Since the beginning of our sport, PKS has helped kiters keep their gear in top shape by providing kite repairs and difficult to find replacement parts. Alongside kiteboarding’s evolution, PKS has grown their product and service offerings to include a wide variety of accessories and many unique items to provide a one-stop shop solution for its customers. PKS’s Brent Reagan walks us through the company’s most popular items for the 2016 season.
When people first become acquainted with windsports, the nuances of reading water texture and other telltale signs for wind strength can be challenging. What wind speed products do you recommend for entry-level and intermediate kiteboarders?
The good thing about wind meters and other weather meters is they’re not at all based on your level of experience in the sport; it’s all about how much information you want to know. For example, the most basic wind speed indicators are simply analog meters; a plastic tube with a floating disc that tells you how fast the wind is blowing. However, when it comes to digital meters, there are a wide variety of additional measurements and conveniences available. You can get small handheld or pocket-sized units that measure things like temperature, humidity, pressure, direction, windchill, dew point and altitude. There are larger units with other options including bigger displays, large omnidirectional impellers, more functionality for recording measurement changes over longer periods of time or even linking directly to computer software for ongoing measurements 24/7. Nonetheless, the latest craze is in weather instruments that plug directly into smart devices like smart phones or tablets and run on apps that will record and save the measurements, show where they were taken on the planet and allow you to share your data instantly through emails, text messages or postings to online social media sites and host websites.
It’s really cool to see so many functions in such a small device, but again, deciding which one is the perfect tool for a kiteboarder simply comes down to user preference of how many measurements they’re interested in knowing and how much they want to spend (which may indicate a level of necessity based on their experience level in the sport). I can say that the most popular ones for kiteboarding are the smaller pocket-sized devices just because they’re convenient to store in your kite bag. The most popular standard meters are the Skywatch Xplorer 1 that covers basic variances in wind speed like constant, low and high speeds, and the Xplorer 2, which adds temperature and wind chill. If desired, these can actually be dunked just below the surface to get water temperature. For the new smart device meters, the most popular are the Skywatch Windoo 3 for its omnidirectional impeller and variety of measurements, the WeatherFlow WEATHERmeter for its Bluetooth ability (which is a fantastic feature) and wide variety of measurements and the WeatherFlow WINDmeter for its great price for wind measurements and app options. Of course, there are a wide variety of instruments to choose from, so we see people buy all types and levels depending on their personal needs and applications. Most entry-level and intermediate riders are looking for consistent speeds between 12 and 30 mph and any of these can do that job.
One of the most important steps in learning to kite is building a solid foundation of theory and muscle memory with a trainer kite. Why is the Sensei trainer kite a good option for schools and students to get a head start?
Trainers are generally sought out based on either purpose or price. Two-line trainers have what you need to fly a kite, 2 lines, and are the lowest cost to manufacture. Threeline trainers provide an easier way to flip the kite over to relaunch when you’re flying alone, so their purpose is convenience and ease-of-use. A four-line trainer comes with with handles instead of a bar and has the purpose of being more similar to a 4-line stunt kite or a 4-line buggy kite which is flown on handles. Still, other 4-line trainers, especially some of the inflatable trainers, are meant to be used with a full on 4-line bar or even with a depowerable kite bar.
On the other hand, you have price. The least number of “extras” in a trainer will equal the smallest cost, so having 3 or 4 lines will make it more expensive. Some small ram air (foil) kites are really not intended to be “kiteboarding” trainers because they aren’t designed to have a good amount of power or be flown in winds over about 10- 12 mph. However, they are common because they are sometimes priced at $100 or less. It’s an attractive price for someone getting into the sport, but as always, you get what you pay for. True “kiteboarding” trainers should have more power to them and have the ability to fly well in around 10-18 mph (anything 20 or over is generally too excessive for trainer kites and likely to produce damage to the kite).
So where does the Sensei sit in all this? The Sensei was designed to hit the sweet spot of all kiteboarding-specific trainer parameters. It comes in 2m and 3m sizes and uses the right area of power needed to be a kiteboarding trainer without being too big or too small and costing more. It has only two lines to keep cost down compared to 3 or 4-line trainers, but the shape and bridling was designed specifically for easier relaunch on only two lines compared to most 2-line trainers. The idea was to make something whose smooth flight and power could actually be a good training intro to kiteboarding, while being convenient to relaunch, store and not cost an arm and a leg. This makes it a good and affordable kiteboarding tool for instructors and students.
When it comes to DIY kite repair, what products do you offer that will help kiters quickly and easily get back on the water?
The FixMyKite.com products that we manufacture are our main line, but this also includes all the spare parts that aren’t really FixMyKite branded. Our owner has been fixing kites since the late 1990s when there was a need for repairs and modifications (like making 2-line kites into 4-line kites), but at a time when repair centers didn’t exist. After more than a decade of working on kites and seeing limited options for after-market parts, plus the headaches brands were dealing with trying to stock spare bladders for every size, model and year of kite they made, he thought there had to be a better solution. FixMyKite products were initially made to bring true polyurethane bladders to the after-market kite repair world. Our owner also quickly saw the benefits of making adhesive after-market valves with a TearAid adhesive patch, which is what we’ve used for repairing bladders for years. This patch will stick on any type of bladder rather than having different valves for different bladder types. Having a spare bladder and valves will help you make a replacement bladder at any time, although other parts are just as commonly needed. Therefore, in addition to valves and bladders, we offer all manner of parts and pieces including repair tapes for sails, leading edge struts and bladders, bridle and leader lines, depower lines, pulleys, pigtails, stopper balls, parallel beads, metal rings, onepump hoses and clamps, neoprene clamp covers, one-pump valve adapter stems, sheeting cleats, sleeving kits, line repair kits and a few kits with a variety of these parts and pieces. The idea is to have a very wide variety of all the little parts that are common on many brands of kite gear, but are not commonly available from most brand manufacturers.
Kiters of all levels are frequently looking for ways to share the essence of kiteboarding with their friends. PKS offers a series of GoPro mounts that help capture POV footage. What are your top selling mounts and how do you recommend the various POV options based on skill level and quality of footage?
You know, I’ve never really thought about the mounts being limited specifically based on rider skill level, but certainly the quality of footage can be higher and more entertaining with a more highly skilled rider. For quality of footage based on skill, I think the WizMount CU2 Pack is definitely the way to go. It’s a backpack mount that puts the camera in a “following” angle. Behind and to the side is the preferred angle because it can show the entire rider in the footage. This way you don’t see only you, or only the kite, but you see your own point of view with yourself in the shot: the rider, the board, the kite, where you’re going and what you’re doing. It’s like having a second rider following along next to you, which makes for a higher quality of footage for watching and enjoying. The true advantage of the WizMount product verses other backpack mounts, is its stability. It’s a very heavy-duty mount and frame system, so while you’ll pay a little more than the cheaper backpack mounts out there it’s every bit worth it in terms of the quality of footage you get from the stability and durability of the product (and the arm won’t snap in half on a hard landing).
The top-selling mounts are a combination of those that are priced right and more common to kiteboarding, so the PKS strut mounts, Flymount and Versa Mount board mounts are definitely very popular. Beyond stability and angle, the variety of shots strongly contributes to a high quality, enjoyable to watch video. The best and most entertaining kite videos (including those that a regular rider wants to show of him/herself) will contain footage from many angles. That’s where the Versa Mount hand mount (great for going from forward or side shots to selfies and back while riding), a strut mount, a board (fin) mount, a line mount, a backpack mount and others can really come in handy for really good kiteboarding footage if you edit them together well.
Most people don’t realize that the bridle and pigtails on our kites are considered wear items. What products do you stock that will help keep aging kites on the water and do you have any maintenance tips/wear signs to watch out for?
Yeah it’s kind of funny but understandable that many riders constantly see the center of their kites while inflating or deflating, but rarely go outside of that to check over the rest of the kite. It’s like putting air in your tires and keeping your headlights clear on your car but never opening the hood to check the fluid levels. It’s a good idea to frequently give your kite a once over just to make sure there aren’t any little cuts on the sail or the leading edge that will soon blowout and become expensive repairs. However, it’s just as important to check the bridles, leaders and pulleys on your kite as well as the pigtails and depower line on your bar. Many kites have pulleys. The most common cheaper kinds with a simple wheel-and-axle (sheave) structure will eventually jam up and stop rolling. This can cause massive wear on your bridle lines because the pulley is constantly rubbing back and forth in the same spot during flight. The whole purpose of the pigtails is to take the wear and tear instead of your line ends because they are much easier and cheaper to replace than a full flyline set. Because of this, we have several types of line that can be used for bridle replacement plus full kook-proof pigtail sets of eight or universal pigtails that are sold individually. One thing that really sets us apart is our ability through, FixMyKite, to custom make replacement parts. We do this on a regular basis for specific bridle line, leader line, flyline sets, extension sets and pigtail replacements. We give you the option to tell us exactly how long you need it to be, how many loops or knots you need on the ends and which material to make it from. In this way, we can help people replace lines on older kites with parts that the kite manufacturers no longer stock (if they ever did). Luckily, these parts don’t have to be replaced on any particular kite too often, but always look for cuts or nicks in the lines, fraying, puffing of the weave, etc. It’s pretty easy just to use good judgment and ask yourself “does this line look like it’s about to break?” or “Do I trust this to hold me if I’m 20 feet in the air?” These are about the cheapest parts to replace on kites and can easily save you from a long swim and boost your confidence level in your older or worn out gear.
The first time someone travels with kiteboarding gear, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of having the right baggage for their needs. What are your best recommendations for kiteboarding travel bags?
The main things to consider are usually purpose and weight. A standard quiver of one board, two kites, and a harness in a wheeled bag is typically right around 48-53lbs (22-24kg). Considering, even on many international flights, most airline limits are now 50 lbs per bag, having a bag that doesn’t add those extra pounds to put you over the limit is essential. On the other hand, the whole purpose of a bag is to protect your gear while making it easy to transport. If you compromise this on a bag that is light but offers little to no protection of your gear, the airlines are likely to beat it up pretty badly. Likewise, a simple duffle bag that is awkwardly long or hard to carry long distances can be cumbersome.
Most of the great kiteboarding destinations are not going to result from a single plane trip. This means you could be switching planes, walking long distances through airports, carrying your bags out onto the tarmac to get on a small puddle-jumper plane or walking a good way from a hotel to the beach. We tried to design bags that would fit the bill of protection, features, convenience, weight and price. The CrazyFly Golf Bag 155x52cm is actually our design with CrazyFly logos and it’s one of the lightest bags available in such an accommodating size. Compared to many other kiteboarding travel bags that average 11.5 to 12 lbs, the CrazyFly Golf Bag is under 9 lbs. That bag or the smaller 140 size are very popular because of the padding on all sides, perimeter zip for easy in and out of gear, heavy-duty wheels, weight, compression straps and convenience.
We also make a multi-board wheeled Surf 190 bag, a wheel-less golf bag with backpack straps and a large, almost cube-shaped bag for kites, split boards, hydrofoils and other gear. This allows us to offer a larger variety of options for kiteboarders in all mediums of riding for different traveling needs. I still say whatever the brand or bag type you want, or gear you want to haul, getting a travel bag that is easy to transport but protects your gear is key, especially if you’re taking any type of board.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think our biggest role in the kiteboarding community has really evolved from a need to find otherwise hard-to-find or impossible to-get replacement parts for specific kites, but also to provide a wide variety of products to be a one-stop shop. We love the sport and don’t want people to have a kite sitting around uselessly because it takes forever to find some random part or solution to a kite issue. We work with most of the dealers in the US and many dealers and distributors around the world to specialize in variety, so you can see us carrying many unique items that not every brand makes like Ocean Rodeo Go Joes, Oceanus Reel leashes, Q-PowerLine Pro (the only line designed specifically for kitesurfing), Hitchsafes, sand anchors, changing towels, sand weight bags, self-launch tools, short safety leashes, trainer leashes, locktubes, KiteFix fiber/glue systems, specialized GoPro mounts, AquaAzul watershades, Onda skateboards, iKitesurf Membership cards, windmeters and after-market kite pumps. Between products like these and all the custom replacement parts we do, it’s great to have a permanent and necessary place in the world of kiteboarding.