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.
Who are ECHOVOLT?
Recently I travelled to Tarifa with North Kiteboarding Team Rider Tom Court, to document the launch of the new 2015 Vegas from North Kiteboarding. WET Watersports threw The party of the summer, premiered the US trip video and invited a local Spanish rock band, Echovolt to play the night away. Following the evenings epic showdown, Tom and I gave the guys a few days to recuperate before travelling up the coast to Sancti Petri, home of Echovolt to talk music, videography, photography, kiteboarding and SUP.
Carlos Andrade is the eldest of the three brothers all born in Chiclana. He moved to Tarifa in 2000 where initially his plan was to work, kite and play in a few bands with his brother Antonio. In 2002 Echovolt was formed. “We started by covering songs by famous bands, but quickly realised that we could do our own stuff” says Carlos. Along with music, Carlos' passion for Kiteboarding saw him him join forces with Peluka WSM to develop KITEC Pro Camp Junior. Names such as Jerome Cloetens (NKB) Liam Whalley(Cabrina) Manel Arpa (NKB) and Maxi Gomez (Nobile,)now predominant riders on the professional Kiteboarding circuit, all came through the annual camps hosted in the Kiteboarding mecca of Tarifa.
Following the success of the camps, North Kiteboarding Team Rider and Kiteboarding legend Jaime Herraiz introduced Carlos to Volker Hansen, head of International Marketing for ION as well as a huge music and watersports enthusiast. Immediately the two bonded over their individual passions, what Echovolt and ION represented as brands and how they complemented each other. In addition to the camps and music, Carlos started the Waterman School working exclusively with the Boards and More family of brands; Fanatic, North Kiteboarding and ION. “Regarding my personal Kiteboarding, I'm so pleased that NKB and ION support me as a rider. Fanatic is also a key player in the success of the school. Without them, none of this would be possible,” says Carlos.
So what about Antonio and Perico Andrade? Yes, they too are influential characters within the Spanish watersports community, epic musicians and creative geniuses. Perico's introduction to the sea came on a Bodyboard. Reaching a high level, he was shown how to use a SUP six years ago and has never looked back. Over the years he focused his time behind the lens as official photographer for Clan up ( a magazine he had with Carlos,) but laughs as he tells me; “everyday I use the camera less, and the paddle more!' With outstanding talent on a SUP and an eye for capturing photos, he is responsible for the image and creation in the production company Sundown Entertainment, which he runs with third brother Antonio.
There is no doubt that Antonio has enormous amounts of musical ingenuity, and it doesn't end with Echovolt or musical composition for Sundown Entertainment. He also plays in Atomica, a hard rock band and is also one of the most famous Trap and Breakbeat music producers selling online under the name Knox. When talking about his input with ION, he says; “I make the music for the videos. For the latest Surf and Bike video I was working on the track for a year and a half. I am working 24 / 7 with ION and videographer Carlos Guzman. I love the idea of making music for their videos as I understand the sports and the lifestyle that goes with it. If a video is good, people are even more motivated by the music.” In short, I think this can be considered as the most customised service for video production, someone who is able to compose a track to suit the brief. If you want to hear some of his work, watch the latest ION Action Glue video or the Sri Lanka Episode from North Kiteboarding.
After spending the afternoon with Carlos, Perico and Antonio, it's obvious that you don't have to be a pro rider to influence the core community around you. Rockstar status aside, it's about having creativity, vision and passion, as well as being a relatable addition to the industry without actually being in the limelight.
Can't stop won't stop
Check out the brand new episode from North Kiteboarding! Can't stop the pop, won't stop the riding. For 2015 we've created a Vegas so good it's addictive. Our most influential Wakestyle Team Riders took an epic road trip down the west coast of America, starting off with a rail riding jam in Hood River, finishing off with a memorable session under the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.
The video premier party that celebrated the new 2015 Vegas, goes down a storm!
WET Watersports drew in 500 revelers from the beaches of Tarifa as the evening kicked off with cool beers, mojitos and much anticipation to see the video. With the sun setting and the tunes pumping, familiar faces from the North Kiteboarding Team, Tom Court, Aaron Hadlow, Reno Romeu, Paula Novotna, Stefan Spiessberger, Angela Peral and an array of global National riders, rolled in to lend support and let their hair down. If you were wondering why so many riders were in town, the PKRA World Tour was in full swing, capitalising on the great winds Tarifa has to offer.
Appetites were satiated with an immense BBQ keeping energy levels high for the evening ahead. Longstanding Team Rider Jaime Herraiz sessioned the scene welcoming members to the event and band Echovolt took to the stage to get the party started.
As darkeness fell and energy levels soared Tom Court, Aaron Hadlow and Reno Romeu, took to the microphone to introduce the 2015 Vegas video. Premiered across the multiple screens set up throughout the venue, Pico Pix had a variety of their projectors beaming the images onto the white walls, so not only did the video wow the crowds, but the atmosphere was buzzing.
Not to pull the rip chord on the fun, Echovolt took to the stage once again rocking party goers further into the night. A band who performed their own original material, they pulled out some classic covers amping up the dance floor. To round off the night, Red Bull has parked their infamous DJ Hummer at the entrance to the venue. As the decks were spun and tunes pumped into the early hours of the morning, there was no doubt that the party was nothing less than a great success!
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.