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2013 Freeride Kite Reviews: Head-to-Head

May 23, 2013

Author: SBC Kiteboard Test Team


words by Shane Thompson and the SBC Kiteboard Test Team
photos by Dave Marshall

2013 Kite Reviews and Tests

At the end of October 2012, the SBC Kiteboard Test Team spent two weeks in Cape Hatteras, NC riding and analyzing the top freeride kites and boards available in 2013. Through many test sessions and one large and now famous Hurricane later, the team logged a ton of solid sessions on the latest kites and board designs in a diverse range of wind and water conditions. As Hurricane Sandy approached, the ocean swell and wind cooperated for some solid oceanside wave sessions, and after it passed and cleared, there were some brisk but epic testing sessions at the notorious slick in front of the Real Watersports site. After all these solid riding sessions, it was clear to test members there has never been a better time to learn to kiteboard or upgrade the old kite quiver.
    There are so many great options available for kiters in 2013, and the right setup can help you expand your riding skill into new disciplines and enhance your experience in different riding conditions. The freeride models tested in this round represent a formidable cross section of the inherent types of performance in this kite category. The freeride kite is, most commonly, each manufacturer’s top-selling and most popular model. Generally, the kites tested here are both performance-driven and user-friendly, and have well-rounded handling characteristics that allow them to cross into different disciplines of riding. There are key traits in each model that can better promote your current or future kiteboarding skills and riding development.
    The world’s top freeride kites bring accessible performance to a variety of skill levels, and can offer flying characteristics that endear them to both advanced modern freestyle or wakestyle twin-tip riding, as well as riding directional surfboards in the waves. A few of them are even capable for use on your local race circuit. There are many options of kite models in this test that will fit your personal preference for feel and performance. Each design delivers a different combination of performance options that will configure to the style and feel of kite that fits your individual pedigree of kite skill, style and performance needs. Here is what the SBC Kiteboard Test Team uncovered in our head-to-head analysis of today’s top freeride kites.

Super Simple, Stable and Easy
Making a kite that is easy to use but with performance that lasts into advanced riding has been the key to many successful models. There are three kites that stand out in this test as having the easiest, superbly stable and predictable flying character that make them ideal for the less advanced rider to grow skills with. The LF Envy started the three-strut revolution and continues to impress riders who want simplicity but also good unhooked performance for booted-up wakestyle. The Airush Lithium made good advances into this category last year, and is both playful, easy and also excels as a quick-pivoting wave kite. The Blade Trigger also straddles this group, with some quick-turning, good low-end power and performance that any-level rider can appreciate. All of these three-strut models are also lightweight and well-balanced, with good drift for waveriding. If you’re in the early stages of riding and want a kite to expand to the next level, these are top choices.

Big Boosting Freestyle
There are several kites that give above average boost and glide for stratospheric jumps. The Epic Screamer 3G 10 m was a standout in the loft and glide category. This high-powered master had some testers so high they had a hard time judging when they were going to come down. The Liquid Force NRG was also a standout, with its flat canopy and smooth swooping power through the turns. It has improved from its first generation design and delivers on all its promises this year. If boosting huge airs and staying airborne for those extra seconds is your favorite trick, then look to these two models as top contenders.

Advanced Freeride and Freestyle
Some of these freeride designs possess exceptional all-around flying character, but are slightly beyond the simplicity factor and focus on higher levels of performance across the disciplines of freestyle and waves. The Slingshot Rally, Nobile 50Fifty and Core GTS are three models that may be perfect kite if you are in the second stage of your skill development. These three can help advance your riding to the next level, with solid all-around performance. The Core GST has the fastest turns and lightest bar pressure of any kite in the test, with sporty performance but slightly less low-end power than some. The Nobile 50Fifty has a similar feel and design, with ultra wide wing tips and smooth handling. The Rally steps it up for better unhooked freestyle and improved low-end power this year, and moves away from its podium position as the pure super, pivot-turning wave kite.

Unhook and Throw Down
Smooth, unhooked pull, balanced drift, stability and smooth-pulling kite loops are attributes that can propel your freestyle riding to new levels. The Cabrinha Switchbalde, RRD Obsession and Best TS are three kites to look at if you want to increase the number of moves in your bag of freestyle or wakestyle tricks. The Best TS was one of the most improved models from last year, with crisp, direct handling and has the best boosting capability of the three. The Cabrinha Switchblade remains the smoothest pulling kite of the test, with better depower, range and more lively flying character this season. The RRD Obsession shows the amazing refinement this year, with great stability and smooth driving power through the loop. All three are the top dogs for wakestyle and freeride dominance.

Most Refined ATVs
The top scoring kites in the Freeride group are three kites that have each undergone three or more model years of design refinement. These designs have the most high-end ability to exceed the top performance demands in waves, unhooked park riding or general freestyle realm. The North Rebel, the Naish Park and the F One Bandit took the top scores of the group. They have that “wow factor” that sets them slightly above the pack for their ability to excel at one trait, and equips them for performance across disciplines, styles and conditions.
    The North Rebel has always been a top contender in the waves, but its ability to boost huge jumps, unhook and throw down, and even rip upwind with speed and precision on the race course, put it in this group. The Naish Park and F One Bandit are the three-strut models that stand above their competitors and offer nimble steering performance, smooth power delivery and handling refinement that gives them the edge in any situation. Whether you’re in the waves, the park or boosting big, the generational refinement of these three kites brings them top test scores and takes them to the podium in the freeride test session.

Scroll down to read the individual 2013 kite reviews.

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