So you’re looking to go big! One of the most fun aspects of kiteboarding is going all out at full speed and just sending it. On those days where the wind is so strong that the beach is empty except for a hand full of wind junkies.
Your heart is pounding, all you hear is the constant hum of the wind in your ears and the shouting of your friends as you set up.
Cars line up to watch the show, people venture out to the pier to see what's going on. It’s one of the most exciting and eye-catching aspects of our multifaceted sport.
All that said, we don't always have the opportunity to ride in conditions like this. Leaving many people wondering how to get big air on the moderate days. To this, it comes down to two things. Time on the water building skill and using the right tools for the conditions you're in.
In this blog, I'm going to break down the 5 best kiteboards for big air in average conditions and in high wind conditions.
The funny thing about kiteboarding is you can throw the most advanced wakestyle trick imaginable, and to the average person on the street, it means nothing. Now, send the kite high and get 40 feet of air and all of a sudden people lose their minds! Crowds literary form to watch the show. Best of all, big air is fairly easy to do. Get good speed, send it and pull the trigger!
You just need a little grit and a lot of control.
Jake Mitchel from the shop sends it on the Cabrinha Ace Wood.
Why These Boards
Now, I need to lead in with some parameters for my choices. When it comes to big air, there are different schools of thought and a ton of variables to consider. From conditions to rider skill level.
- For example, when the wind is light, board speed is critical, a medium to large sized moderately rocker board is the right tool.
- In strong nuking winds, the kite is going to rip you off the water. A smaller board with higher rocker and solid grip is needed to hold it down and control your speed so you don’t skip out.
- On top of all that, I’ve considered what a lot of the pros are using all that said, what's good for the highest level athlete might not be good for even normal advanced riders.
So for this video, I’m choosing boards that will perform well for normal riders, in appropriately powered conditions, not too light, not too strong. These boards will help you take your jumping to a higher level.
Tips on getting big air
Also, a few tips here to make the most of your session. If big air is the name of the game, you should look for a few requirements from your board when riding in average conditions. Meaning mid-teens to mid-twenties.
- It needs to be fast, not too heavily rockered.
- It should be stiff, It and grippy enough to hold down higher speeds.
- I highly recommend using large fins. As they will make you that much more efficient and controlled.
One last point, this video is a touch more subjective than most. I’ve taken some liberties while complaining my list. Namely, that usually the performance freestyle kiteboard in each lineup is the ticket, however, in some cases I found the board to be too niche.
All that said, this is my list. This series is an open forum so I welcome your feedback. Old-school kiteboarders, chime in and educate everyone on your picks. New-school riders please do the same. If you’re riding a kiteboard that you use for big air right now, tell us what you’re using and what you love about it! If you’re using any of the kiteboards on this list, tell us what you like and what you don’t like about them in the comments of the YouTube video.
So in no particular order, my choice boards from our selection would be the
Jaime & Jaime Textreme
The Jaime is hands down the most versatile board in North's line up. It’s not as niche as the North Team Series and it's more well rounded than the North X Ride. I chose these two boards for a couple reasons. They’re still beginner friendly, yet it has a strong appeal to advanced freestyle riders or riders who like to go big.
The Textreme is simply the carbon version of the Jaime. And it’s hands down my favorite carbon board. It’s much more forgiving and damp than average carbon bords that tend to be too stiff.
This board was our team rider Blake Olsen's choice kiteboard for the 2017 season and for good reason. It’s fast, light, and very playful. All that said, this board is incredibly responsive and most importantly, very controlled.
The shape, the construction and the channels allow this board to easily generate the high speeds needed to get bigger air and the control needed to hold it down before and after landing.
One thing that shines on the Jaime is the design. It’s stiff where you need it for pop yet It’s softer in the tips and tails to help with the chop. The liberating feel of this board is hard to describe It just makes you want to jump. This is a solid option for freestyle riders who want just want to send it and go big.One important note is that the Textreme version of this board is designed strictly for foot straps, so if you ride boots go for the normal Jaime.
ACE Wood & Carbon
This board like the Jamie also comes in a wood or carbon version but when It comes to big air, carbons simply going to have more pop. However, the wood version of this kiteboard is more durable and more forgiving. Unlike the Jaime, this is not so much a freestyle board, it’s Cabrinha high performance all around kiteboard. All that said, It has the right characteristics for big Air.
The stiff flex gives this board a lot of pop and the carbon keeps the weight down. The Traditional Ace is known for having a mildly damp feel, however, with the carbon, you’ll feel very connected to the water. But not so connected that every piece of chop drives you crazy.
This board is known to hold an easy edge and appeals to a broader audience of riders. Meaning it’s still a good choice whether you're 20 years old and feeling strong or you're 50 and not feeling so aggressive. It’s a fun board on the water all around.
This paired with the mild rocker gives this ktieboard a more forgiving feel compared to some of our other big-air boards on the list.
To give you perspective regarding high performance, Nick Jacobsen rides the Ace and big air is kind of his thing. Just google him and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Nick Jacobsen proving Ace is the perfect blend of forgiving yet performance minded.
Speaking of high-level riders, if you watched the Red Bull King of the air this year, you might have noticed the board Kevin Langeree used to win. The Naish Monarch.
The low rocker generates plenty of speed yet it’s still surprisingly smooth ride. Most importantly it’s designed to maintain control at the higher speeds needed to really send it. Now, this board has some pretty interesting design points to it. The first thing that comes to mind is is that while it’s their advanced freestyle board. Naish has built it so that a beginner can jump on this board and enjoy it right away. Another reason it’s on my list.
Another unique point of design is they have added two strips of Carbon shaped like an X. The idea is that it will take the energy of your feet when you push down and transfer that power directly to the fins. The fins are then angled at 10 degrees to improve the grip. There are a few other points with the flex that really make this board stand out. All that said, the Monarch is a serious contender for big air and and the choice tool of a very high-level athlete.
Moving on, for Liquid Force, I had a harder time making my choice here. Considering my parameters,I chose the Legacy for a few reasons. By now, I’m sure you can guess what they are. This board isn’t as rockered as a lot of Liquid Forces other boards, it has some channeling for grip and there is just a little bit of carbon implemented resulting in a lighter poppier board.
Of all the boards we’ve covered, this is likely the dampest, meaning it won’t be the most responsive kiteboard on this list but it will be nicer on the knees. A lot of people like to joke and call it the old man's board or the Cadillac of kiteboards. And.. There is some truth to that, a lot of aspects make this board a great contender for that rider but it’s still a great all around board.
This kiteboard is made to ride smooth in the chop, the spit V on the bottom takes some weight away from the larger tails and allows the rider to really drive that edge in the water. This board only implements a little carbon so it’s not as light or stiff as other carbon boards.
Most importantly, Liquid Force has put a lot of thought and refinement into this board. This is the choice board for Jason Slezak. So while this one is a bit different than the others on my list, if you’re looking for what can only be described as the Cadillac of big air, you might want to check this board out.
Last but not least, I wanted to include something from the Slingshot lineup. With my parameters for this list, this was the hardest one of all. They have some great choices for the old-school mindset like the Misfit, and some amazing choices like the Refraction for high-wind mega-looping powerful days.
After a ton of consideration, I’m going with the Misfit. Now with that said, I recommend going for a smaller Misfit. The reason being is that if you go too big, this board will pick up a ton of speed and you will start skipping out. Now, don’t let that scare you. The Misfit has been around for a very long time and has reached near legendary status. It’s known to be incredibly efficient and has been a lifesaver for newer riders looking for an edge when learning to ride up-wind.
It’s just so efficient, that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to big air. All that said, If you were to elect a board like the Refraction and a little bigger kite, you’re going to go huge and have control in the most epic conditions.
So what about stronger winds?
I’m talking choppy water, big kickers, 35 plus knots. Epic days where everything is much more critical. These days require different tools to accommodate a different style.
There are a few things to look for on days like this. A smaller board, heavy rocker and tons or grip to hold down the power of the kite. The idea here is that in higher winds, it is very easy to become overpowered so you need a slower board to control all that speed. Aside from that, having more rocker will help in the heavy chop and will soften your landings.
This is where Slingshot really shines. The Refraction fits the bill. Check out this edit of Sam Light ripping
This is one of our favorite boards from Slingshot and worth a serious look if you also like to ride with boots or prefer wakestyle in moderate winds. The Refraction is also incredibly durable, it has great pop, it has an amazing release from the water and while the concave makes for a playful board, it's still controlled enough for those mega loop days.
For those ripping days, the Stomp, with its heavy rocker is going to give you the control needed and the softer landings on the strongest of days. While it’s a slower board, it has the stiffness and pop needed to really send it. This is the choice board for Jesse Richman and Ewan Jaspan. The rocker on this board is intense and it makes a great choice for riders who want to go big on stronger days or riders looking for a solid board to cross over at their local cable park.
The Gambler is North’s heavy duty wakestyle board and if you haven't noticed the trend so far, the characteristics that make a great wakestyle board also aid in big-air boards for the strongest of conditions. These boards have the grip, the pop, the durability and the softer landings needed for days like this. Coming back around to riders who like to ride wakestyle, I’ve included a video of Craig Cunningham riding the gambler. Craig has been pushing it for a long time and his edits always make me want to get out and ride.
The Cabrinha CBL formerly known as the Custom has been my choice board for a very long time. It's not the fastest board out there but depending on the year, it's not as slow as other boards in this category. This is also a great choice for riders looking for a big air board on the windiest of days. It's incredibly stiff yet somehow still damp, it has amazing grip on the water and the landings are like butter.
I hope you found this article helpful. There are lots of opinions when it comes to big air and the reality is that there is always more than one way to skin a cat
What if you can't jump yet?
For those of you curious about how to jump here are a couple videos I did last year with our team rider Blake Olsen.
If you're already jumping but wondering how you can improve, we've got you coverd!
Feel free to call anytime if you're wondering what board will suit your needs. I'm happy to talk it out with you.
Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people who pulled the trigger. About eight years into a postal career, he decided to change everything and travel as a freelance videographer & writer. This took him from coast to coast and a variety of countries. Nowadays you can catch him on the phones, doing lessons, or working on videos. Of course, he still makes a point to travel as often as possible. He is passionate about helping people and sharing the stoke with his customers and students alike.