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While Blankforce may be an unfamiliar brand name to many riders in North America, they have been producing kiteboards since 2006. Founder Daniel Müller has been shaping and building kiteboards since 1999 and has a wealth of knowledge and experience with composite materials. Daniel answered our questions about the 2014 Blankforce products as the brand introduces itself to the North American market.
Most riders in North America have never heard of Blankforce. Can you tell us a little about the company?
It all started in 1999 when I decided to work for a shaper in Tarifa. It was the very beginning of kitesurfing and I was eager to work behind the scenes and learn how to build my own kiteboards. In 2006 I decided to start Blankforce as a very small custom production to cover the needs of some schools in Germany and the Netherlands.
Since then we have created new models every year and each model has been designed to be very specific to a riding style. Each style requires some unique attributes which are translated into construction techniques with variations in flex, shape, rocker, and the choice of materials.
Once a certain model is released we incorporate feedback from our customers and riders to evolve that model. That’s why we talk about generations of boards. For example, MK3 is our third generation of carbon boards. It inherits the carbon construction know-how of past models but we introduced a completely new material (unidirectional carbon fiber), which is still unique in the kiteboarding industry. By producing exclusively in Europe we are able to fine-tune the existing models on a continuous basis.
We work together with our partners to offer high quality products and responsive service. In 2011 we started to go international and our products are now available worldwide. In 2013 we decided to move the company to Barcelona, Spain. Our small no-name brand created eight years ago is, through constant growth, now taking its place in the actual kitesurfing scene.
How will North American riders be able to get their hands on a Blankforce board to demo or purchase?
We started to sell globally three years ago and today Blankforce is available in more than 25 countries in Europe, Australia, and South America. We established direct relationships with a limited number of shops and schools. There is a lot of word of mouth out there, but our customers will probably want to try the boards before they buy. We are ready to introduce Blankforce in North America and are still analyzing different options. The first stage will be to partner with a few medium scale shops or schools where instructors and riders will be able to test the boards.
What are some standout features of the Blankforce boards?
With kiteboards there is just one way to get standout features: Through craftsmanship and the selection of the finest materials. We only use Paulownia wood as it offers the best ratio between strength and weight. Strength is very important in the press and backing process and this material has the right internal resistance under maximum pressure in order to spread the epoxy homogeneously. More and more riders are switching to boots and for this reason we added extra stainless steel inserts.
Boots produce a much higher load on the inserts so they must be fixed into the wood core as firmly as possible. We tested many different constructions and achieved the best result by laminating the inserts between the glass/carbon layers on the bottom side. The result is that the boards reach a breaking strength of 1,100 lbs. per insert!
All the boards are 3D designed on top for thinner edges and a stiffer profile between the feet and more flex in the tips. They also feature semi-translucent graphics. This means we set the bar very high and each board has to be perfect as the flaws cannot be hidden. Particular attention is also given to how the carbon and fiberglass layers are positioned. In some cases we have to use different layers and structures to produce the desired effect. In these cases experience, know how, and the choice of materials are fundamentally important.
What are the main differences between the Advisory Carbon, MK3 Carbon, and Logic?
The three models are very easy to distinguish as each one is very specific to a riding style. The Advisory Carbon is a full carbon board with biaxial and quadaxial layers that spread the rider’s force in a circular manner. It provides maximal stiffness and locks the torsion. The construction is very appreciated by pure wakestylers who are able to handle massive pop. It’s highly recommended to use this board with boots. The MK3 Carbon is built with 45° biaxial glass topped with unidirectional carbon fibers from tip to tip.
The unidirectional carbon fibers work like a bow and direct the rider’s impulse and forces to the tips directly. Freestyle riders like the speed and control provided by the unidirectional carbon for high jumps. The control in choppy water is awesome and it is a really fast board. The Logic is built to provide comfort. You need no particular skills to ride it. The triaxial glass construction offers strength and it’s meant to satisfy anyone who has started and wants to progress in the sport. It is really forgiving and you feel confident at all times. The straighter outline is highly appreciated for its upwind abilities.
Will there be any new products for 2014?
Yes, there are more and more riders out there asking for specialized boards for park riding. The key for controlling slides is a board with a maximum of flat surface and good flexing tips. On the other hand the board needs enough strength in the center to allow the rider to control their balance. Strength is also a must when you have to hold lots of pop for inverted tricks. After testing different material mixes, we went for a hybrid glass-carbon construction with carbon in the center and glass in tips. To ensure grip without fins we designed deep channels along the rail and into the tips. We named this new 2014 board the Enduro as we feel it’s similar to an enduro motocross bike: A powerful engine with a big suspension.
What features make the Drive light wind-specific?
There are two sizes available – a compact board (139×46) that fits in a board bag for traveling purposes and a larger one (159×44) for ultra light wind. The 159 Drive has convex rails for improved upwind abilities and has two extra heelside fins. This means you need less angle and can use more board surface for early planning. The board also glides longer in lulls. This board comes with four standard fins (4.8 cm) and two additional center fins (5.5 cm).
Any special features of the Blankforce pads and straps?
Good bindings are essential for control and comfort, so we use multiple EVA layers for a very ergonomic and cushy pad with a toe ridge, which provides grip. The straps are reinforced with PVC to offer a more solid strap. They are padded with EVA and rounded up with neoprene to wrap your feet. With three screw positions on each side of the strap you can choose from a wide spectrum of angles to match your favorite position.
Blankforce also makes a harness and impact vest. What are the standout features of these products?
What makes the harness successful is the convertible waist and seat system. The seat harness makes you feel confident and you start directly with a better body position in your first kiteboarding steps. The seat is removable thanks to a Velcro system and once you take off the seat it works like a very comfy waist harness.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, we worked hard over the last year to create a completely new line of carbon wakeboards. We had team riders at the Olympic Cable Park in Barcelona and on lakes in Germany who tested new prototypes every week. The Quantum is a wakeboard to be used behind a boat and the Dimension is designed for sliders and kickers. They will be available in 142, 139, and 133 cm.