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Liquid Force is excited for 2015. With a new, competitively priced foilboard, ground up redesign of the Envy, all new Response control bar with above the bar depower, new surfboard line and two twin tip decks launching this winter season, the brand has added a lot of new products to their 2015 lineup. Brand Manager Gary Siskar fills us in on the highlights.
This is the first year of the Solo, a single strut kite that you launched mid this year. What are some of the Solo’s key performance features? We are beyond happy with the Solo and the many advantages that the single strut platform gives to the rider. First, before we talk about specifics, I think it is important to know how we arrived at this single strut design.
The inspiration of the design started with a strutless design agenda. We were intrigued about the advantages that a strut-free kite could possibly provide so we set out to make a kite based on this platform. As we got deeper and deeper into the design and prototyping process, we were very impressed with the advantages but became frustrated with our perceived disadvantages with this type of design. From there, we started to test options to give the canopy the support that we felt it needed to aid in reliability in certain conditions such as surf and relaunch capabilities in awkward crashes on the water such as trailing edge down, or if the kite gets swamped in whitewater. We tried leading edge battens, half inflatable struts, and half inflatable struts with canopy battens. We tried everything to retain the advantages of a kite that has no or limited struts. Where we arrived at was a single, very thin, center canopy strut. I think that this knowledge of how we got to this design is important as we did not set out with a single strut design in mind. Our goal was to make a kite that had some very specific advantages of a strutless design yet gave the reliability of a kite with a supported canopy.
So, the question is what are these key features? First we want to point out the efficiency in the low end. Because of the lightweight nature of the kite and the reduced drag from the elimination of the struts in the key power generating panels of the canopy profile, you get a kite that can be flown about 1.5m smaller than what you would normally choose for like conditions. Another feature that is key in the design of this kite is the weight. it is extremely light. Not only did we eliminate weight in the kite by eliminating struts, but we also took away any extra heavy materials that were not 100% necessary in the kite’s construction. Lightweight means easier to fly in lighter or variable wind conditions, more nimble and responsive, and faster relaunch off the water. Next, there is no denying that it is a great kite for traveling. Not only does weight play a factor, as we all know the airlines are not getting more lenient with how many lbs. or kilos you can bring, but also the fact that you can pack the kites down very small. If you are a kiteboarder that is looking for a very versatile freeride kite that crosses into surf and freestyle and travel somewhat frequently with your gear, you will be very stoked with the Solo.
The Envy got a ground up redesign for 2015. What will diehard Envy lovers think of this year’s design? YES! We even struggled to retain the envy name with this kite due to the departure in the redesign. But, our final product met the challenge that loyal envy riders were asking for so the name stayed. What were these requests? Faster responding and turning, more bar feel, increased relaunch capability, while at the same time retaining the envy’s sought after in-air stability and smooth power delivery. We accomplished the task. how?
First, we learned a lot in the forward design process of the Solo. These two kites are vastly different but we did learn that simple things such as weight could make a huge difference in how the kites feel and respond at the bar. So the first task was to shed weight and excess heavy materials were eliminated. We also worked on some of the “frame” dimensions that resulted in the reduction of weight. From there it was all about proto after proto to find the responsiveness that was desired yet retained the envy characteristics. The design team went through 13 versions to get to the new Envy! What we have now is a very refined kite that a newbie to a seasoned pro can ride. The added response and turning speed has raised the kite performance in the surf. Yet new school freestylers will see that we did not sacrifice any of its rock solid stability and predictability.
For the average freeride kiter that mixes it up between twin tips, surfboards and now foilboards, how would you recommend making the choice between the Envy, NRG and Solo? This is always a hard question. I think that any brand has a hard time answering this, no matter what they say. For us, we have really focused on the power delivery of the kite and turning radius. What this means is where the kite engages power when sheeting in and where the responsiveness lives in the throw. The Envy engages power closer to the body and really is the ultimate “all terrain” kite, it’s the “Leatherman” so to speak where it really allows for a kiteboarder to progress in all aspects or niches of our sport. The Solo has a smooth power that engages immediately when sheeted in. We feel the Solo is for that person that takes their kiteboarding around the world. You can stretch the Solo into a two-kite quiver that will get you out in pretty much every wind condition. The caveat to the Solo is using this kite with a hydrofoil! The efficiency of the single strut, where it sits in the wind window, and the ease of relaunch in extremely light wind makes the Solo the “go to” for our foil sessions. The NRG still holds down the position as our sheet in and boost kite. The high aspect design of the kite and the flat profile makes the NRG the freestyler and air style choice!
What’s new for the HIFI X and what will these changes mean for the dedicated freestyle comp kiters out there? The main change is that Christophe Tack led the direction. Tack worked with designer Julien Fillion size by size to keep the feeling of the kite consistent from the 7 to the 13. This is a hard task, and what became of it is changes to its profile and aspect ratio in some sizes to keep this feel. The addition of a 12m in the HIFI X2 is important to note also. Now the high performance rider can really tune their quiver selections to what they want.
The Response Control System is brand new for 2015. What are some of its highlights? We have been developing this system for just about two years! The Response system gives an entire group of kiteboarders out there what they have been asking for of LF for years — an above the bar trim system. We also designed in a ton of other features such as an above the bar swivel and a back up below the bar manual swivel to ensure twist-free flying lines, a fully adjustable cleat system that allows the rider to set the trim system to their specific reach and what we are especially proud of, the response System’s easily adjustable bar widths in a single bar. We developed a “swing arm” system that changes the width relationship of the lines from 46cm to 56cm.
LF’s twin tip line is pretty deep. What are the standout highlights for 2015? We are very proud that we have a great development team with Jimmy Redmon at the helm. We do have a twin tip board for every caliber of rider and every style of kiteboarding. Highlighting the line this year is two completely new decks, the Echo and the Legacy. The Echo is the product of Jimmy Redmon and Brandon Scheid collaborating on creating a kiteboard that suits Brandon’s powered riding style. The Echo is our wakestyle board and features a very interesting construction method called profiling that allows us to build a board with a very defined hull (bottom) shape while keeping the board at a reasonable price. Brandon poured his heart and soul into the design and Jimmy’s creativity and expertise made the echo come alive. Deep-channeled shaped bottom, higher rocker line, tapered Liquid rail and 100% wood core shows no boundaries for aggressive new school freestyle and wakestyle riding. Our other new and exciting board is the Legacy. 2015 marks the 10-year anniversary of Jason Slezak being part of the Liquid Force family. Jason started with Jimmy on board design feedback since the drop! Jason’s past pro models the Mission and the Influence have become the benchmark for our all-terrain freeriding/freestyle boards. It was only fitting that at the 10-year mark all this knowledge and expertise should be translated to the ultimate freestyle board which has become the Legacy. The board utilizes our CNC core construction that allows us to create a board with a completely different bottom and top shape to precisely tune the flex and feel of the board. Jason also worked hard with Jimmy to bring a new outline that, combined with the core material layup, creates a smooth, flowy, feel in all water surface conditions. Another key design component is the highly contoured bottom shape. This bottom shape has a ton going on to help smooth chop, create water release for pop off the water, and break water tension for soft landings. But, the board’s main highlight is the progressive outside rail concaves. What this means is the concave is not symmetrical in shape. It starts off shallow towards the center of the board and progressively becomes more aggressive to the rail. What this has created is efficient water flow eliminating drag that is at times caused by abrupt channeling. This allows the board to get on a plane faster and point upwind easier. We feel the Legacy is the new benchmark for all-terrain, freeriding twin tips.
The Echo, Element and Legacy are the high end twin tips in the line. Where does the Element fit in? The Element is Christophe Tack’s pro model and is a no holds barred competition freestyle machine. We don’t make “special” layup boards for Christophe to compete on. He rides boards right out of stock. So you can only imagine the performance packed into this deck.
What can riders expect from the new Element Carbon twin tip? Featherweight and precise in feel, the challenge with making the element in a carbon construction was to retain the feel of the element as carbon’s properties are very stiff! We worked on a unique weave and layup that kept the high performance aspects and feel of the glass construction element but in a much lighter package.
LF has really done a good job of creating comfortable, performance oriented pads/straps and boot binding systems. Are there any big changes for 2015? The big story here is the introduction of the LFK binding. This binding is extremely light yet offers and retains superior support over time. We borrowed the liner-less boot design from our wake technology, and this construction offers considerable reductions in weight without sacrificing any of the support benefits of a binding. Also, the materials that are used do not excessively absorb water! A lot of bindings on the shelf feel light but the second you drop them in water they suck it up like a sponge and become heavy. not with the LFK!
LF has had a solid selection of surfboards lined up for 2015. What’s coming? We had a bit of a surfboard hiatus in 2014 as we have been on the quest for a construction that is durable to the excessive rigors of riding a surfboard with a kite while at the same time retaining the feel of a surfboard that has flex. For 2015 we feel that we have arrived!
Surfboards are a personal preference. Just walk into a surf shop and check out how many shapes and sizes are on the rack. Of course it is impossible in the way that a kite surfboard is constructed to have a myriad of shapes to mimic what is in a surf shop selection. So what we did is look at what we liked, what we ride, and put that into the line! We have a very diverse team of kite surfers. From riders who prefer to be strapped and ride very powered to riders that want to use the kite to get into the wave and then transfer the kite power to using the wave energy. In the four shapes that we have you will find one that will suit your distinct style.
The big news for this year is LF’s exciting introduction of a production foilboard into the market. How did the R&D process lead you to an entirely different material and construction from what was already out there? We are excited about hydrofoiling and this is why we dove head first into this category. We were first exposed to riding a hydrofoil by a very unlikely individual, our team rider Brandon Shied. Brandon, who holds a coveted place in the professional kiteboarding world as one of the most progressive wakestyle riders in the world, showed up in Maui at one of our testing sessions with a hydrofoil. As you can imagine we all had some interesting comments at that time directed his way. Then we all tried it and were instantly hooked! Why? On day one none of us were able to ride the foil more than 10 meters except Jason Slezak, who basically picked it up as if he has been riding one for years. It was a challenge, we progressed after a few days and the new sensation of foilboarding excited us. We also started to immediately see some of the advantages of riding a foil in light wind and thought that this is a way to be on the water more, with a fun vehicle! From that point on we decided that we were going to make a hydrofoil set up.
How we arrived to our material composition is somewhat simple. Cost. We did not pay much attention to the category until we were bit by the foil bug. Then we realized it is expensive! From there we put our heads together on how we could make an affordable foil that was still high in performance. Taking inspiration from the mountain bike market, we gravitated to what we could do with aluminum. Aluminum foils are not new in the world. Rush Randle made revolutionary foils from aluminum for tow surfing and there is the famous Air chair in the boating world. But both were heavy and cumbersome to manage. Even though we knew that aluminum was a viable answer we did not know at that moment how we would overcome the challenges and perceptions. Lucky for us we have some GREAT engineers in our design stable and the concept of a hollow extrusion came to mind. At the same time we enlisted some outside help that has vast knowledge in prototyping to source, build, and test the theory and it worked great! From there the endless R&D and testing began until we reached the performance goals that we set: Affordable, easy to use, and expandable for progression. We hit all of them.
How will the performance characteristics of the LF compare to the lower aspect freeride foils that are being built right now? Oh boy, this is a great question! I will say that for as many hydrofoils out there being designed and developed, there are many more opinions on what works and doesn’t. We rode as many foils as we could get our hands on and all worked good. We made countless protos and test wings for our set up and all worked as well. But what we did find out is we wanted to make a wing set that was easy to learn on, easy to progress on, and most importantly, easy to have fun on. So what does that mean? We have what is called a low aspect wing. In layman’s terms, it is ‘fat.’ this shape allows the rider to get on a foil at a slower speed with greater stability. The wings that come with our foil at this moment are great freeriding wings, easy to use, stable, efficient and fast.