Category Archives: Kiteboarding

2015 Cabrinha Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon at Big Winds

Pete Cabrinha on the Secret Weapon

The Cabrinha surfboard line up got a complete makeover for 2015. A great choice for Gorge conditions, or swell/small wave conditions elsewhere, is the Secret Weapon 5’2. The Secret Weapon is Pete Cabrinha’s take on the fish surfboard specific for kiteboarding in small waves and throwing directional freestyle tricks.

Being fairly wide (19.7″) makes it extremely stable and an easy platform to both stand on and land on. The tail keeps a lot of the width for early planing in light wind and high top-end speed. The fair amount of rocker and the rounded swallow tail allow for fairly nimble, precise turns.

Secret Weapon at Big WindsWhile billed as a great board for light wind, I have found the Secret Weapon to handle high wind conditions like a gem. The quad fin set up plays a big part in this, giving you great bite with the fins when you are flying at full speed on a reach. The nose is also scooped up for a board in this class, making it very forgiving in large chop and also preventing you from pearling (digging in the nose) when going down a steeper wave face.

Durability is a huge factor when considering a new surfboard and the Secret Weapon (as with all the 2015 Cabrinha surfboards) is bomber. After taking this board through the ringer, I can say that it is the strongest production board I have ridden in a long time. Over an EPS core is a bamboo sandwich for strength, with a layer of cork to help dampen rough water.

Secret Weapon at Big Winds

The Cabrinha Secret Weapon comes with front and rear pads and the hexagonal pods in between to keep weight down. Fins (Futures Fin compatible box) and straps are sold separately. I have experimented with different fin configurations, and highly recommend Futures Fin F4 Quads for a great blend of drive, hold and maneuverability.


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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031


2015 Cabrinha Drifter

After several years of using this kite, I can personally attest that the 2015 Drifter is a kite that, first and foremost, DRIFTS! I define drift simply as a kite’s ability to travel downwind without being worked (stroked or looped). The big advantage of a kite drifting is keeping tension on the lines as you ride at the kite, helping prevent the kite from stalling and falling out of the sky. For a seasoned wave kiter, good drift allows you to charge down the line without having to worry about outrunning your kite, allowing you to focus on riding the wave. For a beginner through early advanced level kiter, good drift is super helpful in allowing you to perfect transitions, jumps and toe side riding without having to always be as focused on maintaining perfect line tension.

2015 Drifter at Big Winds

The Drifter is also a great kite due to its extremely easy re-launch. It has great wind range, nearly as much as the Cabrinha Switchblade, and more then almost any other kite on the market. Its Double Ripstop build is industry leading in durability and does not become silky over repeated uses. The Sprint inflation system, with its direct connect valve, also makes pumping it up a breeze.2015 Drifter at Big Winds

Now in its fourth generation, the structural design of the Drifter has stayed nearly identical since its inception. The only change was in 2014 (continuing on in 2015) when they reduced the number of pulleys in the bridle from six to two. Fewer pulleys create a more direct feel between the bar and the kite, and increasing overall turning speed. All in all, the Drifter is a must have for wave riders, and a great option for anybody looking for a top of the line, but forgiving, free ride kite.

Overdrive 1x Bar

The Cabrinha bar has gotten a big rework this year. The new Quickloop chicken loop/safety release system is extremely effective at killing power when pulled and it is insanely easy to put back together (even one-handed!) on the water. The floats have been expanded substantially and the trim adjustments have been brought seven cm closer to the bar, making adjustments easier for shorter riders, while still allowing easy, nearly 100% depower when sheeted out. The Overdrive system returns, allowing you to easily adjust the bar from 48-56 cm, as does the 1x single line flagging safety system.


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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031


2015 North Rebel Review

2015 presents us with yet another polished product from North, the 2015 North Rebel. Big Winds received a Rebel 9m for the demo fleet, coupled with the new 2015 North Trust Bar 5th Element (24m lines). The first thing we noticed was the smaller bag. With the elimination of a wind-tip batten and the ability to roll the kite from both wingtips to center with the new and improved Airport inflation/deflation system, the new Rebels pack down smaller than ever.

Pumping up the kite is super easy with the Airport Valve’s big air passage. There is still a short hissing noise that comes from the valve’s interspace, but once it gets closed and capped, the kite is air tight. One thing to remember is to close the wing-tip valve before inflating, as out of the bag it is open.

2015 North Rebel at Big WindsWhen unwinding the new 5th Element, there is a noticeable difference in the line set where a “blue bullet” replaces a red stopper ball at the junction of the 5th line and center lines. Down at the bar itself, one must set the width when fresh out of the box, which is easier than ever with the new push pins on the flip-flop bar ends. Be sure to check all connections as you walk the lines up to the kite, as I noticed the red line attachment to the 5th line was a little loose from the factory.

When attaching the lines to the kite, North made it very easy on the adaptive tip and clearly states the differences on the wingtip between the “yellow” knot and “blue” knot setting. Out of the bag, the Rebel comes set on “yellow” for lighter bar pressure, but the heavier riders looking for more to lean back against might prefer the “blue” setting for increased bar pressure. I personally like the “yellow” setting, finding it not overly light, faster turning and offering a smooth pull in the loop.

2015 North Rebel at Big Winds

The first thing I did was test the turning speed with the wider bar setting (53cm). On the 24m lines, the 9m Rebel was faster than I’d experienced in previous models. I managed to bump the bar down to the narrower (46cm) length in flight with the easy new flip-flop mechanism and gave it a rip up wind. My first reach across the river was as smooth as it could get in the up and down, gusty winds. The Rebel once again proved itself here in the Gorge, depowering with a short stroke in the gusts and powering through the holes when keeping the kite actively moving. The 9m’s recommended wind range is 15-33 (not sure if North measures knots or mph, but I’ll assume knots) and that was about what was being served up. In the gusts, I pulled the trigger a few times and the Rebel soared with huge hangtime and soft landings. I’m not sure if we will have the new 18m “Airstyle” Rebel to demo here at Big Winds, as people might want to test jumping the barges and bridges!

All in all, the 2015 Rebel and Trust Bar are solid. Since introduced in 2006, the Rebel concept remains very much the same:

1. More Depower than a C Kite
2. More Power than a C Kite
3. Retain the safety, stability and relaunch of a 5-line kite
4. No pulleys on the bar or on the kite
5. Direct bar feel, ability to sense location of kite in the sky
6. Avoid the complexity of the bridles

Thanks Ken Winner for giving the sport of kiteboarding 10 years of easy, safe, plug and play fun!

— TJ

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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031


2015 Cabrinha Switchblade Review

2015 Cabrina Switchblade

Big Winds just received the 2015 Cabrinha Switchblade kites and we love them! The 2015 Switchblade, now in its 10th edition, is a kite that has had a significant influence on the sport since 2005. Kite designer Pat Goodman has developed another polished product this year and coupled with the new Overdrive 1X control and security system with Quickloop, it stands out as one of the most versatile performance kites on the market to date. Whether your style is freeride, freestyle, surf, or foil the new Switchblade will not disappoint you.

2015 Cabrinha Switchblade

TJ foils up on the new Switchblade.

The 2015 Switchblade is offered in sizes 4-14m (except 13m) and we’ve now flown every size from 5m to 10m and are blown away by the park and ride stability and direct steering. Even though the bar pressure may have gotten a bit lighter than what the Switchblade has been known for, Cabrinha offers two settings for soft or heavy bar pressure. The new Switchblade retains its ultra low end power, yet turns faster than ever. The turning speed comes from a minor bridle refinement and the low “V” from the Overdrive Bar (adjustable from 44-56 cm). The bridle refinement adds to the stability of the kite which is important in our strong, gusty winds here in the Gorge. This new bridle also allows the kite to climb up through the power zone with zero stalling. Some minor improvements include the new strut to leading edge connection and new rounded leading edge end closure at the wing tip.

2015 Cabrina Switchblade

The biggest improvement in the 2015 Cabrinha line is the new Quickloop chicken loop on the Overdrive 1X control system. The Quickloop has been two years in the making and was worth the wait as it’s the fastest and easiest reload we’ve ever tested on any other bar. The main QR is a push away release with a catch that holds the QR in the released position until you are ready to reconnect. To reconnect, you simply push the open end of the loop into place and the latch automatically engages the loop. Dropping the QR body back down secures the loop back into place. Gone are the days of the IDS and Quicklink, however, you can use the new 2015 Overdrive bar on any Cabrinha kites dating back to 2009 (which will increase the performance of any older IDS kite).

The new bar comes complete with a short leash, although the pro leash can still be purchased separately.

Big Winds is arranging demos of the new Switchblade and Overdrive 1X control system, so come on by the shop to check one out!

— TJ

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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031


Free Lessons and Happy Hours at Big Winds

Check out our August calendar and join Big Winds for some August windsport fun!

At-A-Glance (more details below)

  • 8/5 Ladies Downwind Prep Class
  • 8/7 Ladies Learn to Kite Happy Hour
  • 8/8 Ladies Free Intro to Windsurfing
  • 8/12 Ladies Downwind Prep Class
  • 8/19 Shop Talk with Dave Kalama and Imagine SUP
  • 8/21 Meet and Greet with SIC International Team
  • 8/22 Positively Kai Event
  • 8/23 and 24 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

Daily: Big Winds Downwind ShuttlesBig Winds Downwind Shuttle

Leaves Event Site Center at 1:30. Just $12.

(Additional shuttle times available as demand warrants.)


Daily: Big Winds Downwind Prep Class

Get ready to tackle the Viento run with great tips on rough water techniques, catching swell, cross wind paddling, upwind paddling and more.

Big Winds Downwind Prep Course

Tuesdays, August 5 and August 12: Big Winds Ladies Downwind Prep Class

For those who want to do a downwinder but aren’t quite ready for one, this is the class for you. This is not an advanced class, it is an introduction to paddling in windy conditions. You should already have a good strong paddle stroke on flat water. This is NOT FOR BEGINNER paddlers. You’ll get all the great info as our regular Downwind Prep Class, with a focus on girl power and at a special price — $55 (reg. $69). Call us to sign up at 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086.

Thursday, August 7: Ladies Learn to Kite Happy Hour

Ladies Learn to Kite Happy Hour


Here’s a FREE event from 5-6 PM at the Big Winds shop to familiarize ladies looking to get into kiteboarding.
There will be in-shop discussions, demonstrations and specials on beginner equipment, lessons and tools.  We will offer discounts on Trainer Kites and Progression DVD’s. Refreshments too!




Friday, August 8: Ladies Free Intro to WindsurfingLadies Free Intro to Windsurfing



This class will take place between 9:00 and 10:30 AM at the Big Winds Adventure Center at The Hook, led by our awesome female instructors, Heidi and Ondine. All gear is included. This is a great way to get acquainted with this fun Gorge sport! All participants will be offered a discount on signing up for our Learn to Windsurf, Three Lesson Package. Please call to register as this class is limited to 20 students. 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086.




Sunday, August 10: Free Intro to SUP

Big Winds Free Intro to SUP

Learn the basics in no time with on-land and on-water instruction! We’ll meet from 9 to10 AM at the Big Winds Event Site SUP Center.

  • Site and weather orientation
  • Introduction to equipment
  • Safety
  • Proper paddle usage
  • Getting started: launching
  • Knee paddling
  • Stand up paddling
  • Board maneuvers
  • Deep water restart

This is for anyone 12 years and over with swimming ability. Call us to sign up at 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086. Limited to 30 students.

Tuesday, August 19: Shop Talk with Dave Kalama and Imagine SUPShop Talk with Dave Kalama

This is a meet and greet with surfing legend Dave Kalama. You’ll hear about his extensive paddling background, a new line of SUP boards by Imagine and he’ll answer your questions. This will take place at the Big Winds shop from 5 to 6 PM.


Thursday, August 21: Meet and Greet the SIC International Team

SIC SUP TeamThe SIC International Team will be at the shop to socialize, sign posters, talk board shapes, etc. SIC has one of the most successful and talented SUP Open water, Downwind race teams on the planet and they’re all here for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. 5 PM at the shop.


Friday, August 22: Positively Kai

Positively Kai

Big Winds presents the most popular kids SUP event on the planet! Meet multiple World Champion Kai Lenny, Gerry Lopez and Chuck Patterson. Instruction by Big Winds Junior Elite Team, with equipment provided. This is a free event at the Hood River Waterfront Park from 4 to 6 PM.

Sponsored by:

Saturday and Sunday, August 23 and 24: Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

One of the year’s top SUP events returns to Hood River for its fourth year. Exciting races will fill the weekend, featuring the world’s elite paddlers, men’s and women’s open classes and groms, too!

Join us for all the fun!

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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031

888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086

Big Winds hosts “Kite with the Pros”

Big Winds is hosting Kite with the Pros this Saturday, July 19th at the Spit on the Hood River sandbar. The action begins at 11:30 AM and will continue until about 2:30 PM. (The forecast looks good, but just in case, Sunday, July 20th is an alternate day if there’s no wind on Saturday.) The event is free.

Jason Watts

Jason Watts. Photo: Gorge-Us Photography.

Expert kiteboarders will be on hand from Cabrinha, Naish, and North to answer questions and demonstrate specific riding styles and techniques. Matt Elsasser and Jason Watts will cover strapless surf and freestyle riding for Cabrinha. The Richman Brothers — Shawn and Jesse — from Naish, will focus on big air and freestyle. Craig Cunningham and Colleen Carroll from North will cover wake style tricks and sliders.

Jesse Richman

Shawn Richman. Photo: Gorge-Us Photography.

This will be a fun and informative event for kiters of any level and it promises to be a dynamic scene for spectators as well. With so many accomplished and progressing riders right here in the Gorge, we decided to bring the pros to them.

Matt Elsasser

Matt Elsasser

Kite with the Pros is a free event hosted by Big Winds and partners from North, Naish and Cabrinha. For more information feel free to call the shop at 541-386-6086.

Colleen Carroll

Colleen Carroll

Hope to see you there!


Big Winds Ladies Night

Tuesday, July 8, 5:30-7PM

Big Winds Ladies NightThis multi-sport event is designed to build camaraderie among women who are active in (or want to learn) stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing and kiteboarding. Bring your friends or make new friends!

  • Wine and refreshmentsBig Winds Ladies Night
  • Coupon goody bags
  • Door prizes
  • Special pricing on gear in each department!

Big Winds Ladies NightAttendees can hear from experts in their respective sports. There will be opportunities to join social media groups and sign up for email blasts about women-specific events and clinics. Yoga instructor Rayna Morton will share about Big Winds’ new SUP Yoga classes.

Hope to see you there!


Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031



2014 Mother’s Day

Mother's Day

Click to enlarge.

This weekend:

Free SUP rentals for all moms on Mother’s Day from 11-4
at the Big Winds Event Site Center!

10% off all in stock Women’s Fullsuits and Springsuits

$100 off these SUP boards:

Bark Appleby Race
Bark Appleby Crossover
Amundson 11’6 TR-X
Amundson 11’6 TR
Naish Alana 10’6
Starboard 12’6 Turtle Bay
Boardworks Sirena 10’6
Tahoe Bliss 11’6

10% off these paddles:

Quickblade Flyweight All Carbon
Quickblade Flyweight FG / CA
Quickblade Super Fly All Carbon 92 Superfly

$100 off these kiteboarding products:

2014 Cabrinha Siren
2014 Cabrinha Siren Control System
2014 Cabrinha XO Siren Board
2014 Naish Alana
2014 Naish Alana Control System
2014 Naish Alana Twin-Tip

Discount applied after checkout and verified on your shipping confirmation.

Review: Firewire Kiteboards

Over the past two weeks we have had the opportunity to try the Vanguard 5’0 and 5’2 FST, as well as the Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek. Testing has taken place in a wide range of conditions, including light wind and high wind, Gorge flat water and swell and overhead ocean surf. The testing has gone great and we are pleased to introduce the Firewire lineup now available at Big Winds.

The Vanguard is a complete redesign on the modern surfboard. Other brands have copied its innovative design, but there is nothing like the original. The shape was designed around modern freestyle surfing, which transfers seamlessly over to kiteboarding. The short shape is suited very well for Gorge swell riding and strapless jumping (this board does not have foot strap inserts), while the sustained width and dynamic bottom contour make the board have the stability and ease of planning of a board 8-10″ larger. All in all, it is a very efficient design that makes landing the latest strapless tricks a breeze. Its easy planing and stability also make it a great option for a wide range of abilities. While the board maintains much of its width from nose to tail, it is not super wide (17.5″ on the 5’2 and 17″ for the 5’0), meaning it is still very responsive from rail to rail. After comparing the 5’0 and the 5’2, I would recommend a 5’2 for most mid-sized folks looking for a great strapless board for both inland waters and small to medium sized ocean waves. The 5’0 is a great option for smaller riders, or as a Gorge, high-wind specific slayer. Larger sizes (5’4 and 5’6) will be available soon and should be more suited for larger folks, lighter winds and medium plus surf.

Firewire Hellfire

Hellfire. Click to enlarge.

The Hellfire is a performance hybrid. What this means is that the outline, length to width ratio and rocker profile blend elements of modern high performance surfboards with a more user friendly “hybrid” or fish style shape. The goal of this shape is to blend top end performance with ease of use. The Hellfire dialed this. The Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek was ridden in overhead surf at the Florence south jetty in gusty six meter conditions. Our first impression pulling it out of the box was “damn, this is a beautiful board!” The Hellfire is not just pretty to look at, but a real pleasure to ride as well. The board was very stable at 19″ wide, but the diamond tail and step down tail rail reduce volume and make the tail plenty loose for easy, controlled turns. A deep double concave created plenty of drive while charging down the line. The mellow entry rocker is still enough to let you get very vertical, while not compromising control and speed. All in all, a very well balanced board that will excel in small to larger surf and good swell days as well.

Both boards come deck only, meaning you will need to purchase pads, foot straps (for the Hellfire FST only) and fins. The boards both have a 5-fin box configuration, so you can choose if you would like to ride them as a thruster or a quad. We have found both boards work great as either a thruster or quad set up, so it really comes down to personal preference in that department.

Come check the boards out at our shop, or on our website. We have the Vanguard 5’0 and the Hellfire 5’6 available to demo now as well, so come try one out today!

Wells Island

Review: Dakine Maniac Spreader Bar

This past weekend was a great opportunity to try out a new harness product, the greatly improved 2014 Dakine Maniac sliding spreader bar. The 2014 Pyro Maniac waist harness comes complete with the Maniac spreader bar or you can purchase the bar alone in either 10″ (with 8″ of travel) or 12″ (with 10″ of travel) for $60. This spreader bar allows for more freedom of movement, most noticeable when riding toeside on a directional or twin-tip. The Maniac spreader bar will work great for those needing this freedom, especially when riding with a seat or shorts harness. It also works great with the grippy waist harnesses.

maniac spreader bar

After your first use, you should tighten the webbing as it will loosen up once it gets wet and stretches. This adjustment is done easily behind the bar itself. If the webbing ever needs replacing, Dakine offers the webbing to be purchased for only $7.

Pyro Maniac

Pyro Maniac. Click to enlarge.