Kiteboarding is not only one of the best sports on Earth, it’s also a great way to get some down time from the digital noise of the connected world and its auxiliary gadgets, namely computers and smartphones.
Nevertheless, kiteboarders have embraced the idea of heading for the water with a connected gadget fixed to their boards, with the purpose of tracking stuff like jump height and hangtime and then comparing their stats with other kiteboarders around the world.
One of the major players in the realm of connected kiteboarding is sports tech and sensor specialists, PIQ. In June 2016, PIQ in collaboration with North Kiteboarding released their session tracking, all-weather gadget which I have been testing out.
North PIQ Review
In the Box
The kiteboarding jump tracker comes with a waterproof casing, mount, spare adhesive strip, portable charger, activation card and setup instructions.
The North and PIQ sensor simply sticks on to your board between your foot pads using some pretty hardcore waterproof adhesive. In the box is a comprehensive guide on how and where to mount, plus a spare adhesive strip just in case you want to change boards – which I did. I couldn’t find any instructions online about how to remove the mount, but a 10 minute blast with a hair dryer did the job, and it didn’t damage the board at all. It’s recommended that you leave the adhesive to set for 24 hours before going out on the water.
Setting up the North and PIQ app is easy work. I have heard some people complaining about the amount of permissions required to install the app, but that’s not so different from most apps, these days.
After installing the app, you enter some basic details like name, weight, height, age and you’re almost ready to roll. You can then set your preferences, such as whether to display your jumps in feet or meters, and which jumps to display, such as best jump or last jump.
Ease of Use
The North PIQ kiteboarding sensor couldn’t really be much easier to use. As you’re about to get in the water, just long press the button on the sensor to turn it on and you’re ready to start tracking. A second long press on the button will turn it off when you’re done.
When it comes to pairing with your smartphone to transfer data after a session, I haven’t had any issues. When the sensor is turned on it should automatically pair when you’re in Bluetooth range, but you can also manually pair using the app. Once the Bluetooth connection is established, the app will prompt you to sync, then your session data is transferred.
The North PIQ sensor tracks your jump height, total jump height, average jump height, hangtime, total hangtime, average hangtime, rotation (360, 720 and 1080), landing G-force, average landing G-force, session duration, total session duration, and PIQ Score. PIQ Score is a decent feature as it compares your overall capabilities to other kitesurfers – based on your average stats.
There’s also a panel that shows all the jumps you performed in an entire session, and graphs that show your progress over days, weeks and months.
The sensor has an LED Matrix display that displays your jump height on the fly. The height is automatically displayed just after you land your jump and stays on the screen for about 5 seconds. If you miss it, like I normally do, you can press the button on the sensor and the height will be displayed again.
You can use the app to change the settings of the display. It can be set to show your last jump or best height. You can also select a minimum height to be displayed, and turn off the automatic display feature if you prefer.
The display can be a bit hard to read if it’s a sunny day because the sun reflects off the transparent waterproof casing. One of the first things other kiters normally ask me about the North PIQ sensor, is what I think of the display. It takes a bit of getting used to, especially in sun, but it’s definitely a cool feature not having to wait to open the app to see how high you’re jumping.
The PIQ sensor, which is actually called the PIQ ROBOT, is capable of analyzing more than 195,000 data points per minute.
How accurate in terms of jump height is the North and PIQ sensor? It’s hard to say when you’re flying through the air in 25 knots of wind. However, the readings seem consistent and I’ve done some tests watching a fellow kiter doing some jumps with my board and the results seemed to match up to our estimates.
PIQ have teamed up with several high-profile sports companies such as Everlast for boxing, Babolat for tennis, Mobitee for golf, and Rossignol for snowboarding; so they have some pretty strong credentials for being the company who can deliver cutting-edge sensor technology.
The North and PIQ app is compatible with iOS 8.0 + and Android 4.3 +. It uses your smartphone’s GPS to get your location, or you can input your location manually. You can view previous sessions and write notes to make each session more memorable, and input the wind and wave data.
The North PIQ leaderboard is occupied by a sizable and growing community of kitesurfers of all levels. You can view your position on the leaderboard in terms of jump height, hangtime and PIQscore. You can also see who’s top of the leaderboard at your local spot, in your country or internationally. Currently the highest international jump is 29.9 meters.
There are some other cool leaderboard features, such as adding friends and the option to receive notifications when one of your friends performs a session. You also have the option to manually or automatically post your sessions to the leaderboard.
The sensor has a battery life of around three hours, which for me is long enough as the choppy conditions at my local spot make a two hour session seem like a four hour session. It’s charged via USB and the charging dongle is also a portable power bank which holds enough juice to charge the sensor three times.
Currently $208 USD at PIQ.com and they ship to most countries.
North PIQ Review – Verdict
Am I going to continue using the North PIQ kitesurfing tracker? definitely! It’s added a new dimension to my sessions and motivates me to push harder, beat my last score and climb up that leaderboard.