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Founded in 2005, Blade Kites is based out of Israel with worldwide distribution. For 2015, the big news for Blade is that the company has decided to focus 100% on kites and is no longer making boards. Yaron Barlev, CEO of Blade Kiteboarding and head of Blade’s R&D department fills us in what led to this decision and what we can expect now that the company is fully dedicated to producing discipline-specific kites only.
Blade stopped making boards starting this year. What led you to this decision? I would say that more than deciding to stop making boards, we decided to dedicate ourselves to making kites. Since the day Blade was founded in 2005, kites have always been our main focus and the boards were more of a complementary product. This year we took a moment to think about it and realized that in order to create the best kites we can, we needed to give it our complete, undivided attention. That’s what led us to stop the production of our boards. Now we spend 100% of our resources on creating kites, day in and day out, tweaking every feature until our test team is 100% satisfied with the result. Judging from the feedback we get from riders around the world, the results are starting to show on all of our product line, from the Fat Lady to the Skinny Boy, the Mist and of course our “franchise player” – the Trigger. I can definitely promise that you will also feel the impact on our new kites coming out in the near future.
How does your R&D process work and does Blade follow industry product release cycles? This is another thing that we decided to change in order to keep our kites at a top level. Instead of following the common cycles, we release our product only once we are 100% satisfied with it, while trying to maintain a one to two year guideline. We constantly test our products on multiple groups of testers and we improve the product each time, until everybody feels it’s perfect. Just to give you a quick overview of on our R&D process: our team is led by Momi the designer, Amit the lead tester and me, Yaron. First thing we do is talk about the characteristics that will be best for the kite’s specific purpose. If it’s a new version of an existing kite, we talk about which elements need to be changed and which ones we have to keep. After Momi draws the kite, we send the CAD drawings to the factory and get our first prototype. Then, the testing begins. Amit and I test it first at our beach and fine-tune it to make it just perfect. Once we are satisfied with the kite, we give the local team a chance to try it out and give their feedback. Since we want to make sure every kite is really at the top-level that we had in mind, we also give it to various riders who are not associated with Blade so we can get a non-biased opinion from experienced riders. Then, and only then, a new Blade kite is born!
The Trigger has been the staple of Blade’s kite line up and did very well in TKB’s 2014 Freeride review test. Were any changes made to this kite model? The trigger has been around for 7 years. It is our all-around progression kite, but we still want to make sure we give it as much power and turning ability as we can. This year, we focused on the wingtip structure. We created a sharper and edgier structure that enhances two major parameters: turning and stabilizing. You might be shocked by the way the new trigger turns effortlessly and smoothly, as if it has small shock absorbers. Riders that will definitely feel the improvement are freestyle riders who will be able to unhook easier, beginners who will feel safer with the stability and wave riders who will enjoy the more direct feel of the kite.
The largest size in Blade’s kite offerings is the Trigger 14. Will the 17m Fat Lady light wind kite address most riders’ needs for a smaller kite in the 15-16m range? Definitely. We’ve been getting good reviews from riders looking for larger kites that can be powerful and efficient in light winds. At 17m, the Fat Lady is a big girl that has so much quickness, power and range, anybody in the market for a 15m kite should consider it.
New for the 2014/2015 model year is the Skinny Boy, Blade’s wave-specific kite. How does this kite perform differently from The Trigger, your all-around, do everything kite? Since we focus on making specific kites for specific styles, we tried to maximize the Skinny Boy’s attributes to fit wave riding rather than being versatile like the trigger is. For example, Skinny Boy is a pivot turning kite which allows it to turn with minimal power, a basic necessity in wave riding. Another thing is the depower feature. Skinny Boy uses an Insta-Depower technology which gives the kitesurfer the ability to maximise the kite’s depower instantly which is crucial when doing a powered bottom turn or just going down the line of a wave. The most important difference is of course the drift which lets the kite drift down the line while the rider can enjoy riding the wave.
The Mist was launched in 2014. Where does this kite fit in the lineup and can we expect any modifications to it? The Mist is another example of a kite that is specifically designed to excel in a certain discipline, which is freestyle. One thing we fine-tuned over and over again during the r&d process was the sharp contoured wingtip. The Mist’s unique wingtip shape gives freestyle riders an explosive pop while also providing higher than usual stability. If you’re looking to get big air and land tricks at the competition level, the Mist is the kite for you. We are currently working on the new Mist, which should be out in spring 2015 with some interesting modifications.
Blade made some minor tweaks to the 2014 Uni Bar, which was introduced to the market in 2013. What are they? One thing we added was a dynamic stopper ball that allows riders to easily change their preference using only one hand. The other thing we did was go over every element of the bar and make sure it is durable and resistant to harsh conditions.
Rumor has it that two more kites will be added to Blade’s kite line sometime next year. Can you give us a hint as to what’s coming? Now that 100% of our focus is on creating kites, we are working on broadening our style-specific kite selection. I can’t go too much into details, but what I can reveal is that the new kites will be created for new disciplines and will most definitely hit the spot with specific groups of riders who currently feel neglected. If you want to know more you’ll have to keep following Blade, because you’re not going to want to miss when we release them!
Is there anything you’d like to add? Blade’s new direction focuses of creating the perfect kite for each style of riding, some more specific than others. Our current products are already in line with this vision, but this is something we will put even more emphasis on with the the new kites we will release next year.