During Best Fest Cape Hatteras we had the chance to spend some time with Best Kiteboarding's board designer: Franz Schitzhofer. Franz has spent his career designing kite boards, windsurf boards, skis and more and knows a huge amount about making really great gear.
Here are 3 things we learnt during the week that we felt needed sharing:
1. Target groups.
The logical way to design a board for a beginner, freerider or any other target group would be to use your experience and knowledge to make something that you think would work for that specific type of rider. But that's not how Franz works.
In order to design a board for beginners, Franz tries to think, feel and ride like a beginner. He wants to get as deep as possible into the mind of the target group for any given board so that he can make it best for them. The result is a full paradigm shift that ends with boards that are perfectly suited to his chosen target group.
2. Placebo Power.
Placebo plays a really important role in board design. Franz spends a lot of time testing new boards and sometimes he will give the same board (with different graphics) to his friends to test and they come off the water convinced that the board with the new graphics is a better board.
This placebo effect is embodied in Franz's thoughts on channeling. According to Franz, if you're riding with fins then channels will do nothing for you except slow you down and create drag. Nevertheless, lots of people feel that channels will improve their riding and let them jump higher so for those target groups, he adds very minor channeling to help people feel like they can jump higher!
If you really love a certain aspect of your board and feel that it makes you a better kiteboarder, don't underestimate how important that might be! Furthermore, when you combine a brilliantly designed board with a strong positive placebo, you're in for a hell of a ride.
3. Fun is the number 1 priority.
Best set out to make great boards and at the core of their R&D process is fun. Franz loves kiteboarding more than anyone we've ever met and when he's on the water, he's the one having the most fun. That translates into the way he makes boards and through his tech talks he reminded us all why we kiteboard - to have fun!
Throughout the week, he continually referred to helping specific target groups enjoy their time on the water. It sounds so obvious but having that at the center of his R&D process definitely makes a difference!
"For me, my goal is always just to give you a tool that makes fun! Everyone has a lot of things to do during the week, whether its flying planes or working in the office and when you are on the weekend - you just want fun!" - Franz Schitzhofer
Best 2014 Board Lineup:
Best Spark Plug:
"This is our board that allows you to do everything. The board is very forgiving and a lot of boards love this board. We vary the flex for each length of the Spark Plug because we want to make it just right for each different weight of rider. Definitely the best choice for most beginners and a very easy board to ride". - Franz
"This is our freestyle board and it's my favorite! It is a very fast shape and you can do nearly everything on the Armada. In the smallest size this board is called the KB4GIRLS." - Franz
"This is our light wind board. In my opinion there are 2 types of light wind boards: light wind easy and light wind performance. Performance boards are usually directional boards or huge door shaped boards. If you want to be the very first guy on the water then you should ride a huge door or a foil but the breeze is all about fun and being able to do everything. Yesterday I was out in lighter conditions with my 12m because I have no 15m here and I was planing, going upwind and having a lot of fun in the slick. There were other guys riding 15s in the slick and I was just as powered and having a lot of fun! I love the Breeze." - Franz
"It's made mainly for competition and tested by my son Mike. The main target is upwind ability and pop. It does have a little more rocker because landings in competition are very important. When the landings are easy you're more likely to stick your tricks and ride out. That is really important!" - Franz
"Made for wake style where tricks are all unhooked. Again the landings are very important with this board because the target is landing with power and speed. The Profanity has constant rocker where the Procreator has 3 stage rocker. The Profanity also has channels so that you can ride without fins - the channels give you the drag that you need if you're not using fins!" - Franz