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.