So just about every company has released their 2011 lineups and the season is just around the corner. For anyone just getting started or needing to fill out their quiver now is a exciting time but we understand it can get a little overwhelming with so many options that seem almost identical.
*Note: Always take a lesson or lessons with a certified instructor before using kiteboarding equipment on your own.
#1. Decide what type of rider you are, and what your realistic goals will be. Many of the designs today are very well rounded and great at just about anything. A few are still designed with one particular style or riding condition in mind so do your reasearch or just ask an expierienced kiteboarder in your area (or go to kiteboarding.com and email us if that is not available). For riders starting out that are unsure where their riding will take them there are several kites that are easy to learn on, but advanced riders love them as well and they work great for everything from throwing big jumps to surfing on some waves. These are quickly becoming the most popular, must have kites, and are the most ridden by our kiteboarding.com shop riders as well. The nice thing is you can go for a session playing in the waves, and then use the same kite in flat water the next day for jumping and freestyle riding. Kites that we would consider to be in this all-around catagory include the Slingshot Rally, Naish Park, Ozone Catylst, and Liquid Force Envy.
#2. Look at where you will be riding and what others are on. Areas with light winds need kites made for light winds. Both Cabrinha and Ozone have put lots of time into testing and designing lightwind specific designs and it really shows in the performance. The Ozone Zephyr turns surprisingly fast and feels like a kite much smaller than the 17m size written on the wingtip. This kite has been a huge hit with racers looking for the ultimate lightwind kite and has one several international races. Also, always remember your board plays a huge role. Getting on a lightwind twintip, surfboard, raceboard, or free-raceboard (such as the Airush Sector) can mean the difference between sitting on the beach and can allow you to ride a kite 3 or 4m smaller than normal.
High winds can be a huge factor as well. Normally the higher the wind the gustier and more unpredictable it will be. The main thing to look for in a high wind kite is stability. Every kite 9m or smaller is going to turn fast and boost huge jumps so getting the highest performance, fastest turning kite out there may not be the best decision. Several companies have even started to take this into account when designing each size. For example Wainman Hawaii kites all have a similar design but the smaller kites have a lower aspect ratio (shorter and fatter) to deal with the gustier and more unstable conditions that they are used in. Some of the best high wind stable kites are Wainman Rabbit Kites, Slingshot Rallys, Cabrinha Switchblades, and the Ozone Catalyst.
#3. Look at the control system. It makes a huge difference. With kites getting better and better, many designs are so close it really comes down to who has the control bar system that you like the most. Be sure you can reach the sheeting system, and that the quick release is easy to pull, put back together and is resistant to corrosion and wear. Another feature that can add some windrange to your kite and just provide a different fell is fly lines with extensions. These allow you to quickly adjust your line length depending on the conditions and how you like to ride. Longer lines will provide a longer power stroke, and let the kite get up higher potentially finding cleaner wind. Longer lines will allow for easier lightwind riding. Short lines can be a blast in higher winds as they make the kite feel super fast, and can be usefull for waveriding.
#4. Check out the construction and ask about the companies warranty program and customer service. Currently just about every kite is constructed out of the same material and are going to have the same durability. Getting with a top company that quickly handles any issues and warranties will get you back on the water faster. Ask around, or just ask the shop you are purchasing from who has the best support.
#5. Think about building a quiver to cover all the conditions you want to ride in. In many areas riders can get away with a 2 kite quiver if their kite sizes are chosen carefully. For example in the Corpus Christi area most 175lb riders will have an 11m as their main kite and a 8m or 9m as the high wind kite. Purchasing the same brand will help to keep everything consistant when switching from one kite to another. The bar system will be the same, and if you are on the same model the steering ,bar feel, and relaunch will be very similar.