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The Cabrinha Drifter vs The Switchblade - Versus w/ Rygo Ep 20

Posted by Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic on

So if you’ve watched the last few videos, you might have caught Freeride Kites vs Freestyle Kites where we talked about how most kites that undergo years of development slowly get so well rounded that they cross over into all-around territory. The Cabrinha Drifter is one of those kites. While it is a surf specific kite, it is a great contender as an all-around freeride kite. It’s even decent at unhooking.

So the first thing to consider would be the most obvious, and that is where these kites fall in the Cabrinha line up. The Switchblade is an all-around freeride kite while the Drifter is designed with strapless freestyle and surf in mind. Now, here’s where the lines get a little blurry, both of these kites do work well in the waves and both of these kites function as all around kites. It goes without saying, the Drifter is better in the surf, and the Switchblade is better at just about everything else. Now before you make up your mind, there are some compelling reasons to consider the drifter as an alternative.

So how do these kites stack up back to back?

How they Turn

Something that comes to mind is how they fly. Like most wave kites, the drifter is going to have more pivotal turns and be inherently faster. While the switchblade is going to have a smooth arching turn.

The Drifter is a bit more responsive, it’s a faster turning kite while the Switchblade is a touch more delayed and turns slower.

The first thing that comes to mind with these differences is that a beginner rider is going to benefit from the Switchblade while a slightly more experienced rider might like the lighter and faster characteristics of the Drifter. A great example of this is our shop rider, Marc. He’s been riding with us since we opened in 1999 and the Drifter has a certain appeal to him for the waves and beyond, as it’s his choice kite of the year.

The Pivotal turns make the Drifter a prime choice for kitesurfing or foilboarding.  


The Switchblade reigns king here again. It jumps better, feels smoother on the takeoff, gets more lift and more hang time. Conversely, the Drifter is actually only a small step behind. The jumps feel a bit more aggressive but not nearly as aggressive as say the FX. The kite also gets good air but it tends to drift downwind more so than the Switchblade.

An interesting note when speaking with Marc, he found when he sets the Drifter up for offshore wind it actually feels more similar to Switchblade. It drifts less downwind on the jumps and has a more old-school hangtime feel.

Marc getting big air on the Cabrinha Drifter.

Actually, it was fun picking Marc's brain on these kites as he has flown every iteration of the Switchblade from the first generation to this year's line-up and the last couple years he’s logged a lot of hours on the Drifter. He made a comment that resonated true and that is every year, all the Cabrinha kites seem to get closer and closer in feel. Much like I spoke about a few videos back, when kites go through years and years of refinement, it’s inevitable that they become incredibly well rounded.

So what does that mean for you? Basically, the modern Switchblade performs a lot better in the waves than it did even a few years ago and the Drifter has gone from a very niche, surf-specific kite to a great all-around contender.

The Cabrinha Switchblade is know for huge air and lofty jumps. 

Wind range & Upwind ability

Another point of interest is how well each kite rides upwind. The Switchblade is going to ride upwind better, it will also have a noticeably better low-end. That said, this is for a good reason. The Drifter is meant to excel in the waves and most surfers want a kite that won’t overpower them while wave riding. The Drifter will actually have more high-end meaning it works better in strong winds as that is optimal for wave riding. I’ve put a lot of time in the waves on the switchblade and I never think twice about grabbing it on those pumping fall days here, but in a direct comparison, once in a while, the Switchblade gets powered up and pulls me off the wave. That’s an inevitability with any all-around kite except maybe the Naish pivot which is very wave minded. We’ll save that for another video soon.

An interesting note, with it’s faster turning speed, the Drifter actually does make up for low-end. And while the Drifter is rated for stronger wind per size, the Switchblade will get so much air on the higher end without feeling out of control!

Cabrinha has a solid rating system for all of there kites. 

So in summary,

If you’re new to kiteboarding, crave big air and need a kite that will excel at every facet of our sport, the Switchblade has a lot of advantages. It jumps a little better, gets more hangtime, rides upwind better and has a massive wind range. Yet it is a slower kite, it’s not as good in the waves as the Drifter and being five struts has a heavier yet more refined stable feel. In contrast, the Drifter is hands down one of the most versatile wave kites out there, it’s been in Cabrinha's lineup for a long time and undergone lots of refinement making it a very compelling choice for wave riders who don’t want to sacrifice all other disciplines for a wave specific kite.

Something else I should point out is that Marc felt the differences in these kites were hardly noticeable but to tell you the truth, that’s because he’s been riding so long that his experience is different than say mine or yours and especially from a beginners standpoint. I’m sure a lot of you have noticed this too. The longer you ride, the easier everything gets even equally matched gear! So with that said, this is an important theme for this video. If you’re an experienced rider looking for an edge in the waves but you still want a great all-around kite, the Drifter is a ridiculously good option. If you’re new to the sport, could you learn on a Drifter? Absolutely, but you would be doing yourself a favor by opting for a Switchblade. 

Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic

Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people who pulled the trigger. About eight years into a postal career, he decided to change everything and travel as a freelance videographer & writer. This took him from coast to coast and a variety of countries. Nowadays you can catch him on the phones, doing lessons, or working on videos. Of course, he still makes a point to travel as often as possible. He is passionate about helping people and sharing the stoke with his customers and students alike.