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.
Vegas 2015 by Aaron Hadlow and Ralf Grösel
Q: The Vegas is obviously a completely new kite, how could an icon like the Vegas be redesigned from scratch!?
A: (Ralf Grösel) As on the EVO and the DICE, we have worked on the new Vegas more than two years, parallel to the existing kite lines. The main target was to create a superior kite for our team riders, to enable them to push their level and style. But, without losing the special VEGAS DNA. Unfortunately this target was everything but easy to achieve. The needs for guys at the pinnacle of a sport are completely different to the needs of our customers, even if they are really good kiteboarders.
Q: Aaron Hadlow is on the team since a couple of weeks only, how could he influence the development?
A: (Ralf) I met Aaron in January 2014 in Cape Town. We knew each other from other projects already and just started chatting about the Vegas and directions of kite development. We realized pretty fast, we are talking the same language in terms of kite design and started quite quickly to work on this project together. Aaron is using his 6 line system for years now, which I tried for the first time on the Vegas and was impressed by the way the kite changed by only using this different line setup. Six lines sounds a bit much on the first view, but is actually quite easy to handle. The goal now was to find a perfect kite for Aaron, but still offering depower.
Q: For which kitesurfers in mind are you designing the Vegas?
A: (Ralf) By using three very different line setups, we achieved that the kite has still a similar DNA to the previous Vegas models once you fly the kite on the normal 5th line bar. But by using the new Wakestyle Bar, the kite turns into the most versatile and extreme competition kite available on the market. So a typical Vegas fan to me is a rider aiming at competitions, using boots and smashing kiteloops, but also riders riding in straps, enjoying their hooked freestyle and high jumps, all offered with a really direct feeling, you´ll always know where your kite stands in the wind window, eyes closed, guaranteed.
Q: Why does the Vegas still have 5 lines?
A: (Ralf) The Vegas always needed a supported LE bridle. All available line setups are supporting the structural stiffness of the whole kite, which ensures a smooth and predictable handling and pop. Only with the 5th line it´s possible to produce this typical direct Vegas feeling and the big depower on a very short depower stroke on the bar. Additionally, the 5th line safety is still the fastest and safest safety solution.
Q: Why is it so important to use the right line length?
A: (Ralf) The handling and reactivity of a kite highly depends on the line length. The Vegas should be used with a 22m bar for all sizes below 12m², 24m above 12 m². I develop all the small sizes on 22m lines, so all small kites work perfectly on short lines. The kites feel more direct, crispier and with smoother, more predictable power development. For more low end at the big sizes I recommend 24m lines.
Thank you, Ralf.
The Hadlow Setup by Aaron Hadlow
The Hadlow set up is very personal to me, it started out as a sketch in my notebook many years ago, I was trying to give the kite support without loosing any performance. I needed something that would support the kite and make it totally stable whilst keeping the bar simple and free of clutter, as if it was a 4 line set up.
I tested this concept and it turned out to work so well that I still use it to this day. The Vegas is already a very stable kite and works well with a 5th line, the tension in the 5th line gives the kite some additional characteristics.
The Hadlow set up gives a similar LE support but changes the feel of the kite totally. Instead of an independent 5th line the Hadlow set up starts out like a conventional 4 line bar, and then 4 meters away from the kite the front lines split, your normal 4 lines attach in the conventional way but now you are left with 2 more lines that connect to the LE instead of your 5th line ‘V’. By eliminating the 5th line you reduce drag. The support lines on the Hadlow set up keep the kite solid, stable and ridged, the minimal drag of these lines do not effect or depower the kite in anyway. It remains in the C shape, free from deformation, in which the kite performs best. When riding a kite I am looking for a consistent, driving turn that generates a consistent power supply when turning, this set up does just this by producing a wider, smoother turn arc and kite loop. All the pressure is taken through the front lines and this allows the kite to behave in such a way.
With the 5th line, where some pressure is taken though the centre of the kite, the kite tends to pivot around this point. It’s a feeling that comes down to personal preference but this is one of the main reasons I use this system. Up until now many people have been put off or uninterested because of the lack of information.
Now with North Kiteboarding we have further developed the system to work reliably for safety and relaunch with a comprehensive explanation on the set up. It’s just like remapping or adding a chip to your car’s engine and now it is accessible to all! I’m so glad I can now share the benefits that I feel and just add it to your new Vegas.
Noticeable changes from the conventional 5th line are the turning of the kite and its overall performance and speed. The Hadlow set up gives a similar LE support but changes the feel of the kite totally. The support lines on the Hadlow set up keep the kite solid, stable and ridged. It remains in the C shape, free from deformation, in which the kite performs best.
When riding a kite I am looking for a consistent, driving turn that generates a consistent power supply when turning, this set up does just this by producing a wider, smoother turn arc and kite loop. With North Kiteboarding we have further developed the system to work reliably for safety and relaunch with a comprehensive explanation on the set up.
Dice - The designer’s perspective
Ralf Grösel is the designer of, and mastermind behind the highly successful Dice. Since its launch last year it has proved to be a bestseller, and is still the reigning champ as the most sold Kite from the North Kiteboarding range, EVER!
Ralf, what's the secret!?
The Dice is amazingly versatile with a lot of playful character.
As you were designing the Kite, did you have a specific type of rider in mind?
We built the foundations of the Dice by taking influence from the Neo concept. From this, we were able to target a wide range of riders. The Dice is an all-round performer, similar to the Evo but lighter due to its 3 strut design which is orientated towards enhanced handling.
Throughout the development process, we realised that everyone within the R&D Team enjoyed the Dice. From Wave to Wake and Freestyle riders, no one was left disappointed.
Can you tell us a little more about the three strut concept teamed with a four line bar ? The three strut concept delivers a lighter and crisper feeling to the rider via the bar. Being light in the hands is an important aspect of Wave riding as the Kite has to travel with the rider in a smooth, consistent way. The disadvantages come within the stiffness the structure has in the canopy however, we were able to compensate against this with a new bridle geometry and attachment points on the front tube.
Why is it so important to use the right line length?
Line length is essential for handling and positioning of the Kite within the Wind Window. Short lines make the Kite more reactive and responsive. Longer lines can improve low end performance.
What is the best line length suited to each size of Kite?
It's quite simple really. I suggest using 24m lines for 12m and above, otherwise I would use 22m.
What are the benefits of using the Dice regarding the following:
The Kite has a very round canopy radius, similar to a C-Kite. This means the Kite can turn very tight and fast.
The Dice has very close looping abilities to that of the Vegas although the horizontal pull is not as extreme, which can help you to push your limits. The Dice is Tom Court's favorite Kite for extreme Kite Loops and is also my first choice when it comes to strong and gusty conditions.
The Dice has great jumping abilities. The Kite pulls you extremely high giving you the opportunity to perform new and old school tricks. I would recommend that riders use the hard steering setting on the back pigtails for high and aggressive jumps.
Alongside the NEO, the Dice has very good drift. This performance helps the rider to fully concentrate on the Wave and not on the Kite.
For unhooked maneuvers, the Vegas is The machine however, the Dice has no backstall tendencies at all and great unhooked pop. This characteristic makes it a very versatile Kite for Wakestyle moves.
Ralf, who should buy this kite?
Kitesurfers who want to combine best of both worlds (Freestyle unhooked and Wave riding) For those looking for specialist, specific styles of riding there might be some small disadvantages. Ultimately, the Dice will make any rider happy on any board in any conditions, every single day.
EVO 2014, an insight view with Ralf Grösel
Ralf, to start simple, what´s new about the 2014 EVO?
Ralf Grösel: A lot!! The Evo 2014 is not based on the 2013 model but a completely new design coming out of two different prototype directions. This Evo is a kite I´ve been developing for the last two years, this means the first prototypes have already been built parallel to the Evo 2013. Which was kind of strange but necessary to come from a new approach.
What was the challenge about it and why did the development take so long?
Ralf Grösel: Since the introduction to the market in 2008 the Evo was very Delta-oriented. This concept direction offers a lot of positive aspects, but also a lot of limiting factors. Over the years I really pushed the kites’ overall performance to the absolute limit in-between the concept, until I really came to the point where I just could not improve the Delta-shape anymore in 2013. I already saw that coming in 2012 and therefore needed the time to work in time on the new concept and be ready after these two years for a new direction.
What do we have in our hands now?
Ralf Grösel: At the end of the day, a completely new kite, which offers some of the typical Evo genes, but also is a completely different construction and direction. The Evo is trimmed to maximum performance combined with perfect handling. Developed to fit perfectly to a 4 line bar, I found a perfect match for the geometry combining stability with flexibility of the whole kite construction. Not to mention several prototypes…
Sounds a bit like a conflict…
Ralf Grösel: On the first view, yes. But I can explain it easily:
The higher aspect ratio and the flatter radius, which are even similar to a Rebel, have been optimized on the other hand to a very very stiff and compact system through several small changes. A lot of flexibility in the tip area to achieve that great handling, stiffness in the profile for bomb proof stability. But it is indeed tricky to combine these two characteristics, which pull in opposite directions!
Any other changes?
Ralf Grösel: Several, just to mention the changed panel layout, remarkable thinner struts to reduce weight, a different tip geometry and a new bridle system with to rolls at both sides to depower efficiently.
Where in the North Kiteboarding Range is the Evo seen in your view?
Ralf Grösel: The Evo is and will stay the all-round talent inbetween the North Kiteboarding range. But, the Evo made a huge step forward regarding the overall performance. Steady is the extremely easy water relaunch and the brilliant stability.
What does that mean in detail for the pilot?
Ralf Grösel: The general speed of the kite in the wind window has increased, the upwind ability is just insane and the depower is now massive. Jumping is super easy, anybody can boost highest jumps with smooth landings with this kite. Compared to last years models flight time and height has increased a lot.
NKB: Where is the Evo´s position next to the completely new Dice?
Ralf Grösel: The Dice is nothing more or less then the jackpot. We never had a kite which started this fast and with so many good feedback from team riders and customers at the same time, never sold several thousand pieces of one kite model in the first year.
Still, the Evo is a different concept with 5 struts and all the benefits which come with it and the potential to surprise, especially Evo lovers! The Dice is a specialist´s kite for advanced freestyle/wakestyle and advanced wave riding. The Evo´s jumping ability for classic moves and classic riding are just easier and more stable. As mentioned, the Evo jumps high, wide and long!
Test one, you´ll be surprised!!
Thank you Ralf for this inside you of your perspective!
Vegas DevelopmentBy Ralf Grösel
The testing and fine-tuning started with the small sizes, from 6 to 10m. Even with just those sizes we made some major changes, I’d even go so far as to say a small Revolution! The 6, 7, 8 and 9m sizes are the best kite designs I have ever built so far. The very first prototypes for this design were already being tested in South Africa back in 2011!! They had been based on the 2011 model but with a different panel layout and alternative profiles. At the end of the development of the Vegas 2012, I knew this system had been developed to its limits – time for a change. So I started to invent a new Vegas platform parallel to the existing shapes, not wanting to mess anything up, the Vegas is such a great kite, but I was looking for that extra element. As it often happens in life, after many prototypes and designs on the computer, the final piece of the puzzle came from a direction I first didn’t think of, it happened during the final phase of the Neo 2012 development. This means, the Vegas 2013 is based more on the Neo design than on the last Vegas design! It might sound strange and may lead to you thinking the Neo was developed for three struts, which it definitely wasn’t at all. The reason is all the new elementary knowledge about steering-input, the stiffness of structures and new Tip-Layouts of three strut kites! But don’t you worry, the Vegas is still a pure Vegas. Just the new results made me rethink some common physics in kite design and made me able to design the best Vegas ever. I’d even say, the best high depower C-kite ever…
CHANGES FROM 2012
-More profile in between centre and quarter strut.
-Bigger profile creating bigger pop.
-No tip battens.
-Open radius, even more Cshape.
-Edges in the tips.
-Closing Trailing Edge diameter for more pop and hangtime.
-Changed front pigtails for more variety between Freestyle and Wakestyle.
What’s the result, how does it fly?
-Harmonic, light and very sensitive, progressive increasing sheeting forces.
-Soft steering forces with the best bar feedback in the North Kiteboarding range.
-Massive depower on a short depower stroke.
-Easy hooked in performance with incredible jumping abilities.
-Fantastic control during kiteloops.
-Significantly more pop during unhooked moves.
-Much longer power delay moment during unhooked moves (the moment during the move when the kite is nearly pressure less and gives time to complete complex moves).
-Plenty of pop, even during light winds.
-Catches the rider quickly and easily after radical kiteloops.
-Kites under 10m should always been flown with longest 22m lines.
-Wakestylers should use the inner setting of the bar connection.
-The kite remains much more predictable during the hardest tricks.
-The power delay is recognizable, but not felt as slow, but predictable and constant.
The Vegas never had any performance problems. So what does it take to make it better? It ’s thebalance between the ultimate bar feedback and using that to get the best performance out of the kite. The Vegas 2013 communicates in a very special way with the rider, which has never been there before. Even riders used to other brands recognize in the first few moments the potential and fun the Vegas has to offer. Even without being the best rider on the planet.