2014 has yielded another killer year of equipment. Since August 2013 we have seen, tested and reviewed more great kites than any year to date. It is really impressive to see all the key brands spending more and more time on refinement, rather than developing out-there off the wall designs, which do not really draw on the question at hand.
This question: What do the riders need? What allows us to head out into the ocean, sound, bays and lakes and return to terra firma with a huge grin on our faces? How do you make a kite that delivers a stable platform to relentlessly progress, even when faced with below par conditions? The basics have been worked out (C-Kite, Hybrid, Bow etc) and it has given kite designers freedom to hone their offerings to a level that previously has not been seen. In the past there have been great kites, there have also been great boards, there have been great harnesses. Now however we are starting the see the emergence of total product lines delivering remarkable performance, and when you put these products together you are looking at seriously impressive results.
One combination that I want to highlight is a setup from Slingshot that so far has put me on a path to order a twin-tip after 3 years of just buying surfboards. The setup in question: The Slingshot RPM and Slingshot Vision.
THE KITE: 2014 SLINGSHOT RPM
No doubt you will have already read the RPM review and I will try to not regurgitate the same info, but I think this kite is one of the best kites I have ridden this year. Firstly the inclusion of an 11m into the range is a stroke of genius. It clearly allows riders who want to hit the ocean and flats to have a kite able to do both in equal measure. The 11m feels like a 9m or 10m and the speed that it carries across the wind window is seriously impressive. Couple that with a power band, which would happily cover most 12m days you are really getting the best of both worlds.
The kite itself in every size feels great. I was most impressed with the rapid response to user input. I think that this comes from the upgraded bridle materials coupled with an innovative panel design that keeps the kite super taught through torsion events. As you know, when you steer a kite it produces a twisting force on the steering wingtip. This in turn flexes the material and I think Slingshot have done an amazing job at reducing the elastic stretch so that each input from the bar is more efficient than ever. This leads to far faster response times as well as better energy transfer. Think of it as upgrading your old PC from an Intel Chip circa 1990 to the latest super chip. It’s just a whole lot quicker! Translate this into what you will feel on the water. Your power strokes are better, your transitions are consistent time and time again, your jump timing is easier to gauge and overall you progress quicker!
In all the RPM has jumped massively this year and will deliver time and time again in all situations. Nonetheless without something under your feet the kite would just be a beach toy. How do you add to this kite’s attributes to allow for added comfort and advancement through the coming seasons? The answer is a Slingshot Vision.
THE BOARD: 2014 Slingshot Vision
In a recent article we noted that 2014 would see the resurgence of Freeride and Freestyle boards with more rocker. The Vision is a classic example of this emerging trend and after all my winter sessions experimenting with new gear I am convinced this is the way forward. Compare this board to the Slingshot Misfit and you will instantly notice the increased rocker throughout the board. For the Intermediate to Advanced riders out there this is a huge deal. Control is easier at speeds; you can dump kite power with your back foot rather than having to push the bar out and most importantly when you are heading down from a big trick you have confidence to land hard and fast.
But doesn’t this rocker reduce your upwind ability? Well yes but by so much less than you imagine. When combined with the RPM and nicely lit you will happily be back at point A after a three trick line and comfortably able to recover all the lost ground after a whopping boost! For the Intermediates and Advanced riders who have upwind riding dialed this is the perfect blend of wake inspired rocker with medium flex that delivers a great feeling underfoot. Add boots and the world of wakestyle becomes very accessible. Add an RPM and all your handle pass tricks you have been dreaming of all winter will start to take shape!
The Two Together:
It is a testament to a design when you keep thinking about sessions for days after the magic moments on the water are behind you. This is true of the RPM and Vision setup this year. It’s what prompted me to write this article.
When these two Slingshot products are put together the combined design features deliver some of the best performance for 2014. If you are near either of these products this year then definitely try and steal a go on one or the other (preferably both). If you are considering an upgrade then put the RPM and Vision at the top of the list.
As always this combo is not for everyone and I would squarely plant this setup being most exciting to those who have mastered the basics. The great news is that with either a board (Misfit etc) or a kite change (Turbine, Rally) then anyone can experience the utility of either.
All you need to do is give us a call and we can recommend how the RPM or the Vision will fit into your quiver this year. You won’t regret it!