"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!"

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.