Until recently, the only hope you had of finding out how high you can jump was by asking your friends on the beach. Naturally opinions differ and while you felt like you must have cleared a skyscraper, your mates probably had a good laugh.
A few years back a small company brought out the Shadowbox. This was a device you would attach to your board and record your whole session via accelerometer sensors. You could then download the session and compare it to your mates, finally having undisputed proof of your jumping skills. And while being well ahead of its time, the Shadowbox was too expensive, unreliable and bulky.
But the idea was there and a couple of years later, activity trackers that companies such as FitBit have developed for activity tracking, have entered the world of kiteboarding in the shape of a compact sensor that you attach to your board allowing you to get stats on your jump height, hangtime and more. This now enables you to record your sessions, upload them onto your smartphone, compare your jumps via online leaderboards and over time improve your technique.
So far the market for sensors that are specific to kiteboarding is very small. The Woo Sports has made its debut last year as well as the Xensr. However, rushing an electronic device onto the market can often lead to a less than optimal product. In fact, the Woo Sports had various problems such as imprecise height measurements, water entering the housing, corroding charging contacts and a mount that was prone to losing the Woo device. While this has been addressed now via warranties, it did leave a bad taste for many riders who were keen on trying a new gadget on the water.
Being late to the game is therefore not always a disadvantage (just ask Apple) so PIQ decided to take its time developing their own Multisport Sensor and in cooperation with the world’s leading Kiteboarding company North, has brought out the Kiteboarding edition of their sensor.
The PIQ comes in a very GoPro inspired box and interestingly you won´t see the actual sensor until you open the box. What is being displayed is the waterproof casing and the board mount while the actual sensor is below the display box. The reason for this is hinted in its name: Multisport means that the PIQ can be used for many sports and depending on the mount used and the actual program that the sensor is set to, you can use it for Kiteboarding, Golfing, Skiing or Tennis. This means if you wish to record and improve your skiing session, you can use the same sensor by adding one of the mounts, without having to buy another sensor. You can also purchase the sensor separately and then later decide which mounts you wish to add, depending on your preferred sports.
Seeing is believing
This alone already puts the PIQ in its own category but there is more. Without a doubt, the killer feature on the PIQ is its display. All kiteboarding sensors record your session and allow you to view the results once you come off the water by uploading the session onto your app. However, this only lets you know how many jumps you made, how high your highest jump was but unless you were keeping a mental note of each and every jump, these statistics do not help you in understanding how to improve. What´s more, if the sensor did not get a solid reading for your take-off or landing, it will not record the jump which means even memorizing your session in every detail will not help you.
This is why we at Alwayswindy were very keen on getting hold of the PIQ. During our advanced kiteboarding clinics, we make extensive use of high speed video analysis and radio communication. This allows us to give you immediate feedback after any trick, making progression so much easier. When you jump with your PIQ sensor, right after your landing, the very bright display shows you your jump stats and you immediately know whether this time you really did clear the skyscraper and who will be dominating the local highscore list.
Nothing is more frustrating than trying your best to get some air and not understanding why you are not getting sky high. There is a reason why it takes a lot of practice to get really big airs. During our kite clinics we break down a jump into its many elements such as riding speed, load and pop, kite motion, posture and this is where the PIQ shines. You can now go out on a session and try different techniques for each of those elements and get immediate feedback on how this affected your jump.
For the time being, the three main metrics measured by the PIQ are hangtime, height and landing and PIQ is going to expand the functionality in future software updates. Unlike their main competition, this will not require a new sensor because from the beginning, it was designed to be used in various sports, requiring precise measurements on all axis. This is also the reason why it is important how to orientate the sensor when attaching it to your board. While other sensors do not require you to differentiate between left and right when mounting it to your board, the PIQ should be mounted pointing to your left leg, independent of your preferred trick side. But don´t worry, this is all explained in detail in the supplied, easy to understand manual in English, German and French.
In the PIQ box you will also find the PIQ Fuel. This is your charging pod for the sensor which is an external power pack that you can charge via any USB port. The PIQ can run for up to 8 hours on a charge but by using the PIQ Fuel you can recharge it on the go for up to 3 times.
This independence of using a computer is something that PIQ has been emphasising because in order to make the PIQ run, you do not need to be anywhere near a PC and even the firmware updates are done via the app.
There´s an app for that
PIQ´s app is also very well thought out. In fact, one of the founders of PIQ was working for HTC and that quality shines through the usability of the app. Among the usual highscore lists, PIQ is introducing the PIQScore. This score is comprised of an average of your last 6 sessions, where the hangtime, height and landing is added to a combined score.
So let’s say your friend is a C-Kite rider and consistently jumps higher than you on your hybrid/bow kite. However, when it comes to hangtime, he cannot compete and this is where you beat him hands down. So by combining all the metrics into one score, you have a more level playing field allowing you to compete even when the equipment is different. This of course adds to the gamification experience in kiteboarding and after all, fun is what this is all about.
Another setting in the app allows you to modify the welcome message of your PIQ. This can come in very handy and on more than one occasion, I would have ended up riding with Sarah´s sensor instead of my own if it wasn’t for the display showing my custom message right after switching it on. Also being a safety conscious company, PIQ has decided to disable the real time display of your jump stats by default. The idea is for you to do your jump and once completed and free to look at the display, you press the button. But if you are confident enough, you can enable the immediate display in the app, and still recall the last jump stats by pressing on the button as well.
You can define a minimum recording height, allowing for a cleaner display of your best jumps, especially in wavy and choppy conditions. Battery and memory status are also visible in the app, as well as the firmware version. The current version we tested was 4.40.3108 should your PIQ not have the latest version, it will automatically do an over the air update.
The PIQ multisport is without a doubt a polished and well-designed product and as such fits nicely into the North portfolio. Alwayswindy is now using the PIQ on all of our kite clinics and many of our customers will be taking one home as their personal coaching helper. The ability to get immediate feedback after trying a trick over and over again, is invaluable. As the software progresses, PIQ will be adding more metrics which will make fine tuning of any jump related trick easy, painless and most importantly fun.
When it comes to pricing, the PIQ sensor without a mount costs only 149 USD and depending on your preference, you can then add an accessory for kiteboarding, golfing, skiing or tennis separately. If you go for the kiteboarding package you are looking at 208 USD and that includes the GoPro like water proof casing, board mount, PIQ Fuel and of course the PIQ sensor. This puts it in roughly the same price range as its competition but we do believe you get a lot more for your money and are looking forward to integrating the PIQ into our future instructional videos.