Two freestyle kites that at first glance look similar, yet are noticeably different on the water... the long-standing Cabrinha FX and the even-longer-standing, yet new to the category Liquid Force NV. If you’re looking for a kite to take your kiteloops or unhooked riding to a new level, these will get it done. The question is, which kite is right for you? Today we’ll break it all down and dive into everything you need to know.
Let’s dive into some common attributes between these kites.
On paper, both of these kites have about the same wind range. On the water, you’re going to notice a difference. While they are similar, the NV seems to perform better on the high end while the FX favors the low end. What I mean is, I found the FX to maintain a powerful and explosive pop even when underpowered. The NV, like most freestyle kites, shares this trait but not to the same extent. When lit on these kites, the NV comes to life with power. Likewise, the FX remains lively on the high end. When it comes to upwind ability, I found them to be true to the wind charts. Not surprisingly, there’s no advantage or disadvantage between the two.
I won’t go into detail since I’ve done a lot of videos on freestyle kites, but you will need to work both of these kites more than their freeride counterparts. The NV, even on a smaller bar, has a light, responsive, fast turn, making sine-ing the kite easy. The FX has more of a flowing feel to it and more grunt.
While this point is mostly a tie, I’m going to say there is no advantage with upwind ability but a small advantage with pop on the FX on the low-end, namely due to feedback as opposed to performance.
After filming this review, I was able to put some more time in on the NV. I found that when sine-ing in lighter wind, I was able to get the kite a bit deeper in the window and the faster speed of the smaller sizes like the 10.5 was more powerful than I first realized while testing in Portugal. It did, however, take a little more work on my part to generate this power.
The Liquid Force NV V9 has lighter bar pressure
Bar Pressure and Feel
These kites feel completely different. I mentioned in our NV year-to-year comparison that the V9 has more bar pressure and an even load between the lines. Compared to the FX, the NV has much lighter bar pressure. Even on the heavy setting, I was surprised at the contrast. This impacted the kite in every way imaginable, from the stability to the load and pop.
Again, after filming this video, I was able to get more time in on the NV. If you pair the NV with the smaller AMP control bar, there seems to be more bar pressure. I also found pairing it with a stiffer board like the Echo made a huge difference. The kite started to feel a lot more direct like the FX. On my first test in the fall, I was using the Echo and a smaller Cabrinha bar on the NV, so that might explain why it seemed so different later on while testing on a larger bar and softer board.
The NV is really unique as, even when powered, the bar pressure is lighter. This could be an advantage or drawback depending on your perspective. New riders are going to feel confident trying new tricks as you’re not going to feel all that powered when loading the kite. This was something I’ve not experienced on the other freestyle kites. They all have a similar feel on the load. The FX certainly doesn't have heavy bar pressure, but it is direct and noticeable. When unpowered the FX is similar to the NV, yet when powered you can really feel the explosiveness on the load. I’ll cover more on this in a minute.
All in all, the FX feels similar to other crossover kites like the Dice and the Dash, while the NV is lighter and has more of a park-and-pull feel to it. No doubt it would be a great choice for anyone looking to ride in the kitepark. In regards to feel, the NV is a little closer to the Duotone Dice, but lighter, smoother and less direct.
Final thoughts on the NV: after further testing, I found the kite seems to have more bar pressure when paired with the AMP bar on the lowest spot possible. It's still not as direct as the FX, but because I prefer more bar pressure myself, I was pleased with this discovery.
Rygo throwing an off axis front roll stalefish for our jump with style playlist
This was a point with some differences.
Hooked in, the NV had a smoother jump, while the FX maintained the same explosive feel. As I’ve mentioned before, kites in this category take a bit of timing. The FX takes a bit more skill, while the NV jumps somewhat more like a freeride kite. I think the FX has a touch more C kite characteristics while the NV still leans towards the user-friendly hybrid direction. Here’s where I noticed the first trade-offs. Take this with a grain of salt as I have been flying the FX for three years now, where I’m just getting used to the NV. I found the FX to be a little loftier and I got a bit more height out of it. That said, I found the NV to jump easier and take less timing on my part.
As an update to my testing on the NV, I found the kite responds better to a stiffer board. I was able to get a great deal more height when pairing the NV with the Echo. The speed and, more importantly, the stiffness of that board really gave me a more connected feel and I started getting more and more air out of the kite. I try to be mindful on my opinions about kites until I've tested them extensively as time has shown me every kite takes time to learn and maximize performance on the water.
The FX has a spring-like explosive pop on the takeoff and decent loft for a freestyle kite. The NV feels smoother and more like a freeride kite with a touch less loft. Back to the point on wind range, depending on your power the jumps will start to feel different, but a huge part of this is the bar pressure. On the NV, when underpowered, I often felt like there was nothing there, yet with enough board speed the kite jumped consistently, albeit like you would expect when you're underpowered. The FX, having more direct bar pressure, will also jump underpowered and has a touch more low-end in this area. Long story short, if you use both of these kites in the recommended wind range, you’ll be happy. If you’re underpowered, the FX is gruntier.
In the video I said the NV was more consistent. What I meant was, a more progressive feel. Both kites are consistent. The FX pops explosively; the NV has a smooth, progressive build before you pop off the water.
I know, I know, what kite isn't stable in 2019?
With most modern kites having improved so much, I might stop covering this point unless there is merit. The NV has come a long way over the years. In fact, this is by far the best version yet. I have to admit, the older Envys were not that stable in my opinion. Sorry Liquid Force! I tested this kite in some pretty awful winds at times. Like 15 to 25. There was little to no chatter in the bar and I didn’t get rocked in my harness. In fact, surprisingly I preferred the NV in the gustier winds. I say surprising as the FX has been my go-to kite since its inception in 2016, characterized by a controlled, damp, shock-absorbent feel in the bar. However, the NV had such a light, mellow, responsive feeling even in the worst wind that I have to admit I really enjoyed it.
The FX is a little more direct so I often felt more soft feedback in the kite on the gustiest of days. The kite was stable and controlled, yet it becomes an extension of the rider. You are in complete control and constantly getting feedback from the kite. The NV is similar but it's not quite as connected to the rider. This is due to the bar pressure. You are still getting feedback, but it's "quieter," if that makes sense. No real advantage or disadvantage on this point. I'm just conveying what to expect in regards to feel on the water.
Liquid Force Rider Luke McGillewie Rides the Wow for a reason.
As for the waves, both these kites work, granted, neither would be my first choice. As each brand has much better options I’ll not go into detail. Long story short, you can use them just fine. The NV might have a slight advantage in this category as the FX leans a touch more in the freestyle direction while the NV, like the Duotone Dice, has a little more all-around flavor. However, if waves are your favorite part of kiteboarding, you want to look to the LF Wow or the Cabrinha Drifter.
To elaborate on this point, the NV V9 is better in the waves between the two kites in the review, though I actually much preferred the NV V8 in the waves. It had almost non-existent bar pressure, the kite loops had little to no power and it was better all-around in the waves. All that said, if you are more interested in chasing the waves, get a Wow or a Drifter.
The FX and the NV both focus more on kiteloops and unhooked riding more so than the waves. I've used both of these kites in a variety of wave conditions and they do work on smaller waves. I don't think I'd want to take either out in larger waves or onshore winds. You have to be more aggressive with them and, because they are so sensitive to rider input, it's easier to mess up when dropping in or trying to focus on the wave. In contrast, true wave kites drift along with you and make riding in waves a lot easier.
These kites were made to loop!
This is a point I don’t often cover as I used not to test this aspect. That said, having filmed an entire kiteloop playlist with our team rider Blake Olsen, I’ve started incorporating loops into my riding. These kites are built for any rider looking for powerful performance kiteloops.
I found the NV to have a slightly wider and gruntier loop, while the FX had a tighter, precise and powerful loop. No mistake, both of these kites are stupid powerful when it comes to looping. In contrast to softer-feeling freeride kites, there's a certain satisfying feeling from looping both of them. That extra pull and surging power!
In this category I think the FX loops easier and with more precision, while with the wider arcing loop the NV is a touch more powerful. If powered kite loops are your thing you’re going to be stoked on either model.
With further testing after this video, I noticed when underpowered I appreciated the extra power from the NV, but when very powered I preferred the FX. I'm still newer at my kiteloop game and the NV takes more time to complete the loop and has that extra grunt. The FX is faster and easier. That said, if you use the hi y adapter you can modify the turning arc of the NV. A higher arc will result in a faster, tighter loop.
The Crossover Freestyle kites are my favorite for unhooked tricks
Last but most important when it comes to these kites is unhooked performance. With the NV having crossed over into the freestyle category, both of these kites are exceptional unhooked: powerful, controlled and most importantly, fun to fly. When I first few the NV I thought it felt similar to the other crossover kites, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. This is the area that stands out. What I found is the NV, while not as explosive, is more beginner-friendly and smooth. Certainly more of a park-and-pull kind of feel. This all comes back to the point on bar pressure.
The NV is different from the other crossover kites. It has a very fluid and smooth pop, the bar pressure makes every trick feel less intimidating, and it's the best version of the NV yet for unhooked riding. I enjoyed getting to know this kite and putting time in on it. That said, it does come at a price. Compared to the FX, there is a slightly smaller window of performance. What I mean is that the FX is more explosive and unhooks a little better when overpowered, not that the NV won’t unhook overpowered. Just that if you're lit, you won’t get slack. The same goes for the FX; it just happens a little sooner on the NV. You’ll only notice this if you unhook in very punchy, gusty winds. With the light to moderate bar pressure, The FX has a more direct feel and feedback when loading as well. The NV also has solid feedback, but as the bar pressure is so light, it’s far more subtle. This is what actually makes the NV Version 9 so special.
The loading on the FX is more intense and until you get used to it and learn to love it, I guess it can be intimidating. That’s part of the territory with freestyle kites as they load and release a lot of power. This might be the most important point to consider. The FX will be more aggressive and powerful while the NV is going to be smoother, more fluid, and feel less powerful: key word here is “feel.” Don’t be mistaken as, while it's not as aggressive, you’ll still get the same powerful pop, albeit with a smoother, more laid-back takeoff. Between these two, I’m still more familiar with the FX, but after testing for the last few years I’ve learned its all about what kite you spend the most time on the water with. I’ll be switching up to a quiver of NV’s later this summer to get more familiar with the kite and to mix things up.
Regardless, If you like freestyle or park style, both these kites will be a good fit and give you an advantage on the water.
Share your experience on these kites in the YouTube comments!
In summary, I found that after a couple weeks I really enjoyed the NV. In fact, its not a far cry from the Duotone Dice in regards to performance and feel, meaning the FX is a step further in the freestyle direction while the NV is a small step closer in the all-around direction for riders who might want to dabble in the waves. If you are looking for a powerful performance kitelooping kite or a kite for unhooking, both these kites are great options. While there are some differences, mainly regarding bar pressure and the feel, either would be a good choice. It comes down to what feel appeals most to you: the explosive, powerful FX or the lighter, smoother, friendly-feeling NV. This season I’ve decided to spend more time on the NV so I’m switching my personal quiver up from the Dice to the NV.
And hey, as always, Versus is an open forum. This isn't just about what I have to say. It’s about what we all have to say. If you ride these kites, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
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