Kiteboarding Gear Thoughts for 2014
It was a light wind day and a medium wind day for the King of the Great Lakes Test Fest kiteboarding event. Over 50 brand new 2014 kites and 30 different boards were available to ride. We were a bunch of kids in the candy store for sure.
The biggest takeaway from 2 days of riding 5 different kites was how dialed in every kite and brand has become. The kiteboarding brands represented were Cabrinha, Slingshot, Liquid Force, Best and North Kites. Each kite and board from all of the brands has been dialed down and refined. I think the big trick for riders today is to decide a direction they want to push their riding skills and move toward a kite that fits that style. I can honestly say after riding the 5 different kites I would put any of them in my quiver to ride for the 2014 kiteboarding season. That being said, here are a few observations:
Cabrinha Velocity Light Wind 14 meter - okay, so I have really been trying to get on the new Cabrinha Contra 17 since it rolled in the door 3 weeks ago. The kiteboarding staff has been stealing it and at King of the Great Lakes I couldn't justify cutting the lineup waiting to ride it. So when the wind started to tick up over 10mph I grabbed the Velocity Race kite and a Liquid Force 142 Drive board to give it a go. I figured the board was a bit small, but hey it was warm and almost windy. I am an older rider and love kites that drive upwind easily. I cried when Cabrinha killed the Crossbow 13 - my main light wind kite for the last 3 years. The Velocity is a pretty solid replacement. Better upwind drive and even bigger jumps than the Crossbow. 10-12 mph wind and I was almost holding ground. I ran into a bigger rider (I am about 210lbs) walking upwind with a Best Breeze and traded boards. Instantly I was back upwind with a bigger board on my feet. Looking for an easy to ride kite with big lofty jumps and a huge wind range? The Velocity may be just the kite for you. I would recommend staying with a 14 or smaller if you weigh less than 200lbs. The extra grunt just isn't worth the slower moving kite.
Liquid Force Envy 15 meter - A really nice step up this year. The kite felt more locked in from the moment you turned it. The new Synergy Struts really hold the canopy crisp and clean. It was blowing about 15-18 mph when I got my hands on the kite. At 210lbs this is the lower end of the sweet spot for the Envy. I am pretty sure I could push it into the 22mph range without too much problem. Rock solid in the sky, easy to relaunch (although not quite as good as 2013) and super solid pop off the water. No question I will be spending more time on the Liquid Force Envy this year. One note for bigger riders - size up when looking at an Envy. A 14 meter Velocity rides like an 18m Envy would. Great job by Liquid Force with loads of materials upgrades and design improvements.
Best Kiteboarding TS 12 meter - So, around MACkite, the 17 meter TS has become the "go to" kite. We live in Michigan and 70% of our summer days are in the 10-20mph wind range - hence we need big kites. In the last 18 months, big kite performance has gone through the roof. Thank you to all the brands that are making light wind riding so much fun. Sorry, a little off track. Anyway, I have spent a fair amount of time on the 17, but virtually zero on the smaller Best TS kites. What a treat. The TS is just fun to fly. Fast turning, loads of pop and easy to relaunch. A few of the staff members at MACkite are riding the TS this year and now I know why. I would caution brand new riders about starting with a TS. A little bit of back stall if not trimmed right and very quick. It will slow your learning curve just a bit, but if you are willing to spend some extra time flying, you should be fine. This kite will be seeing me much more often in 2014.
Cabrinha Drifter 11 meter - Of course the wind picked up enough so that every kite 12 meters and larger was on the water. Man, do I wish I only weighed 140lbs. Luckily the Slingshot Knee Swacker was laying on the beach. It is a high volume small wave surf board, great for bigger riders and small waves. The Drifter definitely rides small so I needed that extra volume. This turned into some of the most fun riding I had all weekend. The Drifter is a super-fast turning wave kite that is just so easy to fly and ride. The combination was very relaxing and fun. I am not a super solid strapless rider, but the combo let me really work on my timing and foot work. A wave specific kite isn't for everyone, but the Drifter is about as good as it gets. If you are an older rider looking to prolong your knees and your sessions, a wave kite and surf board are magic. The Drifter is pretty much the same in 2014 as 2013, except for the new X1 bar system. The new system is virtually invisible for returning Cabrinha riders. The bar looks and feels identical to 2013, just the safety system has changed.
North Kites Rebel 12 meter - Thank you North Kites - they now have a large inflation valve system for 2014. One pump was great, but once you get used to Max Flow or Cabrinha when pumping, you get lazier and lazier. The Rebel is just so easy to fly and ride. If you are looking for the perfect free ride kite the Rebel delivers. Low bar pressure, fast turning, big floaty jumps, huge wind range, and drives straight upwind. I loved my short session on the Rebel and the ease of which I got used to the kite. The Rebel has a unique feel from most other kites on the market. Again, this would be the kite highly recommended to riders not looking to ride powered unhooked tricks, but have every other style at your fingertips.
Other 2014 kites I have ridden are the Slingshot Rally 12, RPM 14 (2013/14) and the Switchblade 9 and 14 meter kites. I point this out to put a final summary on 2014 kiteboarding kites. They rock! It is a great time to be a kiteboarder. Don't get too technical and over-analyze every piece of gear. Pick your riding direction and get a kite that fits that area. You really can't go wrong. Modern kites and safety systems now make kiteboarding available to everyone of almost any age.
Looking forward to seeing you on the water.
Rides: Cabrinha Switchblades, North X-ride with Entity straps and whatever is left in the test ride area.