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Get full 2014 gear info from 28 brands in the TKB 2014 Buyer’s Guide.
For 2014 Liquid Force has released completely redesigned versions of the Envy and NRG kites as well as a refreshed surfboard line and some new accessories. Liquid Force brand manager Gary Siskar answered our questions about what riders can expect from the wide range of products from Liquid Force for the new product year.
It looks like both the Envy and the NRG got huge updates for 2014. What are some of the major changes between 2013 and 2014?
I would say both the Envy and NRG went through a metamorphosis. This was a result of us widening our testing team program to a greater base of kiteboarders. We brought in every type of rider and situation that our kites would encounter. This group included our pro riders, instructors using them for lessons, beginners, intermediates, and advanced kiteboarding enthusiasts. We also increased our time of development and did not limit our prototyping process. What we realized is that there are many views of how the products are used and interacted with, but we found common wants in what this test group requested.
That is how we developed the fifth generation Envy and the third generation NRG. First and foremost we wanted to make both kites more responsive at the bar and faster in the turns. With this the kites changed entirely, so much so that we actually considered changing the names of the kites due to the departure from the 2013 models. In the end we decided to keep the names as they still retain the characteristics that people love in the Envy and NRG. What changed? Wingtip profiles, LE profile and foil plan, canopy construction, strut construction, and bridles just to name a few. All these changes resulted in faster turning, more responsive, positive feeling kites.
The Envy now has a fixed bridle with no pulleys or sliders. What does removing moving parts from the bridle do? Are there any drawbacks to a fixed bridle?
This, for obvious reasons, aids in the direct rider-connected feel of the kite. It makes the input from the bar to the kite translate faster and thus makes the kite response fast and crisp. There can be downsides to fixed or direct bridles. They can limit depower throw at the bar, be more sensitive to oversheeting, and create stability issues. These all are dependent on the profile and aspect ratio of the kite along with the bridle configuration. The NRG still has a pulley to create more depower throw and retain the stable in-flight characteristics and high aspect lift and boost that kiteboarders love in this kite.
On the Envy we enlisted a bridle guru to completely change the configuration to retain the great feel of the past generation Envys. This was a huge challenge that was thoroughly met. The Envy still has the stability, great depower, pivotal turning, drift, and thoughtless flight now in a faster, more responsive package. Another aspect of the direct bridles is now we have adjustability in the turning speed and bar pressure on all our kites. This is something we did not have until this year.
Both the Envy and NRG are marketed as all around kites. How do riders decide between the two?
Great question! We look at kites as the engine for the rider. Some people love light bar pressure, some like heavier, some like the kite’s power to engage fast when sheeting in, and others like to have the power band closer to the harness. Also, there are preferences in how a kite feels for boosting, powered wakestyle riding, wave riding, or cruising. We look at our kites as how they fly in the wind window and how they engage with power at the bar. From there riders find what fits their style, needs, or conditions.
The Envy is a great kite for riders that like a medium to light feel on the bar, want a kite to drift downwind for slack freestyle and side to side-on surf conditions, and like the power closer to the harness. The NRG is a higher aspect kite that engages power faster when sheeting in and has more bar pressure. The NRG creates more lift for jumping and raw power in light wind. The NRG also sits more forward in the window which generates more upwind progression and sits nicely in side-off surf conditions. With LF you can find a specific feel in our kites that will satisfy any riding desire.
Is the HIFI X going to be updated for 2014?
We were working on a new HIFI X but it was not better than the current one! It is a very high performance 5-line kite designed to perform at the highest level of freestyle. As we worked through the prototypes it became very apparent that what we currently have in the HIFI X is very special. It is performing beyond expectations as is!
This is not to say that we are not working on the next generation of this kite, but we will not launch a replacement until we are certain the next iteration will outperform the current one. Our highly competitive riders such as Christophe Tack, Manuela Jungo, Nico Suriel, and Oliver Umpierre are all having their best year of contest riding ever with the HIFI X.
Any changes to the bar for 2014?
There are some minor changes to the CPR control system. We feel strongly about our release system being the safest on the market, so we did not mess with that. We did change the color to a high visibility orange so you can easily identify left and right and also easily spot your bar in the water when you crash and let go. We made the fully integrated EVA floats and winders softer, allowing for more movement of the kite lines when doing loops or hard directional changes. Also, we went to thicker flying and steering lines, which are coated for easy rigging and line management at the end of a session. They are stronger and more resistant to stretching. The lines this year come rigged at 23m on the bar, but you can remove a 3m extension to fly your kite on 20m lines.
LF has always had a really extensive twin tip line. What are some of the highlights for 2014?
We are proud that we offer a board for any rider in any conditions accommodating any style! Most people don’t know that LF has been making kiteboards since 1998. Jimmy Redmon, who shapes and designs all our kiteboards, has been making wakeboards and surfboards for over 25 years. This year we are particularly excited about bringing high performance at a great price level. Last year we introduced the Drive which is a great progression board with a new core configuration and construction.
Jimmy further developed this process and we added the Focus which is a performance-orientated board that utilizes the same Drive construction with the addition of top contours and bottom channels for grip and pop. We also introduced the Overdrive light wind twin tip. The Overdrive uses a 100% wood core, low entry rocker profile, and a wider planning surface along with a centered stance that allows great light wind efficiency and lets the rider do tricks and ride toeside with ease in light wind. Besides having a great range of boards we also have some exciting new models on the horizon, so be on the lookout for that!
Both the Drive and Focus are price point boards even though they look great. What is a rider giving up by going with one of these boards compared to something like the Influence?
The higher-end boards like the Influence, LFX, and Element use a different material composition that allows for exact flex profiling and thinner overall shapes that reduce weight. These boards also have a more pronounced bottom shape and top contours that play into grip on the water the flex pattern of the boards. The higher-end boards are more precise in terms of the design elements that add benefits in reduced weight and a more precise feel on the water.
Is there any difference between the Influence and LFX other than construction?
The Influence and the LFX share the same outline, rocker, bottom shape, and top contours. All the benefits of the Influence as the ultimate all-around performer are in the LFX, but the LFX has some additional features. The core of the LFX is a wood/foam composite, reducing weight and creating a soft flexing board along the length while retaining torsional stiffness. The soft flex absorbs chop nicely making for a smooth ride and the torsional stiffness does not compromise edge hold that allows for upwind progression and still loads and releases great for jumping. If you hit sliders and rails the soft flex really lets you style out presses. Also, we put the Liquid Force Grind base on the LFX. This is an ultra-durable base that protects against impact.
What’s the idea behind the baseless chassis on the new Fusion pad?
This was a big project for us over the past year. We noticed that a lot of pads and straps out there are just thick EVA that put you in a position that does not allow for a great board feel. Bryan Dawley and Wade Motowi (LF design engineers) pulled inspiration from baseless snowboard bindings. What this design incorporates is what we call a ring chassis that has no cross sections that span the forefoot or the heel. This accomplishes two key factors. One is light weight as we have eliminated any excess material. Second it allows for an extremely comfortable, low connection to the board.
This increases board feel and control. We have also paid attention to the small yet important details on the Fusion, such as the color. We used a high-visibility orange to make your board easier to see in the water and we changed the integration of the mounting system. We are now using wide mounting holes that allow for custom stance adjustment and will accommodate insert spreads from six to over seven inches. The Fusion will fit any board on the market, not just LF boards.
LF has a variety of kite-specific boots. What is the difference between them?
As kiteboarders we don’t have the luxury of relaxing on the back of a boat or on a cable platform when putting on bindings so our tongue pulls and single lace entry makes it easier. We do have an extensive line of boots that fit the needs of riders looking for either a stiff or soft flex and we offer full Velcro or lace entry systems as some riders prefer one over the other.
The surfboard line looks like it’s been simplified compared to past years. What kind of riding is each of the surf models made for?
Yeah, we trimmed the line down. We found that there is a fissure forming in kitesurfing. There are riders looking for a kite surfboard that has been designed around the demands that are specific to surfing with a kite, but there is a growing group that use the same board they surf on. What we offer are boards designed to be ridden in a kitesurf situation. We added extra lamination in the vacuum bag process to make the boards stronger than a surfboard you would buy at your local surf shop. Obviously we have inserts for kiteboarders that want to use straps. We also use PVC under the feet to reduce heel denting.
The 5’9” CJ is back for the third year. This board has been refined by Julien Fillion, who also designs our kites. The only thing he changed was the cant on the fins, adding 2° more which allows the board to release more in tight turns. The 6’0” Quickness is new for this year. We added about 1.25” more width at the 12” nose dimension over the 2013 6’0” Joy Stick. This gives the board more volume through the mid section of the board allowing for more glide and drive. We also introduced the Messenger this year, inspired by shaper Daniel Thomson and some of the earlier pioneers in progressive surfboard design. This is a must-try board that will blow minds!
Any changes to the surfboard construction compared to last year?
We had great success in durability and performance with our 2013 construction process. Basically we have a double vacuum bag process that makes a strong board that retains a degree of flex for a lively feel. This year we did have to move away from the BXP-3 core and use an EPS stringer core as BXP-3 cores no longer exist.
Anything you’d like to highlight about the harnesses and impact vests?
We put just as much time in R&D, innovation, and creation of our harnesses and vests as we do in the kites. This year we are excited to offer three new harnesses including the Supreme and Prime waist harnesses and the Cruizer seat harness. We have also brought an innovation to the Supreme and Prime in the way you secure the harness. We developed a Cam Clamp spreader bar clip that allows you to adjust your harness just once and then easily clip in and out from that point on. This system eliminates the problem that pretty much every harness out there has which is the webbing slipping and the harness riding up.
We also have introduced a new impact vest (the Supreme). This vest offers a great deal of floatation to inspire confidence and is the first reversible impact vest. One side is brightly colored for high visibility or you can reverse it to black for a toned down look. Another great feature of all our impact vests is they are fully designed to integrate with any waist or seat harness. There are no seams, zippers, or floatation in areas in contact with the harness that may create pressure points. If you are looking for a kite-specific impact vest that is packed full of comfort and safety features, look no further as LF has you covered!