While F-One has been around since the very beginning, it is now celebrating 10 years of production of their signature Bandit kite. As the company continues to improve and refine the 2017 Bandit, this year it has added a full line of foilboard products that explore every niche of the hydrofoiling market. In addition to a new kite and some tech tweaks to the twin tips, F-One is also launching the Mitu Surfboard in a long awaited and exciting carbon construction. Owner/Founder/Designer Raphael Salles walks us through the highlights of F-One’s 2017 lineup.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the Bandit, a hugely successful kite for F-One. What can loyal Bandit followers expect for 2017?
It was such a motivating challenge for us to release a successful Bandit for its 10th anniversary. With this year’s kites delivered and on the water already, we have gotten excellent feedback from customers and while the kite itself might look similar to recent years, the feelings you get out of the 2017’s are definitely surprising. Everything got smoother with better control of your riding speed, which means that you will feel more comfortable as well as more confident in your freestyle or surfing. You will come slower over the chops, pop will be less demanding and so on … but when you need power or boost you will still have it. That was our biggest challenge — to blend some characteristics which are so different in the same kite.
The way the Bandit pulls is also different; with less lateral force putting pressure on your back and legs, you will be able to ride with less effort. This is important for strapless riding, especially when it’s combined with more overall stability, a smoother feeling and control of riding speed. Upwind is improved with more forward traction, the bar feeling is clearer and precise, and the kite turns and kiteloops faster. The big sizes feel lighter as well and the high end is more comfortable too. This year it’s quite impressive to see the feedback we are getting from all types of riders is really positive, from free riders to freestylers and wave riders, basically in all wind or waves conditions. So it confirms that the Bandit can be an excellent kite in all disciplines and without any compromise.
You have invested heavily in foil R&D this last year and are now offering one of the widest ranges of foil products in the industry. What are the key products this year that the foilboarder should know about?
We have been into foiling for four years now and we’ve focused on all disciplines from beginners to world champion titles and for windsurf and SUP foiling as well. Most of our customers are only discovering foiling and we use a lot of our knowledge to offer them a foil that will help them from the first day on and then follow and ease their progression as they get better.
The new ALU CARBON HYBRID model with the Freeride 800 front wing is the key product for someone just getting started. We also have a full range of kite foil boards for all levels. One of our new products not directly related to kitesurfing is our PAPENOO SUP board model. This board is revolutionary as it can excel in five disciplines with excellent fit for not only SUP, but SUP foil, windsurf, windsurf foiling and even wake foiling!
This year you have added an aluminum/carbon hybrid foil. How does this design compare to a completely carbon foil setup and what have you learned in the development of a SUP foil that has contributed to the kiteboarding foil design?
Like we always do, we build the best possible products in term of performance and quality and then we use that knowledge to reduce cost while keeping the performance and quality. For a carbon foil, the most expensive part is the mast so we have kept the same carbon fuselage and wings but replaced the carbon mast with an aluminum mast. The retail price dropped from around $2500 to $1500 but with the same feelings and performances. The aluminum mast profile will slow you down only if you go over 25 knots but its stiffness is as good as the carbon mast and its weight is only about 150 grams difference. Stiffness is what is making you stable so it’s a key feature in foiling.
We have worked on what should be a good front wing for learning and we now propose bigger wings like our 800 or 1000 square centimeter instead of the 600. The 800 is a perfect compromise because you can use it for learning but it’s also the one we personally use. For instance, Mika uses this wing (the 800) for its carving performance and capabilities. Our SUP foils were developed after our kite foils so we used our kite foil knowledge to design them. But the much slower flying speed of the SUP has increased our overall knowledge. The SUP foil surfing side also gave us more information on turning and carving aspects. We have also developed a windsurf foil, so we are learning and getting information from that side as well.
What’s new in the twin tip category for 2017?
We introduced the HRD rail in 2013 and last year the Light Tech into our fiberglass models. Last year we also released a new strap and plate with great adjustment possibilities and this year we have worked on carbon or fiberglass layup with small changes here and there. There is now more room for improvements on the technology side of the twin tips than say radical new designs, so we are constantly working on tweaks to the wood core, fiber, quality of production process, weight and more.
We got the chance to ride one of Mitu’s carbon prototypes last year at the dealer meeting in Mauritius and were impressed with its overall weight and feel. What’s the construction behind the board and why has it taken so long to bring a performance lightweight production board to the kiteboarding industry?
If you’re talking strapless, the weight of the board is a key feature because it will allow you to keep it better under your feet during jumps and aerial moves. We have worked very hard on the technology to save weight. Carbon is one of the options but carbon is also bringing some stiffness and it is only now that we have some new cloth technology at our disposal to be able to save weight while keeping flex for comfort. Beside weight and flex, durability was as well a big issue to solve; it took us a lot of testing time to be sure the board will last.