Apr 15, 2012
Author: sbckiteboard.com / Shane Thompson: Test Editor
SBC Kiteboard magazine's 2012 Head-to-Head Kite Tests
The Freeride All-Terrain category represents the largest group of kites in this year’s SBC Kiteboard magazine tests, with 15 models vying for the industry-coveted top spot. The best of the Freeride All-Terrain kites offer simplified, easy-to-access performance that can adapt to the widest variety of conditions, and also cater to the full gamut of riding styles, disciplines and skill levels. They are the industry’s most successful models, and tend to blend the best of high-performance with simplicity that suits all riders. Whether its new-school or wakestyle, big-boosting freestyle, simple freeriding or hardcore waveriding, the best of these models equip riders with the control and handling required for any situation. They need to have good amounts of de-power, and offer an easy-to-access, user-friendly control with high levels of steering performance that’s easy to adapt to. Smooth pull with appropriate drift and balance while unhooked is a must, along with stable drift and quick handling for waveriding. The Freeride All-Terrain kite needs to have easy water relaunch, plenty of smooth upwind pull and offer wide wind range. Generally, they don’t deliver the most aggressive power through their loops, or have the fastest available pull speed, and many of them have more pivotal-style turning than sweeping power. But the All-Terrain kite is ideal for the largest portion of kiteboarders out there because they focus more on a plug-and-play-style of flying with enough performance to build new skills, allowing riders to dabble in every kiteboarding discipline.
The test results showed a very tight race for the top spots in this category. The water relaunch ability of all the models was top notch, as the advanced bridle systems, leading edge arcs and swept wing tips allowed fluid rotation to get the kites in the air from their helmet-down position. If you have to pick the best of the very good, the Airush One took the top spot, as its ultra light canopy enabled it to take flight in the lightest and flukiest of winds.
Eliminating weight has been one of the ways many kite designers enhance performance in wind range and simplicity, and a good portion of kites in this category have gone to a three-strut frame to capitalize on these advantages. These lighter weight but stable designs offered performance enhancements not only in water relaunch but in the their ability to generate more power and have better drift and balance when the lines became slack during popped wakestyle manoeuvres, tricks and when riding waves down-the-line.
The great thing about many of these kites was their ability to let the rider develop skills in every kite discipline, and some are better than others at catering to less developed skills than others. Kites like the Star Taina, Blade Trigger and Epic Renegade had easy riding performance that allowed testers to set-it-and-forget-it, and forget about the kite. You can try some unhooked moves without fear of being severely punished with these models, and beginners will appreciate their easy flying character, high de-power and quick water relaunch.
For the more advanced freestyle riders, nothing beat the park-and-go smoothness of the Liquid Force Envy, the new Best TS or the legendary Cabrinha Switchblade. The LF Envy set the bar for three-strut kites in the past two seasons, and its wakestyle prowess was unmatched again this year. Smooth pull and easy drive, the Envy lets both entry-level riders and more wake-inspired riders concentrate on board skills like no other. The more advanced wakestyle riders can always count on the legendary, smooth performance of the Cabrinha Switchblade. The Switchblade performs well in a variety of conditions, and is unmatched as the high performance wakestyle kite of the group, with its smooth and constant pull and gust-eating ability. The Best TS was also well-received by the more advanced freestyle riders of the group, and the 12-metre had some of the smoothest unhooked pull of the category. It’s a kite that’s designed with versatility through its size range offering specific sizes that cater more to certain disciplines.
There were some big boosters in the group as well, a trait usually designated to the more specialized freestyle designs. The Cabrinha Vector showed it had the big float and big grunt, and the Griffin Argonaut continued as one of the easy-jumping giants. Looking for a waveriding kite that suits onshore or side-on wind conditions? The best kites to ride in these wave scenarios must have instant sheetable de-power, and two models can do that like no others: the Slingshot Rally and the Naish Bolt. Both show awesome stability in gusty winds, while the Bolt may carry itself into the widest upper wind range of all the freeeride all-terrain models of the test.
The top three kites in the All-Terrain category again came from three-strut designs that have very similar flying characteristics: the Airush Lithium, the F-One Bandit and the Naish Park. These three kites posted the top scores, with great marks in all categories and a prowess in every discipline, pushing them to the top of the list. They each all had that X factor that put them slightly above the rest in terms of the total package, being adaptable to any condition and catering to the widest range of skill levels. Abilities that are the most adaptable and refined—smooth control and pull, good levels of de-power, quick and direct steering and plenty of boosting ability—make the Park, the Lithium and the Bandit tip the scales for all-terrain performance that’s freeride-influenced.
Others to consider: The 2012 Nobile T5 kite tested in the Freestyle Advanced Head-to Head test, and the North Rebel tested with the surf kites would be perfectly at home in the All-Terrain Freeride Category.
Be sure to read the individual kite reviews to find your perfect kite.