Author: Matt and Keegan Myers
Published: Dec/Jan 2005 issue of Kiteboarding Magazine, www.kiteboardingmag.com
Visionaries once thought big, from the Great Wall of China to the world’s largest pepperoni pizza. But in today’s world of microchips and nanotechnology, small is in. Add kiteboards to that list. Boards we once considered small are now large compared to the lunch-tray-size rides you’ll find in some quivers. Is the minimalist movement something to latch on to? That depends.
“No matter what your skill level is or what the conditions are, you can maximize your fun factor with the right-size board,” says Dave Turner, owner of Litewave Designs. “You can’t be like, ‘I just want to ride my wakeboard,’ because in the wrong conditions, a wakeboard can be pretty useless.”
Unless your first session involved “borrowing” your buddy’s custom Jimmy Lewis 90 cm deck, most people start out on a bigger board, usually 150 cm to 180 cm. A larger board’s volume keeps it afloat more easily, letting you ride in light wind, and the added stability gives the novice more room to learn. “Starting out on a larger board gives you leeway to learn the kite and handle the board,” Turner says. “Once you’ve got it, you can make the transition to a smaller, more responsive board.” Smaller boards, from 90 cm to 136 cm, take more power to ride. The key is using your leg muscles to keep your balance on the board.
“Small boards give greater edge control, increasing upwind ability, power control and maneuverability, and creating more light-wind potential,” says Nick Bowers, designer for Squall Kiteboards in South Carolina. Innovations in concave design, and new flexes and construction materials, have motivated many designers to create smaller boards in water sports from surfing to skiing.
The idea of a short board sounds great: lightweight, easy to travel with and fun as hell to thrash around with in the waves. But what’s the reality of using a short board in light wind? “The beauty of a super-short board is the lack of rocker, fins and size, giving it the upper hand in drag,” Bowers says. “Short boards are fast in every sense of the word. This allows the kiter to use apparent wind created by the kite’s forward movement.” The adequate surface area of a short, wide board, plus minimal drag resistance and increased board speed, equals a speedy, responsive kiteboard that muscles upwind even in light-air conditions.
Just as you wouldn’t wear a neon-pink jump suit to a Hell’s Angels rally (or would you?), make sure your board promotes your riding style. “A larger board gives a smoother, carvy ride, like a snowboard,” says Florida-based pro Hamish MacDonald, who rides an 86 cm board, roughly the size of a Tony Hawk skateboard. “It’s easier on the knees, and when you’re in a wave, you can carve a much deeper trench on bottom turns.”
Lengthy boards, 150 cm and longer, still hold a place for beginners, providing buoyancy and stability. But they’re not always the best option for light wind since the birth of short, wide boards, proving that sometimes great things do come in small packages.