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.
Congrats Colleen! - Overall Winner Triple-S 2013
The 2013 Triple S Invitational just wrapped up. This year saw some big changes at SSS. The new format was introduced changing the event from a brodown jam format to heats with a scoring system and a panel of judges. This turned up the pressure on the competitors, who now had to not only throw bangers but throw them consistently. In sliders the riders had two runs through the park, taking a score from your best hit on each feature. Tom and Craig rode together in heat #3, along with Aaron Hadlow, Andre Philipp, Rick Jensen, BCS, Chad Worrall, Davey Blair and Joby Cook. Only three riders would advance through and unfortunately Tom and Craig were just slightly edged out of the finals by Hadlow (5x World Champ), Chad Worrall (pro cable rider) and BCS (local legend).
Mens slicks was going to be another tough heat for Tom and Craig with some really strong riders in heat #3. 8 tricks, 4 get scored and only 3 people would be advancing into the finals. With some major tricks going down from everyone it was super close but Craig managed to make his way through and into the finals. Respect!
On the womens side of the event, it was total domination by North Kiteboarding rider Colleen Carroll! She was riding super strong and made it through to the finals in every discipline! And she didn't slow down their either! She's worked really hard the last few years and it's paid off with a full sweep of the Triple S podiums! 1'st place in sliders, slicks and surf! Way to go Colleen!
Some other big changes came about at Triple S this year! The new NKB rooftop slider and NKB shotgun rails are a staple of the park! North Kiteboarding is not only keen on growing the team with Colleen, Tom and Craig but also putting dollars into making sure there is world class features to push it on!
Colleen Carroll, welcome to the team!
After a long search in the US, we finally found a proper hard riding wakestyle girl – welcome to the team Colleen Carroll! Let’s hear how she feels about her new opportunity!
“I am incredibly happy to be joining the North Kiteboarding International Team! Couldn't be better than to be a part of the industry-leading brand who stands for the highest quality, innovation, and support. I'm so proud to be representing North Kiteboarding by pushing my personal limits in kiting while putting the gear to the test and spreading my stoke for the sport throughout my travels. The new 2013 Vegas and the Gambler board is the perfect combination for me to keep progressing with my wake style kiting. Equipped with the right tools, I've got big plans in the works for 2013! Thank you NKB!"
Born and raised in Washington State I have always had an affinity for the outdoors. Drawn to sports that put a board under my feet and allow me to explore my natural surroundings, my passion for kiteboarding continues to grow with each session. Having kited for about 6 years, only casually at first, I have now let kiteboarding guide my yearly travels entirely. Based out of Hood River, Oregon, I tend to spend most of my time at beaches across North America however, am always eager to venture to new places beyond my current scope in search of flat water, waves, or sliders.”
Gambler, Team Series, Jaime, Select and Soleil product clips are online!
Get an insight view into the development and check out the new features of Gambler, Team Series, Jaime, Select and Soleil.