The evolution of kite performance continues with improvements in overall wind range, power efficiency, and handling in many of the 2023 models. Kite designers and their development teams are constantly experimenting with ways to improve performance, and over the past few years, there has been a major trend to adopt new materials, making kites lighter, stronger, and more rigid. Lighter kites improve certain flying metrics. The lighter kite is more efficient and generates more power with less wind pressure. Lighter designs can also generate more lift and hang time and can relaunch from the water easier. They hang in the air better and can be directed with more precision in underpowered conditions or when the kite experiences less line tension.
This slack line float is essential when riding waves or foiling as the kite needs to be able to drift under low line tension as the rider links turns or runs towards the kite during transitions. A lot of brands are adopting upgraded versions of the traditional woven Dacron to achieve better weight and performance, and a few brands are adopting the use of entirely new ultralight and also more expensive framing materials with some high impact results. These new materials offer greater degrees of strength and rigidity which makes their frames more stiff and subsequently more reactive to steering input. Some of the developments in seam technology have forced functionality in other areas to allow for more flex and twist because kite frames and canopies are becoming so rigid that some of that twist flex is needed.
Kite designers are also finding ways to improve their kites using existing materials by employing smarter engineering with tweaks to seams, panel layouts, and bridle configurations. Whether material upgrades or tweaking shapes, profiles, wingtips, and seam alignments, all of these new models are more dialed than ever for 2023. There are also a lot of new control systems with nice upgrades to the quick release trim loops and trimming systems as well. Most brands have developed the seatbelt style, single-handed reassembly, and many have the auto line untwisting features and easily removable trim loops for different riding styles. For anyone that is still using an older generation control system, it’s a great time to upgrade and many kite bars are compatible with any brand. Overall this is a great year to test out some new models and expand your flying skills and riding experience.
In this round of the Kitesurfing Magazine test session, there were three categories of kites tested. The freeride all-around category is the largest of the grouping followed by a trio of big air kites and capped off with a pair of high-performance wave kite models.
Freeride All Around : Naish Pivot S27, Reedin SuperModel HTF, Cabrinha Moto X, Core Nexus 3
These models fall into the industry’s largest kite category and they have the flying qualities for a range of kite disciplines from freestyle to wave riding, to freeride foil and big air. Starting with the legendary Naish Pivot S27, this kite has been a leader in this category for many years with its solid handling, wind range and explosive lift. The handling on the Pivot S27 is renowned for its smooth power delivery, balanced drift and predictable pull through its reliable pivot turn. The Pivot S27 is a kite that works for waves and foiling but also offers incredible lift and hang time and doubles as a big air kite for the advanced rider that can push the limits. The great low end combines with even more upper-end wind range this year allowing for a compact quiver. This version of the Pivot has more subtle changes than the others in the group with some additional bridle attachment points on the leading edge and some canopy seam alterations that give the kite more control in the upper wind range. The other three kite models in this category have more formidable alterations from previous versions and offer some nice advancements in handling and performance for 2023. The Reedin SuperModel HTF, has evolved with some innovative changes that improve the performance in turning speed and smooth power delivery through the turn. New for this year the SuperModel HTF incorporates their new high-tension frame which uses some lighter weight Dacron in sections towards the leading edge. These sections work along with more narrowed out struts to enable the kite to twist better which enhances the smooth pull through the turn and quickens the SuperModel HTF’s reactive steering. The smooth pull and control through the turns is really next level and the lift and the jumping ability of this kite is phenomenal as well, making the Supermodel HTF a real standout this year. As one of three all-new models launched in 2023, the Cabrinha Moto X showcases Cabrinha’s new materials and upgraded shapes with impressive results. Compared to the last version, this new Moto X follows the similar three strut hybrid platform but it feels quite a bit different with a lighter, crisper feel in the air, faster turn initiation and better lift for jumping. The Moto X was one of the easiest kites of this group to boost some big air with, with nice light feel to it and lots of easy to access lift and hangtime. The new pulley free bridles give the Moto X direct feedback and this kite has nice light touch steering compared to older versions. Overall the upgrades to the canopy and framing materials that Cabrinha is using in this version and the new refined shape make this kite feel lighter and more responsive. If the smaller sizes keep pace with the improvements of the 12 meter then this kite will be a top performer in the all around category and should be dynamite for wave riding or cruising on a foil board in the smaller sizes. The new Core Nexus 3 also shows some major material upgrades and tweaks to its design that make it one of the most versatile kites of the group and it may give it an edge in the waves and for foiling over the others. Although it jumps well and easily, it might not have the extra bit of hangtime of the Pivot or SuperModel HTF but this kite has really quick pivotal steering and feels crisp, light and reactive to rider input. The Nexus 3 is designed with Core’s latest new material mix in the frame and canopy making it lighter and stronger but also elevates the handling and feel to the next level. Crisp, quick turning and overall lighter touch steering and faster, pivotal turns of this new Nexus 3 ups its game. Overall some great upgrades to each of these kite models and they are all capable weapons that can advance the riding experience and open the doors to new skills and expand your kite riding disciplines.
Big Air Freeride: North Orbit 4, Ocean Rodeo Flite A-Series, F-One Trigger
The big air freeride kite category continues to expand in 2023 with some new models and new materials and technology driving them. The dedicated big air kite typically features higher aspect ratio in their canopy shape that’s supported by five struts. The extra support through the flatter arced and narrower canopy, keeps thing solid under more load which really lets these big air kites excel in overpowered conditions. Ultimately these five strut kites maintain structure through heavier loads and higher levels of driving power. The North Orbit has been leading the big air kite resurgence and in its fourth iteration it gets the right upgrades and tweaks to keep it on the leaderboard in this category. The North Orbit 4 uses a new version of Dacron material in their leading edge and struts and they are also employing a new lighter inflatable bladder to shed some weight. The reason the North Orbit 4 is popular is it has a great blend of direct feel and quick response along with that explosive boost and great glide. It may not be the easiest kite of the group for the less skilled, but its ability to react, loop, turn and perform at critical times, give the rider confidence to control the kite in overpowered conditions and land safely from epic heights. It’s also great for anyone that finds they are riding in windy and gustier conditions where having that extra handling in the upper wind range is ideal. The Ocean Rodeo Flite A-Series has expanded with more sizes this season and the range includes a new five strut design in the smaller sizes. These new smaller sizes with the full support of five struts, adds to the big air capability of this popular model. Equipped with Ocean Rodeo’s Aluula Gold material in the frames the Flite A-Series 10 meter is insanely light. The light structure enhances the float and relaunch capability and gives it an edge in the lighter winds over its rivals. In fact this is one big air kite that can also adapt to foiling or surf riding, because the ultra-light frame adds to its float and drift capabilities. The five strut 10 meter is lighter than many three strut kites which gives the Flite a nice combination of three strut handling capability with the structure and range of big air, five strut design. The F-One Trigger is another user-friendly big air kite that has that added touch of control and reactivity that can be lost in the flatter, higher aspect kite designs. F-One is known for high quality builds, but so far they have opted away from the expensive and exotically light material. The new designs for 2023 are still finding innovative ways to increase performance with their sail engineering philosophy. F-One’s latest innovation found in their newest designs are the staggered seams in the trailing edge. Although it may seem minor, this innovation keeps the Trigger canopy more tensioned and precise when the kite is loaded with power. Having more control in extreme situations is key for any big air kite and builds rider confidence that the kite can react when the rider calls on it. The Trigger has light touch feel and quick turn initiation, but with its double pulleyed bridle system it offers even greater levels of depower. It doesn’t need as much loaded up speed and power to get some height to the jump as the Orbit 4. The Trigger feels very similar to the renowned F-One Bandit kite model, but with more range in the upper end and some better hang time and glide through the jump. The extra struts give it more structure to handle itself in the higher winds and the shape and profile give it the extra hang time and lift. The Trigger rewards even imprecise direction and poor timing with decent lift and hang time so it’s one big air kite that doesn’t need the perfect entry and timing to boost some decent jumps. Great overall kite for any rider looking to get into big air that wants a more user friendly kite that’s easy to get upwind and has that extra level of control in the upper end of the wind range. Overall, all three of these kites offer amazing big air capability and are exciting new models that offer greater control in the upper end of the wind range. Anyone looking for more control in overpowered conditions or for the best hang time and better access to controlled landings should try one of these new models.
Freeride Wave: Eleveight WS, Duotone Neo D/LAB
The freeride wave category is one that can be overlooked but these two modern wave kites are also quite versatile and have performance beyond the waves for any skill set. The wave kite has qualities that endear it to riding waves but many of them are also great for freeride foil riding. With easy water relaunch and low pull through turns, they are also user friendly and can double as beginner kites. The Eleveight WS has some great performance advancements from last year’s version to make it even better in the waves and more versatile for riding your foil. With tweaks to the sweep and wingtip shapes and elimination of pulleys in the bridles, the WS feels direct and has more smooth pull through the turns in this version. Eleveight has also made some increased performance by shedding weight with lighter PU bladders in the leading edge and struts. The WS is very well balanced, with great drift capability and can disappear on the wave but reemerge to smooth pivot and power up to get you out of the impact zone and back for another hit. The light touch steering will be appreciated in the waves and on a foil, as the kite pivots quickly and easily and has low power and smooth pull through the turn. Overall, great improvements to the Eleveight WS give it top marks for surf or foil board riders that want that quick pivoting, high-performance, wave-oriented kite. The Neo D/LAB shows the most breakthrough levels of performance of any kite in this test. It represents the ultimate in new age materials, with Aluula Gold material in the frame and the Hybrid Flex Struts. With the Aluula frame shedding up to 30 percent of the kite’s weight, the Neo D/Lab offers incredible low-end range and hangs and drifts in the air like none before it. Duotone designers took their time to incorporate the Aluula technology into their popular Neo Wave design and the results are impressive. The lightweight frame allows the kite to hang and drift for unbelievable amounts of time. It really enhances the wave riding experience by disappearing and then reappearing but in the right spot and with the right amount of control. It also reacts to rider input with superior response and can be directed even with the bar completely sheeted out in the depower position. The Neo D/LAB sets new standards of high end performance in kite design with the precision handling, range and float-ability of this kite.
Be sure to check out the individual 2023 Kite Reviews.
Here is a link to all our Kitesurfing Reviews.