REAL meets up with Core Kites in South Africa

Looking for a destination that has consistent gear testing conditions? Look no further than Cape Town, South Africa. Austin Leder (L) Randall Baird (R).

We recently caught up with REAL Sales Manager Randall Baird and REAL Kite Coach Austin Leder to find out more about their trip to Cape Town and their experience kiting with the Core Kites crew. Here’s what they had to share with us. Interview Q&A with Randall Baird. Photo captions by Austin Leder.

The people at Core are very dedicated to the sport; so much so that every employee, from the warehouse workers to the CEO all kiteboard. Core is very calculated when releasing new products and revising previous ones. For example, when developing the XR6 they made over 150 prototypes before introducing the kite to their customers.

Cape Town is pretty close right?!. Tell us a little bit about the trip getting there.... Where to where to where and flight times....

Not at all! It started with a 3.5 hour drive to Raleigh, followed by a flight to JFK, a short layover, then the flight across the Atlantic. I landed in Amsterdam Schiphol sometime in the early morning pre-dawn and linked up with REAL Kite Coach Austin Leder who just landed coming from Michigan. After wandering the airport shopping for sunglasses, tulip souvenirs, and a place that served espresso and Heineken, we were on the flight to Cape town. That flight was around 11 hours. I think I got through 2 movies, 2 naps, and plenty of debate on kite gear and what’s the next innovation. We were met at the airport by Mike Phaneuf and Chris Decerbo with Core who brought us to the hotel which would be our kite paradise for the rest of the week.

Cape Town has the reputation for high winds and big waves, hosting events like Red Bull King of the Air. Let’s just say the conditions did not disappoint. Four out of the seven days, the wind blew over 30mph and one day had gusts in the mid-40s. Rider: Austin Leder

Before you went on the trip, what did you think of Core as a kiteboarding brand?

I have been a huge fan of their equipment for years and have a quiver of the Section 3 kites for myself. I have always been very impressed with the quality of gear that they make, and more importantly how incredibly reliable and intuitive it is to use on the water. Whenever people talk about Core, they seem to have the mental image of a white lab coat German scientist testing Dacron samples in a lab somewhere. It seems like the same perception of precise German engineering that BMW and Mercedes created for themselves transferred to Core in the public’s eye.

The Core Kites International Meeting is meant to bring kite the tops distributors, retailers, and schools from around the world to meet each other, reflect on the previous year, see and test new gear, hear from the teamriders, designers, and top management about the objective and ethos of the brand and product moving forward.

After you went on the trip, what did you think of Core as a kiteboarding brand? What did you learn behind the scenes at Core that most wouldn’t know?

After the trip I learned that the gear is all made with precise German engineering, but instead of white lab coats these people wear wetsuits and are absolute shredders. Every CORE employee that I met seemed to carry themselves in a very similar manner. They are very technical and knowledgeable about the equipment. They go out and session hard and really enjoy what they are doing. Then they have their post-session debriefing to analyze the gear.

The teamriders stressed how perfect the Core line up is - whether you're breaking jumping records, wave riding, mega looping, foiling, or learning your first power strokes, Core has a kite designed specifically for all disciplines. Austin Leder breaking his own jumping record on 100% CORE gear.

A lot of the gear on the trip was “hush hush” not yet released. Now that a little time has passed and these products are now on the market, what can you tell us about your time on the water with them?

The big item of the trip was the Sensor 3 bar. I heard whispers of a push away safety release before the trip so I was very anxious to see what would be there. I was really happy to see what they created, and it really exceeded my expectations. The Sensor 2 bar has been my favorite bar for a while now, so I was nervous that a big change might be a step back which sometimes happens with new equipment. It was great to see that the new bar had all the same DNA as the old one, but with all the new updates that really make it a better product. Aside from the bar I was also excited to try out the new directional surf boards. They had the new Ripper 4 and the updated Greenroom board there. I’ve ridden the Ripper before so it was interesting to see how they changed it, but I was really impressed with the Greenroom. We did a bunch of downwinders starting at Bloubergstrand and going north, and there were some great waves breaking north of town. One of my highlights of the trip was tucking into a kite barrel on the Greenroom board; after that I was sold on it.

When people think of Core, they think “the best” or “black, white and yellow”. Tell us about a few key people at Core that you met and what their responsibilities are to help keep Core ahead of the rest...

First off is Philip who is the CEO. I first got to know Philip a few years ago when he came out to visit REAL Watersports. Philip is obviously a dedicated kiter who can really hold his own on the water. Off the water he is a hilarious guy and great to hang out with. Philip started with Core quite a long time ago and I believe his first job there was doing sanding work on the Carved boards. He worked his way up and it really shows. He is a big part of the vision, and he seems to know every technical detail about every product they have. Rick Jensen was also there and he is the designer of the new Sensor 3 bar. Rick had a podium finish in the Triple S back in 2013, and is still pushing the limits it seems like. It was great talking to him about the new bar and his design inspiration behind each part of it. I got to session a lot with Willow-River Tonkin, Josh Emanuel, and Steven Akkersdijk who are part of the Core International team. Watching Josh and Steven sending massive megaloops off the waves was a treat to watch. Willow absolutely melted my brain when I saw him send a strapless jump on the 720 surfboard, jumping higher than I ever jumped myself, while rotating and also while spinning the board in his hand. When he landed that and rode away, I was speechless.

This was your first trip to Cape Town right? Would you recommend it as a kiting destination? If so why and for what ability levels?

This was my first time to Cape Town and I would definitely recommend it. The kiting there is incredible and the wind is fierce. It seems to have a great mix of conditions. The popular spot in town is Bloubergstrand where most anyone can kite. Up north a short drive is Langebaan which is more protected and has flat water which is perfect for learning. Its pretty cool to be able to wake up and do whatever form of kiting you feel like. There are also lots of great food options in Cape Town at every price point and its easy to make your travel budget last. Its also very cool to see pro riders out on the water sending huge mega loops just like you see on King of the Air. Those jumps look even more insane in person when you are on the water below them.

It seemed like you were riding all day every day. Rapid fire list off every product / every size you logged miles on....

XR6 7m, 9m
Nexus 2 8m
Section 3 6m, 7m, 9m
Sensor 3 Pro Bar
Sensor 3 Pro Bar with Rope Slider
Sensor 3+ bar
Fusion 4 139cm
Carved Imperator 6 139cm, 141cm
Ripper 4 5’8”, 5’11”
Green Room 5’10”, 6’0”

As the trip was coming to an end, the world was starting to shutdown due to Covid 19. Share with us your experience and stress level getting from one corner of the world back to Cape Hatteras? Any quarantine action when you got back to REAL?

The last morning in Cape Town I woke up and saw a bunch of messages on my phone from family back home about the European travel ban that got announced that night. Since I was going to be connecting through Paris on the way back home it was definitely stressful and threw a curve ball into the certainty of making it back home or not. For a minute we thought we would be stuck in Cape Town which honestly would not have been horrible, but after reading the specifics of the travel ban it was clear that we would be able to get back just fine. When I got back to REAL, I did a 2 week quarantine with Mike Phaneuf who is Core’s US Sales Manager. Mike went on the trip as well and we traveled together on the return portion. I got to know his cat Merlin really well.

In closing, what’s the ethos behind Core as a brand that puts them in #1 position?

Core is a company of kiters at every level of the company, and this is one thing they pride themselves on. Their headquarters is located on an island in northern Germany giving them the opportunity to session constantly. Everyone there is dedicated to the sport and dedicated to making the best gear possible for their customers and themselves. The don’t do anything half assed. They take a no compromise attitude when it comes to their R&D, testing, and quality, and they have a great time doing it.

One great part about this location is the ability to have fun even without wind. No wind activities include surfing, penguin viewing, driving around the Cape (the southernmost tip of Africa), rock climbing, hiking, and much more to never leave you twiddling your thumbs when the winds down.

Cape Town was an amazing trip and well worth all 30 hours of travel from the East Coast to get there. The wind is so good for jumping high and wave riding; which between Randall and I are our favorite disciplines in the sport.

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