Category Archives: Kiteboards

Poly/PU versus Epoxy/EPS Kitesurf Boards

We discuss the differences between traditional “fiberglass” vs. epoxy kitesurf boards with our customers at Big Winds every time someone purchases a new kitesurf specific board. It’s important to understand your new board now that they are retailing for around $1000.

To understand the differences between Poly/PU vs Epoxy/EPS, let’s first understand the terms:

Epoxy: The type of hard resin used in the construction of epoxy surfboards with an EPS foam core.

EPS: The acronym for “Expanded Polystyrene”, a lightweight beaded foam used in the production of all epoxy surfboards.

Poly: The nickname for Polyester resin used in the production of the “traditional” polyurethane foam core surfboard.

PU: The acronym for a Polyurethane blank core glassed with polyester resin.

We sell both Poly/PU and Epoxy/EPS boards at the Big Winds. Each brand produces one or both types of boards based on customer demand. For example, North Pacific offers their shapes in both Poly/PU (standard) and Epoxy/EPS ($100 upgrade). Naish has added a Poly/PU board to their standard Epoxy/EPS lineup, as has Cabrinha. Both Firewire kitesurf boards and North kitesurf boards stick with Epoxy/EPS, but put a twist in the overall construction with the addition of veneers (wood/bamboo/cork) and carbon/Kevlar.

So, what is the advantage of choosing one over the other? Well, there are many, so let’s break it down by discussing both construction types.

North Pacific Poly/PU

North Pacific Poly/PU

First, the traditional “fiberglass” boards (Poly/PU) typically have adjectives attached to them like “lively, responsive and connected,” but also “heavy” and “not so environmentally friendly” — the latter being potentially the biggest negative. The weight of the board may come across as a negative when picking one up off the shelf, but due to the lack of air in the PU blank the board rides a bit lower in the water giving it that alive feel. When kitesurfing, wind is always a factor and there is such a thing as a board that is too light. Flex is another characteristic that is often overlooked and although the shape, profile and amount of fiberglass laid onto the board determines the amount of flex, the Poly/PU seems to hold and release from a turn a bit better. After time, the Poly/PU tends to dent on the top deck where your heel applies added pressure. Some companies will add extra fiberglass, carbon patches, or even wood reinforcement providing added durability. The pockets created in the dents can actually lead to a more custom feel and after riding a Poly/PU board over a season or two, it’s broken in like a worn in shoe.

Cabrinha Skillit Epoxy/EPS

Cabrinha Skillit Epoxy/EPS

Now, let’s review Epoxy/EPS. It is light, durable and widely available since the aftermath of the Clark Foam shutdown. I remember Epoxy/EPS as “Styro”, the beaded foam you find in your beer cooler. More air inside the foam means less weight, but the boards ride a bit higher on the water. It also means that the foam can soak up water like a sponge if the epoxy cracks so be sure to repair your board before putting it back in the water. Most Epoxy/EPS boards we sell at Big Winds are coupled with a bamboo/wood veneer, cork or both. This quiets down the chatter in the ride, increases the strength underfoot and dampens the feel when riding in chop and landing strapless airs. Cork was introduced to the Cabrinha lineup a couple of years ago and now North has added cork to their boards, too. Cork recovers up to 85% of its original thickness after impact (less heel denting) and adapts to curved surfaces better than wood. Cork, bamboo and wood add to the performance and durability of the board, but also increase the cost to produce them. The eco-friendliness of Epoxy/EPS resins and core, along with the wrapped wood, bamboo and cork add a lot to the advantages of Epoxy/EPS. Polystyrene foam cores sealed with epoxy resin lasts longer and emit fewer toxic gasses when built, whereas the polyurethane (PU) boards contain carcinogens and are essentially impossible to recycle.

So, the bottom line is to try before you buy. We have found the Epoxy/EPS boards riding better and better every year. They are great for kiteboarding in terms of strength and weight, they last longer and are easier to travel with. Although the Epoxy/EPS has made a lot of progress in design and materials, you will notice most pro surfers and pro kiters are still riding standard Poly/PU boards. Come by the shop this summer to try some of our demo kite surf boards and choose your new board based on how it rides for you.


2014 North Directionals Are In!

Big Winds just received the first shipment of 2014 North kitesurf directional boards, including the new Pro Series 5’11, the new WAM 5’8, and the new Whip 5’5. With the introduction of a cork “shock absorbing” laminate incorporated with the bamboo veneer, the 2014 North directionals feel livelier, and smoother than ever.

north lineup

The 2014 North Whip, WAM and Pro Series. Click to enlarge.

The Pro Series has been redesigned with a fuller nose, wider “thumb-tail”, and straighter rail. With the North pro riders input on this board, the new 2014 Pro Series has been tweaked to offer more control and handle a variety of conditions. The overall aesthetics of the 2014 Pro Series is a huge upgrade over last year’s model .

The WAM remains North’s go to performance all rounder board, but underwent a major overhaul for 2014. Sky Solbach: “I wanted to add more snap and liveliness to improve performance in small waves without sacrificing too much control and drive in bigger surf. In order to achieve this, I pushed more width into the tail and increased the overall rocker to loosen it up and tighten the turning radius. Then, to compensate and keep it all under control, I flattened out the curve in the rocker between the zero point and the tail. The result is a board that is fast and loose, yet very positive and predictable.” The 2014 WAM will continue to be one of Big Winds’ best sellers due to the versatility of the board’s tri/quad fin set up.

For the small wave and river swell rippers out there, North reshaped the our ever-loved Whip into a completely new design. With a tri-fin set up, the new Whip is looser and livelier than the older models, great for generating speed and absolutely perfect for punting strapless airs! Once again, it is a completely new shape, new construction, with great looks for 2014!

With all 2014 North directional kitesurf boards, the price includes the board, fin-set, and rear pad only. With a rise in strapless riding popularity, North now makes it an option to purchase the surfstraps and front surf pads separately. This has brought the price down on the boards a bit for those of you who have never used the straps and pads supplied with the board in the years past. If you’re interested in trying a new 2014 North kitesurf board, our rental/demo program will be up and running come Spring 2014. Give us a call if you are interested in purchasing or have any questions regarding 2014 North kitesurf boards.    888-509-4210    541-386-6086

2013 North Pacific Kiteboards

North Pacific

North Pacific has been shaping surfboards since 1995 right here in Hood River. For the past five years, I’ve had the privilege to ride a multitude of shapes and sizes, and have really narrowed it down to a couple of favorites: the Waterbug, and the Tuna.

North Pacific Kiteboards

The Waterbug is a great board that has the versatility for both the Gorge and ocean waves. It has become one of our best selling directionals in the shop due to a few immediately noticeable characteristics — smooth turning, lively feeling and it’s easy on the body. The Waterbug can be ridden thruster or quad (on the 5-fin custom), making it even more versatile in a variety of conditions. I personally love my Waterbug set up thruster for tight turning, lip smacking, down the line fun!

North Pacific Kiteboards

SUPs too!

The Tuna has been a Big Winds favorite in the Gorge. It’s shorter and wider and when set up as a quad, this little board rips. It’s super fun whether strapped in for boosting big air and laying down long arcing bottom turns, or strapless for executing the newest of strapless aerial maneuvers. The Tuna is a fun travel board as it can be shaped quite short for traveling in your golf bag.

In a perfect world, I would have one of each!

North Pacific Kiteboards

There is something that sets the North Pacific kitesurf boards apart from the competition. A standard surfboard may cost less, but just can’t handle the stresses kiters put on their boards. A standard surfboard foam core is much lighter than those used by North Pacific. The glassing on a standard surfboard is only 4 oz., two layers on top, one on the bottom, whereas North Pacific uses a double layer of 6 oz. S-Glass on both the top and bottom. North Pacific doubles the width of the stringer from 1/8″ to 1/4″, and puts carbon patches under the heel to prevent denting (which is inevitable on all polyurethane boards). All Futures fin boxes are installed in high density foam cassettes that also flex with the board, preventing any cracking around the fin box. Simply put, these boards are strong and last the test of time. It was best put by the late Donald Takayama: “Good boards aren’t cheap, cheap boards aren’t good”.

cheap board

A pricey CI surfboard brought into the North Pacific shop for major repair work

Come by Big Winds to demo North Pacific boards and find out for yourself what you’ve been missing! Custom orders taken at the shop, or over the phone.


Review: Naish Draft and DUB

The conditions were set for a test drive on the recently released Naish Draft kite. With winds gusting to 39 mph on the Event Site sensor, the 7m Draft was going to be a heavy one to hold down, but this test was to push its air time abilities.


Having just recently mounted the Naish dub with boots, I thought this might be the perfect board to hold down the power of the Draft 7 in these conditions. Up near the White Salmon Bridge on the Washington side, the wind was a bit more tame, and the riding conditions were great for boosting big air.

Draft - DUB

Shawn and Jessy Richman both have this kite dialed. It’s a timing thing, but once you figure it out, it has no limits for hang time. I saw Jessy jumping the length of football fields at Kitebeach in Maui last month, which immediately made me a believer in this kite.


Shawn was seen in a different orbit by Naish designer Damian Girardin, claiming Shawn may have hit the 100 ft. mark. Recently, the Richman brothers have been putting on a show at both Huck Fest and KB4C the past couple of weeks here in Hood River, and the Draft seems to be the kite of choice for both its light wind / race capabilities, and boost abilities.


The Draft 7m is a kite that you may never outgrow, one with hidden talents that may take time to unlock. If you are a kiter looking for a free ride kite that screams up wind, and boosts huge, look no further then the Naish Draft. Come by Big Winds to check one out for yourself!



2013 Cabrinha Switchblade Review

Location:  Harbour Island, Bahamas
Wind:  25-35mph (NE)
Board:  2013 Cabrinha X-Caliber 136cm

I recently had the opportunity to do some kiteboarding off of Harbour Island, in the Bahamas. The 9m Switchblade became my go-to kite as a tropical storm blew through for a few days.  I’ve been always setting up the bridles on the steering lines on the second knot up.  But, after reviewing the Cabrinha Kite Tuning Tech Tip, I thought the 3rd knot up sounded more like the traditional feel of the Switchblade.  You can review this Tech Tip HERE:

As I had imagined, the tighter rear lines on the steering bridle made for a bit more responsiveness and heavier bar pressure.  3rd knot for big boosts too!  If unhooking, the 2nd knot might be best suited for ultimate predictability and perfect balance, but for the traditional “bow-kite” feel, bump up to the 3rd knot.

I really liked how much faster the new 2013 Switchblade turns, which had always been the limiting factor on the design in the years past.  For ultimate versatility, range, and user friendliness look no further then the 2013 Cabrinha Switchblade!

2013 cabrinha switchblade

2013 Cabrinha Trigger 5’11 reviewed by Randy Orzeck

Rocked the new 5′ 11″ Trigger.  Loved it! Besides being great on the waves, the board is super fast and points ridiculously well. The skillet out points the S-quad and the Trigger way out points the Skillet.  Pretty cool when point sailing.  Lots of rides!!!  The board is extra sensitive to foot placement which is great once you get it.  It will make any kind of turn you want. I also dig the extra nose flip. The waves were really steep and pitching and I swear, that extra kick saved my butt on several big drops. Cant wait to get on it again. – Randy

2012 Cabrinha Drifter

Date: May 13th, 2012
Location: Manzanita, OR.
Wind: 19-29 mph, on-shore/slight side shore
Kite: Cabrinha Drifter 9m
Board: North Pacific Epoxy 5’10 strapless

Not TJ ripping it up. Photo: Cabrinha Kites

This was my first week-end out to the Oregon Coast, riding legitimate waves with one of my favorite kites for 2012. The 9m Drifter does exactly what the name reflects: Drifts down the line, even when lines get slack. Not only does the simplicity shine in this three strut kite, but the performance is instantly recognized once the kite is in the sky. Faster turning speeds allow for clean down-loops, and the medium bar pressure is sure to extend your session.

The 2012 Drifter has already proven itself here in the Gorge, for both hooked in and un-hooked swell riding, and incredible flatwater freestyle/wakestyle. The Drifter will be packed with me for any/every Oregon Coast mission. Come demo one this summer from Big Winds!

Available at Big Winds.

2012 Cabrinha Skillet

Date: 4/15/12
Location: The Hatchery, WA.
Kite: North Rebel 10m
Kiteboard: Cabrinha Skillit 5’6
Wind Speed: 10-23mph

Cork is it! The limiting factor on the “epoxy chatter” may very well be the cork laminate. My initial hope on the 2012 Skillit 5’6 was that the new Eco Series cork construction would dampen the chop better than the pine veneer from last year, and did it ever. Light, lively and soft were the words pouring through my head after every pop, jump, and landing. Grippy, slashy, and flowing were the turns I was making on the swell, blown away in disbelief that I was loving on a Thruster board that was relatively short. Two straight hours of early Sunday morning bliss, all to myself, with the perfect set-up. Looking forward to more “Cork” boards (S-Quad review soon to come).

Check out the video of Big Winds’ Matt Elsasser ripping it up with the Skillet.

Available at Big Winds.

2012 North Whip

Location: Roosevelt, WA
Date: 3/3/12
Time: 2-4:30pm
Wind: 33-47mph!
Kite: Cabrinha Drifter 7m
Board: 2012 North Whip 5’6″

I love the Eastern Gorge! Roosevelt/Arlington during the spring months are two of my favorite places to session as the average temperatures are much warmer out in the desert. What a great opportunity for putting the new 2012 North Whip to the test. First impression, the moment I picked up the board was, wow, this thing is light (7 lbs. w/ fin-set and footstraps!).

The footstraps are easy to adjust, even around my thick 6/5/4 boots. The Whip 5’6″ feels like a great size for boosting air and slashing swell, and just as was the 2011, super loose and skate-y. When the gusts would punch, the Whip can still lock down and grip, but once you lighten up your back foot, you can really allow the tail to slide, especially on the smooth swell faces on the Arlington side. Time to pick up a 5.5m Drifter for these nuclear Eastern Gorge days!

Available at Big Winds.

2012 Naish Skater

Date:  2-23-12
Time:  12:30-1:30 pm
Location:  Event Site, Hood River
Wind Speeds:  13-24 (average:  18mph)
Kite:  2012 Cabrinha Drifter
Board:  2012 Naish Skater 4’8 (strapped)

I had the opportunity to try something new today, and boy was I impressed!  The 2012 Naish Skater 4’8 I’ve ridden before, last summer, strapless. Naish is now offering an aftermarket front foot pad and jibe pad for the 2012 Skaters, along with straps. There’s something that builds confidence in my winter riding when riding with straps… I can jump, do most of my hooked in freestyle tricks (front roll, back roll, grabs, and kite loops), all without loosing my board and dunking  into the frigid waters of the Columbia. The Naish Skater now allows me this option. Super fun in small surf and swell and with the twin-fin set-up, it still grinds up wind, and throws heaps of spray, but when you want to break the tail free from the water, it does so effortlessly.  I’ve noticed one big difference between the small directional boards vs. a twin-tip. . .volume.  The volume of a foam board sure makes riding in various wind conditions (gusts and lulls) so much easier, as it really adds to the kites low end range. The Skater has more volume than most directionals, and you can feel it carry you through the lulls, even at only 4’8.  If I were to fly to a wind swell destination like La Ventana, or Los Barriles, I would consider putting a Naish 4’8 Skater into my golf bag along with a twin-tip.  Until that day comes, this is going to be a go to board for me in the Gorge:  strapped in the winter months, strap-less in the summer!  We are  demo-ing the Naish Skater 4’8 here at Big Winds, come give it a try!


Available at Big Winds.