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Kiteboarding Wakestyle Roundtable

Sept 4, 2009

Author: Tracy Kraft/Cabrinha photos

From L to R: Kevin Steen, Jake Kelsick, Greg Norman Jr. and Andre Phillip.

The Switchblade IDS is now in its fifth year and it has clearly made its mark in the wakestyle world. We talked with arguably one of the best wakestyle riders Andre Phillip, cable park monster Greg Norman Jr., filmmaker/rider Kevin Steen and Kitescoop’s Adam Anton about the kite and how to galvanize the movement to take it to the next level.

In the early days on the bow kites, wakestyle guys questioned whether the Switchblade kite was going to be effective for unhooked riding. Four years later, the fifth generation Switchblade is a favorite among wakestyle riders.
What changed?

Adam: I think people just started being more open minded, realized they felt great even for wakestyle and the trend began. Of course it didn’t hurt that guys like Dre were riding them from the start.
Dre: In the early days when I first tried a bow kite, I hated how it felt but at the same time loved the advantages that the design would bring to kiteboarding (relaunch ability and more depower than a C shaped kite). The bow kite wasn’t originally designed to be a kite ridden unhooked (it sat too far back in the window and would stall when unhooked) and therefore it sucked in that department. Throughout the years we have been making adjustments to the Switchblade in order to make sure that it is a good design for unhooking and have the benefits
of being a bow.
Kevin: Even though the Switchblade is not a C kite, it has grown into one of the smoothest and most legit kites out there. With the input from the design team and Dre they have really raised the SB to the level that wakestyle riders are looking for. You never have to worry about it as you try to learn those new manuvers so wakestyle riders have opened up to it.
Greg: Bow kites always had a bad rap, but the Switchblade now has got it nailed. It sits perfect in the window. Has constant power. Perfect for both flat water and hitting kickers and sliders.
But the best part is it feels just like riding the cable park.

Many of the riders coming from a wakeboarding background rely on a smooth consistent pull that mimics the feel behind a boat or cable. How does the Switchblade compare to other kites in terms of that “pull” riders are looking for?
I think there are a lot of kites that give just as good pull as the SB when unhooked, but they don’t get you back upwind as good and they feel like you have to ‘work’ even when you’re hooked in. It’s like the SB has the best of both worlds. Nice and light in your hands and easy to fly but when you unhook the steady power you want is right there.
Dre: The Switchblade is one of the smoothest kites I have flown. It cruises through choppy wind and is a very predictable kite. It also has a constant flow of power that makes it easy to pull against when you are throwing tricks.
Greg: I joined Cabrinha because I was looking for a kite to give me the cable feel. With previous kites I would have to worry about flying the kite while throwing tricks. The Switchblade stays where I want it to stay in the sky. And I can just ride.
Kevin: Exactly. I feel most riders are looking for a kite that they can park in the window and not worry about it, while it gives them proper pop and slack while doing tricks. The Switchblade delivers smooth pull in even the most adverse conditions.

Wakestyle is evolving like everything else in kiting. What do you believe it’s about these days compared to in the past?
Wakestyle has never changed. People are still doing it with their kite low and riding in boots, throwing
tricks, hitting rails and ramps. The only thing that is different these days is that more people are doing it and the riders are getting better.
Greg: Yes, before it seemed limited only to the number
of riders committed to the style. It’s now at a point where we can go out and separate ourselves from other riders with our own style.
Kevin: I believe wakeSTYLE is all about the style. It’s all about how smoothly a rider can do his tricks. Riders have always been pushing this, but I feel with more riders riding wakestyle, we are going to witness kiteboarding style taken to a new level.
Adam: As far as trends, it’s definitely about the obstacles these days. Getting technical on rails and also just being creative and finding new obstacles to ramp, slide, bonk, whatever it may be.

The informal jam sessions and rider judged contests are gaining popularity in all action sports arenas. When will we see this take hold in kiteboarding? Will this replace the traditional freestyle tour?
Adam: I really hope so! If there’s one thing that action sports have in common is the freedom it gives people to be creative, no rules, no limits, and because of this you will see the best tricks being thrown down when riders don’t have the pressure of doing heats. There is a camaraderie that is unique to these sports as well and riders do better when they are with their friends just pushing each other and having fun, not thinking about trying to stick a certain amount of tricks before the clock runs out. So the riders have more fun and the spectators get a better show, everybody
Dre: It seems like they are already starting to take hold in kiteboarding with the Triple S, Gorge Jam and Core Jam. I think we are gonna see more of these style events in the future and hopefully it will take over the dangle tour.
Kevin: Jam sessions have been popping up all over the world recently, and they are mostly just a crew of riders putting
a rail or a kicker out at there home spot, but they truly are the best type of event. However, I do hope that larger jams and rider judged events start happening so that riders from all over the world could come together and ride. And yes these should replace the freestyle tour...for sure.
Greg: I feel jams have their place as does the typical contest.
Whatever you’re feelin’.

Parks have been popping up everywhere. Much of the new park hits have come from the skiing / snowboarding
terrain parks. What features have you been hitting recently and describe the challenges involved in translating it to the water.

Greg: I only hit parks that are on the water so I don’t have a hard time translating it to the water. But I love gappable or transferable features or a kicker.
Dre: I’ve been hitting handrails, boxes, A-frames, kickers, big drainage tubes, barrels and stuff. The only crappy thing with hitting obstacles behind a kite is the fact that we have to tune the angle of the obstacle with the direction of the wind so it’s extra work but once there is a crew of people willing to help out its not too bad.
Kevin: Recently we have been setting up some really random stuff, anything that is cheap and fun to session. It’s pretty funny to setup an obstacle with no clue if it will actually work, and session it with the friends. It is a bit of a challenge setting up stuff up in the water for kiting but at the end of the day it’s well worth it.
Adam: I live in the Caribbean so I’m not doing much snowboarding. But you will definitely be seeing more bonking going on in kiteboarding soon. It’s a lot of fun and its something different to sliding for a change, and you can get really creative with bonking obstacles.

Although wakestyle is growing in popularity, its still a niche aspect to the sport. What needs to happen for it to flourish in the kiting world?
Dre: I think it is still niche because it’s harder for one to progress the way we are riding as opposed to riding with footstraps and your kite at lunchtime, so it is just a product of itself. This is why wakestyle will attract the youth and core boarders that take pride in letting hard work pay off. I think that more exposure in the mags, videos etc will help it flourish along with things like that offer a place to get together, talk crap about wakestyle and see what is happening with that side of the sport.
Adam: Exposure! I think kids need to see the wakestyle side of kiteboarding because it will appeal to them much more than the type of kiting thats mainstream now. Also if the gear was cheaper i think you’d see the numbers growing more.
Kevin: I think we need just more people to try it. Throw a pair of old wakeboard bindings on your board and go for a session. Also people riding wakestyle in footstraps is just wrong. Footstraps are for beginners, all experienced riders doing wakestyle should be in bindings. Wakestyle’s gonna take over you’ll see.
Greg: For our sport to flourish, the wakeboard industry has to realize we do the same thing. The lines between what they do and what we do need to disappear so wakestyle can take over!

Related Links

Boot Camp: Why Boots?

2010 Cabrinha Switchblade

Getting to Know Dre: The Andre Phillip Interview

Who's That: Kevin Steen

Kiteboarding Forums -'s Adam Anton

Nuke Tantrum


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