Nicknamed “MacGyver” from the TV series about a secret agent who could make anything out of nothing, board shaper, Adrian Roper, has been pioneering kiteboard designs since 1998. The company continues to be a market leader, refining timeless concepts and integrating new technologies into their product line. For 2016, AXIS has introduced FAT Rail technology to select twin tips in their lineup, beefed up their surf program and is rolling out a staggering amount of new foilboard shapes and options. North American distributor, Evan Mavridoglou, answers our questions about what’s next for AXIS.
When we talked with AXIS shaper Adrian Roper at Surf Expo, he shared his revelation on rail design for 2016. Explain the concept behind this new technology and how it changes performance and which boards in the line get this new technology and why.
We added our “FAT Rail” technology to three boards in our 2016 lineup: the Vanguard, Limited and Grom boards. When we thickened the middle of the board’s rails, we discovered a number of big improvements in riding characteristics.
First, the thicker middle part of the boards forced the flex to be more focused in the tails of the twin tips, giving the boards a more refined and softer ride in chop. We believe it’s because the flex is forced more into the tips where it needs to be, similar to the design of a speed board with more suspension.
Second, FAT rail tech provides better edging and tracking through chop. When testing, the FAT Rail volume (fatter middle section of the board relative to the thin tips) allowed the boards to ride more “nose up” while edging through gnarly chop. This feeling, while edging hard, means the nose of the board stays up and cuts through chop without “hobby-horsing” or pitching up and down on the rail and nose-diving. The FAT Rail also gives substantially better grip in a straight line, more stability at speed and better upwind grip with more of a structured, nose-up ride, even when it’s extremely rough. We always hate when a board hunts in chop, meaning it does not want to track and is skittish and unpredictable, making it hard to drive the board fast. We found these boards track better than any design we have made so far.
We noticed the biggest improvement is in blasting high speed carving turns. When you set the rail in a high speed carve turn, the AXIS boards with the FAT Rail grip pull through the turns like they are on railroad tracks; they don’t skip out and skid, but actually pull and hold more like a surfboard rail which makes them so much fun to stomp carves on.
All of these improvements give the AXIS boards a much softer and stable ride at speed. That was cool to refine the design so that a stiffer board rides softer! We are always focused and happier if we design boards that are easier to drive faster with less effort. This translates into boards that are faster for the everyday rider. Faster boards are always easier to control at speed, and more speed with less effort means better upwind ability and of course, better jumps.
With a twin tip line as deep as yours, you have some very specific niche boards like the Tandem and the Grom boards. Tell us about each of these and some of the tech behind what makes these work so well for specific riders and/or conditions?
Our Vanguard Tandem board is in its third season. It’s the proven light air shape of our Vanguard 148cm with an extra set of footpad inserts to allow the second set of footstraps to be added for tandem riding. We also tuned up the stiffness in the middle of the board with more carbon, improving the board’s flex pattern, so the board rides better, with less deformity in the middle of the board. Keep in mind these tandem boards take a serious beating as they have the weight/force of two people riding on them together. We love offering a unique product that gets more people on the water, without having to know how to kite. Many shops are using the board as a teaching aid and also just taking people for rides to give a taste of what kiting is like, without having to take a lesson. The response from schools has been awesome.
Our 2016 Grom is our new dedicated kids board designed with size, shape and flex for riders under 100 pounds. Some of our lightweight female riders love it as well, as its very controllable for light riders. The Grom comes with our new traction small footpad/footstrap system that are optimal for people with smaller feet. The funny thing is, some of our team riders are using this board as their ultimate high wind jump board as well as it’s only 115cm x 37cm making it a killer little rip stick to go out and win high wind big air contests on. It’s also got the FAT Rail so it rides super smooth!
What’s new for Billy Parker’s pro model this year and how will that affect performance? What advice would you give to riders who are choosing between Billy’s board and the Tranq?
(Answered by Alexander Lewis Hughes) The AXIS Wake line of boards have a number of changes for 2016. Both the Billy and the Tranq have a new deck shape which reduces boot wobble, have a more solid connection, and feature a slight concave. They each have a new base shape as well. The 2016 boards are faster and have less drag due to less channeling through the center. For 2016, we added a 10cm single concave running through the entire base. This lets the Billy and Tranq boards ride higher in the water in combination with the added buoyancy and feel from a thicker mid section and rails. Additionally, the tip shape of the Billy and Tranq boards feature similar tip channels, with a single 10cm concave added in between two load dispersing beams in the center of the board. This concave gives better grip for air tricks and also allows you to lock into pipes and rails more easily. The beams help disperse friction for a faster and longer lasting slide on obstacles.
Both the Billy and the Tranq also have a new rail shape. The rail thickness now mimics the core thickness of the boards, giving them a much smoother ride through chop and allowing them to build up speed quicker. This created a looser feeling in both boards, which makes kicker tricks like Moby Dicks, which are initiated from rail to rail edge control, easier to achieve and feel better.
Lastly, each have new PU rails. After lots of feedback from our team and other riders, we focused on PU rails for the wake line of boards. These rails follow the board flex a bit better than other materials, and they offer added protection from knocks and bumps on obstacles.
What hasn’t changed for 2016: We kept the construction of the base the same with ultra-hard sintered P-tex and didn’t change either the Billy or the Tranq’s rocker/outline. The flex is still fine tuned for each size of board/rider weight. Finally, the fins didn’t change from .6” G10 inserts and still have the dual pack multi-option format.
For anyone choosing between the Billy or the Tranq, it’s really a decision of board size.The Tranq is for the rider who riders 141 or bigger and the Billy is for a person who would ride 140 or smaller. The Billy is narrower overall (42.5cm versus 43cm), has narrower tips by a centimeter and has a softer flex. The boards are a bit similar to ride. The Tranq is optimized for larger guys or people who like a bigger board whilst the Billy is for people who like a bit shorter and narrower board. Both ride very similar, take your pick!
Your surfboard line has been divided into two distinct models, those with inserts for straps and those for strapless. This totally makes sense, but since the shapes and construction are different, how does that translate to the strapped and unstrapped types of riding?
At AXIS, we believe that strapless and strapped riding are two different styles and they deserve a different design and materials approach for each. This is the reason why we created two unique lines of surfboards, the Rākau (means wood/weapon in native Maori language) for strapped riding, and the Kapua (means cloud in native Maori language) for strapless riding. While the shapes of these two surfboards are nearly the same, there are many important differences between the Rākau and Kapua (means cloud in the native Maori language) for strapless riding. They both come from the same blanks, but are different in construction, laminate schedules, fin set up options and footstrap inserts. Our 2016 Rākau is the only one with footstrap inserts, but some will ride it without straps as well.
The 2016 Kapua is our dedicated hardcore strapless surfboard and doesn’t have footstrap inserts. It comes in a quad set up only as we found the boards rode best in this mode while testing. All of them are hand laminated, just like a board you get from a custom shaper/board builder. These boards are light and flexible. We made them strong enough not to self destruct from boosting strapless airs by adding “Innegra Tech” glass as well as a carbon fiber front foot deck patch built into the custom pigmented epoxy resin lamination. The pigmented epoxy resin colors make every board have a sick looking custom color scheme. The Kapuas are all custom made giving them the preferred flex all pro kiters love, but incorporate the best of our shaper’s knowledge of how to make boards strong. Adrian has been making kiteboards for longer than anybody in the business; we call him MacGyver.
The Kapua’s “Innegra Tech” laminate is sandwiched between multiple layers of regular glass which allows the board better impact and breaking strength, but it still retains a soft, glued-down-in-chop, flexible ride. Also, there is a carbon fiber deck patch to stop the front foot from caving in from landing strapless airs. The carbon patch is hidden under our front foot deck sticker patch. It’s sort of a stomp pad. Our white front foot sticker stomp pad stops the black carbon from melting the wax off your board when sitting in the sun. Also the patch is a good reference on where to keep your front foot when riding and it looks pretty cool as well.
Although the Kapua and Rākau have the same shapes, they are built with different laminate schedules (different laminate materials and techniques). The Kapua and Rākau shapes, including the 5’11” all the way down through the 5’4”, are all swallow tails. The swallow tail gives excellent bite in high speed turns and the boards have deep single concaves bottom shapes for grip when edging and carving. We did a lot of work on the concave to make them have the best grip. The deep concave allows the boards to transition rail-to-rail easily for smooth and powerful controlled turns and off the lips.
All of these boards have fast rocker lines and thrive at speed. Their stability and glide allow them to haul ass and fly upwind. We love fast, easy to ride boards, and think you will too.
The Rākau is our strapped surfboard. The difference is in its footstrap inserts and its super tough oak veneer laminate, sandwiched inside of 6 and 4oz fiberglass. Under the oak and fiberglass deck laminates, the Rākau has high-density PVC foam sandwich construction to reinforce the deck of the board from repetitive heel dents from blasting around strapped. If you want to drop in on a wave at Jaws, these Rākau strapped boards are the way to go. The footstraps ensure you keep yourself glued on the board. When riding fast and powered up, the Rākaus are the perfect boosting and high speed carving machine surfboards.
The Rākau boards all come with five Future fin boxes so you can ride it as a quad in real world conditions, and when the waves get super hollow and clean with no chop, you can switch her back to the tri fin option. These boards are a tad stiffer in feel to ride than the Kapua, as their laminate schedule is stronger and slightly heavier, making the boards stiffer in construction to put up with the excess abuse the strapped-in rider can lay into the board. Keep in mind riding strapped is a faster ride and you can jump more with straps.
Our 6’0” Kapua and Rākau models both come with thruster fin boxes only. This board size is the only rounded pin designed for guys to ride in big surf. Both boards are made with Future fin boxes which were dropped into PVC high-density foam for strength.
The New Wave is your innovative low volume shape that has been popular for quite a long time. We heard the construction changed a little for this year. How will that change the performance for the loyal New Wave riders out there?
Our 2016 New Wave received a few tweaks in the laminate schedule to add a bit more stiffness to the flex and extra glass on the rails for more strength. Kiters love these boards because they are the ultimate starts busting airs. The board invites people to ollie with the built in grab rail and full dished-out EVA padded deck. Therefore, they are upgraded in construction, making them stronger, snappier and the newer matte finished artwork makes them look cool too.
This year you have added Mike Gebhardt to the AXIS team. Tell us more about that.
Mike Gebhardt doesn’t need much introduction. He is a multi-time Olympic medalist in windsurfing, and a performance coach to some of the top World Champions and Olympians in the world. Having Mike on our team has added another layer of fine tuning of our products, specifically in the areas of surfboards, fins and foils. With his diverse and in-depth background, he is able to add more speed and higher performance to our products, not only fine tuning our gear for elite athletes, but also for all levels of riders. We are stoked to have Mike on our team and are looking forward to some of his new ideas that are coming up for 2016 and the years ahead.
You have begun production on an AXIS Maroro foil to compliment your existing line of foilboards. How have you designed the Maroro shape to be different from what is currently on the market?
When we took on the design of our foil program, we didn’t want just another product on the market. We wanted a new approach to how a foil should work, and worked on creating one foil that customers could use as their main platform for many years. With experts from various fields, we put a team of eight people together. Having a team of experts in aeronautics, engineering, and sailing hydrofoil design, along with foilers with many years of experience, enabled us to move fast and change the paradigm of how many companies approach foiling today.
Our Maroro Foil is the outcome of our team’s efforts towards a modular design that follows the rider as their level evolves. The Maroro Foil is an all-around freeride foil inspired by racing but made to have a super wide sweet spot. It is built with a high aspect wing/ mast set. Since we get most of our feedback from what works in racing, we knew that it was not necessary to make a low aspect foil to get the foil to be easy to ride or to foil up early.
Performance wise, what can riders expect from the Maroro foil in terms of stability on the various axes, as well as foil-up and top speed? What is the mast height on this foil and how is that important?
The Maroro Foil is easy to learn on, foils up fast in light air, has awesome top speed and stability and is predictable on all riding axises. It’s super fun to do turns on as it’s got a pretty surfy feeling, and is a little easier to turn than a pure race foil. She’s a pretty sweet all rounder and she’s all 65 layers of 100% pre-preg carbon, so she’s strong!
The Maroro Foil mast is 100cm long, as longer masts help keep the board from hitting the water. Longer masts are the trend in racing because it gives you more room to keep the foil in the water at higher speeds and in choppier water. Our foil is fast. Gunnar Biniasch has taken it over 34 knots so far, but we have not gone crazy with testing a ton of race foils yet. We are just trying to make our foil have a wide range of easy ride characteristics and we managed to make it friendly to ride, so it’s a super fun foil to ride and play on. The truth is that all foils ride very different from each other and it takes time to get used to the uniqueness of each individual foil’s characteristics. We made the mast section as high performance as possible (stiff as hell and with a refined NACA section foil so it’s not going to be slow) and wanted to make a 100% carbon mast that would allow us to add more serious race wings to it in the future (all our wings are 100% carbon). Right now, our foil has a big sweet spot and does not become unruly at high speeds like many recreational foils. People are going to have a lot of fun on our foils.
You have a complete line of foilboards to go along with the Mararo foil. How should one choose one of these options and what is the benefit to the different mounting options?
At AXIS, we focus on making the best line of innovative boards that we can offer. At the moment we have four production foilboard models available for 2016.
Our program offers convertible surfboard foilboards in two sizes (5’1” and 5’9”) and models: a FreeRace carbon board, and a ProRace carbon racing machine. The Maroro Convertible 5’1” shares the shape from our 2016 Riwai (Potato) surfboard, but was modified to take both fins and a foil connector (either a 4 bolt, 90mm plate system, or Tuttle box). The shape is very friendly and easy to ride as either a surfboard in mushy waves or as your everyday foilboard. The Maroro Convertible 5’1” is the ideal traveling companion. If you want an easy to travel surfboard and a foilboard combined in one board this is the best choice on the market today. The 5’9” is a world class surfboard shape similar to our Rākau and Kapua 5’9” design with more volume, and modified for both surf fins and a foil connector (either a 4 bolt, 90mm plate system, or a Tuttle box). This is a proper surfboard shape with a reinforced wood veneer construction, so if a rider is after a board that rides waves like a pro, and can take a foil for when the winds are lighter, look no further.
Our 2016 AXIS Maroro Race program is based on our lightweight and very strong 100% carbon construction (Maroro means flying fish in native Maori). The Maroro ProRace is designed for the dedicated racer who is in it to win. Aggressive beveled rails, a high volume tail and concave on the nose make this board a performance winner. The Maroro ProRace is available with a deep Tuttle box base or the 4 bolt 90mm plate base system. The Maroro FreeRace is a toned down version of the ProRace model. Its 100% carbon construction makes it a lightweight and strong board which can take daily abuse. Designed to be the one board that a dedicated foiler will use under all conditions, the size and volume make it an ideal light wind machine, which will bounce right back up and help with those early foiling starts. When you are edging hard pushing the upwind limits, the FreeRace board will help you absorb the chop and point higher due to its beveled rails. The deck is a bit less speed oriented, more user-friendly and offers controlled focus due to its wider and rounder outline. This board is tons of fun for all levels of riders and conditions. Finally, we can make custom 100% carbon boards on demand for customers who know exactly what they want and are looking for the AXIS quality of manufacturing.
Foiling is the future of high performance sailing. The speed and efficiency and the insane angles upwind and downwind a foilboard can achieve with a race kite are truly amazing.
For most, foiling usually starts as a light wind option and is a great way to ensure you can ride if you go to the beach and there is 5 knots of wind. If your kite flying skills are good and you can keep a kite in the air, you can foil. The size of the kite does not matter. I have foiled in 5 knots of wind with a 7m inflatable race kite and I have flown a 15m ram air kite in the same 5 knots of wind. It’s also fun to develop your kite flying skills and light wind is the best place to get better at understanding how to extract all the power efficiency and performance out of a kite.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
AXIS is a brand that focuses on satisfying nearly every level and style of kiteboarding today. With 18 different categories of boards, from kid’s specific performance sticks to beginner, intermediate, wake and high-end full carbon and ultra light wind boards, even wave twin tips, we cover nearly every twin tip style on the water. With the flexibility of the New Wave surfboard, along with our strapless and strapped programs, we offer a complete line for all surf disciplines. Our tandem board is spreading the stoke and is being used by schools and families worldwide. AXIS wakestye boards are being used on kickers and sliders all over and our Maroro Foil program, launching in spring 2016, will make foilboarding easy for everyone to learn and progress with as riders get better and want to go faster.
AXIS is not your typical kiting brand — our team is dedicated to making the best boards, foils and accessories ever built. Our members are professional engineers, materials specialists, craftsmen, artists, and musicians who are passionate about kiting and gear. Every moment we breath, it’s about how to make our products better. We test our gear in some of the most diverse conditions in the world. Either in our home turf in New Zealand, or in Australia, California, Canary Islands, South Pacific, Egypt and everywhere the wind blows. Keep a look out for our new line of kiteboarding products, as well as the AXIS SUP, race-winning carbon paddles, surfboards, wakeboards, speed kiteboards and accessories coming in the future.