Catching Trade Winds - The EVO Episode out now !
Reno´s insight view about Red Bull King of the Air!
Oozing style both on and off the water, Reno Romeu is North Kiteboarding’s Brazilian smooth operator. Residing in Rio De Janeiro he first started kiteboarding in 2002, progressing at lightning speed hitting the PKRA tour a few years later. Having cruised through the heats in last years event, he was invited to participate in the Red Bull King of the Air in Cape Town, South Africa for a second year running. Always looking to improve his performance on the water and push the boundaries of the sport we caught up Reno after the event.
How is it coming from the PKRA into a competition like the Red Bull King of the Air?
It's truly great! All year I’m travelling on the PKRA tour and there is a lot of pressure that comes with it. It’s refreshing to participate in an event where I feel so relaxed. The Red Bull King of the air is one of the best events around with such a great atmosphere, hype and extreme conditions. It’s great fun and I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing it with friends and other riders.
Do you rate this style of riding even though you are more technical?
I would say that the this event requires technical riding, just in another way. The PKRA requires a certain style and the tricks are very technical so you really have to be focused for the duration of the event, even when you are not in the water. The Red Bull King of the Air is more like a momentum. It is a competition but, you are just trying to go bigger then the other riders on the water. With all the adrenaline pumping through your body your mind set is different, it’s almost like you go a little crazy. You just have to go for it!
You chose to ride in boots for the competition. Why is that?
I actually tried riding straps in the first heat as I was afraid of hurting myself and compromising my year ahead on the PKRA, but it was awful. After only using boots for a longtime now I couldn’t ride as I wanted. I still made it through the heat but as soon as I got out of the water I put the straps to one side and grabbed my boots. In this event, you go big or you go home. There’s no doubt that with boots I have more control of the board, can ride faster, land harder and hold more pressure from the kite. All important factors for the King of the Air.
What was your set up for the event?
I rode the 10 meter and 8 meter Vegas with the back lines on the ‘wakestyle’ setting. My bar had 22m lines which was great for high jumps and aggressive kiteloops and I rode the 137cm Team Series with the NKB Banana Boots, of course.
How does this ‘hangtime’ set up differ from your usual wakestyle set up?
I didn’t actually change anything. I love to go big anyway, so often after a training session I go for a freeride and catch some big airs. The Vegas is a great kite for both styles, the key for this event is to take a bigger kite then normal and hit the water totally overpowered.
How do you prepare for an event such as this?
Drink a Red Bull. It gives you wings!
Do you think we will see a return of the ‘old school’ riding as there has been so much emphasis on ‘wakestyle’ over the past years?
I don’t think so. In my opinion, every activity you do, you look to improve the technical difficulty of it. It’s the natural progression of sport and I don’t see big air doing this. Big air is a show and I don’t think it can become something like a World Tour as its not really that technical or difficult, it’s extreme!
Overseas - Sander Bos
Tom Hebert the uncrowned Red Bull King of the Air
Tom Hebert is one of the original Kiteboarders starting in 1998 and has been a North International Team rider for 3 years. Born and bred in New Caledonia he’s the man who’s put old school riding back on the map with his 25 m jumps, flair and monumental amount of style. We caught up with him after the Red Bull King Of the Air competition where he soared through the heats, dominating with his ‘WOW’ factor and crowd pleasing, it looked like he was hot competition for the podium. Unfortunately he had a heavy crash that took him out of the running but he was the name that everyone was talking about.
Hi Tom, how are you feeling after the event?
Not so good, (laughs) I ‘m in quite a lot of pain.
Your crash has over 90,000 views and has gone viral. What was going through your mind at the time?
I arrived late to the kicker which put me off balance straight away. At 25 meters high and mid rotation I saw that my kite was pointing down towards the water. I lost all orientation and had very little control. I tried to correct it and get it right but it was too late.
The event is called King Of The Air. With this style of riding being your forte and having a lot of experience, tell us about your ultimate equipment set up.
The Evo is the ultimate kite for me. I pair it with 24 meter lines and the Team Series board with straps. The Team Series is everything I look for in a board; it’s fast and light. I ride the 140cm x 42cm as a bigger board is softer in the chop and offers more stability on the landings. I ‘m not a huge fan of using a handle for board-offs so I like to put a bit of foam on the top edge of the board and patch of skate grip on the bottom. It gives me a firm grip especially here in the cold water where you can’t feel your hands.
The Evo in my opinion, is the perfect kite from the North range. It provides the best lift and has a lot of hang-time especially with longer 24m lines aiding to deliver more duration to the jump.
How do you set your equipment up to go so high?
It’s really important to get maximum power and output from the kite, even if that means riding with my arm extended and the bar all the way out. I gain height from a combination of sending the kite and pulling down on the bar. It’s simple, you need to be overpowered to go big. I always make sure that I pump my kite really hard, this way it maintains it’s form and reacts well to anything I initiate. I know that 6psi is ideal but I never put less than 8psi.
On anything smaller than a 10m kite, I move the back pigtails to the harder setting and then to the softer setting for the larger sizes. I also move the lines to the inside setting of the bar on any kite under 10 meters. This way there are no surprises with your kite moving too fast or being too responsive. 4.6cm fins provide me with the grip I need to go high, especially when overpowered and my stance is around 50cm. If it’s too narrow you loose stability and it also looks a bit strange.
Kiteboarding started with a hang-time style of riding but, there has been so much influence from wakestyle over the past years with everyone riding boots. How do you think this sort of event will shape the future of old school riding?
I think old school riding is going to come back sooner than we think. Kiting is a sport that has developed through mirroring other board sports. Wakestyle is like wakeboarding and wave riding like surfing. However, kiting is an original sport where you can do tricks that you can’t do in any other. The main reason I kite and where I get a lot of pleasure is by going high and performing tricks that I can’t do in any other sport. I’m not saying that wakestyle is bad but it’s just that I prefer to go 25 meters up. You name me another water sport where you can do that. Kiting needs to find it’s own way and not copy other sports. You only need to ask a wakeboarder what they think of kiteboarding and they’ll say that we are copying them, which is a shame as kiting is an original sport. That’s why I like old school and it’s nice to see the Red Bull King Of The Air supporting this. It would be great to have more events like this over the year as it attracts many spectators putting kiteboarding on their radar. It also helps those unfamiliar with the sport to understand it a bit more as the style of tricks aren't too technical. It’s impressive.
There are not many people doing this style of riding anymore, it seems that old school got lost along the way in the growth of the sport. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
When kiteboarding started we didn’t have a clue about it’s potential. We just went riding and tried to invent new moves. Creativity is key and I draw a lot of this from talking with other riders. In New Caledonia we haven't given up on the old school and we still push this style of riding together and do new tricks. I suppose I draw inspiration from my home spot where there are many people still loyal to big air. For sure if you are alone it’s hard, but with a group of friends there is competition which makes it a bit more challenging.
Is ‘old school’ the new ‘new school’?
I think so, it’s certainly making a come back. You need to incorporate manoeuvres that look dangerous and hard all the while keep the fluidity and style too. There are so many options so, for now it is an infinite side of the sport. There is always space for new tricks.
What do you think of the riding conditions in South Africa?
Cape Town is not the easiest place to ride, it’s really windy with big waves. There are very few places in the world where you can go so high. Coming from New Caledonia, I’m used to 18-20knts and 25-30 degrees. Here the water is so cold it’s hard to find the motivation to put a wetsuit on but, as it’s rare to find somewhere with such perfect and massive kickers, it compensates for cold water that I’m not used to. The only problem is that it gets crowded, so you need to take a lot of care when going big as there will always be someone in your way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
For anyone that wants to go high, do board-offs and rock the old school style then they need to ride the Evo. It’s the ultimate jumping machine. Also with the new NKB Tracker app available soon the contest is on! My record is 25 meters so I accept the challenge wherever you are.
Ken Winner and Sky Solbach´s inside view about the new Neo
The 2014 Neo is a full-on dedicated wave kite. It's got all of the key performance characteristics we felt a wave kite really needs to have and also happens to be a really fun and playful free-ride kite.
1. Quick, "round" turning. Everyone knows quick turning is good for waves because allows you to position yourself exactly where you want to be on the wave and allows you to make small corrections in kite positioning at a moment's notice. But the real key to the Neo is not just the quickness of the turning but the WAY in which it turns. It has what we are calling "round" turning, which means that it really tracks through a turn and generates power immediately and equally all the way through the wind window. This means that when you are on a wave you can generate power whenever you need it, no matter where the kite is in the window. This opens up a lot of new possibilities and really helps to link more turns together with flow.
2. Drift. Drift is super important for surfing waves because it allows you to park your kite and focus on surfing the wave rather than constantly needing to steer your kite and follow it through every bottom and top turn. The Neo's amazing drift gives you more room for error when surfing waves and allows you to recover from those mistakes without dropping your kite. We spent a lot of time testing the Neo's tolerance to slacked lines and optimizing the weight in the wingtips to drift straight backwards and not twist and fall nose down.
3. Lots of low-end power. The low-end power of the Neo allows you to ride a kite 1 to 2 square meters smaller than you normally would. This means you have a small, more compact and faster turning kite in all conditions.
4: Quick relaunch. The compact shape of the Neo makes relaunch super easy and allows you to get your kite up quickly before getting munched by the next wave!
The Neo has evolved into a pure wave kite, so Maui is the perfect place for developing it further.
And while the image of Maui involves perfect peeling ground swell and strong, steady sideshore wind, the reality is different. Sure, there are perfect days, but there are also a lot of days days with average waves and gusty wind. And while we test Neo protos at breaks like Lanes and Ho'okipa and Outer Sprecks, we also test at Waiehu, where the waves consist head-high to triple-head-high wind swell, and the onshore wind from 10 to 30 knots.
The 2013 Neo was a great starting point, as it had many great qualities already, so we focused on building its strengths: good power, easy turning and excellent drift.
As everyone knows, one of the most important qualities of a wave kite is its ability to turn quickly and precisely. The easiest and surest way to make any kite design turn quickly is to make it small, so for 2014 we bumped up the power of the Neo. This means riders can ride smaller, faster-turning kites than they may be used to. It's not uncommon for Sky to be riding at a Maui break on a Neo two meters smaller than what other good riders are using.
Quick turning also requires a kite that doesn't luff or flutter a lot on the side that is on the outside of the turn. We kept this luffing and fluttering, which is common on three-strut kites, to a minimum through careful strut placement and profile design. The profiles in the tips are quite flat and even the first profile above the tips struts were carefully tuned to avoid the draggy luffing that can slow turning.The two leech battens on each side help with this also.
Drift is another key quality in a wave kite. This is improved through optimized weight distribution. We had great drift with the zero-strut protos we tried, but surprisingly we had even better drift with the two- and three-strut protos. Something about the lower center of gravity.
Relaunch on the Neo is almost effortless and almost instantaneous, in large part because of the tight cone and increased sweep.