Before busting out the wallet for that first, second, or third board in your quiver - here's 3 things to know about kiteboard design to help you find the right ride for your style and local conditions...
The big three factors are Rocker, Shape, and Flex... you can also add Width, and Bottom shape to the list, these all affect your board's performance. Here's what to know, plus a few examples...
Its the tip to tip curvature of the board. A high amount of rocker will offer a smooth ride, loose carvy feel, and a tight turning radius. This tends to be very good in chop and soft on the big landings. Due to the shape, high rockers tend to need a bit more power from your kite so its not for light winds. A flatter rocker board will have a larger, slower turning radius and you'll feel the chop a lot more, but this design will plane up fast and easy in marginal conditions.
Shape (aka Outline)
Is how rounded vs square is the board's shape when comparing width to the centre vs the tips. A squared outline will place more edge length in the water and allow the board to ride upwind easily. Again turning radius will be larger with a square outline, and you'll feel the chop more on your front foot. A rounded outline has a narrow tip compared to the waist width, this allows for a smoother ride in chop with the leading upwind edge making less contact and its more maneuverable.
Describes how stiff the board is along its length. A soft flexing board will be smooth in most conditions as the board flexes through the water, you'll tend to loose board speed because of this deflection and drag. Soft flex is good at slower speeds, but as you go faster you will loose some edge hold as it tends to chatter. A stiff flexing board provides excellent board speed and stored energy (rebound) needed for freestyle riding and load and pop tricks. You'll tend to feel the chop a bit more with a stiff board, depending on the other factors mentioned above.
Regardless of length, many boards average 40-43 cm. Simple math, if you add a few cm to the length only, the change in overall surface area in contact with the water is minimal, but add 2cm or more to the width multiplied by the entire length and the difference is dramatic. A wider board with more surface area planes up fast and is easy to balance for those first rides or light winds, the downside is its going to be less maneuverable.
It's important! Many boards now offer channels along the rails or tips to enhance the edge hold of the board and/or allow a board to be ridden without fins for less drag and use on rails or ramps. Secondly, deep concaves are used to allow the rail to sit deeper in the water and cut through - rather than over the chop - this rides incredibly smooth in powered up conditions.
No one board will do it all, over time your preferences will change and your first board won't be your last.
Got all that?....Now here's a few suggestions...
An easy board to get started and score those first rides: Origin 142 x 47
Freeride performer that's fast, surfy, and super smooth: Mako and Mako Duke Surf
Hard charging freestyle ride with great edge hold and massive pop Tona Pop / LTD
Smooth in chop, great rebound energy, and absorbs the big landings: Tona Flow
Medium rocker, outline and flex - an all around performer: Tona Joyride