Having built an innovative lineup that has been field tested and approved by some of the top kite athletes in the world, the North team is entering its 3rd season of windsports products. This year, North is expanding its development team and importing material science from its sail technology division while delivering refinements to some of its key product lines. Director of Brand and Product Mike Raper walks us through North’s latest developments and the key changes in this year’s products.
At North, we’re on a mission to become market leaders in all categories, and we aspire to change the way we ride. The past year has been a time of exceptional innovation and growth for our brand, and we were proud to announce the strengthening our kick-ass team of designers with the addition of three new faces: Pepijn Smit, Dano See and Steve Calder. New designs, new materials, and the addition of an exciting new wingfoil range, has meant we needed more horsepower, investment in R&D and investment in the right people. In bringing this team together, we diversify our experience and increase our collective knowledge. As Ryunosuke Satoro put it: “Individually we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
North’s recently updated foil and wing range benefited from the design prowess wielded by some pretty key players operating under the wider North Sails umbrella, a company highly visible in the recent America’s Cup held in Auckland, which also happens to be North’s backyard. Integral to the team is North Materials Innovation Project Leader, David Little. David brings North’s sailing materials expertise to kites and wings, where we’ve found gains in extra stiffness with no sacrifices in durability. The inflated structure presents some unique challenges, but we’re making critical advancements in durable seams and controlling the effect of the inflation pressure on the stretch.
2021 saw the launch of our North Next Gen initiative, where our team of legendary athletes each hand-picked a young rider from their local spot to train up, mentor and share their years of experience. With the likes of Nick Jacobsen, Jalou Langeree, Graham Howes, Jesse Richman, Marc Jacobs and Camille Delannoy mentoring these young athletes, the sky’s the limit! We welcomed to the North team Capucine Delannoy, Jett Bradshaw, Marley Franco and Daniel Kereopa, and before the end of the year will be welcoming Karlie Thoma. Capucine has been winning every GKA Strapless Freestyle event on the tour since joining North. We’re very proud of her reaching such impressive heights in such a short time.
At North, we support the fundamental movement towards sustainable production and consumption, reducing the plastic in our oceans and promoting a cleaner future. We were proud to launch our “Go Green” campaign, showcasing the environmental and social responsibility initiatives we’re tackling as a brand.
Finally, we’re very excited about the growth of North Foiling alongside our core brand activity with North Kiteboarding, and to ensure we honor both our Kite and Foil tribes, we’ve been busy working on a new North Foil platform that will launch in the new year. Watch this space!
The Orbit is one of the podium dominating kites in the North lineup that has seamlessly covered performance big air and freeride disciplines in years past. What are the changes being introduced in 2022 to the Orbit and how does the Orbit’s freeride abilities compare to that of the Reach?
The 3rd generation 2022 Orbit continues the steady evolution of the class-leading king of big air kites. For 2022, the new Orbit has some subtle improvements in construction aimed at reducing the overall weight of the kite. The Orbit has new lighter weight bladders in all sizes and some re-engineering of the canopy reinforcements with lighter weight N-Force 75 Dacron resulting in a both a lighter and more stable kite. These tweaks along with a slightly reduced leading edge diameter yield a lighter more responsive kite that offers the best big air performance in a kite while maintaining a nice and light feel in the bar pressure. The Orbit’s continued weight reductions, overall responsiveness and increased stability make this a very accessible big air kite with plenty of freeride usability. In short, with a 5-strut moderately high aspect design, the Orbit is a kite that likes to be ridden full power and pull huge kiteloops with maximum power and hangtime. The Orbit shines in big air and retains its playful feel for freeride, but as compared to the Reach, it’s not nearly as comfortable across multiple riding disciplines. North markets the Reach as their “Desert Island Kite” and is a true do it all kite. The three strut Reach kite is lighter than the five strut Orbit which gives it impressive low-end range for foiling along with nice drift that works surprisingly well in the surf and still has very credible boosting performance for big air along with fast, tight turning for learning downloops and kiteloops. In summary, both the Orbit and Reach are good freeride kites whereas the Orbit optimizes around big air and massive kiteloops while the Reach will bring high performance and versatility on any type of board or riding style.
The Carve has been world champion Jesse Richman’s go-to kite in the waves, and for 2022, he has said subtle design tweaks have resulted in improvements to drift and steering response. What changes have been made and how have these changes translated to improvements in the Carve’s surf qualities for 2022?
As with all the new 2022 North kites, the Carve has had further weight reductions by reworking material usage and using lighter Dacron and bladders. In the 2022 kite collection, the Carve has had perhaps the biggest step forward in performance. While the kite has benefited from the new build, the biggest improvement in the kite is the new Active Load Distribution Bridle. This has given the Carve dramatically improved and more pivotable turning along with much more usable depower all without losing any drift. This creates a noticeably quicker and more playful kite while maintaining its strong and smooth power delivery. The Carve shines in strapless freestyle due to its intuitive feel, instant depower and exceptional jumping ability for a wave kite. It’s also worth mentioning that the lighter construction on the new Carve makes it a great foiling kite as well.
The Navigator control bar became an industry benchmark when it was introduced in 2019 with the perfect blend of function and convenience features that balanced safety, performance and ease of use in a single design. What are the key upgrades being introduced for 2022?
Simplicity has always been at the core of the Navigator control bar and the 2022 Navigator builds off that with subtle improvements rather than a drastic redesign. The industry leading SK99 Dyneema lines are central to the bar’s performance and when combined with swivels on both the center lines and flagging line we have reduced twists and wear for maximum longevity. The signature design features such as the seatbelt style single-action reload Connect Quick Release and Toolless Interloop system are key to the user-friendliness of the bar and highlights the attention to detail in every feature. Upgrades for 2022 are subtle but include a refined bar grip, more flexible bar end floats, and for 2022, the bar has received ISO Standard 21853:2020 certification. The Navigator control bar has set a standard for safety and reliability that works for most kites on the market. The 2022 bar will remain in the line unchanged through the 2023 season and also sets the benchmark for value at a modest retail price of $589.
The twintip lineup runs from the Atmos Carbon all the way to the Trace, a new lightwind dedicated model. How do you steer riders through the lineup based on rider skill and style? Also, what design elements make the Trace stand out in performance when the wind doesn’t quite show up?
North is very excited for the addition on the Trace to the twintip lineup. It’s an exciting leap forward in the lightwind game. The Trace boasts the traditional flat rocker line and wide profile of a lightwind board, but stands out in this category due its performance. The bottom shaping features a center v-spine and quad channels giving the maximum grip and feel while tracking through the water. The flex pattern allows for good pop and release from the water which unlocks the ability to perform most of your freestyle tricks on a user-friendly lightwind platform. The Trace is a session saver and head turner on the water that is very exciting for lighter wind regions where riding 13m, 15m and 17m kites with twintips are the primary riding style. Take a spin through Marc Jacobs’ Instagram page for proof of what this board is capable of.
North has one of the most straightforward lineups of surfboards with three purpose-built models that nail each discipline of the sport. What are the key design and construction elements of the Charge, Cross and Comp and how do you recommend these boards based on conditions and skill level?
North Kiteboarding’s team includes veteran New Zealand surfer and shaper Jamie Scott who blends years of traditional surfboard shaping experience with North’s technology to create boards that are strong enough for kiting while not being too stiff or overbuilt. The North surfboard lineup is concise and easy to choose from based on your riding style.
The Charge board is a performance down the line ripper featuring a traditional pointy nose shape and thruster fin set up. It features North’s Futurelite Technology construction that uses a carbon innegra wireframe as a structural skeleton for maximum support without sacrificing flex. The carbon fiber is run from the footstrap inserts down through the channels and around the FCS II fin boxes. This allows the board to load and release power on demand directly from your feet through the rails and into the fins, which yields an exceptional feel and snappy turning.
The Cross board is North’s all-rounder which also features the Futurelite Tech and has a rounder nose and compact outline shape that provides a forgiving ride and playful feel for both strapped and strapless progression. It features a thruster fin setup, quad concave bottom and grabbable rails. It accelerates quickly and has great upwind speed and solid pop for freestyle tricks which makes this an easy go-to board for a range of conditions and skill levels.
The Comp board is a dedicated strapless freestyle machine and now has an all-new construction called Dynalite which consists of a high-density PVC core with carbon reinforced laminate layup and biaxal glass layers that are then covered with stepped layers of carbon reinforcement tape around the rails. This creates torsional strength and longitudinal flex in a shockingly low volume package. You can instantly tell this board is special as soon as you pick it up off the rack. It has half the volume as the previous model combined with a compact directional outline and a recessed deck giving it performance unlike anything on the market.
North’s Sonar line of hydrofoil gear features a fully modular system that can cover all of the key hydrofoil-based sports. What is new this year with the Sonar and what are the key design features that make this product stand out?
North is very excited to begin delivery of the North Carbon Sonar products. This addition to the Sonar foil collection offers North customers a choice between multi-sport (kite, prone, wing foil) with alloy masts and fuselages, or the option of full carbon (carbon mast and fuselage) foil packages. The new carbon mast and fuselage are entirely compatible with earlier season alloy masts and fuselages and work with all North front wings. Carbon masts are relatively common in the foil world but the addition of a carbon fuselage is quite unique. Removing weight from the end of the mast provides a very tangible decrease in swing weight and will make our foils feel dramatically lighter and more responsive.
Want more gear info? Get the latest product intel from all the top brands all in one convenient place with Tkb’s 2022 Buyer’s Guide.