confusing to say the least but whatever championship you wish to follow, effectively what counts is which riders are in it. By the looks of it, the IKA is the one that will be considered to be the one to follow and if Aaron is in it, I´m fine following it too. Even Lewis Crathern made it as a commentator and it is good to see him back at a beach again.

The footage shot during the event is good albeit not as well made as it was during the Virgin Championships. Still, worth a watch.

 

What happened at the King of the Air 2016?

With the current disaster of the KTA and ex PKRA and VKWC, the only kitesurfing competition that makes a splash these days is the Red Bull King of the Air. This year we saw Aaron Hadlow take his second win back to back who’s solid megaloop handlepasses proved once again why he won the world championship so many times (in case you wondered, 5x).

But what made the sad headlines were the crashes of our friend Lewis Crathern and Lasse Walker. Both had very similar crashes with Lewis coming down from a higher megaloop.

Being an engineer and doing megaloops myself, I was interested in understanding the dynamics of the trick and the reason for the crashes. The number one rule on any loop is of course to commit 100% because nothing hurts more than half a loop. While that clearly is not an issue for top riders like Lewis and Lasse, in both cases the reason why the kite stalls (stops pulling and rising up) is because of a lack in line tension. While doing the loop, the kite generates loads of horizontal pull since it is being sent straight through the powerzone but once it leaves that zone, the pull starts to decrease very rapidly and this is where it is important for the kite to start moving up to act as your “parachute” so that when you come swinging down from the initial pull, the kite ends up above your head. If you have plenty of height left, you can kill that off by doing smaller “helicopter” loops which allow you to come in gently:

If however, you do not have enough height, the kite will not have time to start pulling up which results in you impacting the water like a comet:

Lewis and Lasse both had the height but unlike us mere mortal kitesurfers, they add a backroll which with the sudden pull of the kiteloop results in an inverted backroll. The danger here is that by dropping back down from that inversion, you cannot maintain the tension in your kitelines sufficiently in order to send the kite back up. To clarify this a bit more, if you have ever ridden straight downwind towards your kite and tried to steer it with the lines slack, you will have noticed that not only wont the kite steer, it often will even start to backstall.

Now combined with the very low megaloop, the riders are pretty much free falling and don’t get a chance to steer the kite up as they are dropping towards the water. In an interview with Kiteworld, Aaron explains just this issue when coming down from the megaloop:

In theory, if they had more height, they would eventually “swing it out” and the kite would pull up as the lines regain tension but these riders are pretty much maxing out the possible jump height. Every jump is initialised with a wave as a kicker and they ride towards it with the maximum boardspeed allowed by the wind and water conditions so there just is not much room for improvement and I would argue that it is due to the megaloop that they get that last centimetres higher which make these jumps so spectacular.

In effect, this then shows how close these pro riders are to the limits of what is possible in kiting today and that even the best of them can misjudge the timing and push the limits a bit too far.

We wish both Lewis and Lasse a speedy recovery and hope to be able to see these extreme riders ruling the skies once again.

Swapping brands like underwear

Lewsi Crathern North Kiteboarding

There was a time when you could associate most top riders with a particular brand. Think of Ruben and Slingshot, Jaime and North, Gisela and Airush and many more. But little by little, riders started swapping their brands not so much based on the kite preferences but on the associated pay check. And while this from the riders perspective is understandable, it does not really pan out as a plus for the brands. When Best kiteboarding started buying up all the top riders did that mean their kites were the number one choice for these riders? Were they riding all these years with kites from other brands but not “fully” reaching their potential and goals? Probably not. After all, they got their top spots with their previous gear so it could not have been that bad, right?!

So how important is then brand loyalty for a team rider and his sponsor? One thing to consider is that a lot of the kites are nowadays very similar and quite exchangeable for the majority of average kite buyers. Riding an Evo or a Bandit? Is there that much difference for the average kiter who is happy to mow the lawn and occasionally pop a backroll off a small wave? Probably not and then he also is probably not going to be swayed in his choice of equipment by seeing some teamrider win the world cup with his brand of kite.

Which leaves us with really only the advanced riders who do not buy a kite based on the ever present marketing hype of “best kite in all conditions for every rider blah blah blah” but on what really works for them and their bag of tricks. Does then this type of rider get influenced by seeing their kite on a podium? I am not sure and by swapping the kite brands around on nearly a yearly basis, I doubt it helps at all.

So then what is truly left is the brand awareness and here is where I believe brand loyalty of a team rider to a particular brand is essential. What does it say about a brand that picks up nearly all top riders one year and then drops them just as quickly the next? Will you now associate Lewis Crathern with Best Kiteboarding or Slingshot or from now on, North? What is a team rider to say on the beach when asked by fellow kiters what he thinks of a Best GP vs a Slingshot Fuel and what made him change?

Of course it all comes down to the amount of “green” a rider can get and let’s face it – a pro kiteboarder is not going to become rich from riding and competing. However, from a brand perspective, I believe it is not helping them to promote themselves by not sticking to their guns.

That being said, it is nice to see some brands trying to buck this trend and pick up the riders that not only are innovative and unique in kiteboarding but also stick with them. So welcome Lewis Crathern to North Kiteboarding where I am sure you and Aaron will be sticking around for some time yet because you know there truly is only one kite out there that can get you higher…

Is Kitesurfing going mainstream?

I bet you have had to say the following or similar many times before: “No it’s not surfing, but you do use a similar board”, “So you know what windsurfing is? Well it is similar but we use a kite instead of a sail”… Let’s face it, our sport is a niche sport and until it becomes an Olympic discipline, we will still need to explain to the majority of people what it is that we do on the water.

But things are changing and while advertising has started to pick up kitesurfing as a young and hip background activity to promote their latest outdoor / offroad SUV’s and what not, it looks like we are getting our first big scale exposure via an animated movie called “capture the Flag”.

It’s clearly aimed at kids but we all know that it’s them who push this sport forward so it does make sense to aim it at them. Enjoy!