09 May 2016

How long does kitesurf equipment last?

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How long does kitesurf gear last? Now, that obviously depends on how often you use it, how well you look after it and a bunch of other factors, like quality and the conditions in which you use it. But let’s generalise for a bit to make this post at all possible to write.

As always I base my tidbits on personal experience. If you’re about to start out on your kitesurf adventure (an adventure that might last a lifetime mind you) and you’re moving from renting gear into buying your own equipment, then maybe you wonder how often you have to update various parts of your set-up, and how much money this sport is actually going to cost you.

Ok, so here’s a list of the gear we use in kiteboarding and roughly how long you can expect it to last. Let’s talk seasons, although my personal season is 12 months as I ride all year long and cram in roughly 50 sessions in a year.

Kites
You probably have two or three kites. Expect the most used one to last about two, three seasons and you probably had it repaired at least once during that time.

Bar
A control bar should last a long time. Three seasons at least. What tends to break first is the the center sheet line, or the depower line, so having spares should add a season or two to the bar.

Board
A board should also last until you’re pretty much fed up with it. Unless you ride it into a rock it should last a lifetime (having said that I did break one of my boards somehow simply by crashing it into a sand bar. But rather my board than my knees).

Straps/pads/boots
My boots which’ve taken a lot of beating over the years lasted three years before they gave in, which is pretty decent I think.

Harness
Really comes down to quality on this one. My first harness lasted one season. My 2nd harness lasted five seasons. Thank you Dakine. I’m sticking with you.

Wetsuit
Sooner or later we all rip our suits one way or the other. They can still be fixed though, glued and stitched together so a good wetsuit should last many years. I’m still using my O’Neill from 2009 although it’s probably not many seasons left before it vaporises into nothingness.

Boardshorts
You buy new board shorts because you’re either a) all about the looks, or b) put on too much weight to wear your old ones.

So if you get out most weekends of the year you can expect most of your gear to last at least three seasons, often longer. Above mentioned gear in total sets you back ballpark figure £1800 / €2300. Sounds like a lot of money, but take care of your gear and it can last for a long time. And don’t believe the hype – this year’s latest model will not take your riding to the next level. Water time and perseverance will.

Booking.com
19 Oct 2015

RIP Element

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How long does a kite last? In the case of my Element V2 it was 55 sessions. I think that’s pretty ok. I mean, I would’ve loved to keep it longer but I’ve ridden this kite hard since 2013. So 2 years sounds like a short time, but given that it’s been my go-to kite, and 55 sessions in total I guess I can’t complain.

After multiple repairs, pin holes, missing parts and what not I had to give up on it. Now I’m keen on getting Switch’s recently released C-kite the Legacy. Let’s see if it can help me land railey to blind!

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30 Jan 2015

Should I get a wetsuit or drysuit for winter kitesurfing?

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ION-Fuse-getting-ready

Read on for a review of the ION Fuse 2014 drysuit. First, a comparison with wetsuits.

This post compares neoprene wetsuits with neoprene drysuits, more specifically the suits I’m using; O’neill Epic 5/3 and ION Fuse 4/3.

A drysuit might seem tempting in the cold winter months, but let’s face it – Wetsuits work fine in most countries, especially if it’s a thicker winter suit. There are a number of benefits compared with drysuits.

  • More versatile (can be used all year around)
  • More flexible and comfortable to wear
  • Lighter and less bulky to carry around
  • Cheaper

Even in a drysuit you still need separate gloves and socks, which will let water in. Having said that, your fingers and toes will still be warmer then in a wetsuit since they can ‘borrow’ heat from your body.

Your body will sweat which could cool the body down unless wearing breathable underwear on both legs and body.

Oh, and just check out the difference in weight and bulkiness!

  • O’neill Epic: 1.5 kg dry
  • ION Fuse: 3 kg dry
ION-Fuse-and-Oneill-Epic

Both suits are size M, but the difference in bulk is most noticeable when packing your bag.

 

 Why get a drysuit for kitesurfing?

Keeps you dry. Nice feeling while riding and getting changed.

Keeps you warmer = longer sessions and a safer option if something would happen.

Conclusion

A nice-to-have luxury for the coldest winter and spring months (January – April for UK), or a good choice instead of a winter wetsuit if you live around the Baltic sea etc.

Review of ION Fuse 2014

I was thinking about getting a drysuit already last year when the weather was getting colder. I did a lot of research back then but in the end I manned up and kept using my wetsuit all the way through to spring.

This winter I was on about it again after yet another wet change on a cold and windy parking lot. Actually what I really hate is not so much the cold water, but the horrific experience when you pull yourself out of a wet wetsuit and have to get changed after the session. Ideally I was looking for an Ocean Rodeo Soul, but when the cheapest I could find would set me back £500 I just couldn’t justify it. Another attractive option was ION Fuse, and by pure luck I got a brand new one on an ebay auktion for only £260.

I’ve been using my Fuse now during December and January and now by the end of January I’m really starting to see the value in having it. December isn’t really that cold, but now I’m staying out twice as long as everyone else – this thing really keeps me dry and warm!

It’s easy to get in and out of, but you do need someone around to zip and unzip your opening in the back. It can be done solo as well, but I’ve tried and it’s not easy. Well, there’s almost always someone around anyway right, so no big deal.

Once in it, it’s quite comfortable and you have good range of movement. The only thing worth mentioning is the zip on the back which makes the upper back a bit stiff, but once riding I tend to forget about this.

Underneath the suit I wear boxers and a rash vest and that’s all. The suit is a 4/3 neoprene so it keeps me warm like that. During heavy sessions I do sweat a lot in it so breathable materials are important. In February I’m getting long johns and a long sleeved tshirt made from bamboo fibre so that should help a lot, because now the sweat transfers into the suit which becomes wet and even smelly!

So once done, you have a suit that is wet on the outside and potentially also on the inside. This makes for a really heavy suit to carry home, and it takes days to dry! Other than the weight and bulkiness of it I can’t say much negative things about it. It comes with a hood for really cold days, but you still need good gloves and booties in addition.

I really like it, and I can’t wait to use it in February and March which are UK’s coldest months. Having said that, modern winter wetsuits are also great at keeping you warm and hardly lets any water in so this might be a good alternative for less money.

ION-Fuse-walk

ION-Fuse-hood

Hood (with pocket and whistle), chest pockets and pee zip. ION thought about the details.

ION-Fuse-thermometer-hero-meter

A thermometer on the sleeve tells you how hardcore you are 😉

23 Nov 2014

Kitesurf control bar basics & safety options

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I’ve been shopping around for a new control bar lately which got me thinking why not bring all there is to know about kite control sticks into one post.

It’s not rocket science but there are still things to consider so here’s a guide to a 4 line control bar and the industry standard safety alternatives. All brands have their own take on design and functionality but generally they all work as the one pictured below.

Kitesurf control bar

1. Front lines

Attached to the bridles of the kite (for SLE kites). Most 4-line safety systems will flag out on one or both of these.

2. Back lines/steering lines

The steering lines go to the rear ends of the kite. Some old safety systems flag out on one of these using the so-called Oshit handle.

3. Swivel

The swivel is able to rotate so that the front lines can untwist automatically after kite loops, backrolls etc. To be honest I’ve never seen a swivel that works 100% so if you spin a lot, look for a bar with a below the bar swivel as well so you can manually untwist the lines. Twisted front lines is mainly something to avoid if the kite flags on one or both of these, since the flag line could potentially get stuck and the kite won’t flag out completely.

4. Depower adjuster/trim strap

Most bars adjust their depower above the bar, but some are trimmed below the bar. With above the bar you have two adjusters, one to depower and one to release the depower. With below the bar trim, you use a cleat to lock the trim line in a preferred length. The latter is usually not preferred due to ergonomic disadvantages but it’s personal preference in the end. Both systems work the same way. By pulling in the trim line the front lines become shorter which changes the angle of the kite which in turn reduces the effective wind-catching area of the kite. If you have a very long depower line and make the lines too short your kite will not perform well and finally stall (which is exactly what we want if we want to depower the kite fully for self landing or in a hazardous situation).

5. Bar throw

This is where you fine tune the power of the kite by adjusting the angle of the kite. Pull the bar in and you make the back lines shorter, thus giving the kite a boost in power. Push the bar out and you make them longer resulting in more load on the front lines and less power. When riding you want to find a sweet spot where all lines have equal load for optimal performance.

 

When unhooking you’re automatically going to pull the bar in as much as possible. To compensate for this shortening of the back lines you want to trim the depower so the front lines are shortened equal amount. If not, the unequal load will make the kite stall.

6. Quick release

Often referred to as QR. Your no. 1 safety mechanism. Often activated by pushing it away from your body, the QR will activate your safety system and flag the kite so it depowers. After release your kite and bar will only be attached to you via your leash. Most modern systems are quite quick and easy to reassemble while on the water.

7. Chicken loop

The interface between the bar and your harness. If you unhook from the harness all the power will go through your arms.

8. Donkey dick/chicken dick

Piece of plastic to make sure the chicken loop doesn’t unhook unintentionally. It could get in the way if you unhook a lot so removing it is an option.

How to connect your leash

Your leash is attached to your harness in one end and the bar in the other. This way you’re still connected to the kite if you’re unhooked and drop the bar, or if you activate the quick release. Depending on the situation you want the kite to depower fully, or just a bit. You can control this with the way you connect your leash to the bar’s safety system.
Different ways to connect you safety leash to your control bar

1. Flag on front line

This is the safest way to connect. If you pull the QR or loose the bar while unhooked the kite will flag out completely. It’s good for self landing and a recommended way to connect. The downside is that it takes longer to reassemble and there is risk for tangled lines or the kite to invert once it’s flagged out.

2. Flag on back line (Oshit handle)

Similar to from line flag. This is more common on old bars and inferior because 1) You have the leash above the bar which can be quite distracting, and 2) Although a small risk, flagging out on the back line could cause the kite to loop and generate a lot of power when you least want it.

3. Suicide with flag possibility

A good best-of-both-worlds solution for riders practising unhooked tricks. If the QR is activated the kite will flag on a from line, but if the bar is dropped while unhooked the kite will still be powered up so it’s easy to pull it in and keep riding. You still want the kite to depower 50% – 80% so you’re not being dragged without a chance to recover the bar so make sure you have a lot of bar throw which will depower the kite.

4. Depower on both front lines

A safety option for below the bar depower trims. Both QR and unhooking will result in the depower line being pulled in as much as possible which depowers the kite to about 80% – 90%. It’s not  a good solution for self landing in windy conditions though as the kite is not completely depowered and is still flying on both front lines.

5. Suicide

Old school hard core style. Most advanced freestyle riders are still using this method as they can assess the situation and if safe it brings them the advantage of a very quick recovery if they drop the bar when being unhooked. Again, make sure to have a lot of bar throw so the kite still depowers a bit when using this connection.

Does it have to be the same brand as the kite?

No. Same brand as the kite could have advantages since they are designed to work together but as long as it’s a 4 line kite designed for equal line lenght you’ll be fine on any brand. I’ve mixed brands for years with good compatibility.

What about 5 line kites?

They use the same bar, but with a 5th line you have the option to connect the depower and flag line to it.

 

So there you have it. Hope it was useful and remember to always understand your control bar’s safety system before using it for the first time.
19 Jun 2014

Switch kites Element 3 is here!

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Switch Element 3Element is Switch’ all-terrain model ready to tackle any element in a user friendly format. The 3rd generation looks really sweet and Switch let us on their website that there have been improvements in both design and construction.

The highlights:

  • Instant response to bar input
  • Effortless hang time and unhooked performance
  • Flawless drift abilities for wave riding
  • Smooth Depower
  • Stable but responsive
  • Stronger Materials
  • Stronger Construction
  • Light weight

Read about it in detail, check the reviews and order at switchkites.com.

 

 

14 May 2014

Switch Element V2 on sale

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Switch Element V2

Switch is getting closer to an Element V3 release and it’s a perfect opportunity to grab a discounted Element V2 now. I have this kite in size 7 and 11 and I’m planning on getting the 15m too for a full range quiver. I can totally vouch for this kite if you’re looking for a all-in-one kite that performs well in freestyle, waves and for beginners.

Here it is – online purchase only.

 

 

09 Mar 2014

The perfect kite quiver

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Switch Nitro 12m
This post could also be named ‘Letting go of old friends’. I recently moved house to a considerably smaller flat and had to put some spare kites on Ebay. As much as it feels good to tidy up and become more materialistically lean it’s a bit emotional to sell the kites that took you to where you are today.

Before I started my kite diet a few weeks ago I had the slightly oversized number of 6 kites in my quiver; 5, 7, 9, 11, 12 & 13. Clearly a bit of overlap so selling a few of them wasn’t a bad idea. Last year I mainly rode my 9 and 13 but often found myself being a tad underpowered or overpowered which led me to by the 11m. It turned out to be a great size for the UK winds and thus I could get rid of my 9 and 13.

The right quiver is individual preference and depends on riding style and conditions. I’ve met people on 1-kite quivers which is pretty impressive but personally I think it’s hard to cover the widely varied conditions of UK with less than 3 kites. My new quiver will be 5, 7, 9, 11, 15 of which the 5 and 9 are old things not worth selling and I keep using until they vaporise, but the rest are Element V2’s I’ll probably keep for a good few years. Even without the 9 I should be able to hit the sweet spot on most sessions.

30 – 40 knots:  5m Cabrinha Convert
22 – 35 knots:   7m Switch Element V2
18 – 27 knots:    9m Blade Vertigo
14 – 23 knots:   11m Switch Element V2
11 – 18 knots:    15m Switch Element V2

What is your optimal quiver?

25 Dec 2013

Cheap kitesurf brands price comparison

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Let’s be honest; most often it’s not the kite that is limiting you – it’s you. Although still a very young sport, the wild west days of kitesurfing are gone and kites that are produced today are all good performers. Some of them perform better than others, no doubt, and there is definitely difference in material and build quality but you get my point right? If you suck – don’t blame your kite, go out and practise more or live with it.
With that in mind the price tag becomes one of the most important factors when going kite shopping. I find it hard to justify the high kite prices that is the norm, when brands like Switch have proven that you can get quality and performance for half the price. This was the main reason I bought my first Switch kite 2 years ago and that was the best decision ever made if you ask my wallet. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at other small kitesurf brands to see where they stand price wise. You might think that a higher price means better quality but don’t take that for a given, and the reasons I’m saying that are because I know how whitelabeling and branding work, and I can vouch for the quality of Switch products, despite their low price tags. The way the small brands keep their prices down is almost always a direct-to-market business model, cutting out the middleman, and I think we will start to see more and more of this trend.
So after a quick search online, here is the list of how much “small and cheap kitesurf brands” charge for their all-round model in size 9.
For some mid-range brands check out Star kites, Zeeko, Epic, Blade, CrazyFly and BoardridingmauiMost other brands end up around £850 to £950 for their 9m kites, regardless if you buy them from the brand’s website like Core and Mutiny, or from a retailer. Having said that, one can get great deals on new, unused kites that are 1 or 2 years old (Have a look at Kitesurfwarehouse: Blade Trigger 9m – 2014: £759, 2013: £469). It’ll be harder to sell if you want to upgrade but personally I rather squeeze all performance out of a kite for 3 – 4 years and then upgrade rather than having to put stuff on ebay every year. Although improvements are made from year to year I can assure you that a Bandit 5 won’t suck only because there’s a Bandit 7 available, just as an example. A good quality kite that is looked after is an investment that will last for years so don’t cut corners to save a few quid. But doing your research, comparing kites and prices could save you enough to throw in one more kite or even a kite trip and that is worth more than brand loyalty.

 

03 Dec 2013

Switch kites drops the bomb in time for chirstmas

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Switch kites recently updated their website for a more integrated shopping experience and overall better user experience. A new website maybe isn’t the most exciting news unless you’re a design geek like me, but along came the highly anticipated launch of their new control bar and also their trainer kite and the 3rd generation of their free ride kite Nitro. You can also now get the Element 2 in red is you so wish.

switch kites web

Nitro 3 is getting great reviews and is being claimed to be the best freeride kite on the market. Find a team rider to demo it for you and find out for yourself!

All the new goodies can be found here.

19 Nov 2013

Boots/bindings for kiteboarding

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I was contemplating boots for a long time. They come with pros and cons but in the end I prefer riding with them although my trick level would do fine without them. It just feels so much better to jump and land locked in.

My Tona Pop with Liquid Force Harely boots

General pros/cons with riding boots

+ ride more aggressively and dont worry about board coming off

+ save time with less body dragging after board

+ more confidence in take-offs/landings

+ keeps your feet warm in the winter

– heavy/bulky to carry around

– harder to do tweaked grabs

– takes longer to get in/out, especially if done in the water (onshore beaches with swell are really annoying)

– your knees are exposed to bigger risks of injury if you slam hard and your feet don’t slide out. On the other hand it might save you from ankle injures.

Bulky boards and public transport is not a great combination.

What boots to get

I had a chat with a guy at the store and he gave me a good deal on the Liquid Force Harley wakeboard boots. I like the quick lace system. Really easy to get out of and fairly quick to get in and buckled up too. Liquid Force boots are maybe a bit heavier than Ronix, but other than that I take it all brands make good comfortable boots if you find your size. Kiteboard boots seem a bit more expensive than wakeboard boots but it feels like a branding thing so wakeboard boots are fine. All brands make several models depending on your riding style – choose model after your preference in flex and support. Open toe or closed toe? Closed toe will give you a bit better toe grip I guess, plus you can ride sliders and kickers with no fear of slicing your toes but they are heavier than Open toe boots and naturally open toe has a lot of room for your toes so no risk of getting to small boots if you buy online.

Check out these brands for top notch boots:

Ronix – This is what the pros are riding unless they are sponsored by LF. Probably good enough for you too.
Liquid Force – Coming from the wake scene they have years of R&D behind them. I ride LF myself and I’m not complaining
Slingshot – Same as LF; they know the wake scene. Smaller selection but looks good.
Hyperlite – Famous for their concept inspired by snowboard bindings.

A note on kiteboards

You want to make sure that your board is compatible with your new boots, which shouldn’t be a problem if the boots are new since most brands have gone with M6 screws which is the kite board standard for inserts. Always check before buying. Generally boots are used for wake style riding and thus go well with wake style boards. Wakestyle boards are more similar to wake boards in that they have less flex and more rocker and often have channels so you can ride them without fins if you want to hit sliders and kickers. To compensate for the rocker you want a bigger board than you’d normally ride. Sizes around 138 x 42 are common. The added area also helps load up a good pop for your unhooked tricks. Added weight and slower board due to the rocker means that you probably need a little more power than with a normal kiteboard. You can definitely ride boots on a normal kiteboard but bear in mind that a) too much flex between your feet will make for a sketchy ride, and b) if the board is not built with boots in mind it could easily break around the inserts when it is presented with the heavy forces that boots introduces.

Heel straps

If you don’t want to go all the way but keep loosing your board you can get heel straps. They are great for keeping your feet in place when jumping and spinning but you will still come out of them if you slam and they don’t add any additional weight. I was riding with heel straps before I upgraded to boots and they gave me much more confidence in my riding. Boots are miles away from heel straps but for people thinking about boots mainly to be locked in this could be enough.

Dakine Heel straps