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.
The new Rebel – the designers point of view, By Ken Winner
The Rebel remains a 5-line kite, of course, all for all the usual reasons:
First of all for a short depower stroke and a crisp feel. Anyone who rides waves or has short arms or just likes a responsive kite can appreciate the importance of achieving full depower with a minimal movement of the control bar.
Second, the super stability. If it weren't so easy to keep it in the air, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's made of rock.
Third, easy relaunch in light winds. Even riders who like four-line kites often add a fifth line to make relaunch possible in super-light wind.
Fourth, safety. When you need to get total, complete and perfect depower in half a second, nothing else works as well as a 5th line.
Last but not least, the easy self-landing – for people who don’t want to always depend on someone on the beach catching their kite. Not the safest way to do it, but possible.
Changes in detail:
Sizes 10 to 14 have been tuned for a very short bar stroke and a maximally crisp feel.
Sizes 6 to 8, which naturally tend to be a bit too crisp and responsive, have been tuned for a crispness and responsiveness that's just right. Not soft and slow; not uncomfortably harsh and fast.
9-meter kites can go either way, a bit slow and soft or a bit fast and harsh. We spent some time tuning this one for what we think is just the right feel in a versatile high performance freestyle kite.
Attention! Rebels work best when inflated to at least 6psi. They lose some performance at lower inflation pressures, but will still fly pretty well. By contrast, many kites on the market these days need 8 or 10 psi to fly correctly.
Aspects of the Rebel's overall geometry have not changed. There are still five struts, with the center strut being a floating strut for momentary depower and luffability. Segmentation is much the same from tip strut to tip strut.
Multiple segments through the center of the canopy give good profile fidelity, while one straight segment on each side gives a flat profile where it can do the most good in resisting unwanted luffing and flutter. Five struts give needed structure while allowing for good performance at low inflation pressures.
We kept the overall leading edge diameters fairly large right out through the tips to ensure rock-solid stability and tolerance of low inflation pressures.
The Rebel is a high performance freeride kite, so there's no need to try to minimize diameters at the expense of convenience, stability and easy relaunch. A profile of moderate depth gives Rebels excellent low-end power.
We’ve tuned the bar pressure for the solid feel and reassuring feedback that Rebel riders expect.
The moderately deep and moderately draft-forward profile gives the 2015 Rebel positive upstroke and smooth transit through the center of the wind window.
We have kept our more streamlined, semi-segmented struts from previous years. This gives us low weight and good flexibility.
The Rebel is a mature design with thousands of fans. No rider who likes the Rebel wants to see it change much, so our goal with the Rebel these days is to fine-tune details and ensure that each size works the best it can, for the type of riding it’s best suited to.
Aside from free weights and wakeboarding boats, low weight is almost universally desired in sports products. For 2015 we've pared weight from the Rebel without reducing durability in any way.
Our wavy force spread canopy construction has been refined to involve less cloth and weight than in past years, and it has been extended to the tips. This gives good mitigation of flutter and flexing between the dissimilar materials -- hence better durability -- from kite tip to kite tip.
As always in kite design, you want to have the right shape stability and the right shape flexibility in all the right places. Keeping with that imperative, we went more flexible by slimming and tapering the struts a few years ago. Continuing the trend for 2015, we´ve gone even a little more flexible in the Rebel by removing the Cam Battens.
The trailing edge tension of the Rebel has been refined to reduce the potential for wrinkles and flutter while keeping the correct cone and cupping.
Overall, the Rebel stays a Rebel, still you´ll be surprised and impressed while testing it through al the sizes!
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.
"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.