Industry veteran and pro rider Jason Slezak has a new gig. Starting 2019/2020, Patagonia has stepped up its commitment to kitesurfing and has brought on Jason in a full-time role to help the brand create a specific standalone kitesurf sports category within the company. Working alongside Patagonia’s Surf Business Unit Director, Jason McCaffrey, along with fellow kite ambassadors Reo Stevens, Moona Whyte, Keahi de Aboitiz and other passionate kitesurfers within the Patagonia family, Jason’s goal is to help ensure that the team makes relevant products for our sport, support events that align with the company’s values and mission statement, and, with support from the Patagonia Environmental Division, use their collective voices to help take on global environmental issues that relate or pertain to kitesurfing. Below, Jason shares the highlights of Patagonia’s and FCD’s 2020 collections.
PATAGONIA’S POPULAR BLACK HOLE DUFFELS HAVE BEEN THE GO-TO TRAVEL BAGS FOR ATHLETES WORLDWIDE DUE TO THEIR VERSATILITY AND INCREDIBLE DURABILITY. WHAT CHANGED FOR 2020?
Patagonia’s Black Hole bags are exactly that…a black hole that can fit a large amount of gear and are lightweight and durable enough that you never have to worry about whether your stuff will arrive intact or not. The entire lineup of Black Hole bags has been redesigned to be 100% recycled for 2020! There are over 10 million plastic water bottles in this season’s Black Hole bags which are used to produce the 100% recycled body fabric as well as the webbing used for the straps, grab handles and lash points. As Patagonia continues to grow, we are furthering our commitment to do our part in moving towards 100% recycled and/or renewable raw materials for our products. My personal favorite thing about the larger Black Hole Duffel bags (100L is my go-to for kite travel) is that when paired with a kite coffin travel bag it becomes that perfect stuff sack for all of the bits and pieces of kite gear that can be potentially damaging to kitesurf boards during airline or long-haul vehicle travel. So, my boards, wetsuits, boardshorts, harness, a kite or two and other soft gear go in my multi-board coffin. And then all of the harder gear—control bars, spreader bars, pumps, tool kit and any remaining kites go into my Black Hole Duffel and I’m set for any and all kite adventures.
FCD OFFERS THREE KITEBOARDS. IS THE CONSTRUCTION DIFFERENT FROM FCD’S REGULAR LINE OF BOARDS? WHAT BOARD DO YOU REACH FOR IN WHAT CONDITIONS?
FCD currently does have three main kitesurf boards offered as ‘stock shapes.’ They are the Blunt, Shrike and Kite Gun. However, Fletch is always working on his designs and tweaking those shapes, as well as doing custom shapes for both consumers and team riders in order to keep the progression of his boards and kitesurf shaping knowledge moving forward. The kitesurf boards do greatly differ in construction from the standard EPS construction of the FCD surf and foilboards, most notably in the foam used for the core or ‘blank’ of the kitesurf board. The surfboards, as mentioned above, are shaped out of an EPS, or Extruded Poly Styrene foam blank which is a similar material that you will find most production and custom kitesurf boards to be made from on the market. And while the characteristics of EPS foam do lend itself to perfectly capable boards, Fletch and our FCD crew always wanted something more dynamic out of our kitesurf boards. After experimenting with a variety of alternative foam and cloth configurations, we settled on the current makeup of I-Foam and fiberglass cloth along with carbon ‘spears’ laid into the underside of many of the boards. The I-Foam provides a much damper ride with considerably more flex than you would get out of EPS construction, which generally equates to a much more comfortable ride in windy, choppy kitesurf conditions allowing for noticeably less fatigue on kiters ankles, knees, back, etc. Damper ride + less fatigue = more fun!
I personally find that each model suits a specific set of conditions, yet with that said, they all can handle just about anything that you can throw at them! My choice is mainly dictated by wave size and wave quality.
The Blunt is my workhorse of a board; it goes almost everywhere with me and I’ll ride it in anything from anklehigh to head high plus with average kitesurf conditions (meaning wind swell, choppy, peaky, and not necessarily ultra clean and organized). With the Blunt’s chopped off nose, straighter rail outline, and channeled bottom, it will rocket upwind, can be ridden much shorter than a traditional pointed nose surfboard shape, and its bottom contours, combined with your favorite fin set, provide an efficient and solid connection to the water surface as you glide along. The Blunt is also my go-to for strapless airs and when riding a surfboard in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Shrike is my “what dreams are made of” type of kitesurf board. It gets thrown into the mix when the conditions line up and things get slightly more organized. I’ll reach for the Shrike once the size goes from shoulder/head high to double overhead and cleaner wave faces with more down the line surfing potential. The Shrike, for me, is that perfect surfboard that I was always too tall or heavy to surf—yet with a kite becomes a simply magical craft under your feet: traditional nose, squash tail, and single concave bottom. The Shrike is pure “surfing with a kite.”
The Kite Gun is for when things get real! Designed with performance wave chargers Reo Stevens and Keahi de Aboitiz in mind to stand up to the gnarliest of kitesurf conditions at infamous waves like Cloudbreak, Teahupo’o, Backyards, and Jaws, I grab for my Kite Gun when conditions go slightly beyond clean, fun and playful and roll into the more critical, hollow, large and in charge. The Kite Gun has a bit more rocker, is made to be ridden slightly longer than your regular kitesurf board, and has a more pulled in tail. All of these features equate to better hold in critical sections and steeper wave faces which give you the needed additional confidence to charge as hard as you possibly can. I will add in that I have ridden the Kite Gun on more playful days and have had a blast on it as well! If you like a more solid, locked-in feel when kitesurfing, then the Kite Gun is for you.
FCD ADDED FOIL BOARDS TO ITS LINEUP FOR 2020. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO NEW FOIL MODELS AND WHAT IS FLETCH’S PHILOSOPHY WHEN CREATING/SHAPING BOTH KITE AND FOIL BOARDS?
From my years of working with Fletch on boards and various kite and surf products, I have learned that his philosophy very much revolves around functionality and the desire to create a product or tool that will last and suit a specific need. Fletch does not like to put out new model after new model just to have a larger product lineup but rather hones in on the best boards to suit the variety of conditions and end-user needs within the wave-riding sports of surfing, kitesurfing and foilsurfing. There is little to no desire to just copy what other shapers are doing to simply follow a trend unless he truly believes and/or has experiences with a new shape or concept to fit into the existing FCD offering. The end result is his amazing surf craft that represents Fletch’s innate attention to detail and unbridled passion to create the best products possible.
Surf foiling has become one of Fletch’s main passions as of late. He has been spending countless hours foiling and perfecting what he feels are two functional and different board shapes for prone surf foiling; the Grasshopper and the Locust. The Grasshopper is the slightly longer of the two models designed for a person’s either first prone foilboard, or for a foiler that is looking for ease of paddling and extended glide on their waves. The Grasshopper 5’0” is my personal go-to prone foil board of choice.
The Locust is the newest of the FCD foil board models. This has been the evolution of Fletch’s personal foil quest: shorter and wider to help reduce swing weight for pumping and carving while not sacrificing volume so that the ease of paddling still remains. For those foilers looking to aggressively carve and pump back out to connect waves, this is the FCD foil board for you.
PATAGONIA’S TERRE PLANING COLLECTION HAS GAINED POPULARITY AMONGST KITERS INCLUDING A KITE-SPECIFIC JACKET. HOW DOES THIS JACKET STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS AND WHAT’S MAKING IT SO APPEALING TO WINDSPORTS ADDICTS?
At Patagonia, we launched our Terre Planing line with the first ‘over the harness’ kite anorak hooded pullover almost five years ago. Since then we have switched the pullover to a regular zip-up hoody as well as added in a women’s version, and as of 2019, the Terre Planing lineup has expanded to include an insulated version of the jacket along with an insulated pair of Stretch Thermal pants. The regular Terre Planing jackets are amazing for everyday warm weather use. They are made with our 100% recycled Stretch Planing boardshorts fabric which is UPF 50, quick-drying and super light and comfortable. They are perfect to be worn both in and out of the water for sun protection and to shield a kiter or surfer from the elements in mild weather. We added in the Stretch Thermal Hoody and Stretch Thermal Pants to suit the needs of kiters and surfers both pre and post-session or when out on a jet ski for an extended amount of time when running safety in critical conditions. The Stretch Thermal Jacket and Pants are made from our same 100% recycled Stretch Planing fabric and are backed with an insulation layer from our wetsuit lining. The result is a perfect pairing that can be worn as a standalone layer for those early morning session checks, or with their slightly roomier fit, over a wetsuit for rigging and de-rigging moments for those chilly kite sessions. Both the regular Terre Planing Jacket and the Stretch Thermal jacket have an integrated harness hook hole allowing a kiter to wear their harness under the jacket rather than over it to eliminate any fabric bunching discomfort and unwanted chafe. The Stretch Thermal jacket and pants stand out from competitors’ products by being much lighter in weight than the neoprene versions which provide similar functionality.
Personally, I live in my Stretch Thermal ‘kitesurf tracksuit’ and when each time I go camping on the Oregon coast for extended days of kite and surf sessions, they always give me a free class at the campingfunzone, or for evenings around the fire after long days of mountain biking.
PATAGONIA RECENTLY LAUNCHED https://www.patagonia.com/kitesurfing.html WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS MOVE FOR OUR SPORT AND CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE MORE KITE-SPECIFIC PRODUCTS FROM PATAGONIA SOON?
The Patagonia commitment to kitesurfing has been steadily growing for the past decade. Within those 10 years, kitesurfing has lived as a subset of the Surf sports category, as for us at FCD and Patagonia, kitesurfing is truly an extension of our surfing passion. But after a decade of growth under the Surf umbrella, we felt it was time to branch out and grow the sport as its own category within the larger Patagonia family. This is a significant move for our sport of kitesurfing, in my opinion, as there has yet to be such a large “out of industry” brand (meaning not a brand where windsports makes up at least some of the foundation of the brand DNA) to take such a bold step and devote money, energy and resources to supporting kitesurfing in such a bold way. When I was brought on to Patagonia as a Kitesurf Ambassador in 2010 I could not believe that they really wanted to get behind our sport and support athletes, product development and events because most major surf brands were, and many remain opposed to supporting kitesurfing because of the fear of putting off their “core” surf consumers. But Patagonia has always walked a different path and stood behind the things that they believe in…and kitesurfing just happens to be one of those things. So many of our Surf Ambassadors are true watermen and waterwomen that do it all; surf, kite, foil, dive, paddle and more, simply live to love being in, on and around the water. And yes, with this next step and commitment to kitesurfing as its own sports category will give us more freedom and resources to continue to expand our kitesurf product line offering. We are still in the idea and brainstorming stage on many products, but keep an eye out for our lineup of kite related products to continue to grow in the coming years, and the Patagonia commitment to kitesurfing to only get stronger as we move forward.