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2009 Kiteboard Tests

Jun 19, 2009

Author: Shane Thompson

2009 is an exceptional year to demo some new boards and discover the ever-evolving performance of today’s designs. As the kite performance has increased, board designers have been following it up with equal levels of improved board performance. Replacing your old board, or adding to your board quiver, can expand your riding skills into new disciplines and can maximize your performance in different water and wind conditions.

Twin-Tip Construction Trends

Photos by John Bryja, Dave Marshall, and David Tran
SBC test team: John Bryja, Craig Cunningham, Dave Marshall, Daniel Steiner, Shane Thompson and David Tran

There are a ton of new twin-tip models tested here and many of them show marked improvements over last year. Companies have done a great job at building upon the successful traits of their most popular models and have improved performance at many levels by refining shapes and adopting new technology and materials.
The majority of twin-tip shapes today are built using the ‘snowboard style’ construction, which features the distinctive ABS sidewall and thin rail profile. These boards have foam or wood cores that are laminated between various layers of fiberglass or sometimes carbon. Their construction processes and materials help to regulate the boards flex pattern. This year many of these style boards have changed their cores from EPS foam or PVC to various combinations of vertically laminated wood. Wood is widely used in snowboard construction because of its vibration absorbing characteristics. Wood consists of long fibers that transmit high-frequency vibrations along the board’s length. The use of wood in the core has improved flex patterns, increased dampening in chop, and created more reactive flex while improving longevity.

Bottom Shape, Rails and Flex
Although many manufacturers use broadly similar construction methods, there is still a lot of diversity in outline and bottom shape. While the predominant single concave bottom shape is still more common, many companies are looking outside of the box and have attempted to start new trends in shape, form and flex. There’s an increase in the number of more complicated multiple concave and channeled bottoms this year and board makers are finding new ways to deliver the performance that their test teams are looking for. Flex patterns are better understood after many years of production and prototypes. Some of the smoothest riding production boards have adopted asymmetrical flex patterns, meaning softer flex on the toeside than the heelside. Some models take it even a step further, and offer an altered outline on the toeside. Other trends also include the more custom hand shaping and smoothing of many of the ABS rails. Although some rails remain too thin and razor sharp to bother shaping, many freeride models are seeing rounded out ABS rails and hand shaped as opposed to the sharp squared ABS rails of a few years ago.

 Board and Foot Connection
Footbed and strap systems continue to evolve with some companies making small improvements on the traditional shape and function of the footstrap while others forge entirely new paths. New lace-up straps system and lighter weight footbeds are two trends in these systems. Most companies have also reduced the struggle for mounting strap systems. Footbeds also have more contoured shape this year, and most have more aggressive heel cushions, and toe ridges to help lock you in better than before.

There are a ton of options to decipher for the first-time buyer and choosing a new board can be confusing. Distinctions in outline, bottom shape, length, width, flex and construction all contribute to the overall performance character of modern twin-tip models. So when you’re deciding to buy a new board it helps to understand how different features translate into overall performance. Longer and narrower boards with more flex are generally easier to keep on edge and can track upwind easier than the short, stiff freestyle models. If you’re a beginner, don’t get a board that’s too short and wide or too stiff and unforgiving. With a board that promotes easy and straight line tracking it will promote good fundamentals. You can get a board that has performance that you can grow into, but don’t choose a board that is too stiff and aggressive. Looking at the bottom shape, you can choose between subtle concave to more pronounced concave on some models or more complicated multiple channeling. Concave will help smooth out chop and can make riding less on edge easier. Rounder outlines versus square parallel rails tend to be more carving and freeride-friendly. Square off tails and very parallel rails are characteristic of more aggressive freestyle shapes that aim to provide explosive pop for unhooked wakestyle manoeuvres.

Average board size chart for twin-tips for moderate wind speed.

Rider Size                   Length (cm)    Width (cm)
60- 100 lbs                  105-128      31 -38
100-150 lbs                 124-132     36-41
150- 180 lbs                130-142     37-42
180+ lbs                      132-150       38-44

The surfboard lines of many brands keep expanding with tons of new options and new levels of directional performance. If you think that pulling out an old directional shape from seven years ago is the equivalent of a modern surf shape, think again: There’s no comparison. Today’s surf shapes are smooth and controlled under power, they give you grip on edge but are loose and snappy on a wave. There are tons of variations of shapes available that cater to different weight riders and most importantly, different wave and wind conditions. This year there has been an explosion new fish models as well as new quad-fin designs and even some fish-quad hybrid designs. Fish boards are great for having fun in the less-than-ideal wave conditions. They are more snappy, manoeuvrable and skatey and can derive more power from smaller waves. Quad-fin designs are all the rage this year following the trend from the surf scene. Today’s quads are awesome for driving upwind and, depending on your foot placement, you can alter the radius of your turn by engaging the power of the side fins.



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