Elliot Leboe Speaks ...
of Riding Styles, Caribbean Shredding, Foilboards
Elliot Leboe recently passed through Miami, Florida on his way home from Kiteboarding Magazine's "Pirates of Caribbean" Tour. He stopped by Waterplay.com, a prominent Miami kiteboarding store, to regale local riders with stories and wisdom learned on, in and over the waters of Maui.
Elliot is a laid back, unpretentious and likeable guy. He is fairly tall at around 6 ft.+, (does everyone look shorter in videos?) and weighs out at around 190 lbs. Elliot had his start in Texas and in windsurfing. He moved to Maui in 1996 to take on the world in competitive windsurfing. After a couple of years on the competition circuit he was looking around for something new and different to tackle.
Elliot And Kiteboarding
Elliot met Lou Waiman, a strong wakeboarder and windsurfer and started wakeboarding as well and got hooked! The problem with wakeboarding and Maui is a shortage of boats, marinas and unrestricted nearshore areas to ride in. If the whales are grazing around the island even more restrictions apply. So Elliot and Lou were dreaming of wakeboarding tricks without the hassle of dealing with powerboats. Suddenly a light bulb goes off ... "KITES", they got a communal Wipika Classic 5 m kite, enrolled in the "School of Hard Knocks" in February 1998 and never looked back! These guys kited to wakeboard which may explain the wake kiteboarding style that these two riders championed along with other prominent riders. Happy Fifth Anniversary Elliot! He moved on to Blades and a sizeable list of other kites over time.
Since that time Elliot has become a regular in many kiteboarding videos flying hard and shredding fast. Many of us have seen his shambling gate on land and incredible exploits on and over the water on the small screen. Today he is a top rider on the International Cabrinha team.
Kent Marinkovic of Adventure Sports, a major distributor for Cabrinha and Bic Sports, one of the three successful riders to cross from Key West to Cuba via kiteboard and a mighty fine shredder in his own right, acted as emcee the night that Elliot visited Miami.
Kent and Pia
Blasted In Leucate, Riding Style And the Caribbean
Kent asked Elliot to relate what the highest winds he has kiteboarded in. Elliot said that it would have to have been in Leucate, France in 2000. He said that the wind honked for five days from 50 to 70 KNOTS! The competitors sat on the beach and tried to stay warm throughout all of this. The last day of the competition a relative lull hit with the winds only 35 to 50 KNOTS! Add 40 degree F temperature and you can begin to imagine the less than congenial conditions. The sponsors said guys, "hit the waves" and so they did. Elliot, trooper to the last went out in these howling winds, cold and without a warm-up only to blowout his knee. I remember reading about the event and the rider's exploits. Hearing it first person from a participant adds new insight to the incredible, harsh conditions.
Elliot and other prominent riders just returned from the Caribbean with Kiteboarding Magazine. They visited many islands including Jamaica, Bonaire, St. Lucia and Barbados. Ryan Riccitelli of Kiteboarding Mag. should have an excellent spread on this event soon so stay tuned. Elliot related riding in one of the sheltered salt ponds on the south end of Bonaire. We are talking flat calm, shallow PINK water, complete with Flamingos and those funky shrimp and frequent strong winds creeping into the 30 mph+ range. Shouldn't be many (any), windsurfers there at least. Just watchout for those cranes! I had thought about riding in the ponds two years ago but chickened out, next time!
Elliot indicated that he is more likely to change bar size, followed by board type before he ever will switch kites with changing wind conditions. Apparently, coming from a strong two line kite background and wakestyle kiteboarding has given him a strong appreciation and feel for variations in bar length. Today with pulley bars, chicken loops and other advantages bar variation on the fly makes sense.
He also spoke about the new trend in shorter boards, around 90 to 110 cm in length by about 32 cm wide. He indicated that you might be surprised by how short a board you could go out with in non-nuclear winds. He attributed this largely to today's more efficient kite designs.
Elliot indicated that jump styles vary widely between wake-style and conventional kiteboarding. In wake-style jumping you may have the kite 40 degrees off the horizon, edging big time while you build up a mega load in the kite and lines. Bindings are essential to stay glued to your board under these conditions of course. You jump lit in this fashion pumping up the need for finessing the kite to arrange a landing at something less than light speed. This as contrasted to the more sedate, never thought I would call it that, jump style of conventional kiteboarding, initiating the jump near the vertical. Coming from his wakeboard roots he is currently spending part of his time in bindings and part of the time in foot straps.
Elliot went over the new Cabrinha foilboard at length displaying a prototype system. The complete rig-out including board, foil, boots, clicker bindings assembled is going for $1795.00 USD from Cabrinha. They have aluminum foil assemblies in production and should appear on the market in a few months. These aluminum foils may retail for about $650.00 USD, add your own board. I believe the foil assemblies will come with three different sized foils or wings for varying lift over a given wind range. G10 foils are under development in China currently that may offer different performance and weight characterisitics. Cabrinha has some website information about this new design at:
http://cabrinhakitesurfingmaui.com/cab_ ... 4-16167129
Elliot indicated that solo launching a foilboard is possible but quite tricky. I would imagine waves would make it quite a challenge. He indicated that the normal drill is to walkout into deeper water wearing "Clicker" snowboarding boots.
Clicker Bindings and Panic Release Cable
He then clicks into the board bindings and a helper brings the kite out to him. Launching is fairly easy and riding is smooth as silk. The stability far exceeds that of any other type of board when you are flying along (until you fall over at least). He wears TWO LIFE JACKETS for flotation while foilboarding! He said that they had experimented with a wide variety of other bindings but settle on the Clicker system as providing the best characteristics. Apparently foilboarding puts major torsion and shear loading on your ankles hence the need for the exceptional support. He would like to see them come up with a revised boot design that doesn't absorb water, unlike the current variety and is a lot lighter. The quick release knobs on the Clicker bindings have been linked with a cable for easier releasing in emergencies. Your flotation jackets had better stay put as I think the distance swimming record in snowboard boots is almost the width of a six person Jacuzzi with a three beer handicap, almost! Elliot uses the foilboard both for towing and kiteboarding.
Check this out, Elliot says that when he uses the foilboard, HE DROPS TWO kite sizes compared to what he would normally ride with. We are talking a LIGHT WIND MARVEL here, sound like Florida and other lighter wind destinations? He uses it pretty much in lighter winds only in Maui. He related a session in Jamaica where he was the only guy on the water tearing it up while the other kiteboarders sat on the beach and wind waited.
Elliot had gone riding with the foilboard off Ft. Lauderdale and was captured in the act by Chris Kjos of Kitesurfusa.com (thanks Chris!), on video clips of which appear at:
ELLIOT FOILBOARD 360 SLO MO....7 MEG
Ft Lauderdale Kitebeach 12/2002 ...33.4 megs
Elliot indicated that you jump the foilboard conventionally. Then again there is that 16 lb. aluminum foil swinging like a heavy pendulum during jumps to deal with. That may be one important reason for the mega ankle support requirements. It is interesting that after you slam in following a jump you slide down only part of the way along the foil shaft into the water then you rise right back up. Sort of like yo yo shredding! He indicated that you do a lot of weight balancing between your front and rear foot dynamically while riding.
I asked Elliot about wiping out with this contraption secured to you by snowboarding boots. He said other than the weight of it managing wiping out wasn't all that different but of course you do need that major flotation. He did indicate some uncomfortable incidents while towing in which you are pulled under the water for an extended period by the foil. Just hold your breath and wait, that's a good boy, ouch! One thing to NEVER do I would imagine would be to STRIKE BOTTOM at speed. The mechanics of such an impact in shallows with that long foil riser lever arm are impressive AND to be strictly avoided!
Elliot indicated that when you were in increasing overpowered conditions you would load up your front foot in an attempt to keep the board level and moving out. At one point if you are way over powered, the foil develops so much lift that it comes out of the water and dumps you on your side. Windsurfing with too large a skeg will result in a similar experience in overpowered conditions.
Elliot has tried snow kiteboarding and ate it up. He felt that he couldn't spend much time in the mountains to get well on top of this game. How about a series of Snow Kiteboarding videos with the Maui crew? It would be entertaining but it must be hard to master flying on and over water in more than one state. So for now he is going to stick to water shredding.
He indicated that Laird Hamilton and Rush Randle developed the foilboard concept more or less at the same time in Maui but independently of one another. He related a story involving Laird's wife doing a Skychair demo at an event that set Laird into mental over-drive wondering ... what about putting this thing on a board?! He put it on a wakeboard and played around with a long list of bindings. He thought that 10 to 15 ft. waves were the current limit for foilboards. Elliot indicated that these foilboards turned very easily as compared to earlier two foil boards that stayed straight and true regardless of your attempts to turn. He stated something unexpected that in using a foilboard you become aware of a whole new world of currents and lift associated with waves that are transmitted to the board from JUST BENEATH THE SURFACE. He said you sense waves before you are actually in them.
JAWS (photos from: http://www.haliimaile-softball.com/index.html
Elliot related some of his experience riding in JAWS of the North Coast of Maui near Paia. JAWS has unusual even unique bathymetric characteristics that allows rapidly shoaling of massive deepwater waves. The resulting monster 50 to 60 ft. nearshore waves are served up for tow-in surfers, windsurfers and the odd kiteboarder. That is anyone that can hump at 30 mph to catch these monster combers.
He indicated that as the wave moves towards shore it shifts or refracts to the left. This is why you see guys blast over the top of the wave to the right. You may recall footage of quite a few riders being explosively "sneezed" out of the wave by blasting wind and spray from the collasping tube. If you go left you may well have a rock sandwich and then some. You may recall some footage of Elliot and friends at JAWS in the video "Powerzone." More about wave phenomena at this unique spot appears in the November 1998 issue of National Geographic:
and from a more technical side in "Wave Refraction at Jaws, Maui" in the article by Fearing and Dalrymple:
Elliot related the demise of three wave runners (wet bikes not riders), on the rocks in recent months there. A good friend of his recently expired at JAWS and then was revivified on the rocks. A surreal life altering experience and from reports, it has.
So that is a look at Elliot, a bit about where he has come from and what he is into these days. The meeting will give me a new perspective on the man and shredder. It will add a bit more appreciation the next time I see him ripping hard and styling large in video.
copyright 2003 Rick Iossi