Testing is where the magic happens
At North Kiteboarding, we have an array of specialists that make up a Team responsible for the creation and evolution of our innovative and high quality products. So when it came to testing this year, we took everyone to Cape Town. Flying in from all over the globe -Maui, Germany, Sri Lanka, Brazil, New Caledonia, UK – the key players met to make a plan of action for the next 10 days of testing.
Cape Town is a great destination for testing thanks to its reliable and variable conditions. Days often start with light winds, ideal for testing the lower end performance of kites, those bigger sizes and efficiency of our boards. In the afternoon the 'tablecloth' can be seen covering the iconic Table Mountain, from where the Cape Doctor delivers the much loved, and strong South Easterly winds. These conditions are exciting yet tough, but ultimately they are optimal. We really need to push our kites and boards to their boundaries, and it is here that we develop them to retain high performance characteristics, even on their limits.
At North Kiteboarding we rely on customer and rider feedback in order to reach our goal of giving every rider what they want. It is because of this value, that we put a lot of emphasis on the design team working intensively with a handful of Team Riders. Sky Solbach (Rider) and Ken Winner (Kite-Designer), and Tom Court (Rider) and Ralf Groesl (Kite-Designer) are perfect examples of how these longstanding relationships and open lines of communication between the duos, have had a huge impact on the products of today.
Sky and Ken focused the wave riding and foil test days, choosing a variety of spots along the coastline to test all aspects of the wave riding products. Meanwhile, Tom and Ralf headed up the freestyle, wakestyle, freeride and big air disciplines, where they were joined by Aaron Hadlow, Tom Hebert, Reno Romeu, Craig Cunningham, and Colleen Carroll, collectively more feedback helps to further refine products.
Other than developing existing products - often one of the biggest challenges as it is hard to improve on already high performing gear – it is motivating to see innovation brought to life. For 2015, the Vegas concept changed, a specific wakestyle bar was brought to market, we introduced Hadlow's 6 line setup with extra trim options, new materials were sourced and implemented into our products and the POP Boot evolved and continued to be successful. Now if I was to tell you that these products were tested, tuned, tweaked and finalised in Cape Town last year, can you imagine how excited we are for next years gear!?
It's hard to not go into too much detail as I don't want to spoil the surprise for you, but for those 10 days of testing it was inspiring to see visionaries, great minds and talented riders come together, to pour knowledge and passion into the same thing; now that really is True Kiteboarding.
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.
"The process" Episode
Inside Information Rebel 2014 - What's really new?
STRUT CONSTRUCTION 3D
The Struts have been refined with a semi-segmented construction. The segments allow the struts to mimic the shape of the profile, which helps to avoid stress points. The design is very lightweight but also precise, which increases the structural rigidity.
NEW PANEL LAYOUT “FORCE CONTROL”
Compared to 2013, the layer of wave-shaped cloth situated at the boundary between the durable 50-gram D2 Ripstop Canopy and the super tough 160-gram trailing edge dacron is put higher and wider to eliminate stress points between the two materials. This change in construction leads to a better mitigation of flutter and flexing between the dissimilar materials.
In 2014, the Rebel has a slightly deeper and more draft forward profile, which gives the kite a more positive upstroke and smoother transit through the centre of the wind window.
SIZE SPECIFIC TUNING:
The Rebel has been a competitive kite in racing with super lowend and excellent upwind ability. Besides, within the North Kiteboarding line up the Rebel has the best windrange together with the Dyno. Today you could virtually say the Rebel is developing into two different directions.
ONE KITE/TWO PERSPECTIVES
RIDER PERSPECTIVE Sky Solbach
The Rebel 2014 in smaller sizes, talking about size 10 to 5, is my favourite kite when I go wave riding. Mentioning below just some of its performance properties which are essential for waveriding:
— Enormous depower ability
— Smooth turning
— A lot of power, which is especially interesting
for heavier kiters
— Stable and solid feel
— Good drift (the kite does not fly as quickly to
the edge of the wind window which permits to more readily drift downwind) Summarizing, due to the diverse characteristics the new rebel can be described as a High performance Freeride/Wave kite.
DEVELOPER PERSPECTIVE Ken Winner
The bigger size Rebels 14 / 13 / 12 and 11 are characterized
by the following performance properties:
— Super lowend
— Massive hangtime and jumping abilities
— Good upwind performance
— Sheet and go
Based on these properties in the bigger sizes, the Rebel is an absolutely freeride-oriented kite.