May 17, 2010
Author: SBC Kiteboard Test Team
Liquid Force Envy
Progressive Freeride _ learning the ropes and beyond
Choosing your first kite can be an important step in the efficient development of your kiteboarding skills. In many cases a higher performance, faster turning and generally the more sensitive, reactive kite, can be frustrating for those with undeveloped technique. The best kites to optimize skill development will have appropriate stability, and be tuned to steer progressively with good amounts of bar feedback and good levels of arm’s length depower. The Progressive Freeride kite should be tuned to have heavier line tension on the back lines and slower turning speed to reduce oversteering of the kite and promote faster muscle memory and internalization of kite power and control. Most kite companies have an easy-to-use, point-and-go model in their kite lineup and different companies are using different canopy shaping techniques and bridle configurations to enhance the safety and performance of these designs. The Delta shape is a major influence in the Progressive Freeride designs this year. The Delta shape is popular for the Progressive Freeride design because of the quick pivotal turning, good depower and direct steering control combined with the easy water relaunch. The BOW designs from Cabrinha also continue to deliver great results in water relaunch, easy depower and good control for the progressing rider. Other companies are incorporating some of the BOW and Delta design features into their own SLE systems. The Airush, Best, and Liquid Force kites have combinations of their own SLE designs and characteristics of the BOW or Delta shape.
The Progressive Freeride kites tested in this issue are not restricted to just the early stages of riding, but also carry plenty of performance with them to put their riders into solid intermediate and even advanced disciplines of wave riding and freestyle. In fact, all of the models here aren’t really full-on beginner kites, but they have such ease of use, and a forgiving character that they are ideal for anyone looking to gain experience in new disciplines or skill levels. As skills develop these kites can be ideal companions for both freestyle and wave riding because they let the rider focus on board skills rather than kite positioning. The simple point-and-go kite will allow the rider to focus on the terrain at hand. The Nobile N62, the Airush Lithium, Vari Vulcan and the Liquid Force Envy are definite standouts in this category for their great stability and easy-to-access flying character. The Envy stands out from the others as the kite that sacrifices the least amount of high-end performance to the ease of use. While the quicker pivotal turning of the Vulcan, the N62 and the Lithium could give them advantages in certain wave conditions, the solid unhooked pull and better jumping character of the Envy give it an edge for more advanced freestyle riding. Nobile’s N62 gets the vote for the easiest water relaunch, as the wide centred design catches the lightest of winds and gets airborn with ease. Also important to the Progressive Freeride kite is the ability to remain stable and smooth through gusty conditions. The Griffin gets top marks in this category for smooth, consistent pull through gusty and turbulent winds. The Griffin is the most powerful and direct of this group, with the greatest access to long and lofty jumping character. For anyone looking to progress quickly and get to the high jumping stages in a hurry, the Griffin will help at every stage. Progressive Freeride kites are also judged on the effectiveness and ease of use of their safety systems. Beginners should be using safety setups that flag the kite and deliver 100 per cent power or total flagging. The bar and safety systems of Liquid Force got the highest rating among Test Team members for their new setup that ensures 100 per cent flagging off one front line and easy to use quick release system. The Airush Lithium also matches the top of the safety chart with flagging lines on both back lines and capable mini fifth line for complete depower. While the N62 and the Vulcan offer smooth power and good stability, their safety systems were edged out by the new redesigns from LF and Airush.
Be sure to read the individual kiteboarding reviews.