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Head-to-Head Kitesurfing Gear Tests2021 Head-to-Head Kite Reviews

2021 Head-to-Head Kite Reviews

Wave, Foil, Big Air, Specialty kites & Do-It-All Models
Tested by the Kitesurfing Magazine test team.
words by SHANE THOMPSON / PHOTOS BY JOHN BRYJA AND DAVID MODY

It takes more than a worldwide pandemic to stifle innovation in kite designs. New designs and materials push the boundaries of performance to new levels in 2021. Like most of us in North America, the Kitesurfing Magazine test crew was forced to stay at local beaches this fall, but we still managed to collect a whole slew of top 2021 equipment and log some high quality, albeit, cooler, fall sessions. With new construction materials, tweaked designs and a host of new quick release trim loops and new control bars, 2021 proves to be another year of solid performance improvement across the board. Perhaps the most pervasive trend for 2021 was the cockpit redesign with almost every brand either launching entirely new control bars or adding upgrades to their existing systems with new quick release trim loops that are easier to reengage. Check out the bar systems from Core, Slingshot, and upgrades to existing model bars from Ocean Rodeo, Airush, North and Eleveight. The other major trend is the continuing weight reduction to increase kite performance. Two brands incorporated new framing material that gives them significant weight reduction and at the same time more durability with increased stiffness and reactivity to bar input. Both Duotone and Ocean Rodeo are using some innovative materials to substantially lighten the weight of their kites and thereby enhance performance in some key areas. With kites that are lighter and more reactive, new boundaries are being etched in the waves, in the air and on a foil. With so many models and options of different types of kites available these days, deciding what new kite to build into your quiver can be a daunting task. From dedicated wave or specialty light wind and foil kites, to the big air or more unhooked freestyle models, to the kites that seem to do everything for everybody, the options are endless. One thing’s for sure, the performance levels keep inching forward as designers employ new high tech materials and tweak the shape of the wings, panel layouts and bridle configurations. In this round of testing we had some fun pushing the limits on some similar models of wave kites, boosting to the moon on some new big air models, and expanding kite skills in new areas with a couple of specialty light wind and foil specific kites. Not to mention the batch of do-everything, workhorse models that are more adaptable than ever to different riding conditions and modes of kiting. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different categories and models that we tested this fall. 

WAVE KITES: OCEAN RODEO ROAM A-SERIES, NAISH SLASH, NORTH CARVE, AIRUSH SESSION

This group of wave kites will satisfy any dedicated wave rider that needs that extra pull and handling to get on the wave, stay on it and get out of the impact zone after some solid lip bashes. The North Carve, in its second generation is lighter and more responsive than the initial version, and it still has the smoothest pull and most solid drive and low-end power of the group. This Carve thrives in real world wave conditions and rewards the advanced wave rider with butter-sweet handling and predictable drift. It may not be quite as nimble and quick turning, or have as much upper end wind range as the Airush Session, which is a standout for versatility and fast pivotal turns. The Session was a favourite for both unstrapped freestyle and foiling in some small waves. With tons of depower and quick helicopter loops, the Session is easy in transitions on a foil or down the line on a wave board. The Naish Slash shows what a mature legend in the waves can do, with a great combination of low end power and superior, pull-reducing depower, that combine with smooth pivotal turns. Also well suited to some wave foiling, the Slash has nice balanced drift and light touch steering but with the most ideal feedback from the Slash’s smooth and consistent drive. Finally, the Ocean Rodeo Roam A-Series sets the bar for drift capability and quick water relaunch. The new Aluula material used in the leading edge reduces the kite’s weight by over thirty per cent, giving the Roam unmatched levels of drift capability. Having a wave kite that can stay afloat and back up down the line with very little line tension, gives the rider more time to carve up the wave or transition and travel on foil. Amazing results from all the brands that will up your game in the waves in 2021. 

SPECIALTY KITES, FOIL AND LIGHT WIND SPECIFIC:OCEAN RODEO FLITE, SLINGSHOT UFO

Putting a specialty kite in your quiver can enhance and increase thenumber of sessions this summer and Ocean Rodeo and Slingshot have two kites that might fit perfectly for this. If you want to expand your foil skills and capitalize on the lightest of winds, the Ocean Rodeo Flite A-Series with Aluula might be the ultimate light wind weapon for 2021. The new Aluula material makes this kite ultra light weight and it comes in a couple of jumbo sizes, so you have power for any twintip riding and boosting big air as well. If you’re looking to advance your foiling skills, the new Slighshot UFO pairs perfectly with the full time foiling kiter. The UFO has a no-strut canopy, making it ultra light and ultra compact for travelling. This kite was designed for foil riders that are riding larger surf foils with smaller kites and want the ultra drift capabilty and enhanced handling this kite provides. Fast pivotal turns, amazing low end power and surprising upper end wind range, make the UFO a dynamo behind the newest freeride foils. 

BIG AIR KITESNORTH ORBIT AND ELEVEIGHT XS

The big air revolution continues with these five-strut, boosting behemoths. The current reigning King of the Air contest winner, the North Orbit stormed onto the scene last year and got even better in 2021. This year’s version is even easier to use with lighter touch steering, faster turn initiation and more overall stability. For the riders that want to carry more kite into bigger wind and have the control to boost huge and throw down some sweeping loops, the Orbit offers some of the smoothest sweeping turns available today. Keeping up with the big air trend, the new Eleveight XS might give the Orbit a run in this year’s matchup, with solid upper end performance and even easier handling. Both these kites will thrust high and dangle far, so don’t bother with them unless you’re interested in riding fast and going big. 

DO-IT-ALL-KITES: NAISH PIVOT, ELEVEIGHT RS, F-ONE BANDIT, SLINGSHOT RALLY GT, CORE GTS, CORE NEXUS 2

They have many labels like crossover, universal, do-it-all, or simply freeride, these are the kites that span kite disciplines and can adapt to any situation. These are models for the kiteboarder that has multiple interests and regularly takes sessions in more than one specific discipline. Some of them shine in certain performance elements over the others, so the key is understanding what characteristic in feel and performance that best suit you. None of them will fail you in any discipline but some are better suited for certain things. For example Core has three kites in their Universal Series, two of them tested here the GTS6 and Nexus 2. They both can handle waves and freestyle and can adapt to riding a foil but they have two distinct feels. The GTS6 is better for unhooked freestyle and may suit the more aggressive rider that wants a kite that has a little less low end power. The Nexus 2 sits back in the window and offers more direct steering and feedback, and is arguably better suited to the rider with less developed skills. It also has slightly better drift and sits back in the window making it nicer for wave riding. Another model that makes skill building easier is the Slingshot Rally GT. Solid pull and more direct feedback, smooth and predictable pivot turning and easy water relaunch, help to build skills quickly. All of these do-it-all designs are the most popular models of every brand’s kite line because they are adaptable, easy to use and advance skills within any situation. Some of them are standouts for boosting and high end performance, like the Naish Pivot, which was the a two-time King of the Air kite contest winner. It has amazing boost and glide but at the same time has the right handling, power and pivotal turning to adapt itself to waves and foil riding. The Eleveight RS is also a magician in any situation, and its status as emerging all terrain legend is all but cemented. A fun kite for boosting big airs, and ripping hard turns and tight loops, whether it’s a twintip session or cruising the waves on a surf board or foil, the RS has a wide range of high performance features that rival the best and most versatile designs of today. Finally, the F-One Bandit rounds out this group of mavericks and still reigns as one of the longest standing models in the industry with fourteen versions of the Bandit having been developed over the past decade. This year the Bandit shines again, with crisp and light bar pressure, amazing upwind drive and even more lift and boost than ever.

Be sure to check out the individual reviews in the spring 2021 issue of Kitesurfing Magazine.

Originally published in the Spring 2021 Issue of Kitesurfing Magazine.

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