"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!"

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What makes JN Kites different?

At a demo event recently, someone asked me ‘What makes your kites different to all the other brands?”

With the bewildering array of equipment available to the kite surf consumer at the moment, I thought this was a very valid question and I was surprised at the quantity of technical sales talk I came out with, so I thought I could include this in a series of blogs post to show it’s not just the big brands that are at the forefront when it comes to innovation. Any images of alternative brands I use are for illustrative purposes, and not aimed as criticism.

JN kites are designed principally by Micheal Nesler, who is from a successful aeronautical/paragliding design background, and also designed some key kites for big brands in the early days of kitesurfing. His concentration on aerodynamics and efficiency, coupled with some elegant and unique production methods give quantifiable performance advantages to all three kites in our range.

1. Perfectly curved leading edge segments

Fundamentals of aerodynamics state that smaller smoother surfaces improve performance. Compare a brick to a football, or a Landrover to a sports car.

If your kites’ leading edge is heavily segmented with harsh elbow joints, at each segment you have a vortex, and more drag slowing your kite down. Also at each point you have doubled up material and stitching, adding overall weight to the wing. This technique also adds stiffness to the airframe, as it distributes the load on the leading edge more evenly, rather than deforming at one point.
The reasons some other manufacturers use this less elegant method, is because straight lines are easier to model with CAD / aerodynamics software and get the approximate characteristics of the kite. It’s also much easier manufacturing wise, as calculating a 2D shape, which when inflated turns into a perfect 3D curved tube requires a lot of clever maths. All these elements equate to cost/time saving but sacrifice performance. 

We have had the leading smooth leading edge design in the Wild thing and Prima Donna Range since the PD2 and WT2 in 2007/2008. The lack of drag/turbulence and extra stiffness and lower weight of the leading edge improves:

1. The forward flying speed of the kite (and therefore board speed)
2. Stability of the wing shape at it's top wind range
3. More power generation at lower wind speeds on apparent wind
4. Better upwind flying angle
5. More dramatic generation of lift from sheeting and redirection

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The road to kite surfboard perfection...

The never ending debate about strapless kite surf boards rumbles along on the interweb forums. Amongst some of the garbage/shameless brand promotion/interesting peeved customer feedback, it seems there are basically two schools of thought.

 1. Spend big bucks, and get something kite specific/branded, and put up with it being heavy and lifeless (therefor lacking performance) but hey, it will last for ages, just like my twin tip.

2. Pick up a cheap performance epoxy surfboard, maybe 20% of the price of a kite specific one and if it lasts 6 months, great. The beater. Patch it up and if you sell it eventually great, if not make a novelty wall decoration.

My quiver has consisted of 2 boards for a while now. I have a strapped 6’2” JN Big Fish which came out of the Cobra factory in 2005, has a tucked rail, MT bolt through glass fins, very little concave and a relatively small rocker. It’s fast. You can ride it at approximately 100mph though whatever your legs can take, you can boost huge on it, and crank out big turns with a lot of confidence, but it’s heavy(ish) and it has little flex.

Although I ride strapless maybe 95% of the time, as that’s been my personal development focus for a couple of years now, there are still occasionally conditions when I prefer to ride strapped. Big onshore storm swell and unstable gusty arsed wind for instance. Or just messy bumpy short swell period wave faces. I will get more enjoyment out of a session to riding strapped. If I am pioneering a new/dodgy spot I normally go strapped as well. I love the Big Fish, and long may it live. For fast bump and jump kite led wave riding it rules supreme.
Big Fish, strapped and dangerous
The other board in my quiver has been various incarnations of cheap/free poly surfboards (previous to this I would take the straps off my various strapped boards). This originally started several years ago with a 6’6” Poly board left behind by a friend who couldn't be bothered to take it back to Australia with him. This lasted an alarming amount of time considering the instant heel dents, spreader bar sized holes in the rails. It taught me to patch things up with epoxy, and it taught me I really didn't need anything kite specific any more. The start of beater board heaven. Performance wise, it was completely different, but all in good ways. It also gives you the chance to try loads of different shapes (cheaply) and work out what suits you, and various conditions. My most expensive purchase was £80. Your only nemesis is your spreader bar.
My super slow quad, improving my shacking chances
Through pure chance really, I recently acquired some Resin8 surfboards, which I have always really liked the look of (Lee Pasty absolutely shredding on one for the last few years has helped) but have been prohibitively expensive to try one for kiting where you might murder a pure surfboard very quickly. It has been something of a revelation.
The Resin8 Tokoro precision instrument
Turns out they were too expensive to manufacture, and not enough people bought them (@ ~£600) in a very competitive surf market to make it viable, and the company has ceased production. This meant dead stock heaven, and the vultures (me) swooped. The Tokoro 6'3" rounded pin is a superb bit of kit, really comfortable carving rail to rail in bigger swell, and if you need to run round a section, you can do it FAST. Because of the slender/efficient shape, the upwind ability is ridiculous. It's super light, which is tricky if it's really windy (40 knots) as it wants to fly away all the time, and the extremely lean shape and flex means the board is very smooth through the water.

The compromise as ever is in the strength for kiting use, but thus far, after a month of some really hardcore poundings, from 90kgs of Richard, no heel dents (miraculously) and the only dent is where my spreader bar got in on the action, and that’s not really a sporting chance. It’s also nice to be back on a thruster setup after being on a quad fin (Bunty 6’2” beater poly board) for a while. This was great for stalling on the wave, and amusingly skatey, but in comparison to the Tokoro it was crap upwind, felt extremely draggy in light wind and just not that fast in a straight line.

It's a crying shame they aren't producing these boards any more, but I will be looking out for similar epoxy/vacuum formed boards. Hindsight and all that. Hydroflex make some interesting looking stuff, but it's just too darned expensive for kite use and abuse. I want a 6 month stand, not a pricey long termer. Only one thing for it, perhaps it's time to build one myself.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Festive Shredtown 2012

Normally Christmas for us is spent with family up in the Midlands, and revolves around food, booze, sofa, TV, perhaps the pub, and more food. This year we thought we would bring the party down to Devon for more of a clotted cream and fudge centred affair. Little did we know what a good idea this would be. It's not often you feel physically fitter after Christmas than beforehand.
Nukin' Cliff Richard
Wind and waves pumped from the 22nd through to the 30th of December and we kited every day. The temperature didn't drop below 12 degrees in the daytime. I was comfortably toasty in a 4/3mm spring suit for a few sessions. It also got really windy for a period, which was great as there hasn't been many of the 6m clinging on days that we often get over autumn and winter down here. This let us test some small kites back to back for various conditions.
Out on small kites with the Doris.
Boxing day was a highlight, just Sarah and I out from the spit at Burgh island. As we arrived, there was a lone windsurfer getting some massive rides in the middle of the bay. I cranked upwind to Challaborough to get in on the action.

Three wise men
Normally Chally breaks close in on the beach, meaning with a kite you end up a bit close to the cliff, but when we have been out fishing from time to time, you can see the swell builds over a reef much further out. Turns out it needs approx 4m @12 seconds (Windguru forecast) swell to make it peak/break out there for safe-ish kitesurfing. It turned into a thick and very ridable right hander (tasty). Photo evidence is scarce of this monumentous event unfortunately as we were far too busy enjoying it, but the couple of snaps here give you an idea. The Cornish lads said that Porthleven was un-ridable on this day, which is interesting.

Mistletoe and double over head
In Santa's Grotto
Back to the Chestnuts/fire/ mulled cider
On the 30th, Bantham was firing on all cylinders, and it was a bit onshore as it always is on a SW, but there were some fun tow-ins to be had out by the island on the 8m, and the swell was the chunkiest of the season and of the sort of size/period where it's very clean in between.

I had some great rides, but got a bit cocky/tired (day 8 on the water) towards the end of the session, and went for one last turn on a biggun' and got munched, and everything went very slack, my bowel included. By the time I popped up (quite a long time) and got a well-earned breath, the kite was down and a wave hit it instantly although I didn't see this happen in the trough behind, I more 'felt' it as it took me on a trip to Neptune's lair. I was drinking Baileys from a shoe, and no mistake.

I managed to pull the quick release whilst being dragged underwater, that's a testament to the functionality of the new QR. I popped up again and got some more sweet oxygen and flapped about for 10 seconds, before calming down and assessing the situation. I was more or less 100m behind where the 10 knot buoys usually go, in line with the middle of the Island and right in the impact zone. A fair old swim ahead with no board, and a big fat spring tide pumping out of the river. Here's some advice from my experience if it happens to you, which will apply to most 'Oops, I am in the sh!t' situations:

1. Stay calm and control your breathing - even if you are panicking, slow it all down. Take a deep breath before the set hits. Being able to hold your breath for a long while is very useful.

2. Conserve your energy, concentrate on paced/efficient swimming back. Not flapping/struggling.

3. Know where the currents are, and don't swim against them, if possible use them to your advantage.

4. Keep an eye behind you, and turn, duck dive / swim down when the waves creep up behind you. Don't let them hit you and tumble you/pull you underwater, although body surfing can make your swim shorter.

5. If you are tumbled and you are potentially over rocks, cover your head with your arms. Being unconscious in water is a bad plan.

6. Pick some landmarks on the coast and make sure you are moving forwards. This is reassuring as you know you are making progress and helps you work out if you are in current or not.

I am sure there is more you could add to this, but this is what sticks out particularly from my recent mega swims. I normally have one or two a year. There is also just not putting yourself in the situation in the first place.

There's an argument (and a solid one) that if you can't surf (i.e paddle) a wave you shouldn't be out kiting in it. Not all of us are from surfing backgrounds, and a kite can tow you into stuff you couldn't dream of paddling into. I ride waves surfers don't ride/can't access all the time. We all like to push ourselves, and take risks in big conditions which is what keeps the sport fresh for me, so the situation is going to happen. I think it's more about water confidence, swimming ability, local knowledge, a decent level of fitness and knowing what to do/expect if the proverbial hits the fan. If a surfer snaps a leash they are in the same situation.

A great training exercise (with a rescue boat/ski on hand) would be to make people kite offshore where they usually ride waves, fire off their safety on purpose and see how they cope with getting back to shore.

Anyway, I swam in, it took about 20 minutes perhaps and once I knew I was moving forward I actually quite enjoyed it. I came in with a big grin, gathered up my kit which some friends had scooped up on the beach and called it quits. A slightly dicey end to a fantastic festive period, but good to feel alive, and lesson learnt (again).