As one of the original team riders, Sky Solbach moved to Maui and never looked back. As the main man behind the Duotone directional line, the team at Duotone caught up with him to hear what he has to say about the legendary swell season and how the conditions inspire his shaping and prototyping for the Duotone directional range.
Hello Sky! Can you give us little outline of the kiteboarding history in Maui.
Maui played a huge part in the early development of kiteboarding. Watching the pioneers like Lou Wainman, Elliot Leboe, Pete Cabrinha, Flash Austin and others from Maui in those days is what got me into the sport.
How did you end up there and why did you choose to live there?
I came to Maui for the first time in 2001 for the Red Bull King of the Air contest at Hookipa. This was a pivotal time in my life and the beginning of my kiteboarding career. I instantly felt a really special connection to Hawaii. I continued to visit Maui every winter and also lived on Oahu for a few seasons together with my friend and team mate Jaime Herraiz. Maui is one of the most consistently windy places in the world and has great testing conditions, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to live and work here doing development for Duotone for the past 6 years.
What makes it such a desirable spot?
Hawaii is the most isolated island chain on the planet. The air is clean, the water is warm, we get waves from every direction and the wind is really consistent. So, what’s not to like? There’s also much more to do in Hawaii than just watersports, so I think it has something for almost everyone.
Tell us about the variety of spots and they inspire your shaping and prototyping for the up and coming Duotone line.
As far as kiteboarding goes, we have an amazing variety of spots to ride, from onshore wind waves to side shore down-the-line riding on the outer reefs, as well as the most famous and best big wave on the planet (Jaws). On no wind days, the surfing and foiling is world class and there’s also some flat choppy water riding if you’re into that sort of thing.
The variety of conditions makes Maui an incredible place to develop boards because we really need all these shapes to perform for us on a daily basis at our local breaks. I have all of these conditions to test boards within a 15-minute drive of my workshop, so when the conditions are on I can literally drop the tools, jump in my car and go test out my latest shape.
How is the 2020 Duotone line coming along and what design ideas are you exploring?
The 2020 line is going to be next level and I’m really excited to share it with everyone soon! We’re doing some major shape changes and have invested a lot of effort in testing and refining these shapes over a long period of time with lots of rider feedback. In fact, some ideas that were already in the pipeline for several years have now found their way into the lineup. I have to say it also helped that we had non-stop wind and waves over the past few months which has allowed in-depth testing and comparisons of all models in a variety of conditions.
What is your set up there for when you’re designing and shaping?
It’s been my dream for a long time to have my own dedicated space for pursuing my craft and I have been building my own custom workshop for the past 4 years which is now more or less complete. It’s 100% solar powered and I have a CNC shaping machine capable of milling boards up to 12 feet in length, as well as a dedicated shaping bay and a large glassing studio and sanding room. All surf and foil board prototypes are designed, shaped and built in my workshop and tested 10 minutes away at my local spot. It’s a pretty efficient setup.
What tips do you have for riders visiting want to shred the heavy waves Maui is so famous for?
Be respectful, know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for advice on where to go and what to watch out for. Kiters here, like most places in the world, are very friendly and always willing to help.
..and those visiting Maui for the first time?
You are not allowed to kite or windsurf before 11am on Maui. Mornings are reserved for surfers and fishermen and it’s usually not windy before 11am anyway. So take your time and enjoy the calm mornings to go surfing, hiking or sight-seeing and then kite all afternoon!
What’s your ultimate session and gear setup?
My ultimate day would be a huge straight north swell – the bigger the better!- and solid NE trade winds. On those days you can find me on the outer reefs with a 7m Neo and 5’11” Pro Session doing big turns and getting barrelled.
Sounds like the dream and the only place to be creating the slickest range for Duotone riders. Stay tuned for more news as Sky finalises the 2020 line and what you can expect when it launches.
This article first appeared on the Duotone website here: https://www.duotonesports.com/kiteboarding/more/about-us/news/detailed/swell-season-in-maui-by-sky-solbach/