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DESIGNER’S CORNER: F-One Bandit 4 and Bamboo Surfboards

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Product Name: Bandit 4
Product Category: Delta SLE Kite
Product Style: All-around, waves, wakestyle
Sizes Available: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14m
Release date: Available Now

Product Name: Bamboo Surf
Product Category: Surfboard
Product Style: Light wind, smaller waves (Fish), strapped, medium wind/waves (Signature), heavy surf (Surf), high speed (Surf Gun)
Sizes Available: 5’2”, 5’4”, 5’6” (Fish); 5’8”, 5’10” (Signature); 6’2”, 6’4” (Surf); 6’9” (Surf Gun)
Release date: Available Now

Now entering its fourth year, the changes between the Bandit Dos and Bandit 3 were more refinements than a radical redesign. For 2011, the Bandit 4 (B4) has changed considerably with a new shape and bar. For F-One’s 2011 surf program, several new sizes were added and the boards now all feature a double concave bottom. Founder Raphael Salles helps explain what we can expect from the new B4 and F-one’s 2011 surf line.

The Bandit 4 has a new canopy shape and squared off wingtips. What did this affect?
We modified the outline and went from five to three struts. Three struts gives you more freedom to work on the body. With less weight and larger square tips, you get a kite with a faster response and a lighter feeling in your hands. The bar response is immediate with lighter bar pressure so you know exactly what the kite is doing at any give time. One of the surprises is that both pro riders as well as beginners feel a definitive improvement in driving the kite with a more direct response that needs no anticipation. We also changed the profile, the C-shape curve, and the diameter of the leading edge so almost everything has been modified except the delta which remains the same. I want to make sure readers understand this because as the kite looks closer to a C-shape because of the square tips, people think that the B4 is not a delta, but I can assure you it is. The new B4 just doesn’t have the typical look of the first generation delta with pointy tips anymore.

2011 F-One Bandit 4

With the new shape, please explain the difference between a delta and SLE kite.
Ever since the first Bandit, we have classified our concept, now patented, as a delta C-shape. We’re the only major brand that never built a bow kite. A delta is a kite that gets a sharp angle at the center of the leading edge, giving it a new outline for an inflatable kite. The first important thing is that you can make a 4m or a 20m with a delta and it will work perfectly, something which is not true for a SLE or a pure C-shape. This allows us to have a full range without the need of making all kind of different shapes. The delta allows full depower with a lot of stability, without the need for a long depower system. Its natural shape is ideal for auto relaunch. On a bow or SLE, they have less area in the center and more on the tips so they need to be flatter to get power, and as soon as they go more C, they lose the low end. The C-shape is the only way to get the direct perfect bar feeling so it’s an important feature on our kite design.

The previous Bandits are known for their rock solid stability. With three struts, is the B4 as stable as previous models?
That was the challenge we had. We got a kite that can turn better and is smoother but what happens when we use it in overpowered conditions? We worked a lot on the aspect ratio and the kite balance. Alex Caizergues, the world speed record holder, is our high wind tester. We asked him to push the 9m in 45 knots and tell us what he thought. This year, the speed team was quite surprised that we still managed to satisfy them.

What are the biggest changes that B3 riders will immediately notice when riding the new B4?
I strongly believe we have gained in all aspects of the kite if we compare it to the B3. First thing you will notice is the lighter weight, not only the real weight but the moving weight. In the low end you can gain power just because the kite is easier to move and gain traction while in the high end, the control of the profile, depower, and the stability at the edge of the window give you a lot of confidence. For unhooked riding, you will benefit from the weight, the response time, and the speed in kite loops. We have also managed to get less direct boost when you unhook, so you have better control and the bar is easier to pass. You don’t need to tune your depower trim before unhooking; the kite accepts more of a middle trim. I think every rider in any discipline will feel the benefit of the B4 from its previous generation. We have put into the B4 things that cannot normally fit into one kite: Light but strong, rigid but soft, manageable but stable, powerful but comfortable, and accessible but performance-oriented.

Were any more changes made to the construction or design of this kite?
We have been using our Force Frame construction since the Bandit 1, with full independent canopy panels between struts and are constantly improving it. With the Fusion strut design and the use of a lot of Dacron fabric in specific areas, our construction is rock solid. We’ve been in close collaboration with the same kite factory for nine years so our production and quality control is based on long experience and partnership. On the B4, we have a new strut valve with no zip ties for the one pump system that allows easy replacement of bladders and also added several new reinforcements.

F-One refined its Velcro pin safety release system for 2011. How did you modify your safety release and what do you have to say about the Velcro pin system versus the push cuff release systems?
We strongly believe that a complicated quick release system with metal parts can stop working when wet and sandy, which are typical conditions. We feel more confident with our Velcro system. Velcro will work in any situation, from any type of sand to the snow. Velcro does not need any maintenance and you can leave it for one year without taking care of it and it will work just fine when you need it. The only thing you need to remember with our system is which side you place the release, right or left. Riders should always try and learn their safety release before they go out. This year, we have changed the canvas loop for a molded one that is easier to catch and that pulls right at the top of the Velcro to get an even quicker release.

You also have a new molded bar for 2011, the Aerolite. How does this differ from the 2010 control system bar?
We totally redesigned the bar. Any traditional bar is made out of five different parts: Center hole, two tubes, and two ends, and most of the time in different materials, with all the parts glued together. Our new concept is to have the all in one bar concept with only one monobloc aluminum piece with a molded polymer on the ends and an EVA grip.

Several new sizes were added to F-One's 2011 surf program. Photo Gilles Calvet

F-One was the first company to use bamboo sandwich construction in its line of directional boards. Why does F-One believe bamboo is superior?
We started promoting the bamboo technology in 2009 but we developed it two years earlier. Today, more and more factories are able to produce bamboo sandwich boards and because it’s an excellent material to build a surfboard, you will see more and more of it. The problem with a kite surfboard is that we need to build strong boards, but when you make it strong, the end result is heavy and stiff. The bamboo gives a lot of strength with regard to impacts while being extremely light because its inner resistance allows us to use a really thin envelope. On top of this resistance and strength, the bamboo absorbs the vibrations while keeping some flex, so when you ride on our board you feel a general comfort and smoothness you usually don’t have on sandwich boards. The finish with the bamboo is beautiful and has less environmental impact due to its growing speed in a farmed environment.

The surf line is broken down into four categories: Fish, Gun, Signature, and Surf. What kind of conditions is each best for?
There are so many different ways of using a directional board that we decided to have a complete range to satisfy all of them. The Fish is the best for light wind and smaller waves. The Signature is more for strapped surfing and Surf is more for strapless or strapped riding in heavy surf and can be used for paddle surfing. The Gun is a cruising board offering excellent stability at high speed and a feeling that is cuts through the water.

2011 F-One Fish

All the new boards now feature double concave. What did this accomplish?
The Signature series is built with a V double concave bottom and that design is a better fit with the way we ride waves with a kite. We have more speed and power than surfers so our shapes need to be different and our position on the board is not always straight up because we often have to resist the kite. The V allows an effortless entry into a turn from rail to rail while at the same time keeping the board in check during the turns. You can easily and at any time change the radius of your turns and follow where the wave is asking you to go. The double concave gives more comfort and a quicker acceleration. With the combination of V and double concave, as well as the new outline and rocker, you will notice right after the first jibes that you can lay down much more into your turns and you will be surprised how effective these new improvements are. You can get that carving snowboarding feeling in a simple jibe.

There is some debate regarding what size board a rider should get. What’s your opinion?
I think the program you want to cover will give you the type and size of board you should ride. I can ride from 5’2” to 6’9″ depending on the conditions. Before buying your first directional you should really ask yourself what you want to do, then the choice will come easy. We have quite a few customers that have two different boards to cover different conditions!

2011 F-One Signature

F-One’s surf line has received very positive reviews by the TKB team for everything but the straps. Have these changed for 2011?
Our 2010 straps were super comfortable and also super light but not adjustable. We have worked on a new surf strap that is now adjustable and is using the same strap lock technology as our twin tip pro platinum straps for easy mounting.

Anything else about the Bamboo Surf line you want to point out?
Just one thing: We have been working on the Bamboo Surf Series for several years now and it’s not just because you put some bamboo in your board that suddenly it will be stronger and better. You also need to know how to use it.

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