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2009 Kiteboarding Buyers' Guide

Apr 2, 2009

Author: Shane Thompson and John Bryja

Building on the Foundations of Success

The evolution of both board and kite performance continues at a steady pace in 2009, and one overlying question continues: When will the steep incline of performance enhancement start to taper off? Last season we saw both a refinement in performance when it came to third-generation bow and SLE designs, and also an influx of new radical kite shapes and bridle configurations.
    Bow designs like the Cabrinha’s Switchblade and Crossbow saw marked improvements in direct feel, bar pressure and turn initiation. The SLE revolution continued along the same lines, with better handling and direct steering that both intermediate and advanced riders demand. Innovative new shapes and design concepts from many companies also emerged. If you look at the skyline of local kite beaches today, you can see the diversity of these different designs. Distinct shapes line the sky from companies such as Naish, F-One, Globerider and North.
    Wind range, stability and safety features have welcomed and widened the kiteboarder demographic and made kiteboarding more accessible to more people around the world. For 2009 the performance revolution shows no sign of slowing as R and D teams build upon the foundations of their proven technology and ideas. It could be argued that in 2009 the performance of these newer innovations has really started to take form. In that sense, 2009 is as ground-breaking as any other year before it.
    Some kites may not look like they have changed as drastically as other years, but the performance is in the fine details. In fact, the measurable success of improved handling, stability, water relaunch capability and overall kite performance shows remarkable improvement across the board. Every kite tested this year had a good measure of improvement in certain areas. So if 2008 wasn’t your year for a new kite or board, get ready for a real treat—2009 models are even more impressive.    

Brand Profiles: A , B , C , D, E , F , G , H , I, J , K, L , M, N , O , P, Q, R , S , T, U, V , W , X, Y, Z

Getting into the sport
For beginners and intermediates who wish to conquer the basics and beyond, every company out there has something for you. Remember not to sell yourself short and get an older model or used kite because you believe you might trash or grow out of a new model.
    The 2009 kites tested have improved stability across the board and this means less tendency to back stall, fall from the sky or become turbulent and twitchy in gusty situations. All of the kites tested also have better water relaunch capability than ever before. Some of the top picks for fast and effortless water relaunch include the Cabrinha Crossbow, Liquid Force Havoc and the Naish Cult.
    More and more of today’s models are suited to a wider range of skill levels and disciplines. Kites like the Best Waroo, the Eclipse Nano and the Ocean Rodeo Rise have performance that let you learn easily but can easily take you to the next level and beyond.

Evolution of bar and safety systems

Kites have come a long way to improve safety, with foolproof systems and instant depower. For the most part, the pulleys on the bars have been eliminated, and more direct steering and control are evident in every new 2009 kite.
    Every new kite buyer at any level should take the time to study, learn and practise using the safety systems. Most bridled designs utilize the long doubled back trim line that attaches below the bar. When you engage the safety, the trim line pulls through and doubles in length, thereby engaging and pulling flat both sides of the bridle along the leading edge of the kite. This type of safety works as long as the bridles are working and both front lines are attached.
    Many kite bars also have additional fail-safe flagging-line capability at the bar ends. This is a great feature for added safety. Other safety systems use a mini fifth line that attaches up through the bar for single front-line flagging or a similar double front-line pull that also kills the power. The fifth-line hybrid kites and five-line C kites have a line that runs up through the bar to the apex of the leading edge. This is the most foolproof safety system because no matter what happens to the other four lines or bridles, the kite is flagged and powerless because you’re attached to the apex of the leading edge.
    Quick-release trim loops have also been improved in recent years and every company has a working easy-to-engage chicken loop. It’s also important to understand how your chicken loop operates and be sure to keep them clean and clear of sand so they can be engaged when you need them to be.

Versatile performance across disciplines

With improvement in depower capability, overall stability and direct steering characteristics, its evident that many kite models are blurring the lines between disciplines. Kites have become more versatile than ever before and can be used in a wide range of conditions, from waves and flatwater, to freestyle, old school or big-air boosting.
    Bridled designs feel more like C kites, and C kites and five-line hybrids have better depower capability than ever before. Each kite does have specific character that suits certain personal preferences and makes it better for one discipline over another. But looking at the whole picture, 2009 kites are better equipped to handle a wide range of different water and wind conditions as well as the diverse disciplines of freestyle, wakestyle, waves or simple freeriding.

Advancement in bridle systems
In 2009 bridle configurations have been tweaked on almost every model, improving stability, water relaunch, and overall durability and longevity of the bridle system. Many designs like the Airush Flow FT, the Eclipse Nano and the Naish Helix have reduced or eliminated the number of pulleys on their bridles. Companies like Liquid Force and Cabrinha have also led the way in reducing tension and compacting the bridle system to ensure superior stability of the foil. This is why many kites in 2009 have such superior stability than earlier designs.

Depower and range
All of this evolution in foil shape, bridle configurations and systems have attempted to increase the depower and range of the kite while at the same time maintaining direct steering control and ultimate stability. Depower is one aspect that hasn’t changed that much for 2009. The difference is in the ability to control and steer the kite while in a highly depowered position.
    The success of this increased usable wind range can be seen at every local beach. Sometimes it becomes disconcerting because the average rider is using too big of a kite for the conditions. Kiters should remember that just because you can fly a big kite in a ton of wind doesn’t mean you should. You can have a lot more fun and learn a lot more when you’re perfectly powered as opposed to overpowered.

Smarter construction and material enhancement
As kite ranges increase at both ends of the wind spectrum, they are being flown into more wind for greater lengths of time than ever before. This has forced kite models to incorporate tougher materials in critical areas as well as improve durability of seams and workmanship. Some people wonder why the price of kites has remained fairly static over the past 10 years, but the quality of workmanship and materials has increased substantially. You get more for your dollar than ever before, and the test team was impressed with the entire 2009 kite lineup when it came to construction and materials.

The rise of racing speed and upwind performance

For 2009 kites are faster and more efficient upwind than ever before. It’s no wonder kiteboarders broke the 50-knot barrier in 2008 flying 2009 designs. Narrower leading edges and increased foil efficiency are driving faster and better upwind than they have in the past. Board designs are also faster and smoother, and have kept pace with the rise of speed and racing performance.

Here are just some of the highlights of the boards and kites available in 2009.

Brand Profiles: A , B , C , D, E , F , G , H , I, J , K, L , M, N , O , P, Q, R , S , T, U, V , W , X, Y, Z

AirushAirush FS

Airush was born on Maui in 1999 as the world’s first kiteboarding accessory maker. Soon after, Airush introduced many of the board technologies and designs that are the forefathers of today’s kiteboards. With the launch of inflatable kites in 2002, Airush quickly became one of the most trusted names in the sport. Approaching 2009, Airush is rooted in a philosophy of high quality through technical advances based on the principles of innovation, refinement and progression. Based in Australia, Airush has assembled the highest-quality athletes, design and product development team. —Dave Tyburski

Product highlights: Throughout our board and kite lines we embrace differing preferences and styles by creating an innovative product line that embodies kiteboarding today while progressing forward, offering products for where the sport will be tomorrow. Our Converse and Choptop surf line cover the wave junkie’s every need, and our Switch, FS and X-Pact freestyle and freeride boards are on the cutting edge of performance. Headlining for the kites: the Flow FT and soon-to-be-released Vapor III, a versatile performer that merges improved unhooked performance and heightened boosting characteristics perfect for aggressive freeride and freestyle riding.

Website: airush.com
E-mail: info@tridentsports.com
Designers: Mark Pattison, Benoit Menetrier
Shapers: Colin McCulloch, Clinton Filen

Amundson

John Amundson has been designing surfboards for over 25 years. His designs include kiteboards, surfboards, standup paddle and tow-in surfboards. His kiteboard design platform includes surf, twin-tips, mutants, speed, course and skim. A custom board from Amundson starts with a phone call or email to determine the customer’s size, the conditions he rides in, ability and the type of board he wants. Amundson then designs around these particular needs. When ordering an Amundson custom, you don’t have to compromise; you get exactly what you want and need out of your kiteboard. Amundson custom boards are the most current cutting edge designs available.

Product highlights: “The newest additions to my kiteboard line are my speed boards and course raceboards. Recently, Rob Douglas broke the overall world speed record on an Amundson custom speed board. The other addition, customs course raceboards, have won races in Canada and have been strong in races around the world. Coming into another surf season here on the North Shore of Oahu, I am excited about developing and prototyping new surf designs, and delivering the best available kitesurf designs to my customers.”­—John Amundson

Website: amundsoncustoms.com
E-mail: john@amundsoncustoms.com
Shaper: John Amundson

Best KiteboardingBest Waroo
At Best we have one simple goal: to make kitesurfing more fun for more people than any other brand. We make kiting gear because kiting makes us happy; we love to kite and we love people to kite with us. There’s no secret recipe or magic sauce at Best; just a lot of kiters working hard making gear for other kiters. —Simon Clark
 
Product highlights: Best’s kite designer Peter Stiewe has taken kite construction to the next level this year with the introduction of our new leading-edge construction technology. Twister Tech integrates segments of Kevlar-reinforced cloth into our Cuben-equipped leading edge. Twister Tech allows each segment of the LE to twist in response to rider-steering input, giving you a kite that turns tighter and faster. Because the LE is made out of Cuben rather than Dacron, it is also thinner and stiffer, giving you reduced drag and greater stability in all riding conditions. It delivers a potent combination of pure performance and ease of use.

Website: bestkiteboarding.com
E-mail: info@bestkiteboarding.com
Designer: Peter Stiewe
Shaper: Shannon Best

CabrinhaCabrinha Switchblade IDS
At Cabrinha, our goal is to bring innovations that matter to the world kitesurfing market. It’s about a design philosophy that delivers high-performance products with industry-leading security in an easy-to-use package. It’s about anticipating the needs of the user, leading the market with development in performance and security, and setting the standard in a sport that’s known for pushing the boundaries. —Todd Greaux

Product highlights: For 2009, Cabrinha has focused on the connection points between the rider and the equipment. Our new Intelligent Depower System (IDS) is designed to put complete control of the kite in the user’s hands. Whether it’s depower on demand, self-landing, or total depower for security reasons or self-rescue, the IDS bridle and Powerdrive IDS control system work in harmony to connect the rider to the kite with complete control while increasing steering performance and lowering bar pressure. The Sync backless bindings have reinvented the connection between body and board, providing a more direct feel and performance. With the security of bindings and the ease and flexibility of footstraps, Sync is a revolutionary solution that makes a secure connection between the rider and board with comfort, ease and performance.

Website: cabrinhakites.com
E-mail: support@cabrinhakites.com
Designer: Pat Goodman
Shaper: Ian Ponting

Caution
Caution Zombie
Caution began in 1998 when Peter and Poul Schiebel hand-built their first kite in a garage in Santa Cruz, California. From day one, Caution has aimed to build high-quality kites designed to withstand the challenging conditions faced in Santa Cruz. While initially focusing on high performance and pure functionality, the Caution design team has expanded its current design efforts to suit all levels of kiters. The culture of Caution is focused on making products that allow its owners, team riders and core customers to share a tremendous sense of pride in its current products as well as excitement for the future. —Brendan Richards

Product highlights: For 2009, Caution has introduced the Zombie, designed as a freeride kite that offers super stability with predictable and precise performance characteristics. The Zombie features a single inflation system, five-strut layout and simple four-line tangle-free bridal setup, offering riders reliability and the most out of their water time. Caution also offers the 2009 Mayhem, a high-performance kite with fast flying characteristics, precision turning control and increased durability while achieving competitive pricing. The Trespass line of directional boards has been updated with a new 6’, offering a wider template with more stability, great for those getting into waveriding as well as heavier riders.

Website: cautionkites.com
E-mail: sales@cautionkites.com    
Designers: Peter Schiebel, Poul Schiebel

Crazy Fly
Crazy Fly Raptor
Crazy Fly started in 2002, with the goal of bringing the highest-quality boards possible to kiteboarding. This difference can clearly be seen in every board we build. From full carbon models to specialized components, there is no compromise to perfection. Every board is hand-built in our own personal factory, not just another brand in a lineup of production. We control every aspect of board construction and testing. So when it comes to choosing the right board for the right rider and his needs, we supply the largest range of boards of any brand, because we know all riders are not alike. —Jeff Howard

Product highlights: For 2009, our design team put an extended amount of thought into the internal lay-up of carbon and glass that would allow us to precisely control tip-to-centreboard flex patterns like no other. From this testing we created a board that rides smooth and calm when being loaded on the centre rail line to give the rider the utmost in upwind ability, yet it’s quick and nimble with a great amount of pop when fully loaded at the tip.

Website: crazyflyusa.com
Email: info@prokitesurf.com
Designers: Jozef Bukovcak , Jeff Howard


EH/Freak DogEH Beast
EH Kiteboarding is based in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, one of the top kiteboarding destinations in the world. In North America we are represented by Freak Dog kites, which is based Florida. EH is known for high-performance, no-gimmick kite designs. Our focus is performance and durability. Our kites stand out of the ordinary, and in extreme conditions EH kites are regularly the only kites left out on the water.

Product highlights: “The Beast is a modern hybrid that mixes SLE with ultra-flat technologies. This mix can pull a 155 lb rider on a plane in eight knots. Usable range for a 155 lb rider is seven to 15 knots on a Beast 15.
The Ripper Pro Team limited edition is a kite designed for the hardcore. This kite is absolutely bombproof, built to last for a long, hard life. Its smooth 15- to 35-knot range makes it a favourite for surfers and jumpers alike. The profits of the Pro Team go 100 per cent to our Dominican kiteboarding team.”

Website: cabareteairforce.com
E-mail: eric@ehkiteboarding.com
Designer: Eric Hertsens

Eclipse Kites
Eclipse Thruster
Eclipse was founded in 2006 by Chris Cousins and Dimitri Maramenides. From the start, our goal was to offer our friends and fellow riders a product that was specifically designed for them. We believe you need to have passion for kiteboarding in order to be successful. With that in mind, we made sure our entire team was made up of active kiteboarders. All of us plan our day around the wind. We all love our jobs and we want to pass on our enjoyment and passion to other riders. If one of our prototypes doesn’t work for us, we know it won’t work for you. If we don’t like a kite, we don’t make it.

Product highlights: For 2009, we spent almost triple the amount of time on R and D and design. We literally tested our kites from Hong Kong to Greece and back. We enlisted the help of pros and professional engineers, but most important, we had average riders help us design our kites better, simpler and smarter. After a lengthy R and D process spread over three continents, we were able to create the 2009 Kima, redesign the Nano and make the Thruster even better. Whether you are a recreational rider, seasoned freerider or experienced pro, Eclipse has a kite specifically designed for you.

Website: eclipsekites.com
E-mail: dimitri@eclipsekites.com
Designer: Dimitri Maramenides

F-OneF-One Bandit
All we do is kiteboarding. We are in this business by passion, not trend. F-One started back in 1998 when no one believed in the future of kiting. F-One’s offices are located 10 minutes from the sea, and being on the water as much as we can is a priority. F-One is a 100 per cent kiteboarding brand. Enjoying what we do and pushing the limits is part of our job. We are directly connected to the field, listening to schools, distributors, shops, pros as well as local riders. —Nicolas Ostermann

Product highlights: Last season, the Bandit was a major breakthrough in kite design, with its incredible combination of safety, relaunching capability and overall performances due to the Delta C-shape design. It was the first time a brand made the deliberate choice to have only one model in its range. This approach has proved to be a big success. We are keeping our concept and introducing the Bandit Dos in 2009. The wind range of the Bandit Dos is even wider, and you will be surprised by the low-end instant power and high-wind comfort. F-One is also introducing a brand-new surfboard line with its unique Bamboo Sandwich Technology. Bamboo is an incredible material for strength, comfort and is environmentally responsible.

Websites: f-onekites.com , kitebroker.ca (Canada)
E-mail: info@f-onekites.us (U.S.), info@kitebroker.ca (Canada)
Designers: Sylvain Peretti, Raphaël Salles
Shaper: Kakou

Flexifoil
Flexifoil Nutron
Flexifoil is the only kite company in the world that offers a kite-sports solution no matter if you are a five-year-old flyer or a five-time world champion. We strive to continually improve and develop to provide our customers with a kite-sports experience that is second to none. Flexifoil has been making high-quality performance kites for over 35 years.
 
Product highlights: We are truly excited about our 2009 product offering. This year we have worked tirelessly, tweaking and refining to ensure that our products are world-class. We have listened to our customers and are confident that these products will exceed expectations for quality and improved performance. Our 2009 water range includes the Hadlow Pro (C-shape competition-winning performance with the pedigree of a five-time world champion), the Neutron hybrid (big on quality and performance, small on price—Flexifoil’s most affordable water kite ever ) and the Ion4 (even more bite from the performance hybrid). In addition, we have two new additions to our kiteboard range: a totally new freestyle twin-tip and freeride twin-tip.
 
Website: flexifoil.com
E-mail: sales@flexifoil.com
Designer: Dr. Henry Rebbeck

Flysurfer Kiteboarding
Flysurfer
Flysurfer stands for innovation and straightforwardness. Customer satisfaction is our main goal during our quest to push the limits of our products even further. Flysurfer has become synonymous with bridled ram-air kite systems for water use in just a few years. From the beginning, Flysurfer has fought for its own path. Although that wasn’t the easiest way to go, it has proven to be the right direction. Flysurfer builds no-pump kites with exceptional depower technology, efficiency, ease of use and high quality according to German engineering guidelines. —Ramon Schoenmaker

Product highlights: The Psycho 4 has Triple Depower Technology, which combines three different ways of depowering into one kite through angle-of-attack change, profile change and the ability to change from an SLE to a C shape. This creates an enormous wind range with only one kite. Another benefit: when kiting overpowered you still have direct bar feedback. Jet-Flap Technology is incorporated into all models to ensure more lift and stability. Instant relaunch makes for an easy and fast water relaunch by just pulling one back line. Flysurfer kites relaunch within seconds. Double-skin profiles create efficient kites that can be flown one size smaller than SLE kites.

Website: flysurfer.com
E-mail: info@flysurfer.com
Designers: Armin Harich, Andi Hanrieder
Shaper: Eddy Lansink

GriffinGriffin
Griffin Kiteboarding has been evolving since 2002. We provide quality, high-performing, great-value products to kiters worldwide. —Selena Griffith

Product highlights: The 2009 Griffin kites are a flat hybrid-style kite with SLE technology, offering massive wind range top to bottom end, huge floaty jumps and quick turning as well as super-stable, predictable and overall fantastic performance. The direct-connect bridle suits all riders because it produces a direct feel and constant power. Turning speed can be adjusted to suit your preferences. The compact bridle insures against any tangles. Griffin kites are comparable in performance and build to any premium-priced brand.

Website: griffinkiteboarding.com
E-mail: info@griffinkiteboarding.com
Designers: Chris van der Plaat, Selena Griffith

Globe Kites
Designer Mat Pendle started Globe Kites in 2003 after previously co-owning Takoon and Wipika with Bruno Legaignoux. Now with his own company, there are no limits. This has led to many design innovations that have shaped the technology of today’s kites. The moving front-line attachment point common in most kites today was patented by GK. Now the A-KPO bridle is a GK-exclusive innovation for 2009, allowing you to change the balance point of your front lines. Eleven years of inflatable kite design has put GK at the top of product development. Design innovation and refinement of manufacturing techniques are a No. 1 priority at GK, not hype marketing and gimmicks.
 
Product highlights: Updated versions of the Trix and VSonic kites lead the industry once again. Laser-welded bladders, laser-cut material and a strong LE seam are like none other available. The A-KPO bridle system is now easier to move than ever before, allowing the rider to tune his bar pressure or turning speed. Within seconds, the rider can change the kite for an upwind racing kite to a kite-looping freestyle kite by moving the centre of effort, which is only possible with the A-KPO. The GK Click-n-Go bar is vastly improved for 2009. Chicken loop safety, simplicity and versatility were of paramount importance when designing the Click-n-Go.
 
Websites: globespirit.com, globekites.com
E-mail: info@litewavedesigns.com
Designer: Mat Pendle

GIN Kiteboarding

GIN Kiteboarding is based in Switzerland. Robert Graham has been designing kites since 1990 and has a background in paraglider design. GIN’s development philosophy and motivation are based on making high-quality performance products. This is its goal—not big marketing concepts. —Michel Montminy

Product highlights: Kitebroker is the North American distributor for GIN kites. We are pleased to introduce Eskimo III, the new kitesnow kite. GIN kept all the appreciated characteristics of the previous Eskimo and brought the best new features in innovation, safety and performance to the Eskimo III. The results are impressive. Designed for high jumps and hangtime, the new arc also allows for fast, precise turning. The safety system incorporates a fifth line for 100 per cent depower.

Website: kitebroker.ca , ginkites.com
E-mail: info@kitebroker.ca
Designer: Robert Graham

HQ-Powerkites
HQ-Powerkites has reached another level of innovation and quality for 2009. World-renowned kite designer Tom Bourdeau has teamed up with us to introduce an awesome new range, featuring our first water-relaunchable kite, the Neo. The development and production of our kites comply with the high standards we set for ourselves. Our passion for quality, performance and safety is matched only by our fascination of power kiting. At HQ, our engineers integrate our team riders into the development process from a kite’s initial concept. This partnership and team spirit yields high performance and user-friendly products you can rely on. Our products are backed up by our commitment to customer satisfaction. If you are not satisfied with HQ, let us know. We’ll do what we can to make things right.

Product highlights:
HQ is launching a true crossover kite that will revolutionize kiteboarding. An innovative closed-cell design and bridle system allows riders to use the Neo on land or water, with the ability to reverse launch off any surface. The durable ram-air properties of the Neo eliminate bladders that can burst as well as the time spent pumping them up. HQ also introduces the Hydra, the world’s first and only water-relaunchable trainer kite. Extremely stable and easy to fly, this closed-cell ram-air foil has no bladders to inflate or replace, yet it floats on water.

Website: powerkites.de
Email: sales@hq-kites-usa.com
Designers: Tom Bourdeau, Alex Hesse

Jimmy Lewis
Jimmy Lewis is one of the few true hand shapers for custom kiteboards. While other brands save costs with square-cut rails that block and deflect water, Jimmy believes that riding on water calls for a fluid rail. This creates a smooth ride that forms to and releases from water with ease. The boards are finished with an automotive-quality paint that produces speed and a high-gloss finish unmatched by others. Jimmy has been working with the Kinetic Factory, which has produced all of his production boards for over 20 years because of its constant evolution in quality, construction techniques and materials. Kinetic replicates Jimmy’s custom shapes and finishes flawlessly, making JL boards accessible to the world.

Product highlights: Jimmy doesn’t believe it’s necessary to add a new gadget or flex pattern to his product every year. The designs are timeless and flawless, so new colour patterns are only introduced every two years. Your JL board will turn heads for years and never become obsolete. The latest shapes to join the lineup are the Super Model, which has wider tips for more freestyle action, and the Chamber KT, a super-aggressive surf shape with or without straps.

Website: jimmylewis.com
E-mail: , sales@jimmylewis.ca
Shaper: Jimmy Lewis

Liquid ForceLiquid Force Havoc
Since 1999, when Liquid Force entered the kiteboarding industry, it has been pushing the limits of kiteboarding with cutting edge designs and core riding image. Today, LF designers and riders are still taking the sport to the next level with ground-breaking kite designs from Julien Fillion, cutting edge twin-tip designs from designer/founder Jimmy Redmon, and the magical kite-surfboard designs of legendary North Shore shaper Pat Rawson. ­—Corky Cullen

Product highlights: The industry is buzzing about LF’s greatly anticipated Havoc 3. This third-generation Havoc was designed to be the most advanced yet user-friendly, high-performance premium freeride SLE kite ever produced. In its third year of evolution, the new Havoc has been refined to once again set new standards in kite design, performance and reliability. Also new is the Influence twin-tip. To create the Influence, Jimmy Redmon teamed up with LF team rider Jason Slezak. The design platform of the Influence brings with it more detailed features than ever before: a variable edge rail (similar to the Mission), contoured multi-channeled bottom shape, compression-molded top-deck contours and a kite-specific flex pattern.

Website: liquidforcekites.com
E-mail: info@liquidforcekites.com
Designer: Julien Fillion
Shapers: Pat Rawson, Jimmy Redmon

Litewave Designs

Litewave designer Dave Turner started the company in 1998 with a philosophy of making a value-priced board that is tough, easy to use and doesn’t limit the rider. Litewave was the first company to make the pressed snowboard-style production twin-tip and we continue that spirit of innovation with cutting edge cores, laminates and construction techniques while keeping costs down by eliminating unnecessary expenses. In 2009, Litewave offers 12 different boards to cover the needs of riders from school to surf to pro.
 
Product highlights: For 2009, we have exciting board developments in both the lightwind and all-around board category. The Wing was a tremendous success in 2008 and we have refined the rocker and added a five-inch-wide aspen wood stringer to give this board an amazing ride that feels like you are snowboarding in bottomless powder. The Spirit is a beautiful, functional board that really looks different. It was tested for a full year on the PKRA tour in 2008. The see-through graphics highlight the beautiful kapok-wood core. This gives a smooth ride but won’t lose grip by allowing the fin to flex off. The third major development at Litewave is the UltraPlush lace-up binding.

Website: litewavedesigns.com
E-mail: info@litewavedesigns.com
Designer: David Turner (a.k.a. Litewave Dave)

Naish International
This year Naish is celebrating its 30-year anniversary and it continues to be dedicated to the philosophy of passion, commitment, innovation and quality. Robby Naish has dedicated his life to watersports. This commitment is echoed throughout Naish International, from the designers, engineers, salespeople and team riders. We ride every day and are constantly looking for ways to improve our products, be it manufacturing methods, materials or designs. We test constantly in a wide variety of conditions to produce the best board-riding products possible. We do not copy. —Jon Malmberg

Product highlights: Two-thousand-nine continues the refinement of both the GeoTech and Sigma concepts. The 2009 Helix has been completely re-engineered and emerges as the top-of-the-line performance Sigma kite. The kite has been designed to fit between the Cult and the Torch. The Cult, our ultimate all-terrain kite, remains the best choice for 90 per cent of the kiteboarding population, with an emphasis on ease of use and relaunch. The 2009 boards all boast improved construction and shaping. For the twin-tips, all models have refined outline, rocker and flex patterns to match the target rider and intended usage. The surf lineup has seven models grouped into three different ranges: Global, Fish and Gun.

Website: naishkites.com
Designers: Damien Girardin (kites), Greg Drexler (boards)
Engineering staff: Jon Malmberg (mechanical engineer), Des Walsh (bridle development, testing), Cyril Coste (concept development, testing)

Nobile
What do you get when you combine the design efforts of former world champion Mark Shinn with one of the largest board factories in the world? Nobile took the board market by storm when it entered the kiteboard market just four years ago. Last year saw the introduction of Nobile’s first kites. Two-thousand-nine will see the release of our newest kite models in early February. ­—Johnny Cousineau

Product highlights: After four years of continuous research, testing and development, we took a step back and re-evaluated the goals for Nobile’s infamous 555 (T5) board range. We may have created the world’s best-selling kiteboard, but there is always room for improvement. Over and over again we came back to the same design parameters: ease of use, comfort and performance. The development of our new ’09 Composite Core 2 (90 per cent wood and 10 per cent honeycomb) has allowed us to improve the legendary comfort factor without losing the board’s lively performance, and once perfected, the addition of our new dynamic asymmetrical outline to the existing elliptical progressive concave and anti-vibration technology has increased its versatility even further. The new T5 offers the ultimate in freeride ease of use with performance you’ll never grow out of.
 
Website: nobilekiteboarding.com
E-mail: nobile@nobilekiteboarding.com
Designer: Mark Shinn

North Kiteboarding

North Kiteboarding has always been a product- and technology-driven company. Our designers and testers have the most say about what is delivered to the market. We don’t submit to the pressure to come up with shiny new products just so the marketing department has something new to talk about. Instead, we concentrate on listening to our customers and improving our most popular products while trying new angles and ideas along the way. Kiteboarders are pretty sharp, eager to test the latest kites and then tell all their friends about it. We work hard to make sure we pass this test every day on every beach. —Doug Hopkins

Product highlights: The Rebel went to four struts this year, which makes it lighter and more reactive. An adjusted profile and leading edge curve prevents back-stalling, even in light and fluky wind. It also has a single inflation point called Lazy Pump. All twin-tip boards now have wood cores, allowing us to design them with a softer flex for a smoother ride. The correct use of triaxial carbon in the lay-up prevents torsional flex, which is often the problem with softer boards. It also maintains good pop. There are comfy new footpads and straps, and glossy new graphics are easy on the eyes.

Website: northkites.com
E-mail: northkites@northsports.com
Designers: Ken Winner, Ralf Groesel
Shaper: Marty Littlewood

Ocean Rodeo
Regardless of price, conditions, experience, age or gender, Ocean Rodeo provides the products that meet the needs of riders. It’s equipment you can count on in extreme situations to optimize your performance. We only offer the best possible quality for all levels of riders. From beginner to expert, we make the rider’s investment count. Our quality will never be compromised. We work endless hours in order to provide optimal performance and premium-quality products —Kevin McLellan
 
Product highlights: In 2009, our product lineup is highlighted by the performance and rave reviews of our Rise kite and Mako board. The 2009 Rise follows in the footsteps of the popular 2008 Rise, with only a few subtle changes—we didn’t want to mess with near perfection. These changes were done in a way to improve overall enhancement without sacrificing performance: smaller tubes, convertible attachment points and all-around feel across the size spectrum. For the legendary Mako lineup we have introduced a 140 x 40 cm version to follow in the footsteps of our most popular board of all time, the Mako Wide 150 x 40 cm.

Website: oceanrodeo.com     
E-mail: info@oceanrodeo.com
Designers: Ross Harrington, Richard Myerscough
Shapers: Ross Harrington, Richard Myerscough

Ozone
Ozone is a rider-owned group of friends who came together to design and build products to reflect their passions. From paragliding the Himalayas, BASE-jumping fjords on Baffin Island, kitesurfing Antarctica, to snowkiting hundreds of miles in a day, Ozone creates performance wings that excel in every environment. Ozone pushes design evolution with unique kites for all seasons and all kite sports. It owns its own factory, with 400 employees designing, testing and sewing kites. From the bladder to the bar, every part on the kite is assembled and packaged by Ozone personnel and pre-inflated for 24 hours before being delivered to happy riders worldwide.

Product highlights:
The legendary Ozone Instinct has gained a reputation for its rock-solid feel in strong and gusty conditions. The original design allows the Instinct to fly farther into the window, creating a larger wind range and making upwind progress even easier. Rob Whittall has spent over 20 years bridling kites and gliders, and has created a new four-line version of the Instinct that defies the current definition for bow and hybrid kites. The 2009 Instinct offers more power and turns faster while maintaining that perfect balance between light bar pressure and a responsive feel. There are three models suited for waveriding, freeriding or flying—you choose your passion.

Website: flyozoneusa.com    
E-mail: info@windzup.com
Designers: Rob Whittall, David Pilkington, Hugh Pinfold

RRD
RRD is based in Tuscany, Italy, in an area where craft-made products are a tradition. Attention to detail and design is one of the most important features of our brand. RRD was the first company to develop a kiteboard. The Legaignoux brothers invented inflatable kites for water-kiting, but we were the first to develop boards, and the third brand to enter in the kite market after Wipika and Naish. We are still a passionate and dedicated company that has been there since the early days of kiteboarding. —Ovidio Ferrari

Product highlights: The most exciting achievement is the Screw-it! System for footpads and footstraps, allowing riders to avoid the use of a screwdriver to assemble pads and straps. It’s a revolutionary system that we apply to all our twin-tip designs in the 2009 line, and it can be used on any brand’s twin-tip board. Also new for 2009, we developed a new line of kites with our kite designer Werther Castelletti. He designed some phenomenal well-tuned and well-refined kites using the new hybrid Delta shape. The Passion is a freeride kite with the Delta hybrid shape, and the Addiction is the new racing kite.

Website: robertoriccidesigns.com
E-mail: claudio@robertoriccidesigns.com, info@deepbluesports.us
Designers: Roberto Ricci, Werther Castelletti
Shapers: Roberto Ricci, Werther Castelletti

Rogue Wave
Rogue Wave
Rogue Wave has been building boards for 28 years and kiteboards since 1997. The lineup includes eight different models and literally hundreds of sizes are available. Each board is hand-shaped and painted by Lee Brittain to the customer’s exact requirements. Rogue Wave offers the industry’s most comprehensive warranty: an unlimited lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects. Rogue Wave has a loyal following in more than a dozen countries around the world. Ninety percent of the boards are built for repeat customers. Delivery time is normally less than three weeks from date of order. —Lee Brittain
 
Product highlights: Our new raceboard shape appeals not only to racers, but also to riders looking for performance in wind as little as six knots. They are custom built using full sandwich construction, with extensive use of carbon fibre in critical areas in order to stand up to many years of abuse. They are available in quad- or twin-fin setups. The buzz with Rogue Wave’s twin-tip boards this year is “mass centralization.” These boards utilize a new dual-density foam core that keeps the weight at the tips to a minimum, making the board respond quicker and ride smoother than ever before.
 
Website: roguewaveboards.com
E-mail: sales@roguewaveboards.com
Shaper: Lee Brittain

SlingshotSlingshot RPM
Since 1981, Tony Logosz and his brother Jeff have dedicated themselves to the performance and design of quality watersports equipment. Years of hard work and innovation, spawned from Tony’s ability to think in original ways, fuel them today. In 1999, after numerous innovations in windsurfing, wakeboarding and other major sports, both set forth to found Slingshot, a global brand that caters to top kiteboarders and wakeboarders around the world. Our commitment to quality, innovative design, testing and riding have been a driving force for a decade. During this time we have been awarded four U.S. patents that make kiteboarding more convenient and safer. ­—Mira Kwon

Product highlights: “Our goal has been to develop a bridled kite that feels and performs like a C kite. Our bridled kites have been getting closer and closer to this, and the RPM, our newest kite, hits the mark. C kites are extremely direct in steering and unhook easily for pop-and-drop handlepass moves. Bridled kites are more vague in their steering and don’t lend themselves to be unhooked quite as easily. With the new RPM kite you get the best of both worlds. Our other greatest accomplishment is Slingshot’s own proprietary board construction, Future Response Technology, which is incorporated into all our twin-tip boards. Born from wakeboarding and now available in kiteboarding.”

Website: slingshotsports.com
E-mail: info@slingshotsports.com
Designers: Tony Logosz, Amery Bernard
Shaper: John Doyle

Vari KitesVari Kiteboarding
Two-thousand-nine is Vari Kites’ first year manufacturing kite equipment, but we are hardly new to the sport. After eight years of professional riding for major brands, three-time world champion Martin Vari downloads his knowledge and experience into the Vari Kites product line. With close teamwork between engineers and designers, the Vari team has come up with an innovative and simple way to portray what today’s kiter needs in terms of equipment. Vari’s philosophy is to help you feel the essence of kiteboarding, developing equipment for ease and riding comfort wherever you want, letting you experience the sport in all forms. With an innovative design that is easy to feel and fun to ride, you will always be in control of the kite. That way, you can maintain your focus on the terrain, whether it be water or snow. —Martin Vari

Product highlights:
We spent over 12 months developing the progressive Condor One. Nowadays, many riders like to kite in different conditions and ride on different styles of boards. Not just your twin-tip for flat water, but also skimboards, wakeskates or surfboards to ride waves. The options are limitless. We based the design of the Condor One on that foundation. Using a progressive bridle system that varies between each size, this kite range is compatible with all styles of riding.

Website: varikites.com
E-mail: info@varikites.com
Designers: Gabriel Dicio, Juan Faustin

Wainman HawaiiWainman Boss
Wainman Hawaii is a new kiteboarding brand five years in the making. We’re making kiteboarding gear that’s a little bit different and we think that’s good. With Lou Wainman heading development, with the help of Franz Olry and a team of extremely devoted and diverse riders, you can bet there are great things to come. Our passion for kiting can be seen in the quality of every product we make. Our designs are streamlined and effective, and are tested in the most extreme conditions Maui and the rest of the world have to offer. —Mike Prezeciechowski

Product highlights: The Rabbit kites are universal kiteboarding tools with sporty character and a wide wind range. They are unlike anything you’ve flown before, so they may take some time getting used to. Light bar pressure and fast turning make the Rabbit a waverider’s dream, while powerful low end provides massive pop and hangtime whether hooked or unhooked. Multiple attachment options allow for customization of bar pressure and turning speed. The bar is super simple, with three leash options to suit all levels. And for a perfect complement to your Rabbit session, get a Blunt—board that is. It is extremely light yet strong with very little drag and massive pop.

Website: wainmanhawaii.com
E-mail: info@wainmanhawaii.com
Designers and shapers: Lou Wainman, Franz Olry, Mike Husky

Windwing

Windwing has maintained its innovative and well-built products since its inception in 1982 on the shores of Berkeley, California. It has always been a small grass-roots company, building cutting edge products with the ability and flexibility to change and redefine products more quickly than the larger and less manoeuvrable companies. Windwing has quietly and successfully led the way with many innovations, which can be easily found in its products. Since its inception, Windwing has never deviated from its philosophy of safety, innovation, quality and service to their customers. —John Chao

Product highlights:
Batwing 15.5 and 12 continue to be major players in lightwind performance. Lighter and more efficient, these kites turn faster, go upwind better, jump higher with longer hangtime, and have a major increase in wind range. The new Batwing 10 is sportster and has a set of foil vents that keep it from back-flying while tuned for maximum performance. It has huge wind ranges, quick turning, easy relaunch and motors upwind better than bigger kites. Following the new direction presented by the Bat 10 m, all 2009 Rampage II kites have adopted the Batwing technology with X-ply TE and foil vents for added control.

Websites: windwing.com , windexpress.com
E-mail: info@windwing.com
Designers: Jonathon Merrell, Bob Wendler, John Chao



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