Interview : Nicolas Caillou
Nicolas Caillou is the lead kite designer for Takoon Kiteboarding. He started to kite in Montpellier with foil kites in 1998 after 15 years of windsurfing. He used the same beach as Franz Olry and Christopher Tasti - top riders at the time and pioneers of the sport.
After finishing his PHD degree he accepted a position as test rider for Wipika in Montpellier. His PHD studies enabled him to make a mathematical model for Takoon which defined the best parameters (profile definition, tip length etc.) as a function of the kite size. The Wook, his first design, was born, and the rest is history.
What are your responsibilities at Takoon?
I design the entire range of kites and bars. I also contribute some technical innovations for harnesses and am in charge of production.
What do your day to day activities involve?
The structure of my days is different and is determined by wind. If it is windy, I do my computerized job in the morning and go for testing new stuff and ideas in the afternoon. On windless days, I work and plan new ideas to test when the wind is back. When I sleep I think about new ideas.
Tell us a bit about the Takoon Nova. How does the Nova 1 design differ from current bows on the market?
When we introduced the Nova for the first time, our target was to make the safest kite in the world. I saw too many incidents and wanted a kite which reacted in the same way as a wakeboarding handle or a windsurfing boom, where you let go and you have no power. This was the first target of the Nova.
With the original design we had super easy re-launch and extra wind range as a bonus. For my personal kiting I use only one kite for wind between 15 and 30+knots.
Takoon has the most knowledge with inflatable flat kite design, making our first prototypes in 2002-2003.
The Nova doesn’t invert. This characteristic was extremely important for us as we wanted a safe kite.
The Nova is really rigid in the air and gives you smooth power that is easy to control.
The kite design and the 1:1 bar give you a smooth feeling and the kite is very predictable, making it perfect to train for new tricks and to ride confidently.
With the Nova we introduced the first bow kite with single inflation.
Finally, our bridling system is one of the most simple designs available. Nova kites use only 2 pulleys when other kites have 4 or 6 pulleys.
I would like to add that we use top quality products to give good resistance to aging. For example pulleys we used are top quality from Ronstan and cost much more than others, but work better and safer. Bridles that pass thru the pulley are of superior quality, and resist 2 or 3 times more than the others.
Due to the added wind range that bow kites give you, people use bow kites more frequently. Therefore we took extra care in reinforcing the Nova.
Tell us about the Nova 2. What's new and how is it different to the Nova 1?
The Nova 2 is a total new design and includes everything we learned during one year of development.
By designing a new shape, I was able to decrease the LE diameter by 10% - giving to the kite more speed.
A new tip shape added to a new bridle location, which increases the turning speed and gives a more direct response.
By viewing the kite from the side you can see that we brought the front and back line attachments closer.
The kite flies so well in light wind that you can ride with a 9 when others are on a 11-12m².
The Nova 2 is more about performance and is well suited for freestyle as claimed by our international riders when they tested it
The single inflation is updated to have a faster deflation. Sometimes riders have limited time and you need to spend less time on the beach and have the most time on water. That’s the way of the Nova 2: Single inflation system, easy to inflate (just inflate the LE, nothing to close between the LE and the Strut), 4 lines easy to unroll, turbo deflation thanks to valves with no air lock on struts.
The Nova 2 includes the new NTS (Nova Tune System) which allows you to customize your ride (stopper or not, tunable stopper etc.). A new bar feature is includes with NTS to ride unhooked more comfortably.
We worked to have a closer feeling on the bar which is more comparable to a C-shape kite. Like that, we can convince more riders to use them. The NTS customizes your bar style, on the kite you can customize the kite behavior by adjusting the back/tip bridle (frontward: more bar pressure; backward: more turning ability/better re-launching).
Finally, all sizes are designed individually. The Nova 2 12m² is designed to give a lot of power in light wind, the aspect ratio is higher, the tips are wider to give you a good turning ability and grunt. The kite is easier to use when wind is about 12-15knots.
The Nova 2 9m² has an awesome wind range, the widest of all the kites. And the Nova 7 is dedicated for light weight riders and really strong wind. This kite is really predictable with its lower AR and its specific bridle location.
For easy understanding, note that a Nova 2 12m² replaces a C shape kite from 15-16m² to 12m², a Nova 2 9m² replaces a C shape kite from 12 to 7.5m² and the Nova 2 7m² replaces a C shape kite from 9.5 to 6m².
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the 2:1 bar (like Cabrinha, Slingshot) vs the Takoon Nova bars which are 1:1 bars?
The main disadvantage on the 2:1 bar is the bar pressure. Takoon kites are well known for their light bar pressure and we wanted to keep this feature. A light bar pressure kite is better because it’s effortless. And for unhooked riding a light bar pressure is perfect.
We tested 2:1 pulley bars on our kites during all the 2004 development and we had some tangling problems. This is the reason why we decided not to use a 2:1 pulley bar. Then, not using the pulley bars induces changing the design of the kite. This is the reason why Nova kite design differs a lot compared to other bow kites that uses the 2:1 bar like Slingshot, Cabrinha, Airush, etc.
Our aim with the Nova 2 was to keep it simple - and a 2:1 bar is less simple I would say.
The advantage of a 2:1 pulley bar is to decrease the travel of the bar to have de-power. The rate is approx 60-70% of more efficiency. A 2:1 pulley bar gives you better turning performance, but much more bar pressure too.
What locations did you use to test the new Nova? Did you use a combination of gusty and steady wind locations?
Where I live in the south of France, the wind conditions change all the time. We have the usual “Tramontana” wind which is strong and really gusty which is perfect to test the windrange of kites. And sometimes we have the “Autan wind” which is not as strong as the Tramontana and is steady. By using the same location I can test gear in different kind of wind.
What kind of safety requirements do you have to adhere to in France, and how does that affect the final product?
Since July 2005, all the quick releases (chicken loop quick release and leash quick releases) are submitted to a standard. This standard imposes to all brands distributed in the French zone to have a quick release that you can use with less than 10DaN. This affects the final product, because to pass the standard you need a specific product. For the Nova 1, we passed the standard and it was validated by an independent laboratory. Takoon was the first and the only one at this point in time to pass the standard with success.
What are the advantages of bow kites over C shape kites in your opinion?
I can note 4 main advantages of bow kites over C shape.
1- Safety: you have nothing to release just let go of the bar.
This induces a “safety feeling” - you free your mind in gusts because of the de-power ability of the kite and because you ride with the same kite, you know it in all conditions.
2- Windrange: use one kite for 80% of wind conditions. You save money.
3- Performance: Thanks to the revolutionary shape of the Nova, it will always perform well regardless of that the weather conditions are.
4- Re-launching: with bow kites, the re-launching is really easy and you don’t need to swim.
These advantages may differ with the design and brand of the kite.
What are the disadvantages of bow kites compared to C shape kites in your opinion?
You can note some disadvantages compared to a C shape.
A bow kite is a little more complicated when compared to a 4 line kite (I’m not comparing to a 5th line kite here).
Generally a bow kite is more versatile, performing good in all areas (hangtime, turning speed, low end etc.), whereas a C shape kite can be excellent on one criteria.
A C shape can give you more performance for a specific range of wind. If you have money to buy an entire range of kites, that’s perfect.
A kite such as the Wook is a perfect kite for waves, the kite gives you power in turns and is very predictable for surf.
On the other hand, C shape kites such as the Air from Takoon is perfect for new school tricks and hangtime. This kite turns fast and is perfect for unhooked riding.
Don’t forget that bow kites are on the market for less than 1 year and C shape kites have 8 years of development. Bow kites have really good characteristics and suit a lot of riders.
Do you think that bow kites will replace c shape kites in the near future? If so / if not, why?
Because more and more kite schools are equipped with bow kites, I can assume that we will see more and more bow kites on the beach. When you learn on a bow kite you cannot go back to a C shape kite. C shape kites will be used only for a precise range of activity.
What is the reason for pro riders on the PKRA tour not using bow kites? Do you see this changing in the near future, or do you see bow kites aimed at the average rider rather than the pro rider?
The main aim of bow kites was to increase safety. Because pro riders don’t need the same levels of safety as average riders, safety is not this important to them. On the other hand, the goal of a rider is to be the best on the water. I have to admit that bow kites requires a different technique to C shape kites (different timing for jumps, different turning radius, feedback on bar) and pro riders have to adapt to a bow kite in order to kite well on them. It is difficult to expect someone to change over to a bow kite when they have been the best on a C shape kite for many years. I believe this is the main reason why so few riders don’t use bow kites on the PKRA tour yet.
The new generation will ride more bow kites on the PKRA tour because they will learn with bow kites.
The new generation of bow kites is more suitable for free style tricks, and for these reasons I believe we will see more and more bow kites in contests.
Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with iKiteboarding.com
Thank you very much Carlo!