For 2020, Cabrinha has two kites that might interest the same rider. They are both aimed at big air riders who want to jump high and enjoy a kite with good hangtime: the Cabrinha Switchblade and the new AV8. While they have some cross-over characteristics, these are different kites designed for a different purpose and a different kiteboarder. I've noticed some people get annoyed while watching the product videos that claim the AV8 is a boosting machine or that the Switchblade has even lighter bar pressure yet again. A lot of this comes down to misconceptions. Most brands have a couple kites with similar characteristics, and let's be honest: most kites from the major brands have been great for a long time now. As a kite reviewer, it can be challenging to offer the right information, especially when some kites don't change all that much any more. This is the case with this review. The 2020 Switchblade, aside from standard material updates, is unchanged. I wanted to do this comparison to give you some perspective, explain how each kite feels and performs, and to help you decide which one is right for you.
We've had our hands on the AV8 for a few months now and we've been testing. This new kite is being touted as a big air machine and a rocking race kite for you hydrofoil enthusiasts. So the real question here is, where do these two kites stack up against one another? Which one is right for you? And maybe most importantly, which one jumps better? Let's get to it.
The AV8 has a larger wind range
In previous reviews, I've often touted the Cabrinha Switchblade as having one of the largest wind ranges on the market. I do still stand by that to a fault. Just the other day I actually flew the 7m while everyone else was on 12's and 15's. It wasn't the ride of my life. Jumping wasn't amazing in those circumstances; it was actually pretty awful, mind you, I was on a half the size I normally would have chosen. My point is, I still got upwind and stayed there with everyone else on 14-15 meter kites.
In contrast, looking at the 2020 Cabrinha AV8, that kite actually does have a larger wind range on both ends, meaning more low end and more high end, something I don't often see when comparing kites. Usually one favors a certain end of the wind range.
For you, this means the AV8 will ride upwind better, and even if conditions get a lot stronger or lighter, you'll be set on whatever size AV8 you started with. It's pretty hard to choose the wrong size on either of these kites, but the AV8 is a clear winner here.
We were shocked at the low end on the AV8. Paired with a hydrofoil, you can really scrape the bottom of the barrel with this kite. The speed and depower was incredibly useful while foiling, and welcomed on a twintip while riding strong, gusty days.
The AV8 has more bar pressure
Bar Pressure and Feel
These kites each have their own unique feel, and bar pressure can be be somewhat subjective. The Switchblade, depending on who you ask, has a light to moderate bar pressure. Most find it moderately heavy. The AV8, regardless of who you ask, has a heavy bar pressure. It has that original bow kite truck-like pull, paired with an exceptional depower. While the AV8 has 5 struts and it has that powerful truck-like pull, in the sky it's reminiscent of the original Switchblade, or even the Crossbow if you remember that kite. Unlike those kites, it's surprisingly efficient and smooth, very much a park-and-pull style kite yet exceptionally fast, even more so than the 2020 Switchblade.
In contrast, the Switchblade is lighter and more maneuverable, a true modern day hybrid. For perspective, the Switchblade is not as light or as fast as Cabrinha's three strut Moto. Yet between these two, there's a big difference in playfulness. The Switchblade has that familiar all-around feel for a rider who likes to actively fly their kite, yet can also park and pull, meaning incorporating lots of kite movement, downloop and kiteloop based tricks. The AV8 is much more of a park it and leave it kite. I've referred to the Switchblade as having an autopilot feel and, well, take that to another level on the AV8. You don't have to, and somewhat don't want to, get too aggressive with the kite. You pretty much just let the kite pull you across the water and through the air. You can get a little playful with the AV8, but the Switchblade, being more of an all-around design, has the advantage here.
While the AV8 has more of a park-and-pull feel, the general fast speed of kite makes for a unique feel that is hard to come by or explain without flying the kite yourself. It's very traditional, yet too fast to be grouped in with other kites of a similar category. Definitely don’t expect or confuse the AV8 to be anything like the Duotone Rebel. This is a completely different animal, but admittedly it does attract the same rider.
The AV8 gets more hangtime
When it comes to jumping, I'll get right to the point. The Switchblade still jumps higher. Well, higher for intermediate or advanced riders who know what they are doing. It's just a faster-turning kite and the arc allows you to really whip the kite for a powerful pop. Now, this doesn't tell the full story. For new riders, the AV8 is actually going to jump easier and you'll probably get more height out of the AV8 at first. For perspective, keep in mind that, compared to other kites, I've often referenced the Switchblade to be the easier jumper. The AV8 definitely takes that autopilot feel to the next level.
For anyone who knows how to work a kite, you'll have a different experience. Like I mentioned, while you won't get as much height on the AV8, you will get more airtime and loft regardless of your experience, as well as downwind drift on the jumps. So if you're into sent jumps there are advantages to both kites.
This part is pretty subjective and simply comes down to what you're looking for out of your session: massive height from the Switchblade or sacrificing some power and maybe your place on the Woo leaderboard for more airtime. If you're into board-offs, complicated rotations, or you just want extra time in the air to learn new tricks, the AV8 is a better choice. If you want to just send it, the Switchblade is that king of the air style kite.
Final Thoughts on Jumping
Each kite caters to big air riders. The AV8 has a flatter arc appealing to old school riders, people who want more airtime for advanced tricks, or someone who just wants a floaty ride. The Switchblade still has a great deal of loft, it's more versatile, and you can always throw in a heli loop for a little extra loft if needed.
The 2020 Cabrinha Swtichblade has a better relaunch
So what about the relaunch? I often don't touch on this unless there is something to consider. Do you remember the Apollo? With its massive leading edge, relaunching that kite was not easy. Well, fortunately, the AV8, while in a similar family, is much easier than the kite it's replacing in the lineup. A lot easier. Albeit, we find the Switchblade to still be the easiest. To elaborate further on the point, the AV8 is almost as easy to relaunch, with the exception of lighter winds or days when there isn't much wind on the surface of the water. Don't get me wrong either; if you're an experienced rider with at least a year or two of kiteboarding, this will be a non-issue. If you're a new kiteboarder, the Switchblade's going to be easier.
Kite Surfing Waves
The Switchblade is going to be better. The all-around design and lighter bar pressure make it a better choice. I've spoken with a few people who tested the AV8 in the waves and they all had the same story. It's better than you would think. The kite pretty much sits there and the fast speed designed for racing allows the kite to keep up with the rider on the wave. It's not the fastest-turning kite and not exactly designed for waves, but it will work.
Blake testing the 2020 Cabrinha AV8
The AV8 is a clear winner here. It's part of Cabrinha's one design race foil program and a kite our team loves to foil with. If you're new to hydrofoiling the Switchblade isn’t going to hurt your progression. If you're intimidated, the AV8 will keep up better at higher speeds and has a lot of welcomed depower. I do want to mention, aside from racing, we still prefer the Cabrinha Drifter on a hydrofoil, but the AV8 is a close second in our books.
Last up is Kiteloops. So when it comes to this point, the AV8 is fast so you can expect downloops to be fluid and powerful and useful in precision transitions. When it comes to actual kiteloops, the AV8 is probably a bit much with the power and the arc it takes in the wind window. For sure you can loop it, but the Switchblade is a better tool for the job. It has a touch less power in the loop, is more precise, and as it's a modern day hybrid, it's a lot more fun. If you are huge into kiteloop-based tricks you'll want to be on the Swtichblade. For perspective, the Moto is even better and easier, while the FX is better, faster and more advanced, making the Switchblade the most autopilot-like kite in the range that caters to advanced riders who like to mix things up with powerful or creative kiteloop-based tricks from time to time.
Last, of course, is racing. The AV8 is Cabrinha's official racing kite, so it goes without saying it's a better choice. The kite is incredibly fast and designed with racing in mind, especially paired with the AV8 hydrofoil.
In summary, there are two kites in Cabrinha's lineup boasting they excel at massive air, upwind-ablilty and ease of use.
The takeaway is that the Switchblade still jumps higher for experienced riders. The AV8 does have the larger wind range and is loftier. The Switchblade is more versatile for waves, kiteloops and even unhooked freestyle. It's a true do-it-all hybrid. The AV8 is more niche, aimed at big air riders who just want to get loads of air time with very little work or skill required on their end. It's also suitable for hydrofoiling race enthusiasts who want to progress in their hydrofoil game.
As always, Versus is an open forum so we do welcome your feedback. If you've flown the AV8, share your experience in the YouTube comments and help everyone reading decide which of these two kites is right for them.
Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Just a dude from a kite shop testing all the gear one session at a time.
Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people who pulled the trigger. A few years into a postal career, he decided to change everything and travel as a kiteboarder, freelance videographer & writer. His mission is to help people and share the stoke. Get out there and kite!
Producer of: Ride with Blake I Sessions I Versus I Destinations I Foil Fridays