Kitesurfing Magazine: North Kiteboarding has been the top-selling brand in the world for a few years now, and has done it by developing the lines with products and price points that are true to the brand and sport. So what’s the secret to its success?
That’s probably the most interesting question and I wish there was a short sharp way of explaining it all, but ultimately it’s the combination of many factors. Our team of dedicated people located across the globe are doing more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle and a passion. Led by sports enthusiast and CEO Till Eberle, everyone is on the same mission. Our team riders are a fundamental part of the family and image of North Kiteboarding, so we always aim to take good care of them and develop them as athletes as well as personalities. Then there’s the overall continuity and high standards of the brand combined with maximum effort that goes into creating the most innovative and premium quality products available. Then there’s the global distribution network that’s growing each year driven by motivated distributors, shops and schools. Whilst we endeavor to work with carefully selected and trustworthy partners, our overall aim is to offer an outstanding service to the customer; it’s a bit of a balancing act. Our customers are a huge part of our community, whether that’s sharing the stoke or riding together, so we’re always trying to give back. The North Kiteboarding Academy and APP are good examples of that, offering free tutorials, Windfinder Pro, demo events with our riders etc.
Something that we are adamant about is maintaining our price points and value of our products, brand and overall market, so we never do flash sales. In our eyes this devalues everything that we work so hard for and can be really damaging to the market. Unfortunately, there are still many brands who have yet to understand this or learn from their experiences in Windsurfing. Service, innovation, premium quality and a high second hand value is only possible at a certain price. After all, you don’t get an Audi for the same price as a Dacia, nor will you get the same amazing experience.
North has eight kite models in the 2018 range, and many offer a very high level of versatility. Are there too many options for the average kiteboarder as far as number of models and options?
This year we made entry to the sport a whole lot easier by creating the all round and super versatile 3-Strut Evo. For those riders who have style preferences already, there’s something made specifically to suit. Every year we try and narrow down the line of kites, however every conversation or piece of feedback from riders, schools and distributors, highlights why riders love having the choice to select a model that fits their needs 100 per cent and why we need all the lines.
The Evo is being completely redesigned as a 3-strut kite. How does this change the way the Evo fits between the Dice and Neo?
The Evo is a hugely popular kite for us, offering exceptional hang time and massive boosting capabilities. For 2018 the Evo was completely redesigned, taking the proven DNA from the previous models and combining it with all our knowledge to create a truly fantastic Delta shaped kite. The goal was to maintain the incredible upwind performance and huge jumps with floaty hangtime, whilst making it even easier to fly. Removing two of the struts took some of the stiffness out of the canopy and improved the handling of the kite. It also reduced the bar pressure which makes it an easier and less demanding kite to fly. With easy sheet-in-and-go handling, and incredible relaunch, huge hangtime and blistering performance it’s within easy reach for every kiter out there. The Evo is probably the most versatile kite on the market. This reinvention of the Evo has also allowed us to position the Neo and the Dice even more aggressively within their disciplines. The Neo is a pure bred wave kite, the Dice a super versatile freestyle machine for the advanced kiteboarder who loves freestyle, but also wants to spend some time in the waves.
North developed a new kite material in partnership with Teijin: Trinity TX. How has this new material influenced the kite designs in 2018?
Due to the three-by-two weaving of the yarn, all prototypes of 2017 kites straight away felt different. Sometimes they felt better, others too stiff or too soft, so the kite designers almost had to start from scratch. Yarn in the past was always woven one-by-one, two-by-two, four-by-four which means stretch as well as stability in both directions, longitudinal and lateral was the same. But a kite doesn’t tear from left to right so it only needs a maximum of two yarns, which can increase flexibility and improve flying characteristics. The three yarns guarantee stability, as well as the necessary crisp feel when steering and a robustness built to last. It’s also worth mentioning the double coating which is still used. First the single yarn is coated, then the final canopy material. A secret ingredient for a long life, UV protection, fluttering and care against sharp objects at the beach.
The all new North Speedster Combo Foil has winglets on both sets of wings. What advantages did you find this has over traditional designs?
The main advantage is the track stability, as well as easy turning and carving. This foil feels so controlled, you don’t really notice the speed anymore. It actually feels slow, but try racing your mates or looking at the GPS; you’ll be surprised.
The new Light Team surfboard construction sounds an awful lot like a full-on custom construction. Why did North go this labor-intensive route?
Together with our shaper Sky Solbach, we thought it was the way to go in order to reach the best compromise between that pure surfboard feel and durability.
The feel of a custom board is unmatched and heel dents after one session are a thing of the past. With this new construction we can meet the needs of World Champions Airton Cozzolino and Matchu Lopes. These boys ride hard and abuse their boards to the max and nearly never breaking them. Yet they are still loving the feel of the boards in fast, heavy waves like One Eye, Mauritius. We’re convinced that all our customers will benefit from this construction and love the feel and aesthetics of this durable piece of art. To be honest, we didn’t doubt it for one second even if it takes more texting, prototyping and longer to create the board by hand. It’s all worth it.
The North Click Bar was undoubtedly the best new innovation of 2017. How was it received by the public and team riders, and what changes have you made for 2018?
Thanks for seeing it like this! As with all the game changers it’s still necessary to get the Click Bar in as many hands as possible so customers can actually experience the big and small advantages. Since day one, and even during three years of testing, our wave team riders didn’t want to use anything else.
“It’s just so easy and comfortable to change the power, even when standing in the middle of a barrel,” as Patri McLaughlin would say.
Freestylers and wake stylers had their initial reservations, especially since they are stoked on the combination of the super short Wakestyle Bar on the Vegas. But, riders like Craig Cunningham love it for freeriding and especially in the park where he can quickly change the power just before hitting an obstacle. It’s predictable and a real luxury to know the exact positioning of the power, something you could never achieve with a depower rope on a cleat. It’s essential that before tricks or entering a wave your body position is still. With normal systems you always had to lean forwards to reach the depower rope with the potential of losing an edge just in front of a trick, or falling off the surf board just in front of the first wave of a huge set, which is not ideal.
Our expectations for the first season have been exceeded, although it took quite some effort to explain and introduce such a new system to the market. Demo events were the best places to see the potential of the Click Bar as rider feedback was always amazing and you could see the disappointment in their eyes once they had to move back to old systems.
Price is always a topic with this bar, but we should not forget, it’s a unique superior system. It’s equipped with a couple of new features, comes in 22m with 2m extensions included, nearly all kites on the market can be flown with it due to the variable V positioning and it can be upgraded with a 5th line. For 2018 the V-distributor is a bit more user-friendly so the position can be changed faster and easier. The floaters are bigger and the end of the line where the safety ring is attached is now covered with a rubber plug so it can’t tangle. Try one and you’ll want one.