Foiling is the kiteboarding industry’s youngest and fastest growing discipline. For 2020 there’s an explosion of new gear to help any kiter master the magic of the foil. Many brands have new single strut kites or tweaked and redesigned models that are now explicitly positioned as foil specific designs. These light and responsive kites enhance the foil riding experience, make it easier for beginners to learn and help those with more intermediate skills push their foiling game to the next level. It’s hard to believe that just four years ago very few kiteboarders were into foiling. Fast forward to 2020 and many kiteboarders have at least one foil specific kite in their quiver as well as an expanding number of different size and shape foil wings for different conditions and riding styles. There are a lot of valid reasons why a more foil specific kite is a good idea and the right investment to add to your quiver. At its heart the kite is the power and these models guarantee the most efficient foiling success and enhances the overall performance of your kite and foil set up. All these new kites have great low end power and deliver the handling characteristics unique to foiling, especially in very low wind conditions or when flying a kite size that would be considered traditionally underpowered. The most common foil sessions, especially in the initial stages, are done in the lighter winds from 8-to-15 miles per hour. This is the best wind range for advancing your foil hovering skills. If you have a kite that is designed and constructed to be ultra light weight and have the extra power and flying performance in these underpowered conditions, it really helps your foiling. The newest lineup of single strut and reduced weight kite models can initiate turns and have more sensitive levels of response even at super low levels of line tension. Low line tension and underpowered riding happens a lot when you’re foiling on the highly efficient, quick lifting foils of today. Foiling on the larger surface area freeride wings, most average weight riders can easily use a 10-to-12 meter kite and be riding with plenty of hovering power in and around 10 mile per hour winds. In 15 mile per hour winds on the same larger foil you could be using an 8 meter and be perfectly powered. The lighter the kite, the more efficient it’s power generation becomes. That translates into more power for pulling the rider and keeping on a foil. Lighter kites also stay afloat, while having more balanced drift with less stall. These single strut kites also water relaunch more efficiently as their light weight frames can easily lift and pivot off the leading edge and onto a wingtip or some can even reverse launch by pulling in the trailing edge with a tug of both steering lines. When on a foil and carving toward your kite the line tension to your bar can decrease very quickly and this can quickly negate your ability to steer or loop your kite back into the power. If you can’t steer your kite back into the power or carve away from the kite to power up the lines, the kite will fall from the sky. These lighter weight kites can initiate turns with lower line tension and this allows the rider to keep the kite in the right position, giving the rider greater control and a better connection between the kite in the sky and the foil under your feet.
In this round of head to head testing, the Kitesurfing Magazine test team was hard at work again in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, taking sessions on the latest single strut and light wind models from all the industry’s top brands. The results are impressive with plenty of advancements in all around kite performance and handling from all of these highly refined foil magicians. Similar to their respective foil designs, all of these different models have comparable traits but they all have their own distinct feel and performance character. Here are some key takeaways in some head to head showdowns of the industry’s leading single strut models and reduced weight designs.
Back again in our 2020 Head-to-Head showdown, the 2019 Naish Boxer SLK set the bar for low end power and ultra light wind performance in the single strut category. The Naish design has some exclusive features which may give it the advantage in the lowest end of its wind rage. It has a deep canopy shape and the central strut is actually floating, or more loosely attached to the underside of the kite canopy. This allows the Boxer SLK’s canopy to breathe and expand and give the kite amazing low end grunt and the unmatched ability to stay in the air in the lightest of conditions. The newest single strut designs from Core, Eleveight and Duotone were the models in the group that were very close to matching the Boxer SLK’s low end power and the quickness of their turning speed and turn initiation may have a slight edge over the Boxer SLK. But for smooth and controllable, low end power, light touch steering but with nice positive feedback, and the ability to stay afloat in the slightest of wind, the Boxer SLK keeps its edge. Almost
equal in low end power but with more direct feedback provided through its wider wingtips and more central pivot, the Duotone Mono is a solid performing single strut kite that has the tightest canopy that maintains its shape with less flutter through aggressive, quick pivotal turns. Totally redesigned for 2020, the new Mono has a more squared, lower aspect shape and its wide wingtips and high vee front line connections ensure slightly quicker turn initiation than the Boxer SLK. The Mono also drives with more equal front and back line tension, and turns with a slightly more central axis point than the Boxer SLK. The Mono has the most direct feedback of any kite of this group and its canopy is also one of the tightest and least fluttering when sheeted out or driving hard at the edge of the wind window. Both the Boxer SLK and the Mono take top marks for superb ease of use, with the best performance accessibility to lesser kite skills. The Boxer SLK for its superb stability and more instant depower and the Mono especially has very little tendency to back stall, both are key traits for anyone with slightly lesser kite skills and for learning to foil in lighter winds.
Some of the newcomers for this 2020 season bring impressive new levels of performance and do a better job of blending some the high performance feel of a three strut kite with the light weight efficiency of a single strut kite. The Core XLITE, Eleveight OS and Ozone’s Alpha are all examples of these new generation of high performance, single strut designs. All three have solid performance characteristics
within their lighter weight single strut frames. The Ozone Alpha has a compact canopy shape with nice squared off and wide wingtips, but it has lighter touch steering and fast pivotal turns that smoothly pull and initiate the turn instantly and finish it quickly. The solid, pulley free compact bridles, and swept C shape may have slightly less instant low end power than the Boxer SLK or the Mono, but the smooth and nimble pivots and fast reactivity of the Alpha is impressive. Anyone with some honed kite flying skills will be impressed with the familiar performance feel of this kite. The Alpha is one of the kites that would be ideal to travel with especially if you want it to double as a strapless surf kit. Eleveight also raises its foil game with the new OS model. Along with a new foil system the OS is slightly less technical to fly than the Alpha and it has impressive low end power and easy handling. The Eleveight has quick depower and removes forward pull with quicker efficiency than wider shaped single strut kites of the test. Both the Eleveight and the XLITE can have some aggressive canopy flutter when sheeted out and in the upper end of their wind range. They remain controllable and can still initiate turns however and the feedback is not as distracting as some earlier single strut versions. Having lots of depower is key for learning to foil as you need spill as much pull and power as possible when you don’t have the foil riding skills quite dialled. The Core XLITE set the bar as the lightest and most reactive steering of any kite in this test. The smaller models even fly off a super compact and shortened bar system which is a testament to how quickly and smoothly, with light touch steering the XLITE is.
Perhaps the most unique shape and performance among the single strut design comes from Slingshot with their new foil design called the Ghost. This kite is a direct answer to the surf carving and strapless style of foil riding that many kiters are doing with larger surf foils. The ultra wide central canopy of the kite guarantees it will pivot off the water and relaunch very quickly without much effort. This kite has an extremely wide central canopy, flies farther back in the window and pulls smoothly while driving with more equal tension on both front power lines and back steering lines. The Ghosts turns quick as it rotates, with low amounts of forward pull and a central pivot that lets the rider change the direction of the kite without much pull through the harness. The test riders were most impressed with the performance of the 6 and 8 meter kites. Both had lots of power for their size and provided smooth, manageable pull and really nice drift as lines slacken with some carves and transitions. The shape and feel of the Ghost gives it some unique flying characteristics that can have some definite advantages especially for those that like riding on a high lift surf foil.
There was one kite in this test that has avoided the elimination of struts and features most of the benefits of a single strut design without the drawbacks of a less solid canopy. The Ocean Rodeo Flite is the only light wind kite in the test that had three struts. It has the float, low end power and quick handling but maintains its quick pivotal turning and direct steering and input even through higher winds and gusts. Water relaunch was also surprisingly easy with seemingly little difference in light water relaunch ability over the single strut designs. This is a great choice for kiters that want a kite that’s excellent for foiling but will still hold up to twintip or directional board sessions. The Flite is also a great kite to boost airs with as its more high aspect canopy shape grants some nice glide and hang time. The only real drawback of the Flite is that the smallest size it comes in is a 12 meter. The Flite is a light wind kite that has been fine tuned over several generations of design, and it came about in the era before foiling, so there was never a need for smaller than a 12. Ocean Rodeo also has some exciting developments to look for in 2020 with their Allulah Project; a leading edge material which could take their three strut designs to new levels with kites that are thirty percent lighter than the current technology.
In conclusion, there’s never been a better time to learn how to foil and take your kiteboarding abilities to the next level. Having the right kite will make your light wind sessions better and also enhance your foil riding experience. These latest, single strut and light weight designs have the power and handling that best suits the unique lift, effortless drive and smooth carving nature of today’s foils. If you are a beginner and looking for lots of low end power and ease of use, the Boxer SLK and the Duotone Mono are both standouts. They have different feels and turning styles, but both get the job done in light winds. The Eleveight OS, Core XLITE and Ozone Alpha have a more three strut feel, but with the decent low end and precision steering and fast pivots with a bit more flutter in the upper wind range. They are impressive for their excellent feedback, light touch steering and low line tension. They’ll suit the lesser skilled as well, but more advanced kite fliers are going to enjoy their high end performance and familiar feel. The Slingshot Ghost is a specialty design that’s in a category of its own. Easy and playful for the beginner with effortless water relaunch, the Ghost’s best applications are for riding strapless and using the smallest possible kite behind one of Slingshot’s smooth riding foils. Finally, Ocean Rodeo proves that it’s possible to have enough weight reduction to single strut designs within a three strut frame. Freeride kite foiling is still in its infancy and it sure is exciting to experience the evolution in both kite and foil designs. If you haven’t learned to foil yet, make 2020 your time to rise.
Also to be considered is the new Ocean Rodeo Aluula Roam tested after this head-to-head test in Cuba.
Be sure to look for updated reviews of the 2020 Duotone Mono and Naish Boxer this Spring.
Check out all the individual review here. Best 2020 Kites for Foilboarding