While every kite got tweaked for 2018, the big news in the lineup is the changes made to North’s legacy and most popular kite for the last decade, the Rebel. North is also introducing a new foil program which offers a unique design meant to take riders from beginner to expert in everything from flat water to waves. North’s Dan Schwarz fills us in on these changes along with other highlights coming from North for 2018.
NORTH’S LEGACY KITE, THE REBEL, GOT A MAJOR UPDATE FOR 2018. WHY, AND WHAT CAN LOYAL REBEL RIDERS EXPECT FROM THE NEW MODEL?
Since its inception in 2007, the Rebel has been the bestselling kite in the history of North Kiteboarding, largely because it offered so much performance in such an easy-handling, accessible package. As there is a significant portion of kiters who for whatever reason prefer 4-line kites to 5, we have worked for years to make a kite that could perform like the Rebel on 4 lines. For a few years we produced the Fuse, a near copy of the Rebel with a bridle added, but it either lacked in performance or it lacked in accessibility. Ken has continued to toy around with 4-line freeride kites, often using the experience he’s gained in designing the Neo, and this year he simply felt that the 4-line-compatible version of the Rebel outperformed the loaded 5th-line version. A lot of us in the office were skeptical, but after numerous back-to-back tests we all had to admit that the 4-line-compatible version was simply better. It jumped better, had more range, turned more quickly and more smoothly, was more stable and was less prone to backstalling—you name it. So that’s the why and most of the what.
Besides a superior design, for 2018 riders can expect better longevity thanks to our Trinity TX material. As Teijin’s biggest customer we have priority access to their latest materials. We’re constantly working on upgrading materials and we’ve built many kites using many different prototype materials from Teijin (and others). It can be very touchy to change the material as some of our experiments made kites too stiff or heavy. Some are lighter but less durable. We feel that using an asymetric material (Trinity TX using 3 ripstop lines in one direction with two in the other) it allows the material to stretch in important ways that allow our kites to twist to maintain the performance our kites are famous for, while still giving great ripstop capability in the crucial direction (most rips propagate LE to TE). On top of that each of the yarns is coated in UV protection before it is spun into the fabric, which is then double-coated in the same protectant, giving our kites outstanding longevity and strength. Trinity TX can be found on all 2018 North Kites. WHILE THE REBEL’S CONVERSION TO A 4-LINE PLATFORM IS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST CHANGE FOR 2018, RUN US THROUGH THE TWEAKS FOR THE REST OF THIS YEAR’S NORTH KITE LINEUP.
There are changes to every single kite in the line. The Neo has new ‘Flex Segments’ in the leading edge which, along with the Trinity TX material, allow it to flex more to make the kites a bit quicker. As always, Ken worked on expanding the wind range and improving the already market-leading drift to make this the ultimate wave kite. The Dice also got a few tweaks. The LE radius was made more rounded and its diameters were reworked to make the kite more structurally stiff in the wingtip. It’s very noticeable when riding. As a 3-strut kite the 2018 Dice is astoundingly solid in the air, which translates well into better pop for freestyle and better range and drift in the waves. We changed very little on the Vegas model overall. We were very happy with its performance in 2017, however we tweaked some of the sizes to make the kite more consistent through each size.
NORTH COMMITTED TO A COMPLETELY NEW FOILBOARD PROGRAM FOR 2018. HOW DO NORTH’S TWO NEW MODELS DIFFER FROM EACH OTHER AND WHAT ELSE IS OFFERED ON THE MARKET TODAY?
The Pro Foil and the Free Foil both use the same mast, fuselage, and wing. We felt that the market offered two types of wings: a beginner wing which planes early and easily but which has a very limited top speed and maneuverability, and an advanced wing which is very fast and can be playful, but can also be very difficult to use for beginner or intermediate riders. The primary goal with our foil was to get it to plane at a low speed to make it easy for anyone to ride, but then allow for higher speeds and more maneuverability to keep the shape fun and interesting to all levels of riders. Instead of focusing on making a slow or fast foil, we focused on making a foil with a huge range of usable speeds. We think the accessibility, speed range and fun factor for a variety of rider skill levels are what set our foil apart from others on the market.
As far as differentiating our two foil boards, the Free Foil is a low-volume price point board, built with twin tip construction. It’s lighter and less voluminous than the full-volume Pro Foil. It’s generally a matter of personal preference which board you will prefer, though we market the Pro Foil as being more ‘advanced’ and will probably be the board of choice for racers. NORTH’S DIRECTIONAL BOARDS ARE BEING PRODUCED IN A NEW FACTORY. WHY DID NORTH MAKE THE SWITCH AND HOW DOES THIS CHANGE AFFECT THE PRODUCTION AND PERFORMANCE OF THE DIFFERENT BOARDS?
We are constantly researching options for production at different factories. There are many different ways to build a surfboard and some factories offer different technologies and production methods. We found a factory that offered several advantages over the factory we’d been working with previously, and we were able to work with them to come up with an innovative new way to build our boards. First of all, the Team Light Construction boards are all built layer by layer, hand laminated, and vacuum bagged (each board is actually bagged twice during construction). The vacuum bagging process allows for a more accurate shape in the board as well as a much lighter board as excess epoxy is removed. This factory is also able to move the cork that we’d had buried under the bamboo to the outermost layer, adding only a single layer of technora/glass above it. This allows for the active damping ability of the cork to be much more noticeable, reducing vibration and allowing for a more natural, PU type feel in a board with maximized strength to weight ratio.
ALL NORTH BARS NOW COME WITH CHICKEN LOOP OPTIONS SO RIDERS CAN CHOOSE WHAT BEST MEETS THEIR RIDING STYLE. EXPLAIN HOW CHANGING OUT THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS WORK.
The standard chicken loop we’ve been using for years worked great as an allaround loop for most users, but as the sport matures into different styles with different needs, we felt that many people would be better served by different options. For most riders who do not unhook, the larger loop and longer leash that has been industry standard for years just doesn’t make sense. The smaller loop included in our Freeride kit gives riders easy access to several extra inches of depower, increasing comfort in riding and instantly offering significantly more range in your kite without needing to touch the depower. The included shorter leash is both safer and more convenient, keeping you closer to your kite and closer to your secondary release. Similarly, with the recent popularity of people riding harnesses with rope spreader bars we felt that using the same standard chicken loop didn’t make sense. Besides being smaller like the Freeride chicken loop, the loop in our Rope Harness kit has a center section wrapped in steel. This minimizes friction, which means an easier sliding loop, plus reduced wear on the rope and loop. Finally there’s the Freestyle kit for those who like to unhook or simply prefer the feel of the same chicken loop and leash that we’ve been using for years. Installing a loop takes just a couple minutes… it’s as simple as unscrewing a bolt on the Iron Heart using a standard surf key (included in each kit), pushing the loop into the Iron Heart, and tightening the bolt back up.
Want more gear info? Get the latest product info from all the top brands all in one convenient place with Tkb’s 2018 Buyer’s Guide.