Rob and the rest of the CORE team flew to Maui for final testing of the CORE Ripper. Barely anyone else tested the board more intensively. In the interview the australian wave-specialist explains the impact of different fin sizes, reveals his personal wax-technique and answer the question of all questions: with or without straps?
Hi Rob, what do you like about the Ripper most?
The way it handles in overpowered, choppy conditions. It feels super nice to link turns together due the really gentle rocker combinded with the softer rails in the centre of the board that fade into harder squarer rails at the tail starting just above the fins.
On top, the sandwich construction is bulletproof, it's super strong even for jumping. Normally, when I take out a regular board for the first time it gets a huge heal dent where I put my front foot. I rode the Ripper for more than a month now and didn't get but one dent in it. The Ripper is going to last a long time!
For the final testing and photoshooting of the Ripper you went to Maui. What was it like?
It's been great there. Maui is a seriously beautiful place, the way a 3000m volcano lurches out of the amazing turquoise blue of the Pacific Ocean. Then is covered in lush green vegetation. You feel like you are on the set of Jurassic Park.
Everyone lives the lifestyle of being on the water. It's pretty much the home of hardcore watermen. You can't help but be reminded this is the home of legends like Laird Hamilton.
Maui conditions itself are pretty hardcore as well. I've been teaching kiteboarding for years now, but there we've been doing exactly all the stuff I tell people not to do, e.g. launching on tiny rocky beaches in super gusty cross-off wind. It's very sketchy with all the reefs etc. As soon as the surf gets overhead it gets incredible bumpy on top, but Ripper cuts through chop easily.
What was your best session over there?
The first time we went shooting at Lanes and Hookipa. When I had what I call "Kodak courage" with the camera pointed at you.
The conditions were about 30 knts blowing from the right with overhead bumpy waves, but to be able to kite Hookipa was a dream come true. Ever since a child I have had posters of Hawaiian waves on my bedroom walls. The wind never stopped blowing, I couldn't believe it.
One of things that is a bit disappointing is that you not allowed to kite in Maui before 11am and if there is more than 5 windsurfers out at Hookipa kiters are not allowed out there. But that is not the end of the world as Lanes is just a few hundred metres down-wind. The only problem is the waves are heaps more bumpy.
Do you ride those waves with straps or without?
I normally ride without straps as I like to be able to move my feet around the board quite a bit. With them I feel a bit limited especially in small waves or when underpowered.
Also, it feels like cheating when I use straps. Riding strapless requires you just to more precise, with straps you can get away with a lot more silly mistakes. If you look at the moves regular paddle-surfers are doing these days, like 360 aerials, straps aren't really a need if you have the skills.
But having said that, sometimes I like to ride with straps on big waves - especially on my backhand - because it allows me to be much more aggressive.
How do you set up your board for each style?
When I ride strapless (or regular surf) I like to rub a bit of fresh wax on before every session. When I get a new board, first I put on "base-coat wax", which is a harder compound, followed by a top-coat of wax suitable for the temperature of water you are riding in. Then, if I'm feeling really serious, I like to go over it again with the rough end of a wax-comb so that there are little sticky mounds of wax to adhere to your feet.
When setting up the straps, I usually start with the front foot being quite far forward - normally the second furthest forward - and the back foot just above the fin closest to the nose or maybe a inch or so back from there. Then, after the first session, I adjust them a little bit. If I have been nose-diving a lot, I move my front foot back. If I'm riding a bit tail heavy, I move my back foot forward one screw hole. I find that most people new to directional boards ride with too much weight on the back of the board.
The Ripper comes with a Thruster setup and three M5-style fins. Anything to say about that?
The Thruster is a tried and tested setup used in the surf world for the last thirty plus years. It has more drive and is therefore better for big, hard bottom turns. The fins are FCS style but have a bigger base making them a lot stiffer and stronger, which is what you need for kitesurfing. But you can still interchange them with regular FCS fins.
Do you often change your fins?
When I'm really overpowered, I normally use bigger fins in my boards - something like a FCS G7 or G-AM. I nearly always use them once the surf is overhead and wind is 20 knts plus. When the wind is lighter and the waves are smaller I switch to smaller or medium sized fins, like a G5 or G3. Smaller fins allow you to break out the tail and slide more, something you don't do as often in bigger surf.
But I recommend for people to experiment with different size fins, because the smallest difference in shape and size of fins can make a big difference in the way a board handles. It also depends on your riding style as well, so it basically comes down to personal preference.
I always travel with a small, medium and large set of fins. Most better surf shops have test fins for you to try for a few days for free, because these days there are so many different shapes and constructions of fins... plastic, fibreglass and carbon, as well as lots of pretty colours to customise your board.
Rob, thanks a lot for the interview!
Life is a journey. Kiteboarding has taken us to the best spots on the planet and allowed us to get to know the local kiters from all corners of the globe. At the same time we have been able to delve into the technology behind the products that we use on a daily basis and catch a glimpse behind the scenes of the kite industry. There are many interesting characters behind the products and it became clear to us, that CORE is not only made up of a team from the Fehmarn Island but instead is made up of people from the world’s beaches. Therefore we became a part of something much bigger.
The idea behind our web-experiment CoreNation is to allow us to share our experiences with you. We want to take you with us on our journeys and share our adventures, experiences and our daily work with you. Enjoy!