The right board for riding big waves
What’s up guys? Welcome back to Appletree Surfboards, my name is Wieger. Welcome to our headquarters. Today we have one of our team riders over. We’re just going to have a little conversation about who she is, riding big waves and we’ll see where it ends up. So welcome Evelien.
This is Evelien Bolle. She’s from Belgium and her new thing at the moment is trying to ride the biggest wave possible with a kite. We are very happy to help her out with that and design some boards for her.
In this big wave kitesurfing serie we follow her journey towards her absolute goal, kiting Nazaré in Portugal. Excited to read more? Check out other posts about riding big waves.
So Evelien, how did that come to being? Why riding big waves?
It’s quite a process. I started kitesurfing and I knew quite fast that I wanted to kitesurf waves, so I started kitesurfing smaller waves. I got into the GKA and then I got injured. While I was injured the thing I really longed for the most when I was coming back was riding big waves. Those things I missed the most, so I was thinking about it during the whole revalidation which was like one year. Quite a long time.
Why big waves? What’s fun in big waves?
The fun of riding big waves is if you’re really in the moment. You can just focus on one thing and it’s the feeling of adrenaline that you get of it. It also seems like if you’re on a big wave that the time is stopping, it’s like time is really slowing down.
And what if you fall?
You have to prepare for it, the time is also really slowing down. It feels like you’re underwater really long.
Let’s talk a little bit about the boards.
What boards have you tried before? How did you get into strapless riding or surfboard riding? Of course this board has straps as you can see, but how did that come about?
I got quite quickly into riding strapless. Like six months after I learned kiting because I knew I wanted to go kitesurfing waves. I ordered a strapless kiteboard which had inserts for straps. The first time I tried it I did put two straps on it which didn’t work at all. Then I tried it for a while with one foot strap up in the front.
Which is a good one actually for a lot of people, because just a side track, a lot of times when they design a board they will put the straps actually really far back. Which is good for doing hard turns but it’s not good for just riding because you’re way too far to the back of the board and your board starts to bounce. So if you want to get into strapless just using a front strap is usually a good idea. So you can move your weight around and then get rid of it after you are comfortable riding the board.
That was what I did and then I took off the strap and it never came back until this one.
Why straps on a big wave kitesurf board?
You bounce a lot so you have a lot more control and you’re more sure not to get swept off your board and get a big crash.
Also when you ride out you have to go over a big wave. Sometimes it’s quite nice that you can just jump. You can even jump over really big white water. It’s just easier to keep your board. I do actually advise, you have to have the straps pretty wide so if you do need to get out you can slide out quickly. Also if you make a crash and your feet can’t go out you will injure yourself.
After that first board, what was your experience in riding strapless boards and what’s available.
My first strapless board was for medium waves and then I went to the GKA in Mauritius for the first time. I made a choice that the board wasn’t good for riding ‘One Eye’ which is a really fast wave and a bigger wave so it wouldn’t work with my board. I also saw a video of another girl who was on the KSP before and she always crashed in that wave.
So I had visited Appletree surfboard with an open factory day. Which was a really long time ago when the factory was still in Holland. I contacted Wieger to ask, I will go to Mauritius in three weeks for the GKA, do you have a board in stock or can you make a board really fast. I was lucky that you made one really fast, it was an Appleflap 5’8”.
The Appleflap is a board that we don’t actually make anymore. That was our board that we used for bigger stuff.
The board worked really well, so afterwards I came back to Appletree and then I got an Applino 5’5” and I also have a Klokhouse 5’6”.
Which boards do you like the best for the big stuff?
Usually the narrower smaller boards. The main difference between those boards is definitely there’s a lot more rocker. An Applino for instance makes it really quick and loose which is nice for freestyle but when it gets bigger you lose quite a lot of control with the extra rocker due to that shape. The Klokhouse is more an in between kind of board, you have the right balance between control and looseness. And then if you go to the Appleflap or Appleflap noseless you get way more control but you lose that snappy feeling.
Let’s talk about this board that you’ve got here now. How’s it been behaving?
It behaves really well. It was a bit different in the beginning because you have these food straps and I was not used to it anymore. So the first time you go, you are like oh food straps again. It’s actually super small, it resembles really a lot of a towing board for doing tow surfing. I did a towing surf course last year, so for me the behaviour was quite similar to a towing board which I liked.
The board is also a lot heavier than a normal kiteboard which is really good because you have less impact from the bumps. I feel when I get into a wave the board really starts to work and accelerates a lot because there are a lot of channels.
We have actually also made towing boards for normal surfing and with those boards especially, they are for really big waves and in places where there’s a lot of chop on the surface, which unfortunately when you’re kiting there is usually also chop on the surface, the extra weight helps you cut through the chop.
Is the weight of the board important?
In this board we have added quite a lot of lamination so a lot of glass fiber. Making the board about 50-60% heavier than it normally is and at the same time you get the benefit of also making the board stronger. The downside is maybe that it’s a little less flexible but on a small board like this it’s less important that the board is less flexible. You just want to cut through the chop anyway.
We took some parts of that tow board design and put it in this one. As you can see it also has a four fin setup. We didn’t even put a centre fin in because this design with a longer straighter rail line, it just really helps to have that extra fin on edge so you can actually edge it really hard.
Tell us a bit more about the design process, how did it go?
As you can see maybe this board has a very similar channel situation as the Malus Domestica has but the outline is completely different. We have just launched the Applepeeler model which looks a lot like this board. Where the Applepeeler is thicker and wider so it’s more of an all-rounder kind of shape. This is really made for big stuff and we decided to experiment with these Malus Domestica channels. What they do is, they create a really effective planning area in the middle of the board. Which really helps with the acceleration of the board and to channel the water through the middle gives a really good flat section.
At the same time your rocker line here in the rail is much more curvy than through the middle, through the channels. This makes that you can really accelerate the board. If you want to turn, you can still use that rocker line to turn and to get out of the way. Or to actually do a turn so it gives you like two boards in one situation. Which we think that helps a lot with big wave riding. Also you don’t necessarily want too much rocker. Normally a lot of rocker is nice for a really steep hollow wave. Now big waves can be steep and hollow but they’re also very big. So the curve of the wave is always much longer. Therefor you don’t need all that rocker to fit in.
What would you recommend to riders who want to start riding big waves?
I want to recommend riders who want to start riding big waves to gradually build it up. Start in smaller waves and get a bit bigger every time. Don’t go into the big waves immediately because you won’t like it and you will get scared. You have to do a lot of preparation of the water as well. It’s not just going kiting in the big waves but also doing some free dive training and going to the gym.
Find other people that want to do it, never go alone. It’s a team sport, big waves, it’s not like you go out on your own. That’s also I think very similar to towing. Even with the jet skis. You are already a team with your jet ski but then still you don’t go with just one jet ski, because if one just flips you’ve got the other one.
Another question that I think a lot of people have is, in the big waves, do you feel the wind change?
Yes, in your kite you have a lot of apparent winds so in big waves cross off shore wind is really bad. Just to explain, if you go into the wind your acceleration is added to the wind speed. That’s actually holding you back and you can’t get off the wave because the wind is pushing you back. You can actually see it in some videos when the kite is flapping.
What do you do when you crash your kite in big waves?
You release, you don’t even take a kite leash as it takes too much time to release two things. I did it before and I have the experience that it is not a good idea. A lot of people are very hesitant to release and then in a panic situation you think I need to hold on to my gear, it’s expensive. You might even think that you can relaunch your kite. But releasing is much safer and your life is more important.
Mostly you’re kiting with the leash on your board as well. I had that my board leash and my bar was like in one knot and then you can’t release anymore. Also very dangerous of being attached to your kite, is if you’re above the water getting some air you can be dragged below the wave again. Because your kite gets pulled under by the wave.
You can even have it in the North sea on a small day with onshore winds. You crash your kite and you will be pulled under and you can imagine with a big wave that can be pretty terrible. So just release and most of the time your kite might just survive and get washed in and then you can still fix it. Even if the leading edge pops then it’s a cheaper repair than replacing your life which you can’t replace.
Well thanks for coming over and explaining a little bit about your big wave adventure. What’s the next trip going to be?
I’m not sure yet. I hope to make a trip to Iceland to have some bigger waves and then the GKA Mauritius normally is in my planning. After that the winter season will start again. The problem is always you need big waves, wind and a team that is available. So you have to be flexible to grab your stuff and go.
If you’ve got any questions for Evelien drop us a message and we’ll try to answer them. I hope you enjoyed this video and a little story about what Evelien does and about riding big waves. Excited to follow her journey? Check out some other blog posts about big wave kitesurfing.
If you’re after a board for yourself, this board is not available in our collection, but the normal Applepeeler is. If you want something like this. You can always send us a message and we’ll be able to make you a custom board just as we did for Evelien.
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