"We are Sarah Sylvester and Richard Boughton, the UK importers for Jochum and Nesler, JN Kites. We sell and repair kitesurfing equipment in the UK, take part in competitions and travel the globe kitesurfing. Read all about our adventures here!"

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What makes JN Kites different?

At a demo event recently, someone asked me ‘What makes your kites different to all the other brands?”

With the bewildering array of equipment available to the kite surf consumer at the moment, I thought this was a very valid question and I was surprised at the quantity of technical sales talk I came out with, so I thought I could include this in a series of blogs post to show it’s not just the big brands that are at the forefront when it comes to innovation. Any images of alternative brands I use are for illustrative purposes, and not aimed as criticism.

JN kites are designed principally by Micheal Nesler, who is from a successful aeronautical/paragliding design background, and also designed some key kites for big brands in the early days of kitesurfing. His concentration on aerodynamics and efficiency, coupled with some elegant and unique production methods give quantifiable performance advantages to all three kites in our range.

1. Perfectly curved leading edge segments

Fundamentals of aerodynamics state that smaller smoother surfaces improve performance. Compare a brick to a football, or a Landrover to a sports car.

If your kites’ leading edge is heavily segmented with harsh elbow joints, at each segment you have a vortex, and more drag slowing your kite down. Also at each point you have doubled up material and stitching, adding overall weight to the wing. This technique also adds stiffness to the airframe, as it distributes the load on the leading edge more evenly, rather than deforming at one point.
The reasons some other manufacturers use this less elegant method, is because straight lines are easier to model with CAD / aerodynamics software and get the approximate characteristics of the kite. It’s also much easier manufacturing wise, as calculating a 2D shape, which when inflated turns into a perfect 3D curved tube requires a lot of clever maths. All these elements equate to cost/time saving but sacrifice performance. 

We have had the leading smooth leading edge design in the Wild thing and Prima Donna Range since the PD2 and WT2 in 2007/2008. The lack of drag/turbulence and extra stiffness and lower weight of the leading edge improves:

1. The forward flying speed of the kite (and therefore board speed)
2. Stability of the wing shape at it's top wind range
3. More power generation at lower wind speeds on apparent wind
4. Better upwind flying angle
5. More dramatic generation of lift from sheeting and redirection

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The road to kite surfboard perfection...

The never ending debate about strapless kite surf boards rumbles along on the interweb forums. Amongst some of the garbage/shameless brand promotion/interesting peeved customer feedback, it seems there are basically two schools of thought.

 1. Spend big bucks, and get something kite specific/branded, and put up with it being heavy and lifeless (therefor lacking performance) but hey, it will last for ages, just like my twin tip.

2. Pick up a cheap performance epoxy surfboard, maybe 20% of the price of a kite specific one and if it lasts 6 months, great. The beater. Patch it up and if you sell it eventually great, if not make a novelty wall decoration.

My quiver has consisted of 2 boards for a while now. I have a strapped 6’2” JN Big Fish which came out of the Cobra factory in 2005, has a tucked rail, MT bolt through glass fins, very little concave and a relatively small rocker. It’s fast. You can ride it at approximately 100mph though whatever your legs can take, you can boost huge on it, and crank out big turns with a lot of confidence, but it’s heavy(ish) and it has little flex.

Although I ride strapless maybe 95% of the time, as that’s been my personal development focus for a couple of years now, there are still occasionally conditions when I prefer to ride strapped. Big onshore storm swell and unstable gusty arsed wind for instance. Or just messy bumpy short swell period wave faces. I will get more enjoyment out of a session to riding strapped. If I am pioneering a new/dodgy spot I normally go strapped as well. I love the Big Fish, and long may it live. For fast bump and jump kite led wave riding it rules supreme.
Big Fish, strapped and dangerous
The other board in my quiver has been various incarnations of cheap/free poly surfboards (previous to this I would take the straps off my various strapped boards). This originally started several years ago with a 6’6” Poly board left behind by a friend who couldn't be bothered to take it back to Australia with him. This lasted an alarming amount of time considering the instant heel dents, spreader bar sized holes in the rails. It taught me to patch things up with epoxy, and it taught me I really didn't need anything kite specific any more. The start of beater board heaven. Performance wise, it was completely different, but all in good ways. It also gives you the chance to try loads of different shapes (cheaply) and work out what suits you, and various conditions. My most expensive purchase was £80. Your only nemesis is your spreader bar.
My super slow quad, improving my shacking chances
Through pure chance really, I recently acquired some Resin8 surfboards, which I have always really liked the look of (Lee Pasty absolutely shredding on one for the last few years has helped) but have been prohibitively expensive to try one for kiting where you might murder a pure surfboard very quickly. It has been something of a revelation.
The Resin8 Tokoro precision instrument
Turns out they were too expensive to manufacture, and not enough people bought them (@ ~£600) in a very competitive surf market to make it viable, and the company has ceased production. This meant dead stock heaven, and the vultures (me) swooped. The Tokoro 6'3" rounded pin is a superb bit of kit, really comfortable carving rail to rail in bigger swell, and if you need to run round a section, you can do it FAST. Because of the slender/efficient shape, the upwind ability is ridiculous. It's super light, which is tricky if it's really windy (40 knots) as it wants to fly away all the time, and the extremely lean shape and flex means the board is very smooth through the water.

The compromise as ever is in the strength for kiting use, but thus far, after a month of some really hardcore poundings, from 90kgs of Richard, no heel dents (miraculously) and the only dent is where my spreader bar got in on the action, and that’s not really a sporting chance. It’s also nice to be back on a thruster setup after being on a quad fin (Bunty 6’2” beater poly board) for a while. This was great for stalling on the wave, and amusingly skatey, but in comparison to the Tokoro it was crap upwind, felt extremely draggy in light wind and just not that fast in a straight line.

It's a crying shame they aren't producing these boards any more, but I will be looking out for similar epoxy/vacuum formed boards. Hindsight and all that. Hydroflex make some interesting looking stuff, but it's just too darned expensive for kite use and abuse. I want a 6 month stand, not a pricey long termer. Only one thing for it, perhaps it's time to build one myself.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Festive Shredtown 2012

Normally Christmas for us is spent with family up in the Midlands, and revolves around food, booze, sofa, TV, perhaps the pub, and more food. This year we thought we would bring the party down to Devon for more of a clotted cream and fudge centred affair. Little did we know what a good idea this would be. It's not often you feel physically fitter after Christmas than beforehand.
Nukin' Cliff Richard
Wind and waves pumped from the 22nd through to the 30th of December and we kited every day. The temperature didn't drop below 12 degrees in the daytime. I was comfortably toasty in a 4/3mm spring suit for a few sessions. It also got really windy for a period, which was great as there hasn't been many of the 6m clinging on days that we often get over autumn and winter down here. This let us test some small kites back to back for various conditions.
Out on small kites with the Doris.
Boxing day was a highlight, just Sarah and I out from the spit at Burgh island. As we arrived, there was a lone windsurfer getting some massive rides in the middle of the bay. I cranked upwind to Challaborough to get in on the action.

Three wise men
Normally Chally breaks close in on the beach, meaning with a kite you end up a bit close to the cliff, but when we have been out fishing from time to time, you can see the swell builds over a reef much further out. Turns out it needs approx 4m @12 seconds (Windguru forecast) swell to make it peak/break out there for safe-ish kitesurfing. It turned into a thick and very ridable right hander (tasty). Photo evidence is scarce of this monumentous event unfortunately as we were far too busy enjoying it, but the couple of snaps here give you an idea. The Cornish lads said that Porthleven was un-ridable on this day, which is interesting.

Mistletoe and double over head
In Santa's Grotto
Back to the Chestnuts/fire/ mulled cider
On the 30th, Bantham was firing on all cylinders, and it was a bit onshore as it always is on a SW, but there were some fun tow-ins to be had out by the island on the 8m, and the swell was the chunkiest of the season and of the sort of size/period where it's very clean in between.

I had some great rides, but got a bit cocky/tired (day 8 on the water) towards the end of the session, and went for one last turn on a biggun' and got munched, and everything went very slack, my bowel included. By the time I popped up (quite a long time) and got a well-earned breath, the kite was down and a wave hit it instantly although I didn't see this happen in the trough behind, I more 'felt' it as it took me on a trip to Neptune's lair. I was drinking Baileys from a shoe, and no mistake.

I managed to pull the quick release whilst being dragged underwater, that's a testament to the functionality of the new QR. I popped up again and got some more sweet oxygen and flapped about for 10 seconds, before calming down and assessing the situation. I was more or less 100m behind where the 10 knot buoys usually go, in line with the middle of the Island and right in the impact zone. A fair old swim ahead with no board, and a big fat spring tide pumping out of the river. Here's some advice from my experience if it happens to you, which will apply to most 'Oops, I am in the sh!t' situations:

1. Stay calm and control your breathing - even if you are panicking, slow it all down. Take a deep breath before the set hits. Being able to hold your breath for a long while is very useful.

2. Conserve your energy, concentrate on paced/efficient swimming back. Not flapping/struggling.

3. Know where the currents are, and don't swim against them, if possible use them to your advantage.

4. Keep an eye behind you, and turn, duck dive / swim down when the waves creep up behind you. Don't let them hit you and tumble you/pull you underwater, although body surfing can make your swim shorter.

5. If you are tumbled and you are potentially over rocks, cover your head with your arms. Being unconscious in water is a bad plan.

6. Pick some landmarks on the coast and make sure you are moving forwards. This is reassuring as you know you are making progress and helps you work out if you are in current or not.

I am sure there is more you could add to this, but this is what sticks out particularly from my recent mega swims. I normally have one or two a year. There is also just not putting yourself in the situation in the first place.

There's an argument (and a solid one) that if you can't surf (i.e paddle) a wave you shouldn't be out kiting in it. Not all of us are from surfing backgrounds, and a kite can tow you into stuff you couldn't dream of paddling into. I ride waves surfers don't ride/can't access all the time. We all like to push ourselves, and take risks in big conditions which is what keeps the sport fresh for me, so the situation is going to happen. I think it's more about water confidence, swimming ability, local knowledge, a decent level of fitness and knowing what to do/expect if the proverbial hits the fan. If a surfer snaps a leash they are in the same situation.

A great training exercise (with a rescue boat/ski on hand) would be to make people kite offshore where they usually ride waves, fire off their safety on purpose and see how they cope with getting back to shore.

Anyway, I swam in, it took about 20 minutes perhaps and once I knew I was moving forward I actually quite enjoyed it. I came in with a big grin, gathered up my kit which some friends had scooped up on the beach and called it quits. A slightly dicey end to a fantastic festive period, but good to feel alive, and lesson learnt (again).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Int'gypt - Soma Bay the easy way

As autumn kicks in, and the days get shorter I have finally found time to do some bloggery and other general web mischief. Back in July, we decided to head off for a quick trip to Egypt with some pre production kit from JN.

We managed to find a mega cheap all inclusive deal with Thompson, which isn't very usual for us as we normally wing it completely. £531 bought us flights, food and hotel and transfers. It all seemed to good to be true. To be fair it was excellent value for money. There was slight wrangling with big luggage at check in, but nothing major (ambiguous luggage policy grey area type stuff) Other than an extra bag bought here and ten quid for an Egyptian visa, we didn't spend another penny for twelve days. Cool.
My new BFF

We stayed at the Palm Royale (formerly the Intercontinental) at Soma Bay, which is about an hour south of Hurghada. It's a big, lush and completely preposterous hotel covered in gold with a reception like a mock stately home. The scale of it is ridiculous. It's certainly not aimed at kite tourists, more sun and pool lurkers, lardy Russians etc.
Tweaking some pigtails

It was a good opportunity to get some promotional photos sorted and get a feel for the new equipment. In summary, the PD has more power per size, and new Dacron means the wingtips are stiffer giving an even more positive feel on the bar. The WT4 12m was used a lot, and we are glad it was held back for more R&D, as it's morphed into a great biggest kite for anyone up to 80kgs. Full of low end and accessible power, and snappy turning. I spent most time on this kite. The wind conditions allowed me to test everything from 6 to 14m. Sarah spent the week getting all her usual tricks dialled in boots. With her snowboard background it makes a lot of sense, and the crossover was easy.
Sylvester camera whorin'

Our travelling buddies for this trip were our good friends and neighbours Phil and Harry (11), and we were coaching/teaching Harry. The flat water paid dividends and Harry progressed to doing jumps, toeside and by the end of the week. Kids learn alarmingly fast!
Hazza (future talent alert) on the 6m PD5

It was a great trip, simple eat/sleep/kite routine with a strange lack interaction with Egyptian culture, which isn't our usual travel style. We might as well have been on the moon, just with loads of flat turquoise water and endless food.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Circle One Carbon Skim 56" - Budget light wind solutions...

I am not a small, or particularly light person, some have even called me 'robust' and I have always found trotting up and down on a big kite and twintip pretty dull, even worse on a surfboard in no swell, and the beaches we use are not really suited for a raceboard as they are generally very shallow with suprise sandbanks everywhere. Not ideal for your £300 hand made fins. I also don't have a competitive bone in my body. I do however like to maximise my time on the water, so what's the solution?

Historically, the classic skim for kiting is the Nobile Skim, which I had in my posession (someone left it at my house for an extended 6 month period) and I rode it quite a bit, and it was easy to ride, but I was never really happy with its performance. The fins/rails were too grippy, the rail was lethally sharp, and considering it was CAP construction, it was bloody expensive. Even worse was the North Skimfish, the graphics alone made me want to vomit. Don't get me started.

After many trials and tribulations, I ended up riding a Circle One EPS 54" skim a lot last year; after stuffing my ankle up I got quite into it.

From about 8 knots, with a 12m, you really can fly upwind in diddly squat, in incredibly shallow water and actually progress your riding quite a bit, sharpen up your kite control which is critcal and improve your balance and fancy footwork for strapless. A lot of the time you have to work on apparent wind, and I would recommend a kite with a small diameter leading edge so it has good forward speed as well as flying further round the window. My Mr F 2 12m (Delta/Bow/Hybrid) is just about perfect for this, pure C shapes are not so good in the super light stuff in my experience. You need a kite with more aerodynamic leanings.

So what can you achieve on this strange little craft? Well, shovits, aerial transitions and spins, surface passes, jibes, tacks and even slashing little waves and all sorts of other cunning stunts are possible. Much more satisfying than trotting back and forth for me. It's skateboard trick heaven with a kite.

From time to time I have had skims out in quite large swell, which is extremely fun/funny. Dropping in is like sliding down a 45 degree ice slope and is a real test of balance and kite control. Wacky Races would be an accurate comparison. You can also literally reach warp speed.

'But it's got no fins' I hear you say, in an alarmed fashion. Yes, this is indeed the case, but in my experience they are more of a hindrance as they catch when you try and spin the board, or slip out when you least expect it, and make little improvement to the upwind ability. They also prevent you from riding in super shallow water, or even over wet sandbars. Surface tension is your friend. Don't stab it with G10 the whole time.

From an injury recovery point of view it has also been an excellent tool, without a doubt helping strengthen my gammy kankle. You have to constantly trim the board angle, and balance, using all your proprioception. Imagine it like a wobble board for the water. It also seems to give your core/stomach a damn good work out, as you have to control your balance with small movements. From an impact point of view (normally a thing to avoid after most injuries) there is barely any, and you are not just bouncing around on a locked in rail the whole time, a la twin tip.

So anyway, I just received this new 56" Carbon Skim from Circle One. Shape-wise, it's quite different to last year, having a lot more taper at the rear, rather than being a teardrop shape. It also seems more strongly built than the EPS version and more or less exactly the same weight. The rail shape has changed slightly, being squarer running towards the base. The finish, as ever, is really (bang) tidy with these boards. For the £60 price increase (RRP ~£240), I would go for the carbon version every time, specially with kiting in mind. The trouble is, that at the moment it's a special order.

Tidy rear end (more slender than previous)
After the first couple of sessions on it, my verdict so far is that it is a big improvement on the EPS board from last year, it seems even smoother through the water and the new rail shape means you can hold a little more power and go upwind at a ridiculous angle in the gusts. Due to the skinnier tail, it feels more purposeful/grippy on the waves, but the 2" extra length seems to compensate for the reduction in surface area at the tail, and overall volume and upwind ability are very similar to the last one. The rocker is exactly the same, i.e not much apart from a touch in the nose as you would expect from a skim. I may bore you with some Go Pro footage in the near future. Be warned.

Luxury kick pad is a must
More purposeful nose
Flat as a witch's tit, and note the new rail shape

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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Circle One Bamboo 2012 6' x 19" x 2 1/4"

New Circle One boards are here, and they are looking sweet. The 6' was the most popular board last year, and a lot of people locally have been getting on really well with the shape and buoyancy which works well in local conditions where it's slightly more onshore and you need a little extra float/volume to really use the wave. Considering its volume, it rides smooth as silk and it's not bouncy on chop as you would expect.

What I like about it, is that it's an easy enough board to ride, but still has a lot of performance. It also has just enough rocker not to nose dive if you are front foot heavy, and has enough in the mid section to steam upwind. I mainly ride it strapless, as does Sarah.

The lay up is slightly different this year, promising the same relatively low weight, but more robust construction. This is always a trade off so we will see how it fairs after some abuse.

For around £400 new with fins, deck pads and straps I don't think you will find a better kite board for your money.

New graphic

Single concave
Medium rocker
A touch of extra nose rocker, and flat mid section
Same fin box as last year accepting FCS plugs.
Double strap inserts this year
Finish is as good as ever
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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Kite repairs eh?

For the last year or so I have been doing kite repairs. I don't generally advertise this fact, as I don't want to be chained to the sewing machine 12 hours a day. I have no intention of running a sweat shop, with me as the child labour. But even just with the local trade I have got through a fair few kites, and I have had to face the fact it's actually quite a good way to earn some money. The other slightly sad fact is that I got quite into it, and started developing my own methods.

I owe it all, as with a few things in my current existence, to my friend Jimmy who has done kite repairs for about 4 or 5 years, covering warranty work for some of the brands and shops down his way in Kent. He was nice enough to come down and show me a few hints and tips (in return for some cider)

So in the name of freedom of information, and also because I get asked questions on how you do this repair, or that repair all the time, I am going to do a quick how-to explaining a few simple repairs.

I am not giving away all the secrets, as this will be a breach of the magic repair circle, and I will have Paul Daniels on my arse faster than you can say 'bobbins'.

Using/setting up the machine is a skill in itself which takes a while to learn and perfect and I wouldn't suggest you start trying to learn on your own, or even worse other peoples kites. You will end up punching many unnecessary holes in a innocent kite. But anyhoo, here is a few photos of how I carried out a recent grisly LE repair. You also need a decent industrial sewing machine, preferably with a long arm, and/or a lot of clearance which will cost more than sending it to a proper sail maker or kite repair guy.


So here we are, whoopsy diddle, a foot long hole in the leading edge, most likely caused by self launching on something sharp judging by other deep scrapes on the leading edge material close by. To make things interesting (or not), it has torn along to that hang point on the right as the air came out and it fell to the ground with the pressure on it. The bladder is pretty knackered, with a foot long rip right along the seam. If you really wanted to (or are unable to source a new replacement bladder) you could fix it with Stormsure and some spare PU from a donor bladder.

T shaped effort
So once it is laid flat, it all becomes a little more clear how to sort it out. Not as bad is it initially looked. Notice I have unpicked the leading edge here already to get the segment nice and flat before laying it up. Ideally stretch it over the edge of your table, and weight it with something.

Double sided tape applied - accuracy is key at this stage
So the next stage is laying up the repair with double sided tape. From a point of view of getting the kite to fly the same afterwards, and not to hang to one side, this is by far the most important part to be accurate. This is specially important when it comes to canopy repairs. If you are a few millimetres off it can make all the difference. It's fiddly, and depending on the area damaged it can be time consuming. Imagine it like sticking a jigsaw puzzle back together. Also, with ripped Dacron there is usually a furry edge to the material which makes matching it back up accurately difficult. Most Dacron has lines running longways on it, spaced an even 12mm apart, so get your ruler out and make sure it all lines up.
Looking better already, with new Dacron graft on the left
So as you can see above, I have removed the backing from the double sided tape applied to the torn LE. I have measured out and applied more tape to the edges of the replacement Dacron that I will graft over the top of the repair. The theory is to transfer the load onto this, and off the damaged material underneath. Again, when you measure and cut this, you need to be very accurate, or you will waste material, or make an ugly looking repair. You need to overlap the tear by at least 1cm. If you need to, you can apply a patch to the inside of the LE, in this case I made a small one 12 x 10cm under the bump stop, as the tear had stretched  underneath here, and the exterior patch wouldn't have covered it fully.

Laid up, ready for sewing
So next stage is applying the patch. The aim is to get it perfectly flat. Approach this like applying a sticker, starting at one end and working it flat to the other. If it's not on right, peel it off and start again.

Bitchin' stitchin.
Next step is to run around the patching with the machine. A 3 step zig zag is the standard. The thread is Dabond V69, which is extremely tough and UV resistant. I try and keep about 1mm off the edge of the patch to prevent it from peeling back. Top tip: make sure you check underneath material you are stitching for anything that shouldn't be there. i.e the other half of the leading edge, a wandering bridle, or even worse, the LE bladder. Otherwise you could be at home to 'Bobby McBallsup'

It's great when you're straight
So now we need to close the edge back up. A liberal application of double sided tape to the closing seam is required, and you an match it all back where it was before you unpicked it. You can also match up the kinks in the LE material to help you do this. Again, accuracy at this stage is absolutely key. It needs to be lined up exactly as it was previously, or you will see bulges in the LE.

Next is closing the LE seam. This varies from kite to kite, as some have extra webbing over the seam. In this case it's a simple sew a straight stitch down the middle. Thread tension needs to be just right at this stage to get a nice strong stitch.

First closing seam
Once this is done, fold it over applying more double sided tape to line it up properly. Once folded, a second run of straight stitch finishes it off. Bang tidy.
Final closing seam
At this stage I try and match the new stitching though the old holes as much as possible. If you make new holes you end up with a weak 'edge of a postage stamp' effect along the edge of the Dacron, meaning it s more likely to let go under impact. Kites which have more overlapping material on this seam are often weak here anyway as there are twice as many holes.

I neglected to take any more photos of this kite as the client needed it back in a hurry, but it is now cruising the South Hams on light wind days as if nothing ever happened.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

For Sale: Canon 50D

We have recently upgraded our camera back, and have a Canon 50D for sale. It is about 2 years old, and is a really solid, semi pro stills camera. It will come back only with the grip, second battery, charger, box, and cables. There are few light scratches on the top LCD, but other than that, it's in great shape. Specs are 15 megapixel, 6.3fps and a 9 point autofocus. It has more settings and flexibility than most folks would ever need.

They are still about £550 new, and the grip plus extra battery is £200 worth, so make us an offer!

Friday, 23 March 2012

For Sale - Circle One Skim 54"

54" Circle One Skim, perfect for light wind, and excellent training for riding strapless  and general balance, injury rehab etc.

Nice and light, and friendlier to the shins/wallet than the Nobile option. It rides well backwards and has a comfy EVA kickpad. It has a small few dings which have been repaired. It's good to go. I could even scrape the wax off if you really wanted.


(original price was £175)

I am getting a new carbon one. Saucy. 


Friday, 16 March 2012

Union Island - A Kitesurf Paradise

On our various trips to Brazil over the last 6 years we keep running into Ocean Rodeo team riders / promotional gurus Jeremie Tronet and Linn Svendsen. The lovely French-Caribbean / Norwegian couple have now set up their own kite centre with school in the Grenadines, mainly serving the passing yacht trade. See: www.kitesurfgrenadines.com

So knowing that this pair wouldn't settle somewhere with anything less than amazing kite conditions, we thought we might go and check it out. We shot a bit of video of Sarah kiting which you can watch below. This gives you a good idea of how good the conditions were :)

After a very good autumn/winter season in the UK the long range forecast all of a sudden looked very bleak, so we booked a cheap flight to Barbados with Mr Beardy Branson Airways, organised the transfer hop flight with Mustique Airways (thanks Keisha) who offer an excellent range of reliable winged caravans.

From above (Pic stolen from Hannah Darling)
So after some Twin Otter hi-jinx, some confused but amusing conversations at customs about what was in the huge kite bags, and the arduous hotel transfer (30 second ride on a golf buggy), in what seemed like no time at all with the time difference, we had travelled from a freezing and drizzly Gatwick to sunshine, palm trees and clear blue water. We stayed at the Anchorage Yacht Club, which mainly acts as a transfer point for luxury tourists travelling over towards the Palm Island resort. The hotel is about 100m from the kite spot and is extremely convenient. The staff are very helpful and friendly as well, and the Wifi runs as smoothly as the supply of Pina Coladas.

Not too shabby view in front of the rooms at the hotel
The wind over the duration of the trip was excellent, with 10 out of 12 days kiteable and really it was more like 11 out of 12 but one morning we were particularly hungover. The wind follows a daily pattern. It kicks in at about 8 in the morning and is at its strongest (18 - 20 knots) until around 1pm. It then has the courtesy to mellow out a bit over lunch time (although it's still rideable) to allow you to have a leisurely lunch. By 3pm it's back up to speed again, and gradually gets stronger until sunset. We quickly settled into a routine, and found an early start and a long lunch, possibly with short snooze afterwards, let you have 2 or three hours in the morning riding quite hard, and then a more relaxed sunset session before cocktail hour. As you can tell it was pretty tough over there, but we coped.

The main spot set up is very good as well, with a large lagoon protected by a reef. It's shallow and flat, and great for training, the bottom is a mixture of old coral and sand, so nothing much to bump into. You need to be confident upwind to ride here, and stay away from the airport end which is marked by some buoys. The tides are tiny, so not much to worry about there.

Wang Ping
There are very few kite spots with in-water bar/BBQ services. Happy Island was built by an enterprising local who kept dumping conch shells on the inside of the reef until there was enough reclaimed land to build a bar on. All the yacht tenders moor up there for a stunning sunset and Jeremie sometimes puts on a big air show much to the delight of the punters.

Happy Island Sunset
From a beginners point of view the best bet is to head off downwind to Frigate with the school and enjoy the huge amount of space, and boat support. If the wind switches a little more easterly (away from the normal north east) the potential for freestyle down here is spectacular. It looks like a few years ago they started building a huge dock for more boats, and they must have run out of cash and work stopped, leaving a man-made spit creating some rather tasty flat water. Running downwind to here from the centre is worth the ride just for the experience of hopping in and out of the reefs. Half way down is an enormous turquoise bottomed lagoon which is worth hanging around in for some time. Frigate island itself looks like somewhere a Bond villain might have his lair. It's extremely spectacular.

Frigate from above
Jeremie and Linn can further amuse you by organising day tours to the other islands close by. We went up to Mayreaux for a quick kite on a little reef break, and to the Tobago Cays, and stopped somewhere they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean, where a month or so back, part of a Russian space rocket washed up rather bizarrely. This was a great addition to the trip. Everyone likes messing around on boats. We finished up the day with a sunset downwinder in light wind back to Union with the boat following.

Russian space rocket anyone?
Every full moon they are running a beach party at the centre, where the whole Island comes out to enjoy some dancing, rum and night kiting. It's an eclectic mix of locals, yacht dwellers and kiters, and made for some amusing moments.

Check the moon.

Food wise, high recommendations need to be given to:

Big Citi - the local canteen diner above a yellow building in the square. This is very reasonably priced, the food is tasty Caribbean dishes like conch stew, BBQ chicken and a sandwich called the 'mumbler' which was absolutely off the chart if you are into chicken.

Captain Gourmet - Just off the square towards Ashton, this is run by local French folks, and as you would expect provides great breakfasts, bread, croissants and most importantly coffee. They also import luxury goods from France and all over the place, so if you need some champagne or confit de canard in a hurry, this is the place to come. Watch out for the chocolate muffins.

Marie's Pizza Place - Located opposite the ferry dock, Marie became our temporary mother for 12 days. Initially she wooed us with amazing seafood pizza and pasta, and then let us order what we would like the next night the day before and she would source it. This meant every night we had delicious home cooked food with a French twist. This was great compared to other small island experiences we had like in Cape Verde where the food was generally terrible.

So all in all it was an amazing trip, and very do-able for a two week holiday. A huge thanks go to Jeremie and Linn for showing us a great time and sharing their spot with us. I think we would definitely be back, the potential for waves is also very good in the right conditions, and we didn't really touch on that on this visit.