The North Evo Vs the Cabrinha Switchblade
The top two performance freeride kites in the world. How do they stack up?
A little history.
The last decade and a half, kiteboarding culture has come into its own. In the formative years, we had legends like Pete Cabrinha, Robby Naish, Lou Wainman defining the sport, and the list goes on and on. Most kiteboarders lived in Hawaii and other tropical locations. At first, the sport wasn't accessible to everyone. The gear wasn't safe or efficient - albeit, it was fun if you had the fortitude! Around the year 1999, MACkite got into the kiteboarding business. Steve, our fearless leader, was a competitive kite flyer and open to anything kite related. As the sport evolved, so did MACkite. Fast forward to the year 2006. It wasn't uncommon to see small crews of kiteboarders on local beaches everywhere. We had been doing kiteboarding lessons for 6 years and, well, we came to some hard realizations. Back then, kiteboarding was hard! Our students rarely came out of a lesson stoked on the sport. Between the steep learning curve and shear strength, it just didn't add up.
The real game changer.
In 2006, something changed. Enter the Cabrinha Switchblade! With the introduction of bow kites, every year kiteboarding became safer and easier. Fast forward another few years. I found myself working as an instructor at MACkite and for me, there was one universal truth. The Cabrinha Switchblade was king! It was the kite I learned on and the kite I taught with. Over the years, I became more involved with the shop and interacting with our customers. Eventually taking on a role in sales. During this time, I learned there are two camps in kiteboarding. Camp Cabrinha and camp North. Even more interesting, people who flew either of these brands were beyond committed. Without even releasing it, I had fallen into camp Cabrinha. Naturally, coming on the staff full time part of my job was to get familiar with all the brands and all the models. Tough gig, I know! That said, there isn't much room for subjective bias when working in a kite shop with all the major brands. I started spending more and more time on North gear. I logged some serious hours on the Juice, the Dice and the entire board line up. On a side note, you should check out the North Jaime Textreme or X-Ride, trust me.
I was hooked! Yet, there was one kite that I had not become familiar with. The Switchblades twin brother, the Evo. I had flown it less than a handful of times. I knew what it was all about but I was viewing with a bit of bias for two reasons. First, kites like the FX and Dice were new and appealing to me. Second, I learned and progressed on the Switchblade so I always viewed it with that lens. In the 2017 Lesson season, we changed up the kites in our lessons center. Now I had access to teach and use all the brands on a regular basis. Enter, the North Evo! There are so many things about this kite to love. This is the most versatile kite in the entire North line up. That means regardless of your level or riding style, this kite is going to perform for you. It sits right between the Dice and the Rebel. That means like the Rebel, the Evo drives upwind with next to no effort on the rider. It will also have big lofty effortless jumps albeit, not as lofty or effortless as a Rebel. Likewise in relation to the Dice, the Evo performs in the waves and works great for unhooked riding. Again, the Dice does both of those things a little better but the Evo offers some advantages. My beloved Switchblade sits in the same place in the Cabrinha line up and for the same reasons.
Much like the Switchblade the Evo is what I like to call a pull and go kite. This means it requires very little rider feedback to perform at a high level. I like to make the analogy that the North Dice, & Vegas like the Cabrinha FX & Chaos are Manual transmission. While the Evo and Switchblade are automatic. What does this mean for you? Both kites will allow you to progress quickly to your highest level of kiteboarding. The extended wind range, the easy upwind drive and the pull and go jumping just make sense. When learning as a beginner or progressing as an intermediate to advanced rider, these things are paramount in progression. You’re not going to get far if your kite doesn't rocket you back up wind after a jump or perform optimal in light winds!
How do they stack up?
So how do the Evo and the Switchblade stack up back to back. Well, they both fall into the same category and they both offer many of the same benefits I listed. The first thing that stands out on the Evo is the fact that it can run as a 4 or a 5 line kite. We've addressed 4 line vs 5 line before. What it comes down to is the 5 line offers something like 5% more depower when you deploy the safety system. Making it the safest system on the market. There is a catch. With the 5th line, you run the risk of your kite rolling around the fifth line in a hectic crash or in the waves. The good news is you can run the Evo as a 4 line and this is my preferred method. Frankly, I find the 4 line safety on these two kites to be equal. In 2017 it's silly to compare the safety systems of any of the major brands. They all do it equally well.
Our 2018 Switchblade Overview
North Evo Overview
I'm overdue to produce an Evo overview
Let's talk about the wind range.The Switchblade does have an advantage here. On the top end both of these kites are similar. The Switchblade however, has a little more low end. Meaning you can take the same size kite out in less wind. Now, there is a catch here too. Experienced riders, with any lightwind flying skills will be able to use the Evo in the same wind range. To give you perspective, I've taken both the 12 Evo and 12 switchblade out in as little as 11 mph. Most surprising is that both of these sessions were still fun! Bear in mind I am 185 and and I was riding a 148 light wind board.
Let's talk about bar pressure. The Switchblade has come along way in this regard. The early iterations had the stigma of oppressive heavy bar pressure. In 2015 We saw vast improvements here.
And I'm happy to say the switchblade has a much lighter feel. That said, the Evo offers much less bar pressure. Now, I see this as a fair tradeoff for the slight difference in low end power. I found the Evo offers an advantage with the light bar pressure. This has been amazing for my female students who don't care for the heavy feel of a switchblade.
Another point of interest is the pigtail options. The switchblade offers three knots on the pigtails when setting up your kite. This allows you to change the angle of attack and thus the wind range on your kite. In lighter wind, you can use the knot closest to your kite to add some power. In moderate to strong winds you can use the other two knot options to optimize your session. In relation to the Bridle, there are two wingtip settings. The A for lighter bar pressure and faster turning. The B for more feedback, higher bar pressure, and shortened depower. It will also slow down the turning of the kite. The B setting is a great option when learning new tricks!
The Evo, offers one knot on the pigtails however, it has three offerings on the bridle. The soft setting which does the same as the A setting on the switchblade. The hard setting again, doing the same as the B setting. Finally, there is the medium setting, this is the stock setting and it bridges the gap between the two. So while the Evo may not offer as many pigtails, it does have more customization in this regard.
So what kite is better?
Frankly I've never seen any two kites so equally yoked. It comes down to the handful of differences that I mentioned and what resonates with you. A large part of it is feel as well. I recommend you try both of these kites out both brands have a certain feel that is difficult to articulate.
Switchblade has more low-end, higher bar pressure and more customization in the pigtails.
The Evo, has lighter bar pressure, faster turning. Slightly less low-end and more customization on the bridle.
Aside from these few differences you'll have to decide what camp you're in or you can be like me and break free. Kiteboarding is fun, new gear is fun. At the end of the day, the kite you spend the most time on is the kite you are going to love. Get out there and shred on my friends!
Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people. 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.