Tech Talk: flex in kite surfboards
Different flex patterns in kite surfboards
Welcome back to another Appletree Surfboards Tech Talk video. Today we’re going to talk about the flex in kite surfboards. Obviously we offer different construction types and every construction type comes with different flex pattern and that makes quite a difference in how a board rides.
Does your surfboard actually have flex?
First of all I want to quickly talk about how you actually perceive stiffness in a board, because it might be something different than you think. A lot of people might think their board is really flexible while it’s actually not. Why is that?
Foam vs. kite surfboard flex
Some foams are, for instance, really soft. When the foam is really soft the deck of the board actually springs in when you push in and you feel that as flex under your feet. It feels soft on your feet but it doesn’t mean that the board itself is flexible. It’s just your foot sinking into the board.
Deckpads vs. kite surfboard flex
Some brands might also put really thick pads on the board and they might even make an indentation on the deck where your foot is and put an extra pad under the existing pad. It makes the board feel really really soft and you perceive that as flex, but it’s actually not.
How to check if your kite surfboard has flex?
You can feel the actual stiffness of the board by doing a simple demonstration that we’re showing here (from 1:28min). So you put your board with the tail on the floor for instance on a flip-flop and grab with one hand the nose of the board and put your other hand on the deck. Then push it down. You can really feel how the entire board flexes, because you can see the board flex. It’s clearly visible in this video that the board flexes. It’s not the pad that’s being pushed in or the foam that’s being pushed in.
Does strong foam mean less flex?
Our boards at Appletree Surfboards have a really really strong foam core. So if you squeeze them a little bit, you’ll feel that you can’t squeeze them in and they don’t feel spongy when you squeeze the rail of the board. They feel fairly stiff but the actual flex of the entire board is really there. Actually the boards are much more flexible than most of the competition.
Do you actually want flex in a kite surfboard?
It’s a very personal choice if you want flex in the board or if you want a really stiff board. A very flexible board can absorb chops a little bit better. Some people have knee problems or ankle problems. They feel that a more flexible board is a little nicer on the knees and on the ankles. If you push a more flexible board into a turn, especially if it’s a fast flex pattern, it might release the energy back to you. So it feels nice and springy. That is a big advantage of a more flexible board.
What is the advantage of a stiffer board?
Some people are sure they don’t want a stiff board, but then they ride it and they come back off the water like “oh this board is so nice, it’s so responsive”. What a stiff board does for you, especially a carbon board, it gives you a lot of feedback in your riding. You can ride really precisely and really feel the board every move. But it’s also a nervous kind of feeling, so it’s something you have to like. And especially a carbon board is usually also very light. So a really light and really responsive board for some people can be too twitchy.
Freestyle kitesurfing vs. board flex
There’s another advantage of flex and that’s that a more flexible board is actually better at absorbing impact of, for instance, landings and in freestyle. It is up to you to decide what works best for you. On a stiffer board you can load up more. You can actually freestyle easier on it because it gives you that energy back when you push into a turn and then pop off the water. But when you impact the water, the stiffness is hard on the knees and it’s actually less strong than a more flexible board. That’s because the more flexible board will absorb the force of the impact.
What about flex in a foil board?
Now in foil boards it’s completely different. In foil boards you want stiffness all the way. The stiffness will give you the control over the foil, which is really far away from your feet through the mast in the board and the fuselage and the wings. You want to have that stiffness to have that control. And also when you’re pumping the foil, like in dock starting and surf foiling, you really want to have that stiffness to get the power down and into the foil.
How do I know what board flex will work for me?
It’s super personal, so I always advise people to try different boards. Try what you like, feel what you like and go for that one. Then as a final thought, if you feel your board is a little bit too stiff, what could be a solution is a really thick pad. You will perceive it as a more flexible board and it will be easier on the ankles and the knees, while still having a really stiff board.
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