The Dream Team of the future. Aaron Hadlow joins North Kiteboarding!
He is one of Kiteboarding' s most prestigious riders, 5 x World Champion and an inspiration to kiteboarders across the globe with his sheer style, ruthless technicality and British persona. The name has been seen on kites since 2008, boards since 2004 and he was landing double handle passes over 10 years ago. Bringing years of experience in product development, we are proud to announce that Aaron Hadlow has joined the North Kiteboarding Team.
At just 25 years old, Hadlow's kiteboarding career has been exceptional throughout. Forever advancing at a pace that left the rest of the PKRA competition fleet behind, Aaron has carved a name for himself deep into the kiteboarding industry. Having managed his own brand within Flexifoil for years, he speaks about how he is excited to be part of a team after a longtime being responsible for everything from product development and marketing, all the while trying to find time to train and travel on the PKRA tour.
Hadlow joins North Kiteboarding not only as a rider and Team member, but will be involved heavily in R&D. Between his extensive knowledge and time on the water, teamed with North Kiteboarding's product development and setup, it's as if the 'Dream Team' has finally joined forces and it's more that he could have ever imagined.
I'm excited about joining North Kiteboarding and it's great to be supported by such a knowledgeable and experienced team. It's obviously a massive step for me, but I feel that this partnership has a lot of synergy and potential.”
So what's next? Hadlow joins a Team of life long friends such as Jaime Herraiz and Tom Court, so you can expect some great videos from Tom and Aaron as the work and travel together. North Kiteboarding also has PKRA riders Mario, Stefan and Reno to offer up some in-house healthy rivalry on the tour. And finally, next month Aaron will be headed to Hood River with the other Vegas riders for his first Team shoot, so stay tuned on how that goes.
Welcome to North Kiteboarding Aaron Hadlow!
photo credit: Toby Bromwich
Ken Winner about the new "Juice"
What do you say when your mobile phone is out of battery? You say it's out of Juice. What do you say when your kite doesn't have enough power? Again, you're out of juice. We can't help you with the first problem, but for the second . . . we have Juice.
There are at least three main types of big kites:
-There are the big race kites, which are fast and have big wind range but aren't generally the best for handling or jumping. These kites need at least five struts and need to be light, so they have to be lightly built and are not the most bomb-proof kites around.
-Then there are the big airstyle kites, which have great wind range and jumping but are slow turning. These kites don't have to be particularly light because they are flown in plenty of wind, but this means they aren't the best at staying in the air in light wind.
- Finally, there are the big handling-oriented kites. These have to be light, durable and quick-turning. They're good for jumping and popping in light wind, but can also go big when powered. Unlike airstyle kites, they need to be nimble and quick. Unlike race kites, it's ok if they're not the last word in upwind performance.
This is where the Juice comes in. The Juice is based roughly on the Neo arc, strut count, profile and outline, but the aspect ratio has been stretched from 4.5 to 5.3, and the leading edge diameter has been shrunk a bit. The center strut is conventional -- so as to improve overall stability -- and the back pigtail is conventional because a relaunch bungee won't work well on such a thick LE tip.
Big kites have so much canopy area that they can really benefit from the stability provided by a lot of struts. Unfortunately, struts also add a lot of weight. We opted for three struts on the Juice because this number provides the best combination of low weight, high durability and good canopy stability.
You might wonder why not build a big kite with minimal weight by eliminating all struts, and this is certainly something we've considered. But our experience indicates that the lack of structure in strutless kites robs them not only of top end comfort and depower but also low end power. Add this to the tip flutter in turns and the strutless option seem limited.
The Neo has a floating strut in the center to give more complete luffing when sheeted out. We felt this was desirable on a smaller kite like the Neo. For the Juice, however, which is a much bigger kite, we felt a conventional strut in the center would give needed canopy stability.
The Juice shares the Neo arc. This arc gives a high segment count for good profile fidelity. It also provides smooth and quick steering while keeping good depower and sheet-go power delivery.
We know from testing a wide variety of kites that high aspect ratios can improve bar feel and depower in big kites by quite a bit. High AR can be overdone, as it can give an excessively long and heavy leading edge, but a moderate AR can be just right. With the Juice we found that an AR of 5.3 gave a nice short bar stroke without hurting other aspects of handling such as quick turning.
Given how well the Neo is working, we decided to stick with Neo profiles for the Juice.
We like to have several bridle anchor points on the leading edge so that bridle loads on the leading edge are well distributed. This led us to go with eight front bridle anchors.
We also like a bridle as short as possible, to reduce the chances of tangles and snags. The shortest bridles we tested did not give the best bar feel or turning ability so we lengthened the bridle to the point where steering and bar feel were good. This left the bridle still short enough that it can’t loop over the end of the leading edge.
Finally, we had to consider whether to go with a pseudo-pulley or fixed front pigtail. Since using a pulley would permit the Neo to work with a greater variety of safety systems, we decided to go with one pulley on each side of the front bridle. But we also knew that a pulley could make the kite feel a little less crisp and responsive. Fortunately, combining the pulley with a stopper – as we’ve done on the Neo and Dyno – allowed us to keep both the pulleys and the crisp bar feel that we were looking for.
Juice in summary
Steering / turning
Moderately narrow arc and wide tips give super-quick turning.
Drift / hover
The low weight, low strut count and low center of gravity of the Juice keep it very stable in the air. It flies well in the lightest of winds and resists stalling, both front and back, better than nearly any other kite.
Owing to the smooth, round turning and short bar stroke (for kites this big), the Juice has consistent, linear, sheet-go power delivery.
The high aspect ratio helps deliver quick, easy depower.
We’ve minimized materials where possible on the Juice, so keep the weight down, but have included all usual reinforcements.
Court's Council - Product Tips & Tricks
After getting a lot of questions from people on the beaches of the world, Tom Court decided to start a little series of videos on how to do those little things that nobody ever tells you how to do.
So, Courts Council will be an ongoing series explaining some of the things that help. It is a video blog for all the useful product tip & tricks that Tom Court learns along the ways.
Any questions that you have about you northkiteboarding equipment, bars, boots, boards or kites... then hopefully he can help you with this series of short clips listing some of the lesser know tricks that will help you trim your kite to your style!
Follow Court's Council ... http://goo.gl/hglXy2
Tom Court talks testing the Gambler!
Tom Court is NKB’s wakestyle guru with a passion for freeriding. He may still be young but he is long in the tooth when it comes to riding boots and hitting rails. At just 14 he was shaping some of his own kiteboards on the Isle of Wight which attracted the attention of Channel 4 who made a documentary series on it. Now, with years of experience under his belt and a longterm sponsorship with North Kiteboarding, he has pushed the development of the Gambler and has become the go-too guy for NKB. We caught up with him to find out what he looks for in a board, where he draws his inspiration and how he goes about testing the product.
When did you first notice there was a gap in the North Range for the Gambler?
7 Years ago I started riding boots and i’ve never looked back. Soon after I was hitting rails and features and spending time at the cable park which has been a big influence in my style of riding. This basically opened up what I saw as a gap in the North Kiteboarding range to design a board to be ridden specifically with boots.
Before the Gambler, the existing boards in the range such as the Team Series, the Jaime and other ‘rider’ models were just too flat and very similar. The only real changing factor was the flex pattern. This was all great when riding straps but for my style of riding there needed to be alterations in the rocker and materials used. It was inevitable that progression of wakestyle would grow, which it did and immediately I saw a need for something stronger and more durable.
Once North Kiteboarding hopped on the idea to create the Gambler what was the process and where was inspiration drawn from.
Inspiration was drawn from the existing wakestyle kite scene. There was a desire for a something that you could use as a crossover. Basically, I wanted one board that I could take on a trip, ride cable and kite without too much of a compromise and I knew there were many kiteboarders out there looking for the same thing. We looked at taking the durability from a wakeboard in order to hit rails constantly without damaging the board, and the efficient design and high tech materials from a kiteboard. At the end of the day we still have to go upwind! It has taken about 3 years to get enough rocker on the board, but we are getting there. (laughs)
As a rider, it has been a really interesting process to be involved in developing something specific to my style of riding. Now that Craig Cunningham has joined the NKB Team, it helps in focusing the Gambler down the specific rail riding route. It’s huge in the US so it’s great that he can bring a lot of his knowledge to the table.
Constant development is needed. How do you test the prototypes and what are you looking for?
Testing a board like the Gambler requires a lot of different elements. Riding intensively behind a kite is crucial but also using it at the cable and behind a boat helps to add perspective to the overall functionality. I’m always searching for the ideal flex pattern in order for the board to press correctly under the transfer of weight. This pattern needs to eliminate torsional flex (twisting motion) which you can get a lot of when riding boots as there is a lot more leverage then with footstraps. I evaluate the base material for wear and damage as this happens quicker than you think when hitting the obstacles. How the board is tracking in the water with and without fins. The rocker pattern is key as too much rocker means you can’t go upwind on a kite efficiently, and too little will have you sticking to the features and unable to ride away on the landings. The track system has to be compatible and work with all types of boots and be able to endure hard landings and crashes. The list is endless for testing and then of course there is the graphic design side. It’s amazing to see how much hard work and development goes into just one board!
What’s the best thing about the current Gambler?
It’s weight and efficiency. If you combine the Gambler with Ronix boots it is easily the lightest wakestyle board on the market with little or no compromise to durability. Even though it has a fairly high rocker aspect it still retains maximum efficiency when going upwind.
You’re testing at the moment for next year. Where is the Gambler headed in your opinion?
The next step with the Gambler is to start really experimenting with different materials all over. The materials are the things that have huge influence over the characteristics of the board. The future of the Gambler is to drive it down a more specified route angled towards getting maximum time on the water. Wind, or no wind this board will cater for kiting and riding cable regardless of the conditions or aspect of riding you are trying to refine. It will be the ultimate crossover board that you can have confidence in no matter the task in hand.
The Gambler sounds like a pretty specific and high tech board? Is it a board that can be ridden by anyone or any level?
Fundamentally the Gambler is nothing more than a comfortable board to ride when in boots. If you want to use it with straps, it may have just a bit too much rocker but, if you’re good enough to ride boots confidently behind a kite and you like the cable then the Gambler is the board for you.
Ken Winner and Sky Solbach´s inside view about the new Neo
The 2014 Neo is a full-on dedicated wave kite. It's got all of the key performance characteristics we felt a wave kite really needs to have and also happens to be a really fun and playful free-ride kite.
1. Quick, "round" turning. Everyone knows quick turning is good for waves because allows you to position yourself exactly where you want to be on the wave and allows you to make small corrections in kite positioning at a moment's notice. But the real key to the Neo is not just the quickness of the turning but the WAY in which it turns. It has what we are calling "round" turning, which means that it really tracks through a turn and generates power immediately and equally all the way through the wind window. This means that when you are on a wave you can generate power whenever you need it, no matter where the kite is in the window. This opens up a lot of new possibilities and really helps to link more turns together with flow.
2. Drift. Drift is super important for surfing waves because it allows you to park your kite and focus on surfing the wave rather than constantly needing to steer your kite and follow it through every bottom and top turn. The Neo's amazing drift gives you more room for error when surfing waves and allows you to recover from those mistakes without dropping your kite. We spent a lot of time testing the Neo's tolerance to slacked lines and optimizing the weight in the wingtips to drift straight backwards and not twist and fall nose down.
3. Lots of low-end power. The low-end power of the Neo allows you to ride a kite 1 to 2 square meters smaller than you normally would. This means you have a small, more compact and faster turning kite in all conditions.
4: Quick relaunch. The compact shape of the Neo makes relaunch super easy and allows you to get your kite up quickly before getting munched by the next wave!
The Neo has evolved into a pure wave kite, so Maui is the perfect place for developing it further.
And while the image of Maui involves perfect peeling ground swell and strong, steady sideshore wind, the reality is different. Sure, there are perfect days, but there are also a lot of days days with average waves and gusty wind. And while we test Neo protos at breaks like Lanes and Ho'okipa and Outer Sprecks, we also test at Waiehu, where the waves consist head-high to triple-head-high wind swell, and the onshore wind from 10 to 30 knots.
The 2013 Neo was a great starting point, as it had many great qualities already, so we focused on building its strengths: good power, easy turning and excellent drift.
As everyone knows, one of the most important qualities of a wave kite is its ability to turn quickly and precisely. The easiest and surest way to make any kite design turn quickly is to make it small, so for 2014 we bumped up the power of the Neo. This means riders can ride smaller, faster-turning kites than they may be used to. It's not uncommon for Sky to be riding at a Maui break on a Neo two meters smaller than what other good riders are using.
Quick turning also requires a kite that doesn't luff or flutter a lot on the side that is on the outside of the turn. We kept this luffing and fluttering, which is common on three-strut kites, to a minimum through careful strut placement and profile design. The profiles in the tips are quite flat and even the first profile above the tips struts were carefully tuned to avoid the draggy luffing that can slow turning.The two leech battens on each side help with this also.
Drift is another key quality in a wave kite. This is improved through optimized weight distribution. We had great drift with the zero-strut protos we tried, but surprisingly we had even better drift with the two- and three-strut protos. Something about the lower center of gravity.
Relaunch on the Neo is almost effortless and almost instantaneous, in large part because of the tight cone and increased sweep.