The three Bridge brothers, UK all make the podium at the European Freestyle Championships!
St. Pierre la Mer, France played host to the 10th Junior European Freestyle Championships, from the 18th-21st April. Young kitesurfers from all over Europe gathered for this annual freestyle showdown where every year, the level of riding gets higher. Day one kicked off at 8am for Team Bridge, who were here to compete for their age category ; Tom age 9-13yrs, Guy 14-15yrs and Olly 16-19yrs. The event started with the youngest age category in the form of a Dingle elimination. Conditions were variable and challenging. Huge gusts wiped riders off the water and lulls barely provided enough to stay upwind, so choosing the right kite size was tough. Tom stepped up his game during his heat to put some great scoring tricks together for the Judges. After four heats using the Vegas 5 or 7m, Tom made it to the Final against his old Team Mate from Spain, Javier Jimenez. For the 3rd year running, Tom won the Title and was ecstatic by his performance in the challenging conditions.
Next up was Olly in the first heat of the 16-19's Single Elimination. Throwing down some big powered moves he was off to a great start, but this was not enough to beat his first opponent from Holland. Olly’s freestyle day was over and all he had to think about was the big come back in the Doubles the following day.
Guy put in a performance that was the biggest surprise of the whole day! Staying on the ladder all the way through to the Final of the 14-15 yr category, his riding in the shocking conditions improved as he went through the heats. Guy came off the water grinning, stoked as he made the best heat of his life. Having made the Final, against Spanish Youth Champion, Noe Font and Zurick, Guy was amped on the outcome of a 3rd place in this division.
Day 2 was greeted with another early start and first up was Olly, who was on a mission to make it back in the Double Eliminations. A sunny start combined with a cold Tramontana, gave the same unpredictable conditions and gusts as the previous day. Olly had a couple of blinding heats to put him back in the game but then the going got really tough. Cycling through the rounds of the Doubles, he was only back on the beach for a couple of minutes rest before his next heat. It was certainly good physical training and although he was not riding to the level he does when he Freerides, his competition strategy and experience showed. After 4 hours of straight competition, Olly made it to the mens Final with Dutch rival, Van Der Meis and french opponent Guillerbert. A poor choice of kite and exhaustion meant it wasn’t his best performance of the day, putting him in 3rd place overall. A result and come back like this however, is highly motivating for Olly who is current mens European Race Champion and did this discipline 'just for fun' on a borrowed board.
While the Freestyle antics was going on, young Tom had been practicing his race skills around the Boarder Cross course. This involves jumping over long inflatable objects in the water and round buoys in a race knockout with 4 other opponents. Fast, fun and exciting, with lots of crashes, Tom managed to win his category in this discipline.
Back in the Uk Team Bridge are practicing for the next stop on the tour - the Youth PKRA World Championships in June.
Airton drops it like it's hot in Sardinia!
Last week, 8 of the worlds best Kiteboarders from across the globe headed to Sardinia, Italy to go head to head for the Red Bull Unfastened title. The first ever pure strapless Kiteboarding competition, it's a unique and interesting event that offers up a different judging criteria to those of the events we are used to seeing in Kiteboarding. The idea is to test the all round skills of the riders, so it's easy to see why Sardinia played host to the event, presenting a great variety of spots and variable sea conditions.
Pure wave riding, strapless flat water freestyle and a combo category of wave and freestyle riding, were the three possible disciplines for the event. There has been a lot of buzz around the strapless wave riding movement recently as technically, it has evolved in great leaps and bounds. Taking the foundations of classic surfing and drawing influences from skateboarding for riding in flat water, it now has a clear 'street style' with huge scope for riders to be creative. Host of the event was North Kiteboarding rider Airton Cozzolino. Originally from Cape Verde he has been living on the island of Sardinia for the past 10 years. With a Wave World title under his belt and very at home riding his local spots, he proved hot competition to the other riders. Other North Kiteboarding Team members partaking in the event were Patri McLaughlin and Matchu Lopes.
Flat water freestyle kicked off the event where North Kiteboarding Team member Patri McLaughlin from Hawaii, put on a jaw dropping show in the picturesque location of Fontanamare. Wowing the International judging panel with his freestyle repertoire he put up a good fight but, unfortunately he was pipped to the post by Airton, the local. The following day the tables turned and after hitting the water with all guns blazing, Patri was unanimously awarded the win for Best Trick with an 'Unhooked Aerial 180 HP surface'.
The battle ground had been on fire for the duration of the event and although the waves failed to put in an appearance, the North Kiteboarding riders proved that they truly are some of the worlds best strapless riders. Inspiring, innovative and influential Matchu, Patri and Airton are the future of this discipline. Despite the fierce competition, it was Airton who was crowned the overall winner, showing the others that he really is the strapless Boss.
Ignite your strapless style and check out the North Kiteboarding Wave boards HERE
Keeping it stylish, New Cal style! Tom´s kitchen II is out!
Returning to your screens in a cloud of smoke donning a voluminous hair style is Tom Herbert, the high flying crazy cat from New Caledonia, back again with the second episode of his series Tom's Kitchen. A refreshing and comedic approach to a kiteboarding video Tom is all about style. In this second episode he takes simple manoeuvres such as the Back Roll, Tick Tac, Barefoot and Double Front Roll showing you how to add some showmanship to your riding.
When he was young, Tom always wanted to fly and kiting gave him the sensations he was looking for. This is immaculately reflected in his style on the water and his wish is to allow you to achieve the same.
Rocking the North Kiteboarding Evo and Team Series he'll have you perfectly tuned into the old school way of riding where going big will give you the ultimate adrenaline fix. So, next time you get out on the water and you are stunted for tricks to try, take a leaf out of Toms book a get some 'out of the ordinary' moves dialled in and under your belt.
...and remember, there are many ways to be stylish, so be creative. New Cal STYLE!!!
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.
Tom Hebert the uncrowned Red Bull King of the Air
Tom Hebert is one of the original Kiteboarders starting in 1998 and has been a North International Team rider for 3 years. Born and bred in New Caledonia he’s the man who’s put old school riding back on the map with his 25 m jumps, flair and monumental amount of style. We caught up with him after the Red Bull King Of the Air competition where he soared through the heats, dominating with his ‘WOW’ factor and crowd pleasing, it looked like he was hot competition for the podium. Unfortunately he had a heavy crash that took him out of the running but he was the name that everyone was talking about.
Hi Tom, how are you feeling after the event?
Not so good, (laughs) I ‘m in quite a lot of pain.
Your crash has over 90,000 views and has gone viral. What was going through your mind at the time?
I arrived late to the kicker which put me off balance straight away. At 25 meters high and mid rotation I saw that my kite was pointing down towards the water. I lost all orientation and had very little control. I tried to correct it and get it right but it was too late.
The event is called King Of The Air. With this style of riding being your forte and having a lot of experience, tell us about your ultimate equipment set up.
The Evo is the ultimate kite for me. I pair it with 24 meter lines and the Team Series board with straps. The Team Series is everything I look for in a board; it’s fast and light. I ride the 140cm x 42cm as a bigger board is softer in the chop and offers more stability on the landings. I ‘m not a huge fan of using a handle for board-offs so I like to put a bit of foam on the top edge of the board and patch of skate grip on the bottom. It gives me a firm grip especially here in the cold water where you can’t feel your hands.
The Evo in my opinion, is the perfect kite from the North range. It provides the best lift and has a lot of hang-time especially with longer 24m lines aiding to deliver more duration to the jump.
How do you set your equipment up to go so high?
It’s really important to get maximum power and output from the kite, even if that means riding with my arm extended and the bar all the way out. I gain height from a combination of sending the kite and pulling down on the bar. It’s simple, you need to be overpowered to go big. I always make sure that I pump my kite really hard, this way it maintains it’s form and reacts well to anything I initiate. I know that 6psi is ideal but I never put less than 8psi.
On anything smaller than a 10m kite, I move the back pigtails to the harder setting and then to the softer setting for the larger sizes. I also move the lines to the inside setting of the bar on any kite under 10 meters. This way there are no surprises with your kite moving too fast or being too responsive. 4.6cm fins provide me with the grip I need to go high, especially when overpowered and my stance is around 50cm. If it’s too narrow you loose stability and it also looks a bit strange.
Kiteboarding started with a hang-time style of riding but, there has been so much influence from wakestyle over the past years with everyone riding boots. How do you think this sort of event will shape the future of old school riding?
I think old school riding is going to come back sooner than we think. Kiting is a sport that has developed through mirroring other board sports. Wakestyle is like wakeboarding and wave riding like surfing. However, kiting is an original sport where you can do tricks that you can’t do in any other. The main reason I kite and where I get a lot of pleasure is by going high and performing tricks that I can’t do in any other sport. I’m not saying that wakestyle is bad but it’s just that I prefer to go 25 meters up. You name me another water sport where you can do that. Kiting needs to find it’s own way and not copy other sports. You only need to ask a wakeboarder what they think of kiteboarding and they’ll say that we are copying them, which is a shame as kiting is an original sport. That’s why I like old school and it’s nice to see the Red Bull King Of The Air supporting this. It would be great to have more events like this over the year as it attracts many spectators putting kiteboarding on their radar. It also helps those unfamiliar with the sport to understand it a bit more as the style of tricks aren't too technical. It’s impressive.
There are not many people doing this style of riding anymore, it seems that old school got lost along the way in the growth of the sport. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
When kiteboarding started we didn’t have a clue about it’s potential. We just went riding and tried to invent new moves. Creativity is key and I draw a lot of this from talking with other riders. In New Caledonia we haven't given up on the old school and we still push this style of riding together and do new tricks. I suppose I draw inspiration from my home spot where there are many people still loyal to big air. For sure if you are alone it’s hard, but with a group of friends there is competition which makes it a bit more challenging.
Is ‘old school’ the new ‘new school’?
I think so, it’s certainly making a come back. You need to incorporate manoeuvres that look dangerous and hard all the while keep the fluidity and style too. There are so many options so, for now it is an infinite side of the sport. There is always space for new tricks.
What do you think of the riding conditions in South Africa?
Cape Town is not the easiest place to ride, it’s really windy with big waves. There are very few places in the world where you can go so high. Coming from New Caledonia, I’m used to 18-20knts and 25-30 degrees. Here the water is so cold it’s hard to find the motivation to put a wetsuit on but, as it’s rare to find somewhere with such perfect and massive kickers, it compensates for cold water that I’m not used to. The only problem is that it gets crowded, so you need to take a lot of care when going big as there will always be someone in your way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
For anyone that wants to go high, do board-offs and rock the old school style then they need to ride the Evo. It’s the ultimate jumping machine. Also with the new NKB Tracker app available soon the contest is on! My record is 25 meters so I accept the challenge wherever you are.