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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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