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2013 Buyer’s Guide: Gaastra

Photo Tim Hendrics

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Gaastra is now available in North America, thanks to former pro windsurfer Brian Caserio. The company has an extensive product line, but for 2013 only two kites, the Jekyll and Hatch, will be available to the American market. Recognized for pioneering many windy wave riding spots in California and Baja, Brian, now an avid kiteboarder and SUPer who can still pick up a windsurf board and kill it, shares why he decided to get into the distribution game and import Gaastra.

Gaastra is one of the oldest companies in windsports but has not had distribution in North America for close to 10 years. What made you decide to import the brand?

It’s funny because my first sponsor as a professional windsurfer back in 1986 was Gaastra Sails, so it seems things are coming full circle in a way. Throughout the 80s and 90s Gaastra was a dominant force in windsurfing, sponsoring guys like both Pete Cabrinha and Robby Naish, so they have a hugely respected background in the windsports industry. Currently my long-time friend and former windsurf champion Matt Pritchard is the US importer for Gaastra windsurfing sails. Gaastra approached him about getting the kites into the US, but Matt doesn’t kite so he called me to see if I was interested.

I’d actually used Gaastra’s kites once when I visited Matt on Maui back in 2007 or 2008 and thought they were okay, but nothing to write home about. This time, just when Matt contacted me, I was about to head to Baja for a couple of weeks, so we scrambled to get a few kites for me to test while I was down there so I could see what improvements they had made in the past six years. Rumors out of Europe were that the kites were insane and my experience with them definitely bore that out. I didn’t want to only trust myself so I also let as many people as I could use the kites locally to get some other feedback. They were all just beyond stoked on them, so much so that it really sealed the deal for me.

Photo Tim Hendrics

Gaastra is using LTE, a new canopy material, in its 2013 kites. How does it compare to the more well known Teijin T9600?

This new fabric comes from Taiwan. Gaastra knows the LTE canopy material very well because they have been involved in the development of that fabric. The specs are similar to the well known Teijin T9600. It’s a polyester fabric with a kind of PU coating. The coating is the big deal in such a fabric. Our LTE canopy is coated on both sides and repels water very well.

The weight is slightly less than T9600 even though it is a bit stronger. This is due to the double ripstop. The LTE canopy has two of the thicker ripstop threads next to each other and the distance from ripstop to ripstop thread is less than on the T9600. The porosity is improved as well and we can say that this fabric is really airtight. This is important for high performance.

2013 Gaastra Hatch

What is the Twin Seam technology being introduced on the 2013 kites?

This concerns the closing seam of the leading edge. Instead of one thread of V92 there are two threads of V69 (the V-number tells the thickness of the thread). One thread is polyester like before and one thread is nylon. The nylon thread is a little more flexible than the polyester one. Under normal load the polyester thread is strong enough and keeps everything in its place.

During a shock (an impact, for example) the nylon thread takes the load and supports the polyester thread. Gaastra modified a sewing machine in a way that allows stitching with two threads at the same time, which means they don’t perforate the fabric twice. That is actually the beauty of this technique. They tried many different combinations of different threads in different strengths and materials. The labor test showed that the nylon/polyester combination is the strongest. It is around 25% stronger than a conventional seam.

2013 GAASTRA KITES
Kite Name Sizes Stock Line Length Target Date Available
Gaastra Jekyll 6 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.5, 12, 14, 16.5, 19m 21m + 3m extensions All-around high-performance, freestyle, wakestyle, waves Now
Gaastra Hatch 3 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13m 21m + 3m extensions All-around freeride/freestyle Now

Are there any more new materials or tech being rolled out in the 2013 kite line?

Not really. The new fabric and new stitching technique are already quite a lot!

For 2013, Gaastra has refined the Jekyll and Hatch kites. Starting with the Jekyll6, what conditions and what kind of rider is best suited to this kite?

The Jekyll6 is an overall kite for performance-oriented people. It has quite a fast flying foil, which means it loves to accelerate quickly and fly fast through the wind window to create power. This might be a problem for real beginners. The advantage is that the kite has superior upwind performance and a huge high end. The bar pressure is light and the turning speed is fast. These same characteristics also make the ideal kite for waves.

What refinements were made to the kite?

This year the kite got a different wingtip shape. The goal was to keep the kite fully steerable even if it is depowered a lot. With the new shape, the tip is a bit stiffer. This helps create a direct and fast response to steering input. The strut construction was also changed for a more accurate foil.

Photo Tim Hendrics

How does the Hatch differ and what type of rider is best suited to it?

The Hatch has a lower aspect ratio than the Jekyll and a different profile. The bar pressure is slightly higher and the flying speed and turning speed are a little less. The kite has good power when there is not so much flying speed. That makes it easier to handle. The Hatch is an overall freeride kite.

It should fit all styles of riding, but the slower turning may not be as good for the waves as compared to the Jekyll. The kite generates quite a strong pull during kite loops. Due to this fact some freestylers are using the Hatch. It’s really for people who don’t want to think about the kite. It is easy to use in all situations.

Gaastra’s 2013 X2 control bar system features a unique Magnetic Quick Release (MQR) with no moving parts. How does it work? Can you put the bar back readily if it’s engaged?

The magnets are there just to keep the quick release closed, similar to a bungee. One end of the loop has a kind of bail, which lies on a metal socket inside the QR. In the cup of the QR (outside part) is a metal bolt, which keeps the bail on the socket. As soon the cup gets moved upward the bail can release.

The socket has an inclination, and that’s why the bail releases. It is very simple to reassemble. There is a spring inside which keeps the cup open when released, making it instantly ready for reassembly. You only need to put the bail back on the socket and close the cup. I think it is the easiest system to reassemble on the market.

2013 Gaastra Jekyll

Are there any other new features on the X2 control bar system?

With what’s called the Shiftadjuster (a plastic piece that the clam cleat is attached to), you can position the clam cleat at any position between the bar and the ring where the kite’s power lines attach. It is even possible to do this while the kite is in the air (Open the Shiftadjuster and pull it down by hand. To push it upward you need to push with the bar itself, as this is heavier). This allows you to adjust the ratio of the depower to the length of the adjuster. In simpler terms, it allows the user to customize the configuration of the depower system.

For example, many strapless wave riders prefer a very long bar throw, perhaps with no system of depower other than the huge throw. The X2 system allows you to do this by using the Shiftadjuster to move the cleat all the way to the top of the chicken loop line, resulting in maximum throw and a clean, simple, and uncluttered depower system. On the other hand, if you want less throw or a hard stop on your bar throw, you can move the cleat towards the bar and use the depower rope to adjust your power level. The Shiftadjuster is also great for tailoring the bar system to any size rider.

Additionally, at the end of the depower rope we added a kind of clip, which you may clip to the depower rope above the adjuster. This way the depower rope does not tangle around if it is pulled in a lot. Another cool feature is that there is a swivel inside the top of the quick release, so if you do some sort of spin or kite loop and get a twist in your lines, when you spin your bar back you only have to sheet the bar in quickly and the twist is forced out of the lines. Gaastra really did their homework on this bar system.

Do you also plan on importing Gaastra boards?

Gaastra actually has a huge line of products including harnesses and even wetsuits. We are definitely interested in the boards and we can get them if people want them, but we have not put in the effort to test them yet, which is something we really need to do first so we are knowledgeable about the products. Right now we are concentrating on the kites but will look at the boards in the future.

Want 185 pages of 2013 kiteboarding gear info on 28 brands? Check out the TKB 2013 Buyer’s Guide.

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