Kitesurfing Magazine sat down with Liquid Force kite designer Julien Fillion, and team rider/product developer Jason Slezak for the inside scoop about the much anticipated redesign of the very popular Liquid Force Solo.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What were your goals for the Liquid Force Solo V3 redesign?
Julien Fillion: The Solo was always a very special kite for us, a design that led some of the major kite brands to design single strut kites of their own. The Solo played a big roll in creating a new category of kite. At first we really focused on the raw power of the kite, giving the Solo the deepest profile of our entire kite range. Although lots of raw power is great, the lack of support of a single strut kite can sometimes bring unwanted flutter in the canopy in overpowered conditions. The goal for the Solo V3 was to readjust the profile in order to control this flutter.
Jason Slezak: With this being the third version of the Solo, as a brand, we at Liquid Force wanted to take the feedback we received on the two prior versions of the Solo and combine it all to make an amazing new version of our single strut kite offering. Our main design attributes that we focused on for the Solo V3 were faster turning, greater depower, and a smooth and increased “power band” within the throw of the sheeting/depower.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Not every kite model undergoes such a long 14 month redesign. What took the longer, the kite redesign or the bridle? What was the process like and where did you guys do the testing?
Julien Fillion: The design process of the Solo V3 was drawn out a bit longer than our more traditional yearly cycle. But this is not new for the Solo. We have a longer scheduled lifespan for each Solo we release and we are moving towards that for most of our kite models. The slightly longer lifespan of each kite makes it easier on all of our retailers, and also allows for us to gather more feedback and make better and more calculated design changes to each kite model. We did our testing for the Solo V3 in a variety of locations including; Montreal, the Federated States of Micronesia, Hood River, the Oregon Coast, Cape Hatteras and completed the final kite sign off in Cape Town, South Africa.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What are the main physical changes?
Julien Fillion: The profile is the biggest physical change, followed closely by a new bridle setup with shorter low V section, making the Solo feel a bit more direct with a longer bar throw.
Jason Slezak: The main physical changes in the Solo V3 can be summed up into three main points; one, canopy profile refinement for less flutter, better efficiency, and faster turning. Two, wingtip sweep for stability, depower and a smooth reliable power delivery and three, some slight bridle configuration adjustments, to complete the package and drive the smooth reliable easy to use kite that the Solo has become known for.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Were there unique performance challenges from a design perspective for the smallest and largest sizes in the Solo line?
Julien Fillion: Sure there are. To have a kite with long bar throw and massive depower works very good in big sizes, but it gets challenging in smaller kite sizes. The bridle’s ratio has to change in small sizes of kite in order to reduce the bar throw and give the kite a controlled snappy feel.
Jason Slezak: It is always a challenge to keep the consistency and feel the same from the smallest size of a kite to the largest in any kite line, and for LF Kites the Solo has the largest size range of any of our kite models. Ranging from a 3.5 meter for the smallest size all the way up to a 17.5 meter for the largest, keeping that similar feel and performance did present challenges. But between Julien Fillion’s extensive knowledge and design skill, and our relentless testing we were able to accomplish those goals by implementing a few secret tweaks as well as some size specific bridle placements.
Kitesurfing Magazine: How did the increased popularity of the Solo for freeride foil riding influence its redesign?
Julien Fillion: I think this came from the early foil days and the goal of going out in less and less wind, to a point where standard SLE kites would fall out of the sky if you did not pay attention. The Solo is significantly lighter than a traditional SLE kite and can stay in the air in almost no wind. We all sort of gravitated towards the Solo at first for the ultra light wind foil days.
Jason Slezak: We at LF Kites all love using the Solo for foiling! So naturally we included our desired freeride foil characteristics into the new design parameters; upwind efficiency, great low end, easy turning and stability in the lightest of winds.
Kitesurfing Magazine: As you have progressed in foil riding are you demanding different performance from your freeride kite than when you began?
Julien Fillion: As people get more and more confortable on the foil, there’s an increase in kite turning speed demands and kite drifting. When you try to go downwind on the foil, you need a kite that can drift so you don’t foil too far underneath your kite.
Jason Slezak: When I am foiling I find I can make almost anything work. Personally it is not as much about the performance of the kite per se but rather how well you know the kite and know how to handle it in the light and variable wind conditions that foiling allows you to shred in.
Kitesurfing Magazine: My 11-year-old son Kai has been using the original LF Solo. Does the new Solo appeal to the youth market too?
Julien Fillion: We went back to a canopy trailing edge for the V3, which makes the kite slightly easier to relaunch in lighter wind conditions. We also increased the sizing selection, it now comes in 3.5, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15.5, 17.5.
Jason Slezak: We did take into consideration the feedback we received from many of our kite schools from around the world, as well as the smaller lighter riders, including kids, while looking at how well the smaller sizes of the kites both fly and relaunch. The new bridle configuration has helped with these characteristics, however the weight of water sitting inside of the canopy when the smaller kites are in the water is hard to avoid with there only being a single strut in the center. Hopefully Kai will like the new Solo even better than his last one!
Kitesurfing Magazine: Who is the LF Solo 100% not for?
Julien Fillion: I would say wakestyle guys. But there again, some wakestyle guys love the 17.5 for the light wind session saver.
Jason Slezak: I would say the LF Solo is not the best choice for the dedicated freestyle or wakestyle rider, as the lack of structure in the canopy does not produce the best load and pop characteristics.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Who is the new LF Solo perfect for?
Julien Fillion: Anyone looking for an ultra reliable freeride kite. It’s light, compact, easy to inflate, outstanding in light wind and shifting conditions.
Jason Slezak: The LF Solo is perfect for an extremely large portion of the kiteboarders out there. Whether it’s used for foiling, wave riding, boosting, or just general all around cruising, the Solo delivers a solid reliable and easy to fly platform, with large wind range, and the convenience of being lightweight and compact for traveling with its single strut design. For anyone who hasn’t tried one it’s definitely worth giving a go!