One of the perks of working for the best kite company in the world is that we regularly have to get together with our
retailers in far flung places, testing new kites, boards and bars and listening to their thoughts on everything from
exchange rate fluctuations to the latest 'in hairstyle' on the PKRA tour. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.
In previous years we have gone to West Ireland, Barcelona, Tarifa and Tenerife. If it's within a 5 hour flight of
central Europe and if it will give a great opportunity for the wind to 'skunk' us for an entire week then we'll have
been there with a container load of gear and no wind. This year however the wind was kind, the sun shone and there
were waves every day at the wave-spot. If might even have been the perfect location for a dealer event.
Reps, retailers and staff converged from many different locations all across Europe and a few brave souls even
ventured across from the US office. I flew in from the UK. 3 hour drive to Heathrow, 1 hour flight to Paris CDG, 2
hour wait, 2 hour flight to Casablanca, 5 hour wait and then a 2 hour flight to Dakhla. I arrived at Dakhla Airport
almost exactly 18 hours after I had left home. The car trip to the kite camp made it worthwhile, sun, sea and sand, it
was a good sign of things to come.
As much as we'd like to pretend that the job can be hard work, the truth is meeting up with old friends and
colleagues and trying new gear is about as tough as it gets. Inspired by the Winter Olympics we thought we'd spice the
week up by running our own series of competitive events to get everyone into the team spirit. (A special mention must
be made for the collective members of the UK magazine staff who made the trip with us. They excelled in their drinking
until 4am and keeping everyone in the entire camp awake event category and were unanimous victors in drinking the bar
dry every night). The rest of us struggled to keep up with themn and we knew they were hoping to win the Olympics,
because the prize was a free bar tab for the winning team for a week- the captain of the losing team would have to
shave his head.
Everyone who attended the meeting was split up into teams, with one rep running each team and a grand prize of free
gear to the winners and a shaved head to the losing rep being up for grabs. Retailers, team riders, staff and reps
were pitted against each other in the most demanding sports imaginable- table tennis, table football, pool, a penalty
shootout, kite-relay, running up and down 100m high sand dunes in bare feet and all manner of unimaginably technically
demanding and difficult events. First event of the week was the penalty shootout, with Ian (big boss) taking to the
nets, hoping to keep a clean sheet against the best footballing talent that our European dealer network has to offer.
(it's a good job they sell kites for a living, because they sure can't shoot…)
Ian was keeping a clean sheet until 20 penalties had been taking when the first goal of the day sneaked past him into
the top left corner. A quick succession of goals followed as Ian struggled with the 40 degree heat and the effects of
defending his net against the mighty onslaught of Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch and Danish footballing talent.
(Danish- you're kidding right?)
Michal's team drew first blood in the Olympics sneaking through to a first round win against stiff competition, his
hair was safe for another day.
That afternoon we introduced the first of the new 2010 products to the assembled retailers and their shop staff and
riders. The Red-Line Performance Bar replaces both the 2009 best Bar and Red-Line bar, offering all the safety
features and functionality of both bars rolled up into one. The R&D team have worked hard at providing the
ultimate push-to-release QR design; that isn't affected by sand or salt, contains no metal or complex mechanical
moving parts and can be assembled easily even with your kite in the water.
An all new bar construction with a forged alloy bar centre and new depower lines provides an 8x line durability
improvement over last year's set-up. A new moulded low-friction under bar swivel help you rid your lines of tangles
and can be easily flushed out with water to remove any sand and salt giving you perfect performance all the time.
As well as the Red-Line Performance Bar we had the entire 2010 Balance boards line-up available to test, all 3 models
from the Armada board range, the Spark range and the Shortstick and Spacekraft surfboards. There's never been a better
board line-up available from Best and the addition of the Balance boards means that there is a board to suit every
rider and riding style.
Once the sun goes down at Kite-Attitude in Dakhla the day isn't over. On the first night we ventured back into town
for the huge music concert that was taking place in the middle of town. Local musicians mixed it up with international
names, with the night being topped off by Yousson Ndour. We stood around in the crowd taking in the local culture,
enjoying the music, having a little boogy, and after 30 minutes beginning to wonder why we hadn't bought plastic
chairs like most of the Moroccan women seemed to have done. They obviously knew something about sore backs and
standing up all evening that we hadn't experienced yet.
It's a strange feeling being in a foreign country late at night in the middle of a 10,000 person crowd, looking up at
a huge scaffolding stage and televised laser light display, especially when you know that the next day it will be
replaced by a small local produce market with farmers selling everything from home made cheese to dried fruit from
their stalls. It's a world of contrasts that’s for sure.
The breakfast of champions in Dakhla is one cup of coffee, one glass of orange juice, two slices of bread, pancakes
and cream cheese, jam, honey or syrup. For the more adventurous 'foody' you could also order 'eggs'; we expected this
would actually be an omelet, but in reality it was closer to 'eggs'. We came to the conclusion that the breakfast chef
was not the evening meal or afternoon lunch chef. I don't know what they paid the chef who cooked the main meals, but
it wasn't enough. He was awesome. How anyone can cater for 100+ customers and deliver the amazing variety of tastes
and textures that he did amazes me. The food at Kite Attitude was excellent, a real treat, and an entirely unexpected
A few early arrivers had already made it out onto the water the previous day and put the new Bularoo and Kahoona V2
kites through their paces in 15-20 knot wind. But for the majority of people Peter's show-and-tell session with the
Kahoona V2 was the first time they had seen the kite in the flesh. I'd already ridden the kite several times
previously but this was the first time I'd seen a production kite in the flesh. The marketing dept are always last in
the line when it comes to new kites, well strictly speaking sales are last in the line but they don't have to write
about them or spend weeks touching up artwork files and inserting them into product catalogues .
I know the Kahoona V2 well, but it's interesting to see how people new to the kite interact with it. Having Peter,
the designer, on hand to answer questions and explain why changes were made and how they took place teaches customers
far more about the kite than any amount of marketing copy ever will. Peter discussed how each size of kite has had
significant changes made to its tip-to-tip profile as well as its canopy shaping, effectively every size have been
tuned uniquely to address any shortcomings in the original design. Every size of kite including the new 5.5m receives
updates to the construction, there's new CFT right across the kite, new LE seams, new bridle insert points and revised
bridle placement, new wingtip shaping, revised strut shaping- the list goes on and on. The easy way to sum it up is
simply to say that 95% of the kite has been changed or updated in some way. The original Kahoona DNA is the back bone
upon which this kite is built, but the V2 differs in nearly every detail. Importantly the V2 Kahoona is more
responsive, turns in faster and tighter than last year's kite and every size has had its high wind stability pushed to
the absolute limit. It's no beginners kite…
Even Ian was keen to get his hands on one and head out onto the water- not so keen when he realized that the tide was
out and that 'water' was ½ mile away or more…
Let me introduce you to Michal. Michal is our Eastern Europe Rep, and the luckiest SOAB on the planet. He entered a
competition with Reef earlier this year to win a VW transporter, and he won it. While everyone else was cutting their
feet on razor-shells in the lagoon, Michal was fishing Mermaids out of the lagoon, (you've seen 'Splash' with Daryl
Hannah? Well Michal managed the same trick but minus the fishy-tail). He even won time on the Odyssey for being the
most improved sales rep in the company. Trust me never bet against this guy, it's going to cost you- it might even
cost you your hair.
Of course there are downsides to spending a week in Paradise, you lose track of your email and have to share 800kb of
internet bandwidth with 100 other kiters who are just as keen to get on Facebook and post pictures on Kiteforum just
as you are- but I'm trying to work guys, get off the web *!:0*
After day 2 the Olympics were heating up. The first heats of the kite relay had been run. An ultra competitive team
managed by Filippo had taken a lead with the first of four legs and blasted their way home in the first leg. Part kite
skill test, part beer drinking ability the kite relay was a true all round test of athletic ability and endurance. I
missed the last heat so don't know who won overall, but my money would be on Filippo's team carrying their early
promise through to the final rounds of the relay, if not the Olympic title.
Best Kiteboarding dealer meetings have always tended to have quite a strong 'party' element to the proceedings. We
subscribe to the work hard, play hard cliché, and like to think we do it with style. In Tarifa a few years back we had
a casino night in a Bedouin tent. Cards were flying until 4am in the morning, which huge sums of chips changing hands
and sensible quantities of alcohol being consumed. In Dakhla we organized a more purist card night. Two 8 player
tables, contested for the kudos of beating their peers, and winning the buy in pot of two cans of beer per player as
well as the single malt whisky first prize.
Careers were made and broken as player bluffed, slow played, dictated and forced hands. Some big-name players were
wiped out in seemingly innocuous rounds at the hands of rank novices. Some players kept their hands and their
experience level close to their chest. After 3 hours of playing each of the two tables was down to 4 players and the
two tables combined. There was in excess of $40,000 worth of chips in play on the final table, with significant chip
leads being held by Flo-kiteboardign.de and Flo-bestkiteboarding. Team rider Oli Palmers was playing a quiet and slow
game, not betting anything less than a 5 card hand and slowing amassing other players chips. Oli's steady style was in
direct contrast to the two Flo's showy style and big talk. The game was on.
By 3am the beer-pot prize fund had been drunk, the single malt was mostly consumed and only two players were left at
the table. Flo had a sizeable stack of chips, was talking loud and playing aggressively and Oli was looking to go all
in but playing it slow. Flo thought he had Oli beat with a great 5 card hand but the truth was about to be revealed.
Both players, all in, two 5 card hands and Oli took Flo to the cleaners. Beaten by the youngster.
The next new kite to be presented to the dealers was the Bularoo v2. One look at the kite tells you that it is based
on our SLE designs rather than the new Hybrid Delta Waroo shape introduced this year. What you can't see is that, like
the Kahoona V2, every inch of the kite is new. If you have been waiting for a replacement to your older SLE Waroos
then this is it, Peter's ultimate expression of SLE kite intent. It looks as good as it flies, if I could only ever
ride one kite for life, it would be the new Bularoo. The combination of performance and convenience from the External
EZ-pump is perfect for me and it's as good in the winter snow as it is in the 105 degree spring heat of Morocco.
The next night saw the Olympics take over the bar for several rounds of pool, bar football and table tennis. One of
the teams had a 'ringer' in the table tennis, expecting to win as he'd 'played a bit', and boy could he play. The
table tennis looked all sewn up, another win for Michal's team was on the cards. However, they had reckoned without
the British magazine contingent bringing along a ringer of their own, an ex England national team player, who'd been
on the Olympic squad (back in the day). Games were played, tears were shed, insults were hurled and winners were
crowned for each event.
The following day, I had to come back home, so I missed the final round of the Olympics, but I'll chase the details
up from Michal and Filippo who looks most likely to win/lose and report back who won and who lost their hair!
Keep your eyes on the skies there are new kites winging their way to dealers all over the world. The Kahoona V2 video
will be online in Hi-def this week. The Red-Line Performance bar is undergoing a final round of minor tweaks and
revisions and will be with you soon and the Armada and Balance boards will be shipping soon.
Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come, we had a great week of kiting and associated activities and we look
forward to seeing you all again next year.