North Board Engineering - Learning from what works
A look inside North's new board factory.

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North Pro Rider, Sky Solbach, gives his view on these two different kites.

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North Board Engineering - Learning from what works

Kiteboard construction provides many challenges and opportunities to board designers. Similar to boards used in other watersports, weight reduction and strength are important. But unlike these other boardsports, flex characteristics play an important role and volume does not. For these reasons, North Kiteboarding has been working closely with ski and snowboard design engineers to integrate their technology into our boards. The result is that North and Fanatic kiteboards are the only boards built in a high-quality Austrian ski factory, and the benefits are clear as soon as you hit the water.

The main advantage that this factory offers is in the production process itself. The boards are built in molds (Photo 1, below), where high temperatures and pressures of 170,000 pounds are used to squeeze out every last bit of unnecessary resin. The older technology most other brands use is similar to surfboard and wakeboard construction, which means much lower pressures. This makes a heavier board that is not as strong. North kiteboards have the highest strength to weight ratio in the industry and ding resistance more comparable to a snowboard.

Board Engineering Board Engineering

The cores are precision CNC-milled (photo 2, above), and positioned between ABS sidewalls and topsheets. They are laminated with Quadrax fiberglass and X-carbon Kevlar stringers. The two laminates provide a clear definition of both flex and torsional rigidity, and can be adjusted to suit the designers' goals. Snowsports demand a very precise flex pattern which varies along the length of the ski or board. When North designers found out that they could control this flex on the kiteboards too, they started experimenting and discovered some interesting facts.

First of all, flexible boards offer lots of high-wind control and comfort, but sacrifice upwind ability and pop for jumps. Stiff boards jump well, but don't absorb any energy in choppy water, so they are hard to ride under control. The perfect blend seems to be a stiff middle section for pop and power, combined with flexible tips to give you control, speed, and soft landings. If you walk into a shop and put your palm on the middle of a board and flex it, you get an idea of the overall stiffness, but you don't know what part of the board is flexible. North's unique construction process allows them to dial in all these variables on each board, and the modern factory machinery can guarantee precise reproduction for each unit. This is a big advantage over custom builders, whose product seems to vary quite a bit.

Kite Magazine became aware of the importance of flex, and found that most board experts agreed that kiteboards should be highly flexible at the tips and very rigid in the center. So they tested 19 boards from all the top brands. Stiffness in the center area was determined by applying weight, and measuring the deflection. Then the test was repeated for the tips. We listed the difference between the two measurements for each board. North and Fanatic, the only boards from the Austrian factory, had the best combination of stiff centers (smaller deflection) and soft tips (higher deflection). This chart gives the test results.

Board Engineering

But what does this mean to you and your riding? You get the good early planning and up-wind performance that a stiff fast board offers. And once you are going full speed, the flex tips give you automatic control, keeping you on the edge without that scary sense of impending explosion. The stiffness between the feet gives great pop for loaded jumps, and landings are smoother and more controllable, thanks to the flex tips. All North boards have these features, so check it out yourself!

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