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The secrets behind Kona One

The secrets behind Kona One

The KONA ONE is as demanding for advanced sailors as it is easy for “newbies” because of its versatile design characteristics with a gently curved outline, soft rails and flat rocker. The board is a revolutionary design that combines the usability of the long boards from the 1980's and the performance of modern short boards. The revolution is achieved through a step tail that cuts 35 cm off the board length when it starts planing. Long and efficient at slow speeds, and short and fast when it is windy.

Step on it and give it what you have, and you will be surprised to see what it can do. The ideal family toy, blending all freeride, freestyle and racing elements of the sport into one plug and play tool.

The KONA ONE combines the best from the past and present with a lot of input from the classic longboard surf designs with its ability to ride soft, long waves in marginal conditions.

The KONA ONE features a soft EVA deck, covering the rails for those who like freestyle in light wind.

FEATURES

  • 65 cm dagger board.
  • 46 cm surfing style fin.
  • 4 footstaps.
  • ASA construction for strength and durability.

TESTED

Planchemag August 2006;

  • "We were really surprised by how easy it was to get the Kona on the plane with a board that long"
  • "The return of the Universal board, fun and challenging from 3 to 30 knots"

Beginner

For a beginner or intermediate sailor the only sensible recommendation is a KONA ONE. It works well in a very large wind span, from 2 to 25 knots. . Due to the board’s excellent sub planning characteristics, it tutors the beginner in light wind techniques, and will later allow him to learn to use harness, footstraps, carving jibes, etc. In contrast to wide boards, it respond very well to rig steering and planes up early even with smaller sized sails. Additionally it is possible to get into racing using the same board. In fact, there is really no need to ever purchase a large freeride as the KONA ONE fulfills even that role very well.

Note that virtually all modern, and even slightly older, rigs are compatible with the KONA ONE board.

Progressing from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced

What tools should a windsurfer have to quickly learn new skills, to progress into intermediate and advanced windsurfing? What board will transform the life of the windsurfer-to-be?

The hybrids, a good alternative?

A hybrid (short, wide, with a centerboard) theoretically is suitable for a person from the beginning of his windsurfing career until race-like blasting with big sails. And up until the "next generation longboard" emerged it was the best, or even only, reasonable alternative. However, wide and short hybrid board has lots of drawbacks, only partially moderated by their advantages.

A wide and voluminous hybrid is stable and easy for the beginner. It is typically equipped with a smallish fin to make steering easier, and to allow the beginner to use it in shallow water. When the wind increases, as well as skills, then planing becomes the next step. However, the relatively short fin of the hybrid isn't enough to power the board. A 90 cm wide hybrid needs a 55-60 cm deep fin in order to function properly as a planing board. But big fins complicate life in many ways, especially close to shore going out, coming in, resting, etc.

When a hybrid is trimmed for planing it requires straps fairly far out in the edge of the board. These straps are difficult to use. The wide board also tends to create habits (e.g. foot placement, jibing technique) that are counterproductive when trying to move down in board size.

The natural downsizing from a hybrid for an improving windsurfer is a large freeride board. A board with some 70 cm of width starts to behave like a small board. It turns, carves and steers similarly to a smallish board. With a next generation longboard, an allround board with a step tail (that overlaps the 70 cm wide freeride), the natural next step down is a 62-64 cm wide, just above 100 liter. This is then already a true shortboard.

The ideal progression taking up windsurfing is to start on a wide hybrid, get an understanding of the basic sail handling and steering, and then after about 4 hours to move on to a longboard. The next generation longboard will sharpen lightwind cruising skills, maneuvers, and make the first planing runs happen. This same longboard will also be ideal to tutor harness use, planing skills, fottstraps, carving jibes, speed runs and general high performance windsurfing (except jumps and new school sliding freestyle tricks).

Thus, a good quiver for the windsurfer that wants to cover all conditions is a KONA ONE and a 100 liter Freeride.

A definitive advantage of a longboard compared to a hybrid is that the former works well with relatively small sails.

Easier to learn to use footstraps on a narrower board

Getting into the most aggressive outboard strap positions on a wide (more than 85 cm) board, actually takes more skill than sailing a smaller board with more inboard footstraps. On a wide board lots of skill and sail power control is required to move to the rail of the board and to get the feet into the straps (without tilting the board to windward, or dropping the foot into the water). There are lots of opportunities for catapults. On a narrower board (like 70 cm), that does not require such aggressive strap placement, it is far easier to find the straps, while balancing the rig power, without upsetting board trim.

Balance between board size and sail size

Each windsurfing board has an ideal sail size range. If the sail is too big it will overpower the board and make the combination heavy and underperforming. If the sail is too small it will make the board slow in light winds and uncontrollable in high winds.

However, it’s a proven fact that a longer board can cope with a larger range of sails. The KONA ONE works well in both planing and subplaning conditions with a 5.8 sail for a lightweight, as well as with a 10.0 sail for a heavyweight.

It works surprisingly well in planning conditions with sail sizes between 9.0 and 6.6 and even 5.0 and 5.8 for youngsters. Some short tests have shown that even a 11.0 works in all conditions.

The main reasons for this ability are the combination of the rocker line, outline and waterline transformation created by the step tail.

Misguided recruiting

A number of designers and brands have proclaimed that their goal is to get the beginner planing as early as possible. Then the beginner will be hooked, and a new windsurfer will be born. If that is the truth is very questionable, as average conditions most places are light to medium, - and the new born planing focused windsurfers are drastically reducing their time on water, which is unfortunately what has brought our sport to a decline. Windsurfing is a “rich” sport with lots of elements like nature, cruising, social gatherings, family fun, racing and of course also blasting around on those windy days. To be able to practice and have fun in all conditions, and to step up to high wind windsurfing in a natural pace – the obvious choice is a new generation longboard.

The social aspect of "Windsurfing together" still feeds the need to windsurf regularly.

The fun factor

The KONA ONE offer performance and fun over a very large wind range. Compared to a classic 140 liters freeride board or a Hybrid, usually recommended as a progressive next step, the profile looks quite different; 

  • A large freeride without centerboard is totally useless in winds that are not sufficient for planing. Once planing the large freeride is a lot of fun, but when the wind increases it quite quickly starts to get out of hand.
  • A hybrid has a centerboard and works reasonably well in lights winds. It then shows its best sides just above the planing threshold, but the fun does not last for long as the wind gets stronger. One of the fun reducing features are the poor jibing characteristics. A very wide board requires an enormous step to the leeward rail, but still provides very stiff turning capabilities.
  • A hybrid is really a large freeride in disguise; it is a board type that just waits to be released in planing conditions. However, when the planing conditions are reached (and before it) it is hampered by the extra weight. A hybrid really requires a big sail to be fun, but that kind of big sails are not really compatible with beginners and improvers.
  • A next generation longboard with a step tail, like the KONA, has thanks to its length a natural stability and is actually better suited to cope with both light wind and relatively strong winds. (as compared to a shorter board).

Why Short and Wide?

The purpose of the wide and short board is planing with very big sails. The wide boards require considerable power to plan properly, and also really big fins to release from the water and to support the outboard strap positions.

Wide boards (>80 cm) are poor jibing machines. In fact, they force the surfer to use techniques that are counterproductive when moving to a smaller board. In order to generate full power, the straps MUST be outboard (on a wide board). But in order to make gybing and carving enjoyable the straps have to be inboard. It is simply an impossible equation.

Wide boards are created for planing with huge sails. They are excellent tools to minimize the planing threshold. However, their design is almost the exact opposite of what makes a board fun in light non-planing winds, as well as in high (overpowering) winds.

Experienced windsurfers still today, just as 25 years ago, enjoy cruising in light winds with long and relatively narrow boards. Both the 380 cm Raceboards as well as the new Serenity fall into this category.

A next generation longboard such as the KONA ONE, at 350 cm long and 70 cm wide, has a natural inclination for light wind cruising and it has good gliding properties thanks to its length.

Experienced windsurfers classically enjoy high winds on relatively narrow (<70 cm) boards. The reduced width allows the board to be banked and carved. On such a board it is possible to find footstrap positions that are a good compromise between blasting and turning.

A next generation longboard, such as the KONA ONE, has in fact a planing hull shape that allows both for high performance planing (blasting) as well as fully planning and technically good carving jibes.

Width is needed for stability (more so for beginners and intermediates) and for early planing. After a certain point it is a game of diminishing returns. The characteristics of a board changes dramatically somewhere around 75 cm.

What is versatile?

Wide is the opposite of versatile. A wide freeride board, +80 cm, without a centerboard does two things well. It planes early and it is good for blasting in light planing winds (with big sails and big fins). It provides lots of planing opportunities in real world locations.

If something is reduced from the equation: wide (and light) board, big fin and big sail, then it does not work at all anymore.

Adding a centerboard to boost versatility, and reducing fin size to make it more manageable,  is a dead end. The wide board with a centerboard does get some (but not much) additional light wind cruising capabilities, but at the cost of almost everything that was good with the original concept. The smaller fin is no longer suitable for blasting, or even planning. The board may start to plane reasonably early, but it is no longer in its element.

Short and wide boards have never, and will never, work well in sub planing conditions. That is physically impossible (barges rather than boats). Equipping these boards with centerboards does not change the physics. The only thing these boards do well is to be stable enough to learn sail control for absolute beginners. They can also coach the improver onto his first planing experience.

The next generation longboards with step tails work reasonably well (a little bit tippy due to their limited width) for absolute beginners and extremely well for improvers (thanks to their limited width). But what makes these boards unique is what they offer experienced surfers; lots of fun, also in planing conditions. It is an almost impossible idea that a good windsurfer would go out on a beginner oriented 280*90 board with a centerboard in 16 knots (or more) of wind. On a next generation longboard the same guys may be the fastest on his beach, and have a great time.

Some think this board should have been named the “Kona Freeride” as it can be compared to a larger freeride board. For example, it is 70cm wide and has a tail width of 49cm (30cm from the planing part of the tail). This makes it about the same planing width as a 130L freeride board.

Where it shines is in it’s planing speed on a reach and ability to carve gybe for it’s size. This makes it particularly good as a recreational longboard for enclosed waters where the wind is usually gusty. It can go upwind as good as a freeride board when planing (centerboard up and with the standard 46cm fin) and better when not planing and with the centreboard down. So in lulls it can climb up-wind better and therefore have more space to go down-wind in the next gust, therefore faster over-all. Many longboards will do this but few will be as much fun in planing conditions.

While being comparable to a larger freeride board in performance, it obviously still has the versatility of a longboard. The ability to light wind cruise and/or explore, light wind freestyle, learn or teach and with the volume to take a passenger. It can also be raced in a Kona One design class.

Versatility however has it’s costs and for the KONA ONE it is early planing. It’s not an early planer, or quick to accelerate once on the plane. For this reason it needs a bigger sail than a freeride board in the same wind. Having said that, it does stay on the plane reasonably well in lulls.

One entertaining thing about riding the colorful Kona is seeing the surprised reactions of people who are not expecting this longboard to plane as fast or carve as well as it can.

Perhaps best of all is the jibing. It carves a beautiful planing jibe, nice and long, like you might perform on a bottom turn on a surfing longboard. Everything about the board is comfortable.

Over the course of the last two days I saw people doing light wind cruising, light wind freestyling, teaching their kid how to windsurf, and full tilt blasting - all on one board.

There are better boards out there for each little set of conditions, but for somebody looking for one board, or for a board they can share with family and sail in light air up to heavy air and not make a major sacrifice in performance, this is ONE cool and extremely versatile board. One design racing was its purpose, but it fulfills every aspect of windsurfing – and even SUP.

 

Joachim 23/03/2021 15:18

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