"We are Sarah Sylvester and Richard Boughton, the UK importers for Jochum and Nesler, JN Kites. We sell and repair kitesurfing equipment in the UK, take part in competitions and travel the globe kitesurfing. Read all about our adventures here!"

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Circle One Carbon Skim 56" - Budget light wind solutions...

I am not a small, or particularly light person, some have even called me 'robust' and I have always found trotting up and down on a big kite and twintip pretty dull, even worse on a surfboard in no swell, and the beaches we use are not really suited for a raceboard as they are generally very shallow with suprise sandbanks everywhere. Not ideal for your £300 hand made fins. I also don't have a competitive bone in my body. I do however like to maximise my time on the water, so what's the solution?

Historically, the classic skim for kiting is the Nobile Skim, which I had in my posession (someone left it at my house for an extended 6 month period) and I rode it quite a bit, and it was easy to ride, but I was never really happy with its performance. The fins/rails were too grippy, the rail was lethally sharp, and considering it was CAP construction, it was bloody expensive. Even worse was the North Skimfish, the graphics alone made me want to vomit. Don't get me started.

After many trials and tribulations, I ended up riding a Circle One EPS 54" skim a lot last year; after stuffing my ankle up I got quite into it.

From about 8 knots, with a 12m, you really can fly upwind in diddly squat, in incredibly shallow water and actually progress your riding quite a bit, sharpen up your kite control which is critcal and improve your balance and fancy footwork for strapless. A lot of the time you have to work on apparent wind, and I would recommend a kite with a small diameter leading edge so it has good forward speed as well as flying further round the window. My Mr F 2 12m (Delta/Bow/Hybrid) is just about perfect for this, pure C shapes are not so good in the super light stuff in my experience. You need a kite with more aerodynamic leanings.

So what can you achieve on this strange little craft? Well, shovits, aerial transitions and spins, surface passes, jibes, tacks and even slashing little waves and all sorts of other cunning stunts are possible. Much more satisfying than trotting back and forth for me. It's skateboard trick heaven with a kite.

From time to time I have had skims out in quite large swell, which is extremely fun/funny. Dropping in is like sliding down a 45 degree ice slope and is a real test of balance and kite control. Wacky Races would be an accurate comparison. You can also literally reach warp speed.

'But it's got no fins' I hear you say, in an alarmed fashion. Yes, this is indeed the case, but in my experience they are more of a hindrance as they catch when you try and spin the board, or slip out when you least expect it, and make little improvement to the upwind ability. They also prevent you from riding in super shallow water, or even over wet sandbars. Surface tension is your friend. Don't stab it with G10 the whole time.

From an injury recovery point of view it has also been an excellent tool, without a doubt helping strengthen my gammy kankle. You have to constantly trim the board angle, and balance, using all your proprioception. Imagine it like a wobble board for the water. It also seems to give your core/stomach a damn good work out, as you have to control your balance with small movements. From an impact point of view (normally a thing to avoid after most injuries) there is barely any, and you are not just bouncing around on a locked in rail the whole time, a la twin tip.

So anyway, I just received this new 56" Carbon Skim from Circle One. Shape-wise, it's quite different to last year, having a lot more taper at the rear, rather than being a teardrop shape. It also seems more strongly built than the EPS version and more or less exactly the same weight. The rail shape has changed slightly, being squarer running towards the base. The finish, as ever, is really (bang) tidy with these boards. For the £60 price increase (RRP ~£240), I would go for the carbon version every time, specially with kiting in mind. The trouble is, that at the moment it's a special order.

Tidy rear end (more slender than previous)
After the first couple of sessions on it, my verdict so far is that it is a big improvement on the EPS board from last year, it seems even smoother through the water and the new rail shape means you can hold a little more power and go upwind at a ridiculous angle in the gusts. Due to the skinnier tail, it feels more purposeful/grippy on the waves, but the 2" extra length seems to compensate for the reduction in surface area at the tail, and overall volume and upwind ability are very similar to the last one. The rocker is exactly the same, i.e not much apart from a touch in the nose as you would expect from a skim. I may bore you with some Go Pro footage in the near future. Be warned.

Luxury kick pad is a must
More purposeful nose
Flat as a witch's tit, and note the new rail shape

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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Circle One Bamboo 2012 6' x 19" x 2 1/4"

New Circle One boards are here, and they are looking sweet. The 6' was the most popular board last year, and a lot of people locally have been getting on really well with the shape and buoyancy which works well in local conditions where it's slightly more onshore and you need a little extra float/volume to really use the wave. Considering its volume, it rides smooth as silk and it's not bouncy on chop as you would expect.

What I like about it, is that it's an easy enough board to ride, but still has a lot of performance. It also has just enough rocker not to nose dive if you are front foot heavy, and has enough in the mid section to steam upwind. I mainly ride it strapless, as does Sarah.

The lay up is slightly different this year, promising the same relatively low weight, but more robust construction. This is always a trade off so we will see how it fairs after some abuse.

For around £400 new with fins, deck pads and straps I don't think you will find a better kite board for your money.

New graphic

Single concave
Medium rocker
A touch of extra nose rocker, and flat mid section
Same fin box as last year accepting FCS plugs.
Double strap inserts this year
Finish is as good as ever
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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Kite repairs eh?

For the last year or so I have been doing kite repairs. I don't generally advertise this fact, as I don't want to be chained to the sewing machine 12 hours a day. I have no intention of running a sweat shop, with me as the child labour. But even just with the local trade I have got through a fair few kites, and I have had to face the fact it's actually quite a good way to earn some money. The other slightly sad fact is that I got quite into it, and started developing my own methods.

I owe it all, as with a few things in my current existence, to my friend Jimmy who has done kite repairs for about 4 or 5 years, covering warranty work for some of the brands and shops down his way in Kent. He was nice enough to come down and show me a few hints and tips (in return for some cider)

So in the name of freedom of information, and also because I get asked questions on how you do this repair, or that repair all the time, I am going to do a quick how-to explaining a few simple repairs.

I am not giving away all the secrets, as this will be a breach of the magic repair circle, and I will have Paul Daniels on my arse faster than you can say 'bobbins'.

Using/setting up the machine is a skill in itself which takes a while to learn and perfect and I wouldn't suggest you start trying to learn on your own, or even worse other peoples kites. You will end up punching many unnecessary holes in a innocent kite. But anyhoo, here is a few photos of how I carried out a recent grisly LE repair. You also need a decent industrial sewing machine, preferably with a long arm, and/or a lot of clearance which will cost more than sending it to a proper sail maker or kite repair guy.


So here we are, whoopsy diddle, a foot long hole in the leading edge, most likely caused by self launching on something sharp judging by other deep scrapes on the leading edge material close by. To make things interesting (or not), it has torn along to that hang point on the right as the air came out and it fell to the ground with the pressure on it. The bladder is pretty knackered, with a foot long rip right along the seam. If you really wanted to (or are unable to source a new replacement bladder) you could fix it with Stormsure and some spare PU from a donor bladder.

T shaped effort
So once it is laid flat, it all becomes a little more clear how to sort it out. Not as bad is it initially looked. Notice I have unpicked the leading edge here already to get the segment nice and flat before laying it up. Ideally stretch it over the edge of your table, and weight it with something.

Double sided tape applied - accuracy is key at this stage
So the next stage is laying up the repair with double sided tape. From a point of view of getting the kite to fly the same afterwards, and not to hang to one side, this is by far the most important part to be accurate. This is specially important when it comes to canopy repairs. If you are a few millimetres off it can make all the difference. It's fiddly, and depending on the area damaged it can be time consuming. Imagine it like sticking a jigsaw puzzle back together. Also, with ripped Dacron there is usually a furry edge to the material which makes matching it back up accurately difficult. Most Dacron has lines running longways on it, spaced an even 12mm apart, so get your ruler out and make sure it all lines up.
Looking better already, with new Dacron graft on the left
So as you can see above, I have removed the backing from the double sided tape applied to the torn LE. I have measured out and applied more tape to the edges of the replacement Dacron that I will graft over the top of the repair. The theory is to transfer the load onto this, and off the damaged material underneath. Again, when you measure and cut this, you need to be very accurate, or you will waste material, or make an ugly looking repair. You need to overlap the tear by at least 1cm. If you need to, you can apply a patch to the inside of the LE, in this case I made a small one 12 x 10cm under the bump stop, as the tear had stretched  underneath here, and the exterior patch wouldn't have covered it fully.

Laid up, ready for sewing
So next stage is applying the patch. The aim is to get it perfectly flat. Approach this like applying a sticker, starting at one end and working it flat to the other. If it's not on right, peel it off and start again.

Bitchin' stitchin.
Next step is to run around the patching with the machine. A 3 step zig zag is the standard. The thread is Dabond V69, which is extremely tough and UV resistant. I try and keep about 1mm off the edge of the patch to prevent it from peeling back. Top tip: make sure you check underneath material you are stitching for anything that shouldn't be there. i.e the other half of the leading edge, a wandering bridle, or even worse, the LE bladder. Otherwise you could be at home to 'Bobby McBallsup'

It's great when you're straight
So now we need to close the edge back up. A liberal application of double sided tape to the closing seam is required, and you an match it all back where it was before you unpicked it. You can also match up the kinks in the LE material to help you do this. Again, accuracy at this stage is absolutely key. It needs to be lined up exactly as it was previously, or you will see bulges in the LE.

Next is closing the LE seam. This varies from kite to kite, as some have extra webbing over the seam. In this case it's a simple sew a straight stitch down the middle. Thread tension needs to be just right at this stage to get a nice strong stitch.

First closing seam
Once this is done, fold it over applying more double sided tape to line it up properly. Once folded, a second run of straight stitch finishes it off. Bang tidy.
Final closing seam
At this stage I try and match the new stitching though the old holes as much as possible. If you make new holes you end up with a weak 'edge of a postage stamp' effect along the edge of the Dacron, meaning it s more likely to let go under impact. Kites which have more overlapping material on this seam are often weak here anyway as there are twice as many holes.

I neglected to take any more photos of this kite as the client needed it back in a hurry, but it is now cruising the South Hams on light wind days as if nothing ever happened.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

For Sale: Canon 50D

We have recently upgraded our camera back, and have a Canon 50D for sale. It is about 2 years old, and is a really solid, semi pro stills camera. It will come back only with the grip, second battery, charger, box, and cables. There are few light scratches on the top LCD, but other than that, it's in great shape. Specs are 15 megapixel, 6.3fps and a 9 point autofocus. It has more settings and flexibility than most folks would ever need.

They are still about £550 new, and the grip plus extra battery is £200 worth, so make us an offer!