What is the favoured kite size for big air by the team riders? Nine metre used to be a KOTA standard, but that seems to have changed in the shift towards bow-shaped kites. How is that side of things evolving? Eight and nine metre kites seem to be the sizes preferred by Jesse Richman and Nick Jacobsen in +35 knots, but size selection depends on the rider weight, wind speed and line length. The 11 metre is one of Marc Jacob’s favourite kites, but he weighs +90kg. Marc is one of our lead testers and is heavily involved in the feedback loop with the designers. A bow-kite is a patented principle more than an actual design. However, there are not too many ‘bow’ specific designs still on the market - most are of the Hybrid category with a straight trailing edge (for example, the Pulse). One of the primary requirements for a big air kite is to jump high, so our design team will always define the best form to fulfil its needed function. Some big air kites use pulley bridle designs to make the high-end gust control more manageable. What are North’s thoughts on using pulleys on a big air kite? Does it add stability and performance? How would the pulley affect the rider’s feedback and bar feel?
Adding pulleys to a bridle system changes the whole dynamic of the bridle in a fairly negative way; it softens the response, making it less accurate. If anything, the pulley makes the kite more unstable. The pulley bridle does not offer a fixed point; instead, the kite is free to move, and bridle weights are changed as the kite is sheeted in and out, pulsing through the sky with every gust. Pulleys can be an advantage to create purchase with the bar stroke, adding a longer or smoother depower range. This may also contribute to added depower, which could be used for taking a bigger kite in the conditions and flying higher.
However, attempting to control gusts with pulleys is inefficient. Pulleys would have a negative impact on the kite’s performance in regard to angle of attack (AoA) and centre of pressure (CoP), and their use wouldn’t fit the chosen profiles for our kites.
With the tuning of Orbit’s no-pulley bridle, we’ve managed to get the steering impulse light and responsive. It’s direct, but it doesn’t require a lot of force. This is super critical when these guys are boosting big and doing big mega loops – they have to know where the kite is all the time. So you can’t go too light, but we’ve managed to get it light enough for a friendly and playful feeling, but it’s direct and gives you enough feedback to know exactly where the kite is at all times.
With the ever-changing realm of big air kiting, where new tricks and short line variants are being pioneered by the week, how do you best prepare a kite for a genre of the sport that is evolving so rapidly? Team rider feedback. We listen to the responses and needs of our big air team riders, Nick, Graham, Marc and Jesse. These guys are at the forefront of KOTA and big air, and they are the ones who pave the way. We also trust in the versatility of our kites – they have to be versatile to accommodate all the different team riders’ individual styles. Our design team is very sensitive to their feedback, so they can react and anticipate what’s next. The Orbit has come a long way since the King of the Air in 2019. The kite’s behaviour is significantly improved, not only through weight savings but also in the balance of the bridling. The Orbit’s a high-performance boosting machine, but at the same time, it’s still user-friendly, and it doesn’t overfly. Overall, the kite is much more stable now, better at catching you in kite loops and a wide range of riders can use it from beginner up to pro level. We’ve maintained the King of the air winning model’s DNA without messing with the formula that makes this kite so unique.